Friday, 3 March 2017

City Break to Edinburgh

Last week I took my mum away to Edinburgh for a few days as a surprise to celebrate her birthday. We had a lovely time (despite Storm Doris trying to sabotage our plans!) and I thought I'd write a little post for me to remember it by and also to pass on what we did in case it gives anyone inspiration.


Although I have visited Edinburgh twice previously, this was Mum's first time so we wanted to do all the usual touristy bits as well as spend some time just strolling and taking in the city. To frame the trip, we were there for pretty much three full days and two nights, and the weather was consistently cold but ranged from bright and sunny to sleet storms!

Travelling

We flew from London Stansted to Edinburgh with Ryanair and I booked the flights about 3 or 4 months in advance to get a good price. I just chose Ryanair as they were the cheapest but in hindsight I'm glad I picked them over Easyjet so we didn't have to suffer the constant miserable airport announcements from them policing the hand luggage. With Ryanair you can take a cabin sized wheelie case and a small handbag, win. The flight there took 1 hr 30 mins and the return one took around an hour. It was much quicker and cheaper then taking the train and then once at the airport we got the tram into the city centre. Super easy/tourist-friendly (not sure it's such a hit with the locals, perhaps understandably) and costs £8 for a return ticket.

To get around the city centre and the sights we mostly walked. We did take a hop-on-hop-off bus but more on that later.

Staying

I always think that when you're on a city break you really just need a hotel to lay your head down, as you're likely to be spending most of the day out and about. This, coupled with the fact that I was paying for the trip and needed it to come within a budget, meant I was looking for a clean and simple hotel that wasn't pricey. Some people hate Travelodge, and I have stayed in some less pleasant ones, but mostly I think they offer a clean and simple option with everything you need. If you've got a bit more cash to splash then you'd probably look for something a bit fancier/with more character, but this was perfect for what we needed.

There are several Travelodge locations in Edinburgh and we stayed in the one on Waterloo Place, just along from Prince's Street. It was a really central location so quick to get everywhere but was just off from the busiest streets and our room was at the back of the hotel, so we heard no street noise at all. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful and we were able to leave our luggage there after checking out so we could carry on exploring and come back for it later on our way to the airport.

Eating

We did a LOT of stopping for a cup of tea and a slice of cake, especially when the weather was particularly cold and we were starting to flag a bit. We also ate at a few cafes and had unadventurous but lovely Pizza Express and Wagamama food.

The real star of the show though was Yeni Meze Bar on Hanover Street. Oh my god this was good. I ate at Yeni last time I went to Edinburgh with my boyfriend, on the recommendation of a friend, and I knew that Mum and I had to go back. They serve Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern (predominantly Turkish) meze pick and mix style dishes and everything I have ordered on both visits has been delicious, no exceptions. The staff are super friendly and the wine is well-priced. The restaurant is quite small so I'd suggest booking if you're planning on going for dinner, but there is no restaurant I'd recommend as much as this place. Go for the chicken iskender and the humus kavurma and you won't be disappointed. Unless you're veggie...in which case steer clear of those two and pick from the many fish or veg based options.

Doing

On day one we checked into our hotel at around midday, settled in and then grabbed a bite to eat before heading off along Prince's St so Mum could take in the view of the various monuments and we could pop into a few shops. We then made our way up Calton Hill which has amazing views of the city, the castle and Arthur's Seat, as well as being the site of several monuments.

Over the next two days we crammed in quite a bit: visiting the castle, walking the royal mile, exploring several of the famous churchyards, visiting the National Museum of Scotland and of course some shopping (restricted by the fact that we'd only brought hand luggage with us!). Had the weather been nicer we probably would have had a walk up to Arthur's Seat and the crags but like I said, Storm Doris had other plans.

We were both a little disappointed with Edinburgh Castle to be honest - although the structures were very impressive the visitor element of it lacked a lot of information and we came away not really sure of why the castle was originally built and how or to whom it had changed hands over the year. This was possibly included in the audio guide which you had to pay extra for, but I'd have expected that sort of information to be included in the standard ticket price. You shouldn't have to come away Googling an attraction to find out the basics about it! It was nice but I wouldn't say it's a must-see if you just have a couple of days in the city.

The other thing we did was a hop-on-hop-off guided bus tour of the city. Not the red buses with pre-recorded audio via headphones that you see in most cities (although they have these too), but the green buses with an actual guide upstairs telling you info as you go round. I think it can be a really good idea to do these when you're in a new city as they give you ideas for places and attractions you might want to visit, as well as explaining bits and pieces you might otherwise not have known. If you're pushed for time as well they can be a good way to get an overview of the area ('m thinking of LA which is quite disparate and where we didn't stay for long). The tickets are also valid for 24 or 48 hours so if you're feeling tired you can use it as an actual bus to get between places or just sit and take another circuit (the guides usually tell different snippets each and if it's sunny it can be nice to just sit on the top deck and chill whilst you rest your feet for a bit!)

And that was our trip in a nutshell. We made our way back to the airport on Friday and left Edinburgh behind. Probably just in time too, as they were hosting the 6 Nations rugby the next day.

Are there any other places in Edinburgh you'd recommend visiting? Or other activities more geared towards a trip with friends/a partner? I'm sure I'll be back again at some point, just hopefully in better weather!