Yes, I know, I’ve been travelling an awful lot recently, I can barely keep up myself.
But when the invitation arrives in my inbox to spend a weekend in Edinburgh, discovering a city that I really knew not much about, it’s impossible to say no.
I last visited Edinburgh easily over a decade ago and I can truthfully say I don’t remember any of it (how bad is my memory?!) and now, with my photographer’s eye, I couldn’t wait to return to see the city in all its glory - from quaint streets, historic buildings, the great food and drink scene and its many museums. A weekend in Edinburgh is a great idea and couldn’t be easier to do.
I hopped on the 9am train from King’s Cross and found myself in central Edinburgh in just over 4 hours - how brilliant is that? If you book far enough in advance, rail fare is reasonably priced (especially now there’s the 26-30 yr railcard - thank you National Rail!) so why not plan yourself a wee break up ‘far North’?
WHERE I STAYED
This guide is created in collaboration with Hotel Indigo, who invited me to spend the weekend in Edinburgh staying at their Princes Street hotel.
Location-wise, you couldn’t be more central. Stepping off the train at Waverley Station, you see the hotel as soon as you leave the station. Whilst it’s a little inconspicuous on the outside - the hotel is still adorned with the words ‘Royal British Hotel’ - once inside you head straight upstairs to find the small reception where check-in happens in no time.
Rooms are well designed, spacious and furnishings have been well thought out - I loved the little details dotted around the room (let’s also mention the complimentary Tunnock’s Caramel bars that were stocked in the cupboard here too!).
Our bed faced the huge windows overlooking the city and above our headboard hung photos of The Flying Scotsman - a nod to the train station you could see from our window. Don’t get me started on how big and amazingly comfy the bed was. Super kings are the way forward! I wish every hotel had beds this size.
In the morning, make your way to breakfast by taking the stairs. Adorned with Scottish portraits (which you secretly wish would move a la Harry Potter but hey, you’re allowed to get carried away being in the birthplace of HP after all), the staircase is one of the hotels best features. Stomach growling will surely ensue, so head downstairs to have breakfast in the beautiful Twenty Princes Street restaurant which again, has walls adorned with artwork, and then some great views looking out onto the hustle & bustle of Princes Street and beyond.
My verdict on Hotel Indigo Princes Street? An ideal location, reasonably priced, heavenly beds and enough design to charm you. A perfect little spot to rest your weary feet after a day’s hearty exploration mission.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
For sinful toasties, meltmongers is your place. It’s a little further out (more in the studenty area I think) but that’s ok, as you’ll want to walk off your meal afterwards.
Serious foodies head to The Gardener’s Cottage - an unsuspecting culinary gem which offers fresh produce daily. The downside of that is if you’re a bit picky, there’s not many options for you to choose from.
Harry Potter fans flock to The Elephant House - the cafe which J.K.Rowling sat in whilst writing HP.
The Milkman - a small but cute coffee shop at the bottom of Cockburn Street.
Pickles - a cute place for wine and nibbles.
Bramble - an underground spot which you’re 90% likely to walk straight past. Well worth a visit for some seriously good cocktails (have a Mint 500 for me please)
For French fare, head to Cafe St Honoré - a delicious dinner which could have you fooled into thinking you’ve gone to Paris.
Appertif time? Head to Bon Vivant for a glass of something fancy, you might even sway yourself into staying for dinner.
Everyone recommended El Cartel for Mexican - we didn’t have a chance to visit this time, but one for next time.
The Pantry - a recommendation for a good spot of brunch in Stockbridge. Be warned, weekend queues apply.
Devil’s Advocate Bar & Kitchen - guaranteed a good meal without the fuss. Fish & Chips well recommended.
Sure, they do good coffee. But if you’re craving a hot chocolate, go to Fortitude. Oh and cake. You must have some cake.
Finally, on Sundays, head to Stockbridge for its small outdoor food market. Some delicious treats that you can eat on the way back home on the train.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
If you have the time (we didn’t on this occasion), hike up Arthur’s Seat for glorious views over Edinburgh.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery - Set within a neo-gothic palace, housing the national collection of portraits. Admission, like the others I mention below, is free.
For international masterpieces, head to Scottish National Gallery (similar in kind to our Royal Academy) and get up close to paintings by the likes of Rembrandt, Monet, Turner and Vermeer.
National Museum of Scotland - for a really fun afternoon, head here. The bio reads that the museum takes in “the wonders of nature, art, design, fashion, science and technology - all under one roof” and that it does indeed. Great if you have kids (but maybe even better if you don’t).
Edinburgh Castle - If you’re willing to splurge the £20 entrance fee, then pay a visit here and get to grips with a wee bit of medieval.
Spend the morning in Leith, a charming little place near the coast. There’s a few cute cafes you can grab brunch in but you’ll want to go to see its slightly Dutch - slightly German looking buildings near the dock. Reach it via a 30 minute walk or an 8 minute uber. Guess which one we chose?
WHERE TO SHOP
A stroll through Stockbridge - Edinburgh’s quaint and a little fancy part of town - will have you spending a few pennies. My favourite shop was The Method, which sold an array of beauty products and home goods - all clearly hand-picked by someone with excellent taste.
Whilst you’re there, swing by Aesop around the corner and if you want to feel truly middle-class, wander into Farrow & Ball next door.
Life Story - for a good selection of Scandi-inspired gifts, head here and don’t leave empty handed.
Beautiful blooms are a plenty at Narcissus but if you can’t take some home with you, just admire the pretty shop front instead.
For all your Scottish tat and souvenirs, there’s the Royal Mile - and if it’s nothing more than a window-shopping weekend, this beautiful street is well worth a stroll down.