With a free long weekend and itchy feet, me and the boyfriend started looking into places in the UK we could visit and we were instantly drawn to Edinburgh. It was a place we'd never been before and as we began to look into it we discovered there was so much to do. When we arrived though, there was even more to Edinburgh than we could have imagined! When the weekend came to an end I wasn't ready to leave and I always say the mark of a good trip is when you already have activities earmarked for when you go back. Edinburgh is full of character and a history they seem very proud of. These are just a few tips to make your weekend in Edinburgh amazing!
Get Spooked on an Edinburgh Ghost Tour
You'd be surprised how many creepy tales these old streets have to offer. There are SO many ghost tours out there so you have lots to choose from. We went with Mercat's Hidden and Haunted tour for £13, which was an over 18's only so we figured it was likely to be the scariest. Mercat offers a range of different ghost tours to suit everyone and if ghost stories aren't your thing they were originally a history tour group and they still offer historical tours too. We met by the famous St Gile's Cathedral and were led down eery side streets, wound our way through the shadows and ended up below the city in the creepy Blair Street Underground Vaults. By candlelight our guide told us of the mysterious apparitions that have been seen in these vaults that stretch from Edinburgh's graveyard to the Edinburgh's university, also making it the perfect secret tunnel for body snatchers back in the day. Learning more about the city while feeling a chill run down my spine definitely made this my favourite part of the whole weekend!
Explore Edinburgh Castle
This key part of Edinburgh history should be one of your first stops on your trip. It's £17 for an adult ticket and you can spend a good afternoon exploring. With two small museums on site as well as the dungeons, war memorial and crown jewels to see, there's plenty of interesting things to learn about and enjoy. I was amazed by the intricate model ships the prisoners made to stave off boredom and make them a few pennies. Before you go, don't forget to check out the amazing views from the castle's parapets!
Feel Decadent with a spot of Afternoon Tea
There are plenty of hotels and venues that offer afternoon tea and if you're feeling extra posh you could even have one at Hollyrood Palace. My personal recommendation would be The Dome. They offered a classic high tea with a selection of sandwiches, both normal and raisin scones and a selection of sweet cakes on top. My favourite was definitely the caramel profiteroles with the rich, creamy filling - yum! They also offer a nice selection of teas or you can opt for champagne too. Not only is the food delicious but the building is stunning too. With a huge chandelier, beautiful fireplaces and golden decor there is no doubt you will be feeling decadent as you sip your tea.
Climb Arthur's Seat
Arthur's Seat is a hill in the grounds of Hollyrood Park, right next to the Palace where the Queen comes to visit. Hollyrood palace is another attraction that is rich in history and a great place to spend a rainy afternoon admiring the many richly decorated rooms. However, if the sun is shining and you want to stretch your legs, take a picnic to the top of Arthur's Seat to admire the incredible views of the city instead. I won't lie, the last section of the climb is tough and areas of the hill can be treacherous so go carefully, but reaching the top is worth it. If you don't feel so comfortable climbing right to the top there are other vantage points and there are lots of different routes around the park you can take.
Without a doubt the highlight of Edinburgh zoo is the fact that it's the only zoo in the UK to have pandas. These cute clumsy bears are just brilliant to watch. They eat a third of their body weight and sleep sixteen hours a day... wait... I think I'm a panda! You'll need to book in a time slot to see the pandas as they are so popular and shouldn't be overcrowded. I booked online, which got me a great discount on zoo tickets and secured a time slot for the pandas, but when we arrived we were told the pandas weren't out so we were welcome to use our tickets later in the day. Luckily, Yuan Guang, the male panda was just emerging from his indoor enclosure when we arrived so we got to watch him munching away on bamboo.
Although they seemed more relaxed about the timings when we got there I would always recommend booking ahead as this might change during peak times. But pandas aren't all the zoo has to offer. There are red pandas, koala bears, otters, meerkats and tigers with a glass walkthrough tunnel so the tigers can walk right over you. My top tip for the zoo is to try and catch the animal talks; seeing the enthusiasm and love for animals of the keepers will surely infect you and make your day even more fun!
Hit The Shops
No trip to Edinburgh would be complete without a souvenir shopping session. What is a trip to Scotland without checking out the kilts, miniature whiskey bottles and trying on tartan hats with fake ginger hair sticking out! Besides, how else are you supposed to find out just how many things the Scott's can put whiskey in? Other than all the whiskey tours and museums you could check out of course... Whiskey tea and whiskey butterscotch sauce were my two top picks!
Book An Airbnb
You might think that a hotel is the easiest option for a weekend away but I actually loved staying at an Airbnb. We booked a cute apartment just fifteen minute walk from the main city centre. We were surrounded by local shops, cafes and great restaurants but it also meant we saved a heap of money cooking for ourselves. It was also nice to have a whole apartment to ourselves. After a long day of walking and exploring we could come back to somewhere homely rather than holing up in a small hotel room. It's also a great way to stay somewhere a little quirky! There are so many different styles and sizes of places to stay you can really choose somewhere that suits you.
One of our only regrets of the weekend was not checking out times and planning ours days in advance. One place I was particularly eager to visit was the Writer's Museum but for one reason or another I kept putting off going, thinking I would save it until the last day as a final fun activity before flying home. Unfortunately we discovered that many places are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, which not only thwarted our plans to check out the Writer's Museum but also a little homemade marshmallow shop, Marshmallow Lady, round the corner from us. I mean we missed out on marshmallows! And all it would have taken was a quick google either before or earlier on in the trip. It sounds like a simple piece of advice but, as exciting and unique as spontaneity can be, not planning ahead has always been the downfall of a trip. Always be ready to change your plans if a better option turns up but have all your information to hand so you can make the most of your trip.
Don't Forget Everything Else Edinburgh Has To Offer
I couldn't fit all of these activities into our weekend but there is plenty more to do in Edinburgh:
-Spend a rainy afternoon at the IMAX cinema
-Visit Hollyrood Palace
-Wander around the Royal Botanical Gardens
-Have a picnic in Prince's Street Gardens
-Take in a tipple at the Scotch Whiskey Experience
-Check out St Gile's Cathedral
-Choose between the many museums, including: The Childhood Museum,
-Stand on the National Monument of Scotland, Museum of Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art or the Scottish National Gallery
As you can see, Edinburgh has so much to offer! These are just some of the things you can do to make your weekend amazing... or alternatively, just book a week there instead.
Check out my personal blog, Jess' Journal of Joy, to read more about my weekend in Edinburgh!
Published by Jessica Walden