David and I took a train from London to Edinburgh where we stayed for two nights. Our Costco travel package included our train tickets and we got to sit in the first class carriage which made the 5 hour train ride very enjoyable. We sat back in our comfortable seats, had a pretty good meal, all the drinks we wanted, and relaxed while enjoying the English country side. There were lots of sheep.
We got to Edinburgh around 4 PM and David and I couldn’t wait to drop our bags off at the hotel then explore the city. We decided to walk to our hotel instead of getting a taxi since Google Maps said it was only .8 miles away. We headed in the direction of our hotel and when we got to the first turn, we found ourselves at the bottom of a very steep staircase with 5 flights of stairs up a huge hill. Of course the sign for our hotel was hanging at the very top of the stairs. We both had huge suitcases and had already struggled with our luggage that morning in the London train stations. When we saw the stairs we just looked at each other and laughed. There was no way either of us could carry our 50lb bags and carry-on bags up those stairs so instead we pushed our suitcases the long way up and around the hill. Next time we go to Europe we will use backpacks instead of rolling suitcases.
Edinburgh is split into two halves – a medieval Old Town, and a Georgian New Town. Our hotel, Fraser Suites, was located in the Old Town and steps away from The Royal Mile, the main through-fare through the Old Town. We spent most of our time on or near The Royal Mile, so the hotel location was perfect. Our room at Fraser Suites was beautiful, modern, and had an amazing view of the Old Town. When we opened our windows we could even hear the bagpiper that played on The Royal Mile.
After checking in, we headed out to explore and grab some dinner. We walked The Royal Mile and soaked in the medieval charm of the Old Town. The Royal Mile starts at the top of a hill at Edinburgh Castle and ends at the bottom of the hill at Holyrood Palace. It is scattered with cashmere and wool shops and while it can be touristy, it had a lot of authentic charm. While exploring, we found a cute little Italian restaurant called La Locanda right off The Royal Mile and had an amazing dinner.
After dinner we went on the City of the Dead Double Dead Tour. I love doing ghost tours in different cities that we visit. I don’t go hoping to experience anything paranormal, I just like learning about the creepy history that you don’t get on a regular city tour. City of the Dead is a well know tour company in Edinburgh that had great reviews, so I was excited to go on one of their tours. I want to say up front this was one of the worst tours I have ever been on, haunted or otherwise. The tour started on The Royal Mile and the guide took us on a walk through the Old Town to vaults under the city where poorer citizens were forced to live in terrible conditions. The tour ended in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, a famous graveyard. Our tour guide was awful. He was not very informative and engaged in cheap jump scares to make the tour scary, but really it just made it feel silly. He also told offensive and off color jokes about some of the women in our group and about women we passed on the tour. I was not impressed and felt awful that I dragged David on the tour wasting one of our two evenings in Edinburgh.
After the tour we headed to a great little pub called The Ensign Ewart Pub. They had a great selection of whiskey and wonderful live Scottish folk music. We also had a great time talking to the bartender and other patrons. It was a really nice end to the day – sitting and enjoying a drink in a warm, cozy pub, listening to great music.
The next day we started the morning with a visit to The Whiskey Experience. It was just up the hill on The Royal Mile near Edinburgh Castle. David is a bourbon collector and spent a lot of our trip hunting for rare whiskey, so this was right up his alley. The tour started with a ride in a whiskey barrel that teaches you how whiskey is made. Then we watched a mini IMAX-type film about whiskey from different regions of Scotland. The tour ended with a tasting and view of their collection of over 3,000 bottles of whiskey.
Next on the agenda was a free walking tour of Edinburgh. We did the Sandeman Edingburgh Free Tour and our tour guide Adam was phenomenal. We walked around the Old Town Edinburgh and saw some great sights. One of the stops on the tour was the tea house where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter.
The tour ended at Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, one of the places I was most excited to visit in Edinburgh. It’s home to Greyfriar’s Bobby, a little dog that is said to have sat on his owner’s grave for 14 years out of love and loyalty. Bobby is actually buried right outside the graveyard but he has a headstone inside where people leave him flowers, sticks, and dog toys. It’s such a sweet and heartwarming story.The statue of Bobby outside the graveyard is the most photographed statue in Scotland.
The tea shop where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter backs up to the graveyard and overlooks it. She is said to have walked the grounds while writing the books, and there are headstones with many familiar names.
Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is also home the Black Mausoleum, the supposed site of one of the the most active poltergeists in the world.
After the tour, David and I explored the Old Town a bit on our own. We’d planned to visit the Edinburgh Castle, but we didn’t feel like doing any more tours. We went to a few whiskey shops for David and we also popped into some of the Harry Potter shops that are all over the city. We went back to La Locanda for dinner and ended the night back at The Ensign Ewart Pub.
The next morning we woke up and decided to walk around the New Town since we had a couple hours to kill before our flight to Dublin. The New Town has a lot of beautiful shops and has a completely different feel to it. It felt a lot lighter than the Old Town. We also stopped to get some shortbread cookies at a cute little shop in the Old Town called Pinnies and Poppyseeds and I was sure to send some home to my mom. Our last stop before heading to the airport was as the Tartan Weaving Mill Experience where you can see tartans being made and even design your own.
Edinburgh was amazing and David and I loved the people and personality of the city. The Scots were all incredibly friendly and funny, and the city was very charming. It actually had an undercurrent of darkness to it, maybe because of the medieval buildings, but it made the city even more interesting and added to that charm. Edinburgh ended up being David’s favorite stop on our trip and we both want to go back to see more of Scotland.
Hotel: Fraser Suites – Great newly updated rooms with a great location right off The Royal Mile