Edinburgh – Whiskey, Illusions and Haggis

The cobbled winding streets, the dominating presence of the castle and backdrop of the rolling Scottish countryside makes Edinburgh one of the most picturesque cities I’ve visited.

Where to Stay

There are so many hostels and hotels to choose from, but I need to talk about the Airbnb we got. We stayed in the Central Edinburgh Georgian Apartment and oh my word this place was friggin BEAUTIFUL! There are three massive bedrooms complete with original Georgian features, an enormous living room and a beautiful kitchen. The apartment was €500 for two nights however as there was five of us staying, this worked out reasonably, particularly as we were there during the Rugby European Champions Cup Final and accommodation was really expensive throughout the city.

What to Do

The Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is a fun place to pass a couple of hours. Here you can see the camera obscura, Ames Room, Severed Head Table as well as plenty of other light and visual illusions. I’ve been twice and enjoyed it both times. The one downside is that the building is very small and when its busy it can be hard to see everything, also there is no elevator and you will need to climb several flights of stairs to start the tour. Entry to the museum costs £16 and takes about 2 hours to complete. From the top you get some incredible views of the gothic landscape.

You can’t miss Edinburgh Castle. I mean that literally; its massive and in the centre of the city so it’s simply impossible not to see. You can buy tickets to go into the grounds where you can see weapons, the armoury, the great hall, the national war museum and the Scottish crown jewels. The first time I visited Edinburgh I didn’t pay to go into the castle, instead we just walked around the grounds outside and frankly, at £18, I think it is a little pricey for what you get. If you have a real interest in medieval history this might be worth the money but for me, I didn’t think it was worth it.

Put five Irish people in Scotland and they will seek out the Scotch Whisky Experience. This is located right by the Optical Illusion Museum and the Castle. I love a good whisky and this probably the best factory tour I’ve done. There are lots of different tours to choose from and we settled on the Silver Tour which is 50 mins long and costs £16. As part of this you get brought on an interactive tour in a whisky barrel where you get an insight into the work involved in producing a single glass of the good stuff. You also see the world’s largest collection of scotch whiskies before finishing with a tasting of two regional scotch whiskies. The tasting is a good opportunity to get to try a whisky you wouldn’t normally have. Two of the people in my group didn’t like the drink they chose and, never liking to see alcohol going to waste, I graciously offered to have their drinks as well as my own. As they say – when in Edinburgh Rome.

If I’d had more time would have liked to climb Arthur’s Seat. This is a 2 hour hike up one of Edinburgh’s four hill forts where you get incredible views of the city below. It looks beautiful and on my list of must do’s!

Any Harry Potter fan worth their butterbeer (see what I did there?) will know that it was in The Elephant House Café in Edinburgh that JK Rowling penned the famous novels. From the outside this nondescript café looks like any other however walk into the bathrooms and you’ll see that the walls have been covered in Harry Potter quotes.

Where to Eat and Drink

The first time I visited the city was part of a college trip where 40 of us flew over for a weekend away. This is a great place for cheap food and drink and it is easy to see why it’s a popular getaway for groups. Looking to wet your whistle? Then head over to Bow Bar, Cask and Barrel or Hectors. If you want somewhere nice and cosy to stay in for a while try The Jolly Judge, The Hanging Bat or Heads and Tales.  

If you’re looking for food head straight to the Royal Mile (from Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle). This area of the city is crammed full of some great restaurants. If you’re coming to Scotland you have to try the local delicacies including the famous deep fried mars bar (it is on my list of things to try) and of course haggis. Head to the the Royal McGregor or Arcade Pub to try the local delicacy or if you’re looking for something different try Hendersons for a vegan inspired haggis dish.

This is just a taster of what this city has to offer. With plenty to see and do as well as eat and drink this is an ultimate weekend gateaway!

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