This is blog post #2 of our three part series about our UK vacation. You can read about the London portion of our trip here and about the Scottish Highlands portion here. You can also view our 1 Day in Edinburgh travel guide here.
After two days in London, we headed to Scotland for 4 full days. Our first stop: Edinburgh! As we mentioned in our London blog, we originally planned to go to Ireland instead of Scotland, but we saw a photo of Edinburgh while planning the trip, thought it looked amazing, and we knew we had to go there. Although Ireland looks incredible too and we can’t wait to visit eventually, we are so glad we had a change of heart because we fell deeply in love with Edinburgh. So much so that I was overcome with emotion and almost cried while we walked the streets because it was so magical.
We only had one day in the city, so we made sure to see as much as we could. We started our morning just after sunrise by walking to Dean Village, right down the street from our Airbnb. This is an adorable former village right on the Water of Leith that used to be a big graining milling area. Similar to London, everything opens a little later in Edinburgh, so we had the whole area to ourselves and enjoyed a quiet morning walking around the village and seeing a waterfall on the river.
We were starving after Dean Village and headed to Loudons Cafe for some breakfast. We got there before they opened, walked around the area a little bit, and then got seated right away. We really enjoyed breakfast here! We got french press coffee, vegan and gluten free banana chocolate pancakes, and Adam continued his black pudding adventures with a traditional Scottish breakfast. He thought the black pudding here was better than in London. One fun new Scottish item we got to try were tattie scones, which are sort of like potato pancakes. They are delicious!
Despite getting a huge french press at Loudons, we were exhausted from getting no sleep, so we headed to Fortitude Coffee for more caffeine. 🙂 This is a very tiny, but super cute coffee shop right by town. From there, we took a bus to Holyrood Park to hike Arthur’s Seat!
There are a few ways to do the hike, but we took the main trail to the top (and back down). The hike was fairly easy and had great views the entire time. When we got to the top, it was crazy windy (our shirts and hair were flying everywhere), so we didn’t stay up there too long. Although, we managed to sneak in an awkward tripod photoshoot. 😛 On the way down, we went off the main trail a bit to explore the ancient St. Anthony’s Chapel.
The wonderful thing about Edinburgh is how walkable it is! Our feet were exhausted from London, but we managed to walk almost everywhere. From Arthur’s Seat, it’s a quick walk to the Royal Mile, the main tourist street in town. Along the way, we found this awesome old cemetery that we explored, which had some interesting history about people stealing bodies to sell to universities for research. Creepy!
We spent the majority of the afternoon walking around the Royal Mile. This area is SO BEAUTIFUL! The architecture is so historic and gorgeous, we felt like we were in a fairytale the entire time. One thing that we totally forgot about until we arrived in Edinburgh is that August is their big festival month. The city streets are full of different stages and entertainment. It definitely made the city more crowded, but the vibe was so fun!
While exploring the Royal Mile, a couple of our favorite streets were Cockburn Street and Victoria Street. We couldn’t stop smiling as we walked around! Victoria Street in particular is super cool because while it’s very historic looking, some of the buildings have very colorful storefronts, which give the street such a unique and fun look!
On Victoria Street, we grabbed lunch at Oink, a super popular roasted pig joint where you can actually see the roasted pig in the window that they grab meat from (kind of gross, but also cool!). They are known for their sandwiches and Adam got one with stuffing and applesauce. I can’t have bread, so I got a big container of meat with applesauce. It sounds so weird, but apparently the apple and meat combo is big in the UK, as we tried it at multiple places.
Our next stop was one we were super excited for: Edinburgh Castle! The castle sits at the top of a big hill and overlooks the entire city. It’s such a beautiful building! We walked around the castle for a couple hours, checking out the many museums inside, the great hall, and admiring the views of the city from the many viewpoints.
Around this time, our tiredness hit us HARD. At this point in the trip we had only gotten a total of maybe 16 hours of sleep over 4 days. We decided to take a little break at Cairngorm Coffee for an hour or so to relax and rest our feet. This is a super cute and small coffee shop with great coffee.
We gathered enough energy to finish our exploring for the day. The next item on our itinerary was the Real Mary King Close tour. We had found this tour while researching Edinburgh and it looked pretty cool! Back in the day, the city of Edinburgh was filled with many closes, which are alleyways, that led to many houses people lived in. The city has now been built on top of these, so some of them are now underground.
The tour took us under Edinburgh into these old rooms and houses people used to live in. The guide was very entertaining and told us the stories of the people who lived there, the plague outbreak, and general history of Edinburgh. The tour finished by letting us walk in the Mary King close. Unfortunately we couldn’t take any photos on the tour, but it was a fun and informative way to spend an hour!
After our tour, we headed to Makars Gourmet Mash Bar for dinner, where we had a delicious Scottish meal. Similar to Mother Mash in London, the menu is very meat and potato heavy. Adam got the veggie sausage and mash (he was too scared to try the haggis—next time!), while I got the Bonnie Prince Charlie chicken and mash. We also shared a chicken Rosti stack, which was chicken and salsa on top of a potato fritter. It was SO much food and all incredible! Despite being super full from all of the food, Adam managed to find room for some Sticky Toffee Pudding, which looked heavenly, but unfortunately I couldn’t eat it :(.
The last item on our Edinburgh agenda was to watch sunset at Calton Hill. If you google image search Edinburgh, one of the most common images you’ll see is from this hill. We were stoked to check it out! The sun was out and we knew it would be an amazing sunset. We got there about 45 minutes before sunset and found a good spot to sit before it got too crazy busy. Watching the sun go down with the city in the background was the most magical way we could’ve ended our only full day in Edinburgh!
The next morning we had a couple hours to spend in the city before heading to the Scottish Highlands. We woke up early to walk around town before it got busy, specifically Victoria Street once again because it was so busy the day before. It was raining out and we snapped a couple photos of the street before ducking into the tiny and adorable Wellington Coffee to get dry. We grabbed our two new favorite drinks, a flat white and a long black, before heading to breakfast at The Bluebird Cafe.
We took a bus to The Bluebird Cafe and arrived right after it opened. It’s a super tiny cafe, with only three tables and we had the entire place to ourselves! The owner was so nice and gave us tons of suggestions for the last part of our trip. The breakfast was also amazing too! Adam got a breakfast burrito, which is kind of a risky item to get in Europe, but he said it was delicious. He also got a blueberry and lemon curd scone that was fresh out of the oven. Since breakfast is nearly impossible for me to eat with my dietary restrictions, I got sausage, bacon, and an AMAZING tattie scone. Normally tattie scones aren’t gluten free, but both The Bluebird Cafe and Loudons had GF versions, which made me so happy! The Bluebird Cafe’s version was the winner though. 🙂
After our amazing breakfast, it was time to leave Edinburgh. Edinburgh was definitely the most beautiful city we have ever been to and we had the best time walking the streets and experiencing its history and culture. We know we will be back again!
Although we were super sad to leave Edinburgh, we were very excited for the next portion of our trip: The Scottish Highlands. We headed to the airport to grab our rental car and begun the drive to the Isle of Skye. Read all about that portion of our trip here, including how we felt about driving on the other side of the road!