It’s been almost a month since I made the big move to Edinburgh, can you believe it eh? We are now in December (not sure what is more shocking at this point, 2017 where have you gone?) and I’m currently counting down the days until I’m back home in leafy Surrey. This week just passed however, I got a mini taste of home when a close friend came to visit me in Edinburgh. It’s far to say we packed the weekend full of Christmas activities and sight seeing and had great fun exchanging stories and catching up.
Here’s a run down of what we got up to:
Friday 1st December
My friend arrived around 11ish and we made our way straight away along Prince’s Street, looking at all the Christmas displays in the shop windows and weaving our way through the crowds of people strolling up and down the street. We then headed to the Edinburgh Christmas markets, which can not fail to put you in the Christmas spirit. Up until this point, I thought it would be near impossible to beat the Bath Christmas markets but actually Edinburgh might just clinch it! The smells of bailey’s hot chocolate, mulled wine and cinnamon can not be avoided- there are so many tasty food stalls and tempting drink stands. There is also such a variety of things of offer- an ideal place to visit if you are in need of some Christmas stocking fillers. After a little wander, we made our way over to the Old town of Edinburgh. This is an absolute must-see- although a little touristy in parts, there are some gorgeous streets that look especially picturesque with all the Christmas lights up. We wandered along the cobbled streets to St Giles Cathedral- an orchestra were rehearsing for an evening concert when we went in- there are quite often orchestras playing here of excellent standard so it’s well worth checking this out. The Cathedral itself is magnificent- with beautiful arches, stained glass windows and really quite stunning flower arrangements, it’s definitely worth popping in.
After exploring various shops, streets and avenues, we stopped for a bite to eat at Southern Cross Cafe. We had a little pick-me-up in the form of a jaffa orange cake and a caramel shortcake (both incredible). We had a lovely window seat and spent a good couple of hours chatting and people watching passerby’s. Idyllic.
Following this, we wondered around some more of the shops, one of the best of the touristy shops probably has to be Thistle do nicely. Think the exceptional pun name drew me in here, but they had a good selection of Scottish shortbread, Scottish-themed gifts and of course tartan scarfs (absolutely unavoidable in the Old Town of Edinburgh). We stumbled across a fudge shop called The Fudge House which had a pretty impressive amount of fudge on display, plus FREE samples (would particularly recommend the Chocolate Peanut butter fudge- out of this world.) We also came across the Elephant House, where J K Rowling was thought to have written some of the Philosophers Stone in. We didn’t go in but was good just to go and visit and see where it all started for her (or at least supposedly!)
Our evening was spent eating copious amounts of pizza and garlic bread (carb overload) and watching Elf (nothing quite gets you in the Christmas spirit like this movie).
Saturday 2nd December
Saturday was perhaps our most jam-packed day! We woke up bright and early and headed out to Calton Hill, a famous world heritage site in Edinburgh. The views were lovely and you can look over at Arthur’s Seat which looks particularly impressive, especially on a clear, crisp morning. From Calton Hill, we made our way to Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat. A word of warning here: bring appropriate footwear. It is not a particularly difficult climb but it can be quite slippery and muddy. There were a number of people trekking up in Gucci-style loafers and Chelsea boots, which were caked in mud before they even reached the peak of Arthur’s Seat! If you are a little unsteady of your feet (like me) then definitely wear either trainers or walking boots to avoid a muddy catastrophe half way up.
The nice thing about Arthur’s Seat is that there are various routes you can take to get to the top. We went for the path with a gentler incline and then came down a fairly steep set of steps. There are various viewpoints around Arthur’s Seat and it is incredible how far you can see- we were so luckily and picked a bright, clear day so could see for miles. We of course had to take some obligatory pictures at the top and spent a worryingly long time brainstorming Instagram captions for them on the way down (we are a rather wild bunch, I know). I honestly think this is a must-see and am so happy to have ticked this one of my Edinburgh bucket list! As the weather has taken a turn for the worst, thanks to Storm Caroline, I probably won’t be climbing this again this year but will definitely be tempted to walk it again in the warmer months.
It’s safe to say that we were freezing after walking Arthur’s Seat and so headed down, past the Scottish Parliament building (so different to Westminster- definitely worth checking out) to a little cafe. We warmed ourselves up with a warm hot chocolate and some soup before heading back along the Royal Mile. The rest of the day was spent browsing the Christmas markets and Princes Street- trying to make some headway with Christmas present shopping! In the evening, we went ice-skating at St Andrews Square. Not only was this very affordable, especially compared to the likes of Somerset House in London, but it was so much fun! If you’re in the Edinburgh area, I would recommend booking yourself a ticket. The outdoor rink is so christmassy with people there to help the less-able-skaters (aka. me) and there’s a bar in the center to reward yourself after an hour or so of skating!
As this post is starting to resemble something of a small essay, I’d better stop here. I’d love to hear what Christmas plans you have, wherever you are in the world and particularly any Edinburgh recommendations!