If you are looking for a great place to spend a few days during a tour of the UK, or for a weekend break, a weekend in Edinburgh should definitely be on your shortlist. My husband and I spent some time there recently and really enjoyed the hospitality, exceptional food, history and scenery.
Edinburgh Castle rises above everything, a dominant presence for over 900 years. The city below is expanding and growing, so there is quite a lot of construction, as well as improvements to older buildings to keep them in good repair. When you are in the older part of town, with its winding, cobbled streets and ancient buildings and monuments, it really does feel like you have stepped back in time.
Despite its age, this cosmopolitan city has a thriving entertainment, restaurant and cultural scene, so there’s something for just about everyone to enjoy. I left feeling like I still had a lot to see, and I look forward to a return visit.
This post contains my honest opinions and the advice I give to friends.
None of our experiences were gifted and we paid all our own expenses.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at The Balmoral Hotel in Princes Street, right where the old city and the new city meet. This elegant but unpretentious hotel was a lovely home from home. The hotel dates back to 1902 but has been extensively refurbished over the years.
All the staff were friendly, efficient and helpful, and it seemed we had only to think of wanting something for it to appear. The suite my husband Guy booked was beautiful, well laid out, spacious and very comfortable. We had a great view of the city too.
Our Weekend in Edinburgh
After we settled into our suite Friday evening, we visited the Bar Prince in the hotel. The servers were very friendly, the atmosphere was great and the cocktails were lovely.
I had a new to me vintage cocktail, the Mary Pickford, named after the 20th century film actress and producer of the same name. Composed of white rum, pineapple juice, grenadine and maraschino liqueur, it’s said to be “sweet but with a kick, just like its namesake”. It was!
We then went on to The Castle Terrace, a short taxi ride away. This gorgeous high end bistro is modern and elegant, and the staff pay a lot of attention to detail. Probably my favourite meal of the weekend, the food was Scottish with a French twist , seasonal, local and very enjoyable. I was so sad to learn that Castle Terrace is now permanently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
We had the biggest scones I’ve ever seen for breakfast at Mimi’s Little Bakehouse, a sweet little tea room not far away in The Royal Mile. They were awesome! We then took a 20 minute taxi ride to The Royal Yacht Britannia. (Buses are also available to, but we wanted to be quick.)
Located at Ocean Terminal, Leith, The Royal Yacht Britannia is a fascinating place to visit. Britannia was a working royal palace at sea for 44 years. HM The Queen is said to have commented that it is the one place she felt ‘truly at home’ and having visited it, I can see why. If you’d like to see for yourself, don’t miss my post Visiting The Royal Yacht Britannia.
We caught a taxi back to town and then explored the city on foot for a while.
Our Weekend in Edinburgh – Exploring on Foot
Victoria Street, which J K Rowling used as inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series, is full of quirky little shops and vintage booksellers as well as the obligatory Harry Potter shop. We had a yummy fish and chip lunch at Bertie’s Fish and Chips there.
There’s history and landmarks at every turn in Edinburgh. This is a city with many stories, and none more so than the sweet tale of Greyfriars Bobby. That’s a memorial to him pictured above. This little dog followed his master’s body to his grave in Greyfriar’s churchyard. “Greyfriars Bobby”, as he came to be known, then slept there every night for the rest of his own life. I was relieved to learn that a local pub fed him and that the local children played with him!
Then it was on to Edinburgh Castle, which is a long climb, but well worth it.
Edinburgh Castle is very striking, dark and a little foreboding, carved into the hills above the city. It’s also a very moving place to visit. I got a whole new understanding of Mary Queen of Scots, and of the very difficult and sad life she led. I was very surprised by the tiny, uncomfortable room she gave birth to her son, later King James I. He was taken away from her at six months old, and of course, poor Mary’s story did not end well.
When we couldn’t get a seat in Bar Prince the second night, a member of staff invited us to come into Scotch, the whisky bar. We were a bit nervous as neither of us are whiskey drinkers, but in the end it was well worth forgoing cocktails to experience a relaxed and informal tasting of what feels like Scotland’s national drink. I learned a huge amount about a spirit I knew little about in a really convivial setting. Did you know whiskey and dark chocolate make perfect partners? Me either!
Then it was on to Prestonfield Golf Club and the Rhubarb Restaurant, about a 10 minute taxi ride away. Rhubarb is a very romantic manor house restaurant, with quite flamboyant decor and a more formal atmosphere. The food was excellent, and we felt very pampered. It would be a great place for a special date night or celebration.
Before our flight home Sunday afternoon, we managed to fit in breakfast at Brasserie Prince in our hotel and another long walk. We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend in Edinburgh and look forward to returning!
Top Tips for A Weekend in Edinburgh
- Take an umbrella. The weather in Edinburgh is notoriously overcast and rainy, but it kind of adds to the atmosphere!
- Bring a waterproof jacket, a light one in summer, warmer in the cooler months.
- Bring comfortable shoes. The majority of the streets are cobbled, and while you can risk heels for an evening out if you are taking a taxi, I’d recommend flats or running shoes/trainers for sightseeing.
- Book good restaurants as far in advance as you can. We were unable to get a table at Number One, the Michelin starred restaurant in the Balmoral Hotel, even through our dedicated concierge two weeks in advance. We loved the restaurants we visited, but again, it isn’t always easy to get a table last minute. It’s worth trying though!