Just before I came back to the US, I went on a short trip to Edinburgh, a trip which meant I had finally set foot on all of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom. I had only about three days and I jam-packed it with activities. The trip began with a five hour train ride from London to Edinburgh, which, if you've ever taken the train through the UK countryside you will know is absolutely part of trip. The beauty of rolling hills, the seaside, the farmland, the sheep, the small cottages, and distant ancient-looking churches! Knowing the the journey back would be by plane, I enjoyed this train ride as much as I could, but I was also anxious to set an itinerary for the time in Edinburgh.
My boyfriend, Rob, the loyal companion that he is, was happy to acquiesce to my insanity as I pulled out my phone and began researching the best things to do in Edinburgh. I knew we couldn't do everything but I was determined to be informed so I would know what I was missing out on. After reading through a list of a the top 25 activities in Edinburgh and researching the most Scottish of whisky bars, I wrote down all the ones that struck our fancy and slot them into the itinerary where I could find an opening. By the time we got off the train, our schedule was arranged to the T, with multiple options for things to do depending on what we felt up to at the moment. Although we didn't do everything on the list, what we did accomplish was an amazing feat!
After we arrived and while we waited to meet a friend, we walked up and down the Royal Mile, a historic section of Edinburgh with a host of tourist shops, jewelry booths, and the beautiful St. Giles Cathedral. Nearby was Victoria Street, a curved road on a hill with a host of quaint shops - books, candles, clothes, antiques, etc. Sadly, most of the stores were closed when we arrived, but it was nice to do some window shopping and one store, which was unexpectedly open late, sold some wonderful natural soaps (I bought one that smells exactly like honeysuckle - no regrets here). Both the Royal Mile and Victoria Street were perfect for some meandering; it was a very chill (and chilly) evening.
Later in the evening after we met up with our friend, the three of us stopped into the Whiski Rooms, a classy whisky bar with large oxblood leather booths, wood wall paneling, and a comfortable yellow lighting. If it had a few cigar chairs and some bookshelves filled with leather-bound classics, I could've imagined myself in the headquarters of a gentleman's cigar lounge. As it was, however, the Whiski Rooms felt like the perfect combination between modern and classic, between young and old. I highly recommend this classy bar, located just off of Market Street and near Prince's Street Gardens. My friend and I both enjoyed a Godfather, my favorite drink - a shot of amaretto and blended Scotch on the rocks. Although I enjoy Scotch on its own, to my rather naive tastebuds, the sweetness of amaretto with the pepperyness of the Scotch is wonderful.
For the following morning, I managed to convince Rob to climb Arthur's Seat, the highest of several hills. We woke up at 6:30am, took a cab to the base of the hill, and hiked in the semi-dark. The hike wasn't too difficult, and the path is pretty clear. It took us 45 minutes to get to the top; as planned, we arrived just in time for the sunrise. We saw several people come and go, but we just watched. We watched the sun rise, creating soft blue and pink in the clouds. We watched as the sun seemed to strengthen, waking up the world with fiery orange. A hike up Arthur's seat is absolutely recommended. And if you can do it at sunrise, so much the better.
This, more or less, marked the halfway point of our trip. It was so full of adventures, I can hardly fit it all in one post! So please bear with me and I will continue my tale shortly.
Update: You can find Part 2 here