Not everyone would consider visiting Edinburgh in February, as it can be notoriously cold at that time of year, but this year we took the plunge, and were not disappointed.
Sara receives loyalty points on her annual rail season ticket, and these allowed us to travel First Class via the East Coast Main Line on the journey from Newark to Edinburgh, free of charge. With unlimited free drinks, a selection of free food and comfortable reclining seats, this is definitely the way to travel.
We had booked into the Radisson Blu hotel on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. The hotel is nicely situated, being within a 10 minute walk of the train station, and centrally located for most of the standard tourist sites. It is also handily placed to give the visitor easy access to the many bars, restaurants and cafes in this part of the city.
The hotel itself was clean, the staff were friendly and the buffet breakfast was superb. We chose not to use the hotel’s restaurant for our main meals, preferring to venture out in the evening, although the menu looked really good and was reasonably priced.
We arrived in Edinburgh in the early afternoon, after a 3 hour train journey from Newark, checked-in, dumped our bags and ventured straight back out in the bright sunshine (yes, really!).
The first thing that strikes you about Edinburgh, especially after spending time in London, is how relatively quiet and unhurried everything is. Also the city is quite compact, with the main tourist sites, such as the Castle, Holyroodhouse Palace and the various museums and galleries all within an easy 30 minute walk of our hotel. The main shopping areas, predominantly in the New Town, could also be reached after a leisurely 30 minute stroll.
On our first full day , as the weather was still good, we decided to visit the Castle first, as the hotel staff had kindly advised us to get there early to beat the crowds.
The Castle’s location is stunning, set high above the city, with great views across Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside and coast. The Castle houses a number of regimental museums within its walls, including a stunning memorial to those soldiers of the Scottish regiments who lost their lives in battle. The Scottish Crown Jewels are also housed there.
After a two and a half hour visit, we decided to walk back down the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. On the way, we stopped at Mimi’s for lunch, a very small cafe, really catering for takeouts, but if you can grab a table, do so. The paninis are huge, and they serve Teapigs tea as well.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is a magnificent building, situated in Holyrood Park, against the backdrop of the imposing 822 feet of Arthur’s Seat. It is also adjacent to the less-imposing, in our opinion, Scottish Parliament building. One can only imagine Prince Charles’ reaction to waking in the palace and having to look out on this, if ever a building deserved the description ‘carbuncle’ this has to be it.
The free audio tour of the Palace is excellent, and as you would expect in any royal residence, the rooms sumptuous and full of history.
After dinner at one of the many restaurants close to the hotel, so to bed!
On our second full day the weather was still good, so we decided to forego the museums and galleries and head off to the city’s port, Leith. A 4 mile stroll along the river, via the aptly named Water of Leith Walk found us in the centre of this district to the north of the city. By chance, we stumbled upon the main branch of Mimi’s , so it would have been rude not to…
Leith docks themselves are mainly disused, with a few rig support boats in evidence. However, as part of the regeneration of the area, the port was fortunate to be chosen as the final resting place of the former Royal Yacht Britannia. A large shopping complex, Ocean Terminal, has been developed around the yacht and, although sounding a bit tacky, the whole thing has been very well done. The yacht tour is again well worth doing, and certainly gives an insight into why our Royal family were so distraught when the yacht was decommissioned. Plush or what!!
A walk back through the outskirts of Leith, less regenerated and a bit rough it has to be said, brought us back to the City centre and afternoon tea at John Lewis.
A bit of retail therapy (for Sara anyway) along the main shopping streets of Princes Street and George Street followed, then back to the hotel for a tidy-up and back out for dinner at another local restaurant.
Our train was due to leave at noon on day four, so a handy late check-out enabled us to leave our bags at the hotel, do some last minute shopping (again!) before heading back to the station, this time for a journey by standard class back to Newark.
Having only had 2 full days in Edinburgh, we felt we had only just scratched the surface. There is a lot to see and do, and we will almost definitely be going back, if only for a whisky tasting and haggis session.