Tuesday, 12 August 2008


In mid-August we went to Edinburgh for the weekend. It was the first time we flew from Stanstead airport and I think will probably also be our last. Not only is it too far to get to on a Friday night after work, the easyJet flight was delayed (after moving the original flight forward few days earlier!!).

We got to Edinburgh by about 9pm and caught the AirLink bus to the city centre. Right outside of the airport Edinburgh appeared almost rural. After about 25 minutes we arrived in the city and got off near Haymarket station as our B&B was near there. The original hotel we booked for the weekend was flooded by recent rain so we were told a few days earlier that another room had been booked for us nearby. The B&B was on a street full of other hotels and B&Bs. The place was run by a family and looked very cosy. The ceilings were high and our room which was huge faced a cute little garden at the back.

The weather was cool as we set out walking to find somewhere for dinner. We walked towards the city centre and ended up picking an Indian/Bengali restaurant called Ignite. The place was decorated modernly but the food was the real winner. Beautiful naan bread, a fantastic buriyani and a tangy lamb jalfrezi had us ooing and aaahhing. Of course we ate too much and stumbled back to our B&B with great difficulty.

We woke up the next day to gloomy skies. Rain was forecasted and it started just as we headed out. We walked to Edinburgh castle, grateful for our waterproof Kathmandu jackets. Edinburgh castle dominates the city skyline as its set on the plug of an extinct volcano. On that day it looked dark and foreboding. The line for tickets was very long and not too pleasant in the rain but we prevailed. Finally with tickets in hand we headed up the hill to the castle.
The castle grounds are huge with many different buildings. We started our tour in the interesting Scottish War Museum. The Scottish have a long history of war and are a passionate people. We continued on to Mary Queen of Scots chambers(dark and gloomy for my liking) and the great hall with decorative weapons and high ceilings. The crown jewels were glittery and over the top as expected. We continued on to the castle wall which had fantastic views over the Queen street gardens and city of Edinburgh. The city sprawled below as far as the eye can see with the national monument and arthurs hill in the distance. The buildings all seemed to be in every shade of grey imaginable.

We stayed on to the one'o clock gun salute which was historically used by sailors to set their marine chronometers by. The shot was quite loud and made a lot of people jump including myself. Luckily by this stage the rain had stopped and it was time to leave the castle to explore the city. We walked down royal mile which was crowded with tourists and locals as well as performers and promoters for the fringe festival. We were getting peckish so we looked about for somewhere to eat. We walked past the Scott Monument dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, one of Scotland's famous authors. We had a light snack at the M&S food hall in the end because every pub seemed packed to the brim with festival goers and tourists. After lunch we went back to our B&B the long way(by foot) to rest before dinner.

After a short rest we headed to dinner at Rhubarb, the restaurant at Prestonfield's about a 10 minute taxi ride from Edinburgh city. Prestonfields is an old manor house set in a huge property that has been converted to a boutique hotel. The grounds were beautifully manicured and well kept. Upon arrival we were greeted by reception staff kitted out in black kilts. We were lead upstairs to have pre-dinner drinks in a room decorated with plush upholstery and antique furniture. Fire place and rich carpet complete the scene. The wine list arrived some 50 pages long split into sections by country of origin. We spent the next 20 minutes deciding on the wine as well as our dinner courses. We sipped champagne till our table was ready at the restaurant. In no time at all it was time to head to our table in the dining room which again was beautifully decorated with grand chandeliers and long bay windows. The whole place oozed with decadence and grandeur. Our table was by one of the huge windows overlooking the hotel gardens. Peacocks were roaming the gardens leisurely. As we were enjoying our first course as it started to rain again. It was beautiful to watch the rain through the big windows as we sat cozily inside the restaurant. Dinner was interesting and the food was very good, but I think the location & atmosphere outdid the food by a mile. We had coffee at one of the upstairs rooms before heading back to the city again.

The next day we checked out after breakfast and headed out to Arthurs Seat which is a steep hill on the outer edge of Edinburgh which many people climb to see the amazing views of the city and beyond. We caught a bus to the Commonwealth pool and walked to the top of Arthurs Seat using one of the many paths available. The climb was invigorating but quite easy in the end. The views were amazing. We waited at the top while a rain cloud moved across spraying us for a short time. It was very windy at the top so the rain didn't last long at all. The sky cleared again and we took the opportunity to take some pictures. It as possible to pick out many of Edinburgh's famous sights from Arthurs Seat including Prestonfields house and golf course. We negotiated the climb down a steeper path to what we climbed and a bit scarier as well.

Next we caught a bus to the centre of town to walk through the Princes Street gardens. The Princes Street Gardens are situated below street level and give great views of Edinburgh castle especially as a backdrop to the big fountain in the middle of the gardens. There was light rain on and off. We found an eco-cafe in corner of the gardens and had lunch. With lots of time to kill before our flight we took the opportunity to visit the Scottish National Gallery right near the Princes street gardens. The collection wasn't huge but still proved to be quite interesting with many paintings & sculptures. There were large crowds outside watching fringe festival performers. There was a girl from Australia doing a hoola hoop show, guys juggling fire sticks and a big demonstration about Palestine in the middle of it all.

Pretty soon it was time to fetch our bags and head to the airport. Can't wait to return to visit the Scottish highlands.

Check out the photos here.