Last weekend I took a trip back to one of my favourite places in the UK, good old Edinburgh.
Last weekend I took a trip back to one of my favourite places in the UK, good old Edinburgh. Although I have been there a few times before I still find there are new places to be discovered and exciting things to do. So many, in fact, that it is difficult to fit everything in in just one trip.
This time I decided to mix it up. Starting with my first class train journey with Trans Pennine Express, I have to say I was a little disappointed. While the seats had plenty of room and the environment was clean and quiet, it just didn’t have that extra je nais se quoi that you would expect from first class.
I feel that they fell down compared to the experiences I have had on other rail companies, such as Virgin for example, where the whole atmosphere and service provided is exemplary. Don’t get me wrong. The staff were not rude, but they just didn’t go the extra mile that you would expect for the money.
It gets better though
That said I arrived bang on time to a rainy Edinburgh, it’s one of the few places where the weather never seems to dampen my enthusiasm because rain, hail or shine the city always looks beautiful.
I then met my beloved from his flight and we headed to our hotel. I have stayed in many places throughout the city but nothing with such an opulent reputation proceeding it. So when I arrived at The Caledonia Waldorf Astoria needless to say I was extremely excited and expectations were high. There is always that chance of falling short when so much anticipation has been built up and as I swept through the 1920s style door, I wasn’t disappointed.
The beautiful reception was light and airy and the smart, tartan clad concierge were friendly and welcoming. As our room was not quite ready they offered to contact us rather than wait for the official check in time. The little extras like this were to become the hallmark of a fantastic stay.
Once we had arrived at our room, I was overwhelmed by the details that were ‘just so.’ One of my markers for a good hotel is the bathroom—I don’t know about you but the slightest mark round the taps or sign of shabbiness on the tiles will have me doubting the rest of the experience. This bathroom was a shining beacon of standards, a new bar had been set for all hotel future stays and a dream shower I would love to have in my own house.
Just then a knock at the door, confused look to my beloved and a visitor from housekeeping with a beautiful plate exclaiming ‘Happy Birthday’ with 4 luxury chocolates had arrived. I had made a throw away comment at check-in, the reason for our visit was to celebrate my birthday, hence the extravagant hotel and travel, yet another mark that this hotel was a cut above.
As it was my special day I was responsible for the activity of choice. I had my eye on a tour that I had not managed to make in a previous visit and was adamant it would be fun. However, not knowing much about it I thought it might take a little bit of persuading to get my other half to agree.
It was The Literary Pub tour and as a book geek it sounded right up my street, my beloved on the other hand would rather read a cereal box than a book so I fibbed and sold it to him as a pub crawl. Naughty? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.
There was no hiding the literary side once we arrive to buy our tickets outside the Beehive Pub in The Grassmarket, but it was too late then. He was completely amazed though, once the actors started their foray into the world of the Scottish Literary Greats even he was hooked. Of all the different tours I have been on, this was one of the few where the whole group seemed to mingle.
An unforgettable experience
It happened that there was a large party of 14 people who were there for their friends birthday along with ourselves so it could have been quite difficult to get involved but the nature of the tour automatically gets everyone together, stopping in four quaint pubs and having chance to warm up from the cold enables you to mix.
The actors themselves were fantastic and were really able to bounce off each other. They also ensured that everyone was included and made you feel like this tour was just for you, a truly fantastic tour an one that should not be missed in my opinion, and my beloved? He loved it and even congratulated me on my choice of activity. Thank you to Cameron and Dafydd for an excellent performance, the cherry on my birthday cake.
High on the list of priorities was good food. One place I always visit is Urban Angel on Hanover Street, it’s a lovely little place with good food and in particular an excellent scrambled egg on toast. Simple but extremely tasty and the scrubbed wooden tables and stone fireplaces make for a lovely environment.
For lunch we went to a pub I hadn’t visited in years, The Conan Doyle. Last time I was there it was a good pub and busy but a little dingy. I had spent New Year’s Eve there after the Hogmanay had been cancelled due to extremely bad weather, it was quite by accident and I whiled the night away drinking and eating wheat crunchies. This time, it had been transformed. You will notice that quite a few pubs round Edinburgh belong to Nicholson, and The Conan Doyle is one of them.
Now I usually shy away from a chain but this one surprised me as I hadn’t realised it was one until I left. The food was superb and great value for money. I had a homemade chicken kiev with skin on chips and it was to die for. My beloved opted for Venison sausages and we left very happy indeed. The only down side was the pub was so busy that we had to eat at the bar but in all honesty I completely forgot where I was when I tucked in to the lighter than cloud batter of my kiev.
Amongst other trips we went to some of the more well-known tourist attractions. I was scared out of my wits in the Edinburgh dungeons and despite trying to blend in behind my beloved I ended up being locked in a torture cage and I was the screamer of the group. A tad embarrassing but the rest of the crowd enjoyed laughing at me.
Although this was more commercial it is still worth a look and was very entertaining, just be aware they offer student discount which makes a big difference in price.
Many places round Edinburgh offer discounts so make sure you check out their websites before you go, some planning pays off when saving money. Even though I had my extravagant hotel and travel, there are other ways to save while still having an amazing time.
What do you think? Have you visited Edinburgh? What is a highlight? Have your say in the comments section below.
Image: kyz / Flickr