Great Scot! We made it to Edinburgh and survived our first 3 days of international travel…especially the jet lag! 😉 As we arrived at the Waldorf Astoria The Caledonian on Princes Street, we were greeted by a doorman dressed in full traditional Scottish attire…kilt, sporran, and all. I couldn’t help but appreciate the Scottish traditions and culture that surrounded us. Everyone along our journey and at the hotel were very friendly and accommodating to us, and we really felt like we experienced true “Scottish Hospitality.” Since we arrived around dinner time we decided to eat at the brassiere located inside the hotel. Although not the best spot for a traditional Scottish meal, the French-inspired food was amazing nonetheless. After dinner, we headed off for an early bedtime to fight off the jet lag, and we were super excited to get a good rest because the next day we had plans with L.J.’s brother, Reed, and his wife, Becca (Lamberts on the Loose). They are currently on a trip around the world, and stopped in Edinburgh for the weekend to celebrate L.J.’s 30th birthday with us. We met Reed and Becca for breakfast in the hotel then made our way to Edinburgh Castle.
With a direct view of Edinburgh castle from our hotel room, we were anxious to visit this icon of Scotland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mountain of craggy cliffs on which the castle was built is actually an extinct volcano, menacing yet very alluring. As we made our way down Johnston Terrace and through the park entrance, we took a turn and circled around the bottom of the castle. We took the scenic route and found out why this was the perfect military fortress for hundreds of years….it was quite a hike! When we finally made it to the main entrance of the castle to the Royal Mile, it felt like walking into a scene of Harry Potter. The cobblestone streets, charming shops, and historic scenery of Old Town Edinburgh truly felt magical.
The Royal Mile
When we arrived at the Edinburgh Castle entrance, we were glad to have purchased our tickets online as there was a long line to purchase tickets at the door. We walked right in and wandered around the castle grounds. There were extraordinary views of the city and beyond, and it was the perfect place for a photo-op. We explored the lower defences, the oldest chapel in Edinburgh, St. Margaret’s, the Great Hall and the National War Memorial. We missed out on the Royal jewels, the oldest surviving collection in Europe, but we hope to visit next time. Also, don’t miss out on the famous 15th century guns Mons Meg, the one o’clock gun, and the pet cemetery below the chapel.
After an enjoyable morning at the castle, we headed back to the hotel for our Afternoon Tea reservation at Peacock Alley. It was the perfect break we needed after an active morning. They had a children’s tea menu with 3 tiers of goodies including peanut butter and nutella, ham and cheese, and jam and butter sandwiches; brownies, chocolate truffles, macaroons, cupcakes, and more. The adult menu had a similar offering with prawn sandwiches and a smoked salmon quiche. The grand finale included pistachio and honey scones with clotted creme and jam. Yum! For tea, we had quite a selection from Gardenia Green Tea to Strawberry Summer Tea to an Ayurvedic infusion called Men’s Tea.
The rest of the day we took it easy as Vivienne was still catching up on rest. For dinner, the hotel recommended an Italian restaurant nearby called La Piazza. The setting was very family friendly and the food was great. It was off to bed after that with an 11 p.m. late night wake-up call due to Vivienne’s jet lag! After snacking on leftover scones and playing with toys, she finally fell back asleep around 1 a.m.
The next day we ate breakfast and headed to our Airbnb for just one more night in Edinburgh. We booked a flat last-minute that was located near the University of Edinburgh and the National Museum. It had an adorable rooftop terrace, a modern kitchen, and plenty of space for Vivienne to play. The apartment building was located in a historic area that was previously part of the old Royal Infirmary. The area is in the process of refurbishment, but the row of houses our flat was located on was a mix of modern and historic charm.
We backed up to a beautiful green space called The Meadows with lots of coffee shops and cafes nearby. The Meadows was the perfect backdrop on a sunny day with an energetic toddler. We frolicked in the soft green grass and daydreamed about what it would be like if we lived here. “Can we look for a flat, L.J.?” I frequently ask when exploring a new destination. He usually responds with, “You always say you want to live wherever we are visiting!” This time though, he took me seriously and felt the same way as I did. Maybe it’s his Scottish roots, but I think he really feels an attachment to this beautiful country.
After the park, we enjoyed a delicious Scottish lunch at the Cellar Door, then walked across the street for an afternoon pick-me-up at The Elephant House. If you are a die-hard Harry Potter fan, then you know that this is the coffee shop made famous by J.K. Rowling and the birthplace of the Harry Potter series. The story goes that she sat at a table overlooking the Edinburgh castle, and I can only imagine how inspired she felt with that stunning view and a warm cup of coffee. It’s no wonder I thought of Harry Potter when visiting Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile…..maybe this is part of what inspired J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts?!
The Famous Birthplace of Harry Potter: The Elephant House
We made our way back to the Royal Mile and straight toward the Holyrood Palace next. As we came upon the palace, we were greeted by a massive green and black mountain jutting into the sky, called Arthur’s Seat. Holyrood is the Queen’s residence when she visits Edinburgh, and I must say she has quite the majestic view! You can tour the palace as well as the Queen’s Gallery which houses part of her art collection and her wardrobe through the years (a special, temporary exhibition).
We taxied back to our b&b and and headed to dinner at Cassis Cafe. It was perfectly child-friendly and the food was absolutely delicious. the vegetarian dish was amazing, and the box of toys left for the children to rummage through at dinner provided the best entertainment.
We had a bonny time in Edinburgh, and I can only say that our attachment may grow stronger as we continue our expedition north to the Scottish Highlands. If it’s not a flat L.J. wants, I can always try for a wee cottage in the mountains, aye?!
*At the end of our tour of Scotland, we head back to Edinburgh for a few more days, so there are many more sites we hope to see including the National Museum of Scotland featuring the Celts Exhibition. Check back for updates and follow @kelleyscompass on instagram!