36 Hours in Edinburgh

Where old and modern merge seamlessly: along with medieval alleys, design-forward buildings and a ‘new’ Scottish cuisine.


Edinburgh, a charismatic city full of staircases and hills festooned with Georgian and neo-Classical buildings, is well-versed in incorporating the modern into the old. While it has always been an arts center and a cosmopolitan capital, the city is now turning its vibrant energy toward creating a new Scottish cuisine, a nearly uncountable number of craft beers, and design-forward buildings like the Scottish Parliament, which stands as the symbol of the new Scotland. Yet the charm of “Auld Reekie” is still there in its cozy pubs, medieval alleyways and talkative, wryly self-deprecating residents.

Friday

1. PAST TO PRESENT, 3 P.M.

The National Museum is one of Edinburgh’s crown jewels: a museum that presents a remarkably detailed history of Scotland, from its prehistoric past to the cloning of Dolly the Sheep, who can be found on the first floor. Ten new galleries opened in July, and it would be easy to spend an entire day watching videos about the country’s last lighthouse keepers, learning about the Scottish labor movement, playing with the interactive science exhibits, marveling at how small a vintage Tiger Moth airplane is, and admiring the gloriously airy Victorian atrium. Admission is free, so if you need a stimulant make the two-minute walk to Brew Lab, one of the city’s best independent cafes, which has an industrial chic vibe and top-notch coffee (3.50 pounds, or $4.65), then head back for more. Don’t forget to pick up a tote bag printed with Warhol-esque images of Dolly’s face as a souvenir.

2. PUB GRUB, 6 P.M.

In the upscale neighborhood of Stockbridge, even the pub food is excellent, especially at casual, stylish Scran & Scallie, from the owners of the Michelin-starred Kitchin. You’ll find classics like sausages and mash, and fish and chips, but consider going to the next level and order roast bone marrow, ox tongue and mushrooms, and girolles on toast. The clientele tend to linger over drinks and desserts (try the sticky toffee pudding if it’s on offer). Dinner for two, around £60.

3. BEER GALORE, 8 P.M.

Stockbridge Tap is a bar for serious beer lovers. The international selection changes frequently, but the knowledgeable and friendly bartenders will ask you to describe your favorite tipple and then find the perfect selection. End the evening with a short stroll to the Last Word for one of the most creative and professional cocktails in the city. This basement bar is dimly lit even at 4 p.m. Try the Same But Different, a mix of tequila, mezcal, strawberry jam, rose liqueur and fresh lime juice. There’s a small lab in the back where they do crafty things like clarify chartreuse. Bar snacks include a selection of cheese from the excellent I.J. Mellis cheesemonger around the corner.


Saturday

4. FRY-UP, 9:30 A.M.

The Scottish fried breakfast is a thing of legend (and also perhaps the world’s best hangover cure). The newly opened Angus Fling has a central location, booths upholstered in tartan and an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. The Scottish “fry” comes with sausages, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomato, fried potato bread and a slice of haggis (£6.90). Add a pot of tea for the full Scottish effect.

5. PARLIAMENTS & POETRY, 10:30 A.M.

Walk off that breakfast with a stroll to the Scottish Parliament building, making a detour down tiny Crichton’s Close for a visit to the Scottish Poetry Library. This hidden spot is a haven for literature lovers: Sit down in the second-floor listening library where you can put on headphones and listen to poetry. In the shop, you’ll find illustrated linotype postcards with lines of Robert Burns poetry (£1), and anthologies of Scottish verse. Move on to the Parliament building, a stunningly modern branch-and-leaves design created by the Catalan architect Enric Miralles. It’s a captivating building whether you love the style or hate it, and several themed tours (history, design, architecture) are offered throughout the day — book in advance. If you miss the tour, it’s still possible to pop your head into the chambers where Parliament members meet. If the independence vote ever passes, this is the place from which Scotland will be governed.

6. CASTLES & SHEEP’S HEADS, NOON

Edinburgh Castle is perhaps the city’s biggest draw, and even on a weekday ticket lines can be long. Instead of elbowing your way past the crowds, head southeast to Craigmillar Castle: just three miles from the city center but surrounded by grassy fields and refreshingly low on visitors (admission, £5.50; taxi, around £10). A beautifully preserved castle whose original incarnation was built in the 1300s, it grew over the centuries with each resident family making changes. Ramparts and arrow-slit windows offer fabulous views all the way to Edinburgh Castle. The guidebook (£2.50) provides ample information on the building’s details and its occupants (Mary Queen of Scots was a guest). From here, stroll along the edge of Holyrood Park for a mile to reach the Sheep Heid Inn, a low-ceilinged pub that claims to have fed guests for six centuries. Have a hearty lunch of sloe gin-smoked salmon followed by a chicken and ham pie. Take a peek in back, where an antiquated skittles alley (a type of bowling) is still in use.

image for Craigmillar Castle
7. SUMMERHALL, 4 P.M.

Once a veterinary college, the arts and performance space known as Summerhall is packed with warrens and small hallways that make it a fabulous place to wander for a few hours, especially if there’s a performance happening. The space hosts exhibitions, theater, dance and music events throughout the year, and even the hallways and elevators are home to shows during the annual Fringe Festival. Stop by to check out the art and browse through the original works for sale in the shop. In the tiny distillery in the back, giant casks of gin and rows of bottles await. Finish up at the bar, once the school’s Small Animal Hospital, and have a pint of Summerhall Pale Ale, made in the on-site brewery.

8. RHYMES WITH ‘HAZEL’, 7 P.M.

Aizle is one of the growing number of Edinburgh restaurants where the menu takes the form of a list of ingredients (black vinegar, chicken skin, summer berries, for instance). Happily, these ingredients manifest themselves as beautifully executed plates; a set menu of four dishes, with “snack” and dessert (£45), changes monthly, according to the harvest. If you’re looking for the future of Scottish food — local, thoughtful and laid-back — look no further.

9. WATER OF LIFE, 9:30 P.M.

Scotland’s production of small-batch and you’ve-never-heard-of-them whiskies is booming, and facing a menu of two or three hundred choices in a local pub can be overwhelming. At the Whiski Rooms, you can try one of the whisky flights (starting at £17), each a selection of four sorted by region and style, such as Highland malts, extra-peaty vintages from Islay, and sherried single malts. Stock up on bottles from the shop next door, which also offers guided tastings during the day.


Sunday

10. LEITH, 10 A.M.

Edinburgh’s historic port, Leith, sits on Firth of Forth and is the ideal place for a Sunday stroll. The face of the neighborhood has changed rapidly in recent years, and now the area is a fascinating hodgepodge of quirky pubs, secondhand stores and trendy cocktail bars. Stroll along the waterfront and then turn south, keeping an eye out for the murals, an ongoing public art project by the local organization LeithLate. Check out the hip young things sipping hair-of-the-dog cocktails with brunch in the Lioness of Leith, or stop for a pint in the bicycle-themed Tourmalet. Finish up with lunch at the King’s Wark, a 15th-century pub with mismatched chairs and a pub menu that includes Shetland mussels in garlicky broth.

11. COLLECTIVE ON CALTON, 1 P.M.

It’s a steep climb to the top of Calton Hill, but the panoramic views — of Leith, the Firth, and Arthur’s Seat (an ancient volcano) — are worth it. Developed as a public park in 1724, the hill is dotted with monuments, among them the acropolis-style National Monument, which has remained technically “under construction” since the early 19th century. Climb the spiral staircase to the top of the Nelson Monument (admission, £5; closed Sundays from Oct. 1 through March) for even more spectacular views. Make sure to stop by Collective Gallery, which relocated here in 2013 and operates a small exhibition space featuring pieces by artists working in Scotland.

12. SNUG PUB, 3 P.M.

Sink into the velvet seats of Kay’s Bar, a small Georgian coach house turned quiet Victorian pub tucked away from the crowds on tiny, circular Jamaica Street. This is the “local” for Edinburgh residents, from geezers nodding off over pints of the oft-changing selection of ales to university students solving the world’s problems as the table fills up with empty glasses. The smattering of original fixtures and the warm red glow of the walls, furniture and carpet make this snug pub a cozy place to retreat from the inevitable rain.


Lodging

 

Visit our website: http://b2b.abbeyirelandanduk.com/

 

 

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6 reasons to visit Scotland in autumn

For our indie travel journal, A Year in the UK & Ireland, we ventured to Scotland for two months over September and October 2015 – and we were blown away. Counter to popular belief about Scotland’s weather, we were met with blue skies and sunshine almost throughout, plus landscapes so golden it was as if they’d been brushed by King Midas himself.

For that reason, we think there’s no better time to visit Scotland than autumn. If you need further convincing, here are six strong incentives.

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1. Golden hues

The leaves start changing colour around mid-September in Scotland. Greens turn to yellows, golds, burnt oranges and fiery reds, transforming its national parks and rural areas into spectacular autumnal sights. As there is so much wilderness in Scotland, it makes it a particularly apt place to take in these seasonal colours.
We fell for Cairngorms, in particular around Glen Clova (the front cover shot of our journal) and further north around Aviemore. Head to Loch an Eilein, a freshwater loch that is mesmerising in autumn when the trees start to turn and colours reflect in the still waters.

2. Indian summers

In the last five years or so, the weather in Scotland has seemed more pleasant over the months of September and October – we can certainly vouch for that in 2015. Recent reports predict that these months in 2016 are also set to be warmer than usual, with temperatures reaching around 25°C through September and into October.
While not all of Scotland will enjoy these Indian summer spells, select your destination wisely and you could be enjoying a balmier side to Scotland this year, and for years to come.

3. Fewer crowds

Despite these changing climactic conditions, it’s undeniable that July and August will always be busier months for tourism. School holidays dictate these peak periods, and as post-Brexit blues have forced more people to holiday in the UK, more Brits are choosing to travel around their own country, making it busier than ever. The crowds – and the peak season prices that come with them – can be easily avoided by choosing to visit Scotland in autumn.

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4. See the red deer rut

In autumn each year, the red deer across the UK go through the rut – a period of mating whereby stags have to round up a suitable female. Their penetrating roar can be heard across the landscape during this time, and there are often fights between rival males trying to lay claim to the same female.
This magnificent display of nature at work can be seen across Scotland, and is often made even more stirring because of the country’s isolation. There are few things more rousing that being alone on a glen and hearing a roar far off into the distance. Head to the windswept isles of Jura or Rum in the Inner Hebrides for sure-fire rut sightings.

 

5. Perfect pub evenings

Although the weather might be warmer, this is still the UK and the evenings cool down drastically – but the Scottish are prepared. With cosy pubs across the land, there’s ample opportunity to hunker down in a local tavern, a traditional made all-the-more inviting by the imminent threat of cold evenings and winter drawing close.
Not only are there plenty of watering holes, there’s lots of local firewater to go round too – Scotch. Settle down in a pub on a chilly autumnal evening in Scotland with your hands curled around a glass of Islay’s finest single malt.

 

6. No midges!

The midges that descend upon Scotland in the summer months have been ruining holidays for countless years. You can be bitten by these little pests hundreds of times over the course of a weekend away, leading to the most infuriating evenings and so-called ‘midge misery’. Even though you can find midges all over the globe, the local species – known as the Highland midge – is recognised as particularly ferocious. In autumn, the midges have long-since departed. Sayonara, suckers.

Would you visit Scotland in autumn?

 

 

 

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Royal Yacht Britannia named Scotland’s Best Visitor Attraction for 10 years’ running

The Queen’s former floating palace in Edinburgh has been rated the nation’s Best Visitor Attraction for each of the past 10 years by VisitScotland.

 

The five-star attraction achieved a record score of 96 per cent in the VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance Scheme.

It is the highest mark ever awarded to a Scottish visitor attraction, with the score trumping the Royal Yacht’s own record set in 2014.

VisitScotland’s scheme measures the quality for tourism businesses, benchmarking visitor attractions, accommodation providers and catering establishments across the country.

Businesses are assessed on a set of criteria, including welcome, attitude, knowledge and efficiency of staff, audience level and maintenance.

It was a landmark year for the Royal Yacht, as it announced record numbers of 308,906 visitors in 2015.

Since opening in 1999, almost five million people from around the world have visited The Queen’s former floating palace in Edinburgh.
Britannia’s chief executive, Bob Downie said: “To be the best in Scotland once is a fantastic achievement, but to do this for ten consecutive years is a phenomenal tribute to our staff who go the extra mile to ensure that all our visitors have a great experience when they visit Britannia.

“The true test of any great organisation is consistency of performance, delivering great value for time and money, year in year out, and there is no doubt that our pioneering approach to providing great customer experiences has underpinned our success.”

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland’s chief executive, said: “I’d like to congratulate Britannia on this fantastic achievement, which demonstrates an outstanding commitment to quality and excellence in every aspect of the business.

“Retaining the accolade of Scotland’s best attraction for 10 years’ running, Britannia is setting the standards for tourism in Scotland, and it is a real testament to the total commitment shown by their staff to consistently deliver a world leading customer experience.”
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The best hotels near Edinburgh Castle

From Telegraph.co.uk

The best hotels near Edinburgh Castle

The best hotels near Edinburgh Castle, featuring the top places to stay for romantic restaurants, elegant rooms, cosy bars and stylish interiors, near Waverley Station and the Royal Mile

Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian

An imposing and historic building in the heart of the city, with a top restaurant and a new spa. It’s a modern take on the grand hotel: doormen in top hats, afternoon teas and women in furs alongside first-class connectivity, a fitness centre (with swimming pool and Guerlain spa) and impeccably refurbished rooms. Rooms come in four grades from ‘Classic’ to ‘Suites’, decorated in lightly soothing or softly stormy colours. Splash out on a ‘Castle View’ room for a heart-swelling outlook on life in Edinburgh.

Waldorf Astoria

G&V Hotel

The only five-star hotel on the Royal Mile, located between the George IV Bridge and the photogenic charms of Victoria Street. For a hotel with 167 rooms it feels remarkably personal, with graceful references to the past incorporated in the new Scottish designer-led revamp. Rooms come in ‘cosy’, ‘signature’, ‘superior’ and ‘deluxe’, all with iPod docks and Nespresso machines. It’s a five minute stroll up the Royal Mile to the castle from the G & V Hotel, where room 507 has a huge window framing a fabulous view of the castle.

 

The Scotsman

The former Scotsman newspaper building turned five star hotel is a bastion of solid confidence and quiet style in a commanding position offering great views over the city. You can swim in the stainless steel pool, have a spa treatment, hang out in the North Bridge Brasserie or just gaze out over the city from your turret bedroom. If money is no object go for the penthouse and play Edinburgh Monopoly in your own library.

 

Sheraton Grand Hotel

Located in Festival Square on the Lothian Road overlooking the west side of Edinburgh Castle, this modern hotel has everything you would expect from the brand, with bells on. Although predominantly aimed at business travellers, the location, range of rooms and services, luxurious spa and well-regarded restaurant make it the perfect choice for travellers who like to know exactly what they’re getting. There are 269 rooms in five categories, and these range from ‘Classic’ to ‘Grand Suite’, all with a look best described as well-tailored.

 

Motel 1 Edinburgh Princes Street

Located bang opposite Waverley Station and handy for everything, this German brand brings strong design to budget hotels, leaving everyone else playing catch-up. Here corporate means a house identity that is bold, distinctive and slightly bonkers. Rooms are pleasingly minimal – white walls and brand identity accents of turquoise and dark brown, book a front-facing room for views of the castle. Public areas are stylish, fun and functional; bedrooms are simple triumphs of good design using the house style with a lighter touch.

 

Doubletree by Hilton

This city-centre hotel is not on the most salubrious-looking street in Edinburgh, but it’s in a central location close to the Grassmarket, with a great view of the imposing south side of the castle, and good restaurants nearby too. Although strongly corporate, the welcome is as genuinely warm as the complimentary cookie handed out on arrival, while the more stylish bar and restaurant areas make up for regimentally uniform but convincingly comfortable bedrooms.

(…)

 

The Balmoral Hotel

This neo-Renaissance building with its massive clock tower has been an Edinburgh landmark for more than a century. With elegant bedrooms, the most expensive of which look out over Princes Street, the Castle and Arthur’s Seat, over-the-top marble bathrooms, a spa, gym and swimming pool and Number One restaurant (Michelin star holder for 13 years), as well as a brasserie, the Balmoral Bar and a dedicated whisky bar, this is a 21st century version of a grand hotel.

 

The George Hotel

Edinburgh Castle is only a 10-minute walk from the newly refurbished George Hotel, where rooms at the side of the hotel have castle views. Bedrooms come in various sizes and styles from standard to suites (no bathrobes until you reach ‘deluxe’), but standard rooms are a good size, the ones in the old building with perhaps more character, but the new rooms are appealingly bright. A byword for comfort and unchanging standards for generations of visitors to Edinburgh, the hotel has managed to retain its essential character whilst managing to keep up with the times.

The George

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New direct flight between Edinburgh and Paris announced

A new direct flight between Edinburgh and Paris has been announced.
Transavia – the low-cost airline of the Air France-KLM Group – will operate four weekly flights on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

  
The flights between Edinburgh Airport and Paris Orly will begin in April next year.

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar said: “Well done to Transavia for recognising the growing demand for connectivity from Edinburgh.

“Confirmation of this route between Scotland’s capital and the heart of France shows they share similar aspirations for business growth as we do.”

Herve Kozar, chief commercial officer of Transavia, said: “This route between two leading European capitals with four frequencies per week from Edinburgh is a major achievement for us.

“This scheduling will suit both city breakers and business passengers.”

The announcement was also welcomed by tourism bosses.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “The French market is already a big contributor to our wider tourism economy as well as an opportunity for future tourism growth.

“French travellers love the romance of Edinburgh and the Highlands beyond.

“They keep coming back, and at all times of year, so the new year-round service with Transavia will ensure that they continue to visit and enjoy our summer and winter festivals alike.”
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Things to Do in Edinburgh

2015-10-30-1446213128-4267013-IMG_5574-thumbGo on a historical walking tour.

A walking tour in Edinburgh is a must as so much of the city’s history is in its streets, hidden in alleyways and market squares. There are loads of tour companies and last minute street tours you can join.

Wander through the shops on Victoria Street.

The collection of restaurants and shops in this colorful bend in the road is one of the hippest corners of the city. The Red Door Gallery is a great spot to grab some local souvenir artwork or take home a Harris tweed bowtie from Walker Slater.

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Picnic in Princes Street Gardens.

If you’re lucky enough to have sunshine in Edinburgh, you have to spend at least one afternoon spread out in these gardens that are in the shadow of the castle. I buy bread, cheese, fruit and wine at the Marks and Spencer Food Hall to share with friends in the park.

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Get your whisky on.

Right on the Royal Mile is a spot I try to pop into whenever I’m in Edinburgh. It is a bar called Whiski. They have live music (often Scottish folk) every night. With over 500 whiskys, they are sure to stock your favorite single malt, but they also offer tastings or “whisky flights” if you’re new to Scotch whisky.

I especially like the flights that highlight the different regions so you can taste the difference between an island malt (peaty/smoky) or a Speyside (usually more smooth).

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Climb a hill for a view of the city.

If you’re feeling energetic, head to the top of Arthur’s Seat for the best views of the city. The walk starts at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Holyrood Park, past the Palace of Holyroodhouse. A smaller hill to climb that also has a great view of the city is Calton Hill. It’s on the opposite side of town from the Royal Mile.

Go to a museum.

There are several great art museums in Edinburgh. My favorite is the Scottish National Gallery in Princes Street Gardens. Bonus: Admission is free. It boasts an impressive collection of both Italian and Dutch masters and of course, famous Scottish artists. Look for William McTaggart’s gorgeous landscape paintings of Scotland’s dreamy west coast. Also free to visit, the National Museum of Scotland is worth a wander just to view the building. It is usually my rainy day back-up plan to any outdoor activities because it is massive.

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There are loads of great tea rooms in Edinburgh, which make it easy to stop multiple times for tea on a rainy day. Valerie Patisserie is our family favorite. Some of the loveliest tea rooms are inside the museums where you can pop in for a slice of cake and some tea to revive you after wandering the exhibits.

Every guidebook to Edinburgh will include touring both Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. These are both great places to visit, but I’ve omitted them because they are already well covered. If you only have one day in the city, you might view these buildings from the outside in favor of a few other choices, especially during the high summer season as they can be very crowded.
Whatever you do in Edinburgh, you are sure to fall in love and want to come back again and again to see the hilltop fort and spires rising up around you.

 

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Edinburgh Airport and VisitScotland welcome direct flights to Dusseldorf

Edinburgh Airport and VisitScotland have today welcomed confirmation from Eurowings of a new direct flight between Scotland's capital and Dusseldorf Airport.

Edinburgh Airport’s Chief Executive Gordon Dewar said the three-times-weekly flight – which will commence on March 27 of next year – highlights the airport’s commitment to delivering enhanced options for passengers and business links direct between Scotland and mainland Europe.

Mr Dewar said: “I am delighted that Edinburgh Airport has a direct new flight into the heart of Dusseldorf; this offers even greater choice and is further confirmation of Edinburgh Airport’s position as a leader for business connectivity between Scotland and the continent.

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“Credit is due to Eurowings for recognising the growing demand for connectivity from Edinburgh. Confirmation of this route between Scotland’s capital and Dusseldorf Airport shows they share similar aspirations for business growth as we do.

“With over one million passengers through the doors at Edinburgh Airport last month – and in every one of the last five months – we are continuing to grow, create jobs and make a positive contribution for Scotland’s economy.”

Eurowings, which is part of the Lufthansa Group, already serves Cologne from Edinburgh. Lufthansa also flies to Frankfurt from Edinburgh, and two airlines within the same group – Brussels Airlines and Edelweiss Airlines (Swiss) – also serve Edinburgh to Brussels to Zurich respectively.

Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland, said: “Germany already makes up our single biggest European market and is our second largest international market. Last year Scotland welcomed 343,000 trips by our German friends – almost a fifth more than in 2013. Air services play an important part in growing the visitor economy and we are particularly delighted to see such a strong operator as Eurowings increasing its position in Scotland.

“German visitors see Scotland as an ideal destination for ‘romantic adventurers’ and can be found travelling to all corners of the country to explore our diverse cities and beautiful landscape. With this exciting addition to Scotland’s air routes, we look forward to welcoming even more of our German friends next year.”