Visit Scotland. Seriously, Just Book a Ticket and Go
Hubs and I recently took a very short (spontaneous) trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. We were actually in Ireland for a 10-day road trip after partying it up in Dublin for St. Paddy’s Day (not really, we’re old people trapped in young people bodies). We got super good deals on our flights since Aer Lingus just started flying from our home airport (yay!) So, we had to take advantage of the opportunity. I mean, round trip tickets were $430 each! We booked the plane tickets about 10 mos in advance, and our flight was scheduled for March 16th. Over the course of the next few months, we booked our car and hotel accommodations for Ireland. Booking our hotels was a hugely enjoyable experience. I used booking.com for all of my travel. They offer the ‘buy now pay later’ feature which gives me the freedom to roam if I change my mind mid-vacation (which we did).
While we were in Dublin we decided to switch a couple of nights onto the tail end of our Ireland tour, because why the heck not? Scotland is just a short flight across the water and the pipes were callin’. We booked our flights, which were last minute but still very affordable (I think they were around $170 RT p/p), and then we booked our Edinburgh hotel. We settled on Northbridge Lofts in Edinburgh old town. We were given a room code via email after the booking. This was totally different than any other booking experience I had experienced before. Our room in Edinburgh was a bit of a mystery, and we didn’t really know what to expect from the emails we got from the management. I was a little nervous to be honest, but when we arrived in Edinburgh, we were pleasantly surprised: it was an apartment in the old Scotsman Building! Our room was such a unique experience, it felt like our very own apartment in the heart of Edinburgh. We immediately felt at home. We spent 3 awesome days exploring Edinburgh and the Scottish borders. I have included our itinerary below.
Edinburgh became one of my favorite cities because of the rich historical details and architecture that has remained over the centuries. It is an amazing city to walk and discover, alley by alley and street after winding street. You quickly discover this must have been the city that inspired JK Rowling for Harry Potter’s world. It literally looks like Diagon Alley! Edinburgh is best discovered by foot since you just never know what you might discover next. The people are remarkably friendly. If you are feeling adventurous, rent a car for the day and take a scenic drive outside the city to the countryside. Here’s our travel itinerary for our 3 days in Edinburgh:
3-Day Edinburgh Itinerary
- From the airport, you can take a double decker bus, or the train if you want to get where you’re going faster. The price is £4-5
- Check into the hotel (a.k.a. cozy-ass apartment) at Northbridge Lofts, formerly the old Scotsman Building. Total swank.
- Starving. It’s after 3 PM. Need food! We end up at Ecco Vino, which is a quick walk from our hotel and it’s absolutely fantastic!
- Time to walk off the food (and wine). We wander the streets of Edinburgh and find ourselves on a hot film set of The Avengers movie. No kidding. Staff tell us the movie is called Mary Lou (Yeah, right). We wonder, “Where’s Hugh and Scarlett”?
- Window shopping along the Royal Mile. I’m cold as the dickens, so I have to find a knit beanie to keep my head warm.
- We find a few little bottles of scotch along the way at a liquor store. The shops close at around 6 PM-7 PM, so it’s either pub time or bed time. We opt for bedtime. But first:
- French Macarons at Patisserie Valerie 😉
- Breakfast at Thistle Cafe. It’s a little hole in the wall tucked away in an alley on the way to the castle. It’s run by two people who are super nice. Best scones I’ve ever had!
- OK, I’m not gonna lie, I had to have my Starbucks. I have no vices except for my coffee and I’m pretty rigid about it. It’s horrible, I know. For S’bucks lovers, there are a few in the area.
- St Giles Cathedral (the architecture is breathtaking) The windows inside are painted, but stunning, no less.
- Edinburgh Castle tour. It’s a must see for the history, and an amazing view of Edinburgh from up there. Not to mention the old lady demonstrating whiskey n one of the shops was worth the price of admission. Check out the crown jewels (photos aren’t allowed)
- Don’t miss the 1 PM cannon firing: The One O’clock Gun
- Stop in the Edinburgh Castle Tea Room before you leave. I had lemon cake and tea, it was so delicious!
- The Scottish National Gallery was next on our list for the day. It’s free admission, and worth a look and a fiver if you have one to donate. We spotted Da Vinci, Van Gogh and Monet, to name a few. Among other famous artist worldwide, the collection of Scottish artists are quite good.
- Followed up the evening with a walk in Edinburgh New Town, which is full of retail shops, clothing stores, gifts, pubs, restaurants. Hit up TopShop & Primark for some unique styles you may not be able to find in US.
- Greyfriars Bobby for a quick bite to eat. We spoke to a man in the airport who claimed the pubs in Scotland are far better than the ones in Ireland, and, he was right. This pub is no exception. Very nice, clean and full of history. We love the Greyfriars Bobby story. Yes, it’s a tourist spot, but every bit worth seeing and stopping in. We got a few bites to eat and some drinks and the food was very good and the service was excellent
- Last stop for the night: The White Hart Inn. The White Hart Inn is an Edinburgh must-see if you are at all interested in historic places, Robert Burns or if you just love old pubs. Many claim it is the oldest pub in Edinburgh, dating back from the 1740s, and some say it’s haunted. If you are on a pub crawl, It’s a must see and a great little place with a friendly atmosphere and live music
- Pastry for breakfast across the street at Patisserie Valerie The croissants are OK, but the macaroons are even better. Ask them to heat up your pastry, it will be 10x better!
- We rented a car in the morning (Enterprise, appx £50 for the day. Walking distance from the hotel) and took a scenic drive out to the Scottish Borders, down to Lanarkshire to visit my family heritage at The Carmichael Estate. It’s quaint. It’s very friendly. It’s a working farm. That’s really all I can say. We had a very small breakfast of eggs, toast and coffee and bought a tartan and a tie from the gift shop. The land surrounding the estate is quite lovely and the view of Tinto Hill is nice. If you are interested in hiking, there are two very large, old and defunct (abandoned) homes on the estate grounds which are only accessible on foot. Many people come here to photograph the estate homes. You can find a lot of the photos on Instagram with the hashtag #CarmichaelEstate They are creepy and quite a hazard, so I wouldn’t recommend going inside!
- Back in Edinburgh, a quick peek into the Old Town Book Shop, followed by Walker Slater on Victoria St.
- Dinner at Montieth’s for the biggest fries you’ve ever laid eyes on, bacon with caramel appetizer and one of the most dimly lit restaurants in Edinburgh. Great for couples! <3
Pro Tip: Going to Ireland and Scotland in March is not as warm as it will be in the summer months. You really need to know what clothes to pack, and no amount of planning can help you if you don’t follow your own instructions. I knew better than to pack anything lighter than a trenchcoat, and yet, I did. Dummy me should have brought a warm, puffy Northface, instead of the chic Burberry. I will say, my boots were on point. Wear boots with hearty soles for the roads and terrain because you just never know where you may find yourself and generally, it’s wet or muddy.