Visiting Scotland has been on my bucket list ever since I watched the movie Braveheart 20 years ago. This March my little dream finally came true. Visit Britain and Norwegian Air invited me to hop on a plane from T. F. Green airport in Providence, RI to Edinburgh and explore undiscovered Scotland. Can you imagine the level of my excitement when I got this invitation!? I've flown with Norwegian Air a few times already, and I'm so happy with the affordable flights they offer. They are perfect for people like me, who like to travel a lot but don't want to spend money on overpriced tickets. Thanks to the new direct flights from Providence, Edinburgh now seems a lot closer to New England, which makes it a perfect destination for your next vacation or simply a long weekend getaway. My flight to Scotland was smooth and relaxing. Only 7 hours, and I was there, ready to explore!
I fell in love with Edinburgh at first sound! (That's right, not first sight.) Right after we walked out of the airport, we stepped into a cab and started talking to our driver, who had an amazingly thick Scottish accent. I could barely understand what he was saying, but I had no doubt that he really loves his home! I'd known that Edinburgh is a special place even before seeing the city with my own eyes. It's absolutely magical. The fact that their "new town" recently celebrated its 250 anniversary says it all. This place is bursting with history and looks very charming. It almost seems that back then, hundreds of years ago, people knew that one day there would be Instagram, so they tried their hardest to make the city insta-worthy.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at The Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Mile located in the very heart of Edinburgh Old Town, just a few steps from all the main attractions - Edinburgh Castle, Greyfriars Kirkyard, St Giles’ Cathedral, and the National Museum of Scotland. I got a lovely room that looked very modern and was overlooking the Royal Mile. What else could I ask for? I probably spent a whole hour just sitting by the window in the evening people watching and admiring the view.
WHERE TO EAT
Food is one of the reasons I travel. I love trying new things and finding cozy restaurants and cafes to warm up and relax after hours of exploring. Thankfully, there are plenty of them in Edinburgh. I tried haggis for the first time and ate a LOT of seafood. The smoked salmon in Scotland is the best I've ever had! Out of all places I visited in Edinburgh, here are the ones I liked and would recommend.
Badger & Co is located in the middle of Edinburgh city centre in the former home of Kenneth Grahame, the author of Wind in the Willows. I loved the interior of the restaurant - it's quirky, yet modern, with some "Wind in the Willows" themed decorations. Their menu is inspired by local and seasonal produce. The dishes are simple, yet very delicious.
You know how much I love bakeries. If only I could eat cakes and pastries for breakfast, lunch and dinner! I'm so glad I discovered Lovecrumbs - it's a cute bakery and cafe, a perfect spot for hiding from the rain. Each day they serve at least 8 cake options! As you can guess, I had trouble deciding which one to try. The places is very cozy and has a rustic look and feel to it. I absolutely loved it there.
I always look for cute local coffee shops wherever I go. A lot of people had recommended visiting the Milkman, and I was not disappointed. The coffee was excellent. I'll definitely make sure to come back here next time I'm in Edinburgh for my morning pick-me-up.
The restaurant is a part of the Principal hotel and located in the former home of the novelist Susan Ferrier. It has a very pleasant atmosphere, great food, and a very impressive range of cocktails available. This was my last meal in Edinburgh and, of course, I had to go for fish and chips - so good! As for the cocktails, I highly recommend trying a Smoked Old Fashioned, it's not only very delicious but also presented in a very interesting way! I'm not going to tell you all the secrets, go there and see for yourself!
Cannonball Restaurant & Bar is located in a historic building near the castle on the Royal Mile. The decor, ambience and food in this restaurant are exceptional. We did a 5-course tasting menu and every course was a winner. And did I mention that throughout dinner we had a spectacular view of Edinburgh Castle? It was pretty amazing.
STROLLING THROUGH THE CITY
We only had one full day in Edinburgh which is why spent it walking around the city trying to get the feel of it. Edinburgh's a city of multiple levels and bridges. It's very walkable and charming. It was raining (typical Scottish weather), and the rain made all the cobblestone streets look full of magic and mystery.
The first thing I did in the city was walk down the Royal Mile - it's the spine of the Old Town. At one end of the street you see Edinburgh Castle, which was built atop an extinct volcano. From there you can enjoy some pretty amazing views of the city. If you follow the Royal Mile all the way to the other end, you'll pass several historical landmarks, such as St. Giles' Cathedral, the Real Mary King’s Close, and The Writer's Museum. At the very end of the street, you'll see the Queen’s residence in Scotland: Holyroodhouse Palace.
Any Harry Potter fans here? Make sure to check out The Elephant House café - the birthplace of Harry Potter! J. K. Rowling spent countless hours in this shop writing her books and looking out at the Edinburgh Castle from the back window.
Rowling got a lot of her inspiration from Edinburgh's medieval architecture, with its secret passageways and dark corners. Did you know that Victoria Street, the iconic cobblestone road that's lined with pretty and colorful houses, happens to be the main inspiration for Diagon Alley? Walk up Victoria Street and you’ll soon see the resemblance.
Take a stroll through Circus Lane, one of the prettiest streets in Edinburgh. It's almost hidden from all the tourists. A lot of photo opportunities over there!
At the end of the day, we took a Gin Tasting Tour at Edinburgh Distillery. We spent a lovely couple of hours in the company of our guide who knew everything about gin - the history behind it and all the ingredients used at the distillery. We got to tour the distillery and try out all sorts of gin. No need to say that at the end of the tasting everyone seemed much happier. Also, each of us received a bottle to take home with us. The tour costs only £10 - a great value for money and such an amazing experience!
If you're looking for a something fun to do outside of Edinburgh, I suggest you look into visiting Winton Castle. It will only take you half an hour by car or an hour by train to get there. We took a tour with a guide who shared a lot of interesting facts and stories with us and showed us around the entire house. If you're lucky enough to visit while no one else is occupying the castle, you'll get to go up the spiral staircase to the very top to enjoy magnificent views.
Winton Castle offers many entertaining activities such as 4×4 driving, archery, clay pigeon shooting, falconry, golf and more. I especially enjoyed our falconry experience there! We got to play with owl and falcons, and also learned a lot about them!
I visited Scotland with Norwegian Air and Visit Britain, however, I have only included things that I personally enjoyed on the trip. All opinions are 100% my own.