If you’re like me (part Scottish) then a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland will be a bit more than relax and snap. I found it very important to visit the place my last name originated and was pleasantly surprised with my overall experience. I did my research and opted to bed down in Edinburgh. There, I’d have a wide range of cultural and historical amenities within walking distance or a quick cab ride. Edinburgh is a very beautiful city, and it’s lush charm is a mix of Vancouver and Prague rolled into one. With a 5-day itinerary in hand, I knew I’d have to make the most of it and pancake what I could, so I could deliver an article worthy of your time. So if you’re ever down for the Scottish experience, here are Travel Daddy’s 10 WAYS I ENJOYED SCOTLAND WHILE IN EDINBURGH…
1. THE LEGENDARY DRIVERS TAXIS OF EDINBURGH
I can honestly say without apprehension that Edinburgh has the best Taxi drivers I’ve seen or experienced on the planet. They’re prompt, courteous, knowledgeable, friendly, humble, and honorable. It’s actually quite a contrast from what I experienced in Santiago, where my safety was threatened. I would be more apt to describe them as mobile micro tour guides, possessing a high social IQ and left you with the impression that most -if not all- actually drive tourists around because they like it!
Tip them you cheap bastard – they deserve it!
2. WHISKY A DO
Oh mighty Scotch Whisky- the nectar of the Gods! Aside from Coffee and a choice Cab, nothing assaults the pallette like a dram of fine aged whisky. Whether it be blended, aged or cheap, Scotland IS the mecca of Whisky. There are several options to get your fix; for me, the day tour to Loch Ness had an added bonus of visiting a legit distillery- DEANSTON.
After the tour and tasting, I couldn’t resist purchasing their premier 23 yr old. It ran me high, but every bit worth the cost since you can’t get it anywhere but there. A few days later as I exited Edinburgh Castle, I saw THE SCOTCH WHISKY EXPERIENCE, conveniently nestled on the 1st right side corner. It is home to the World’s Largest Collection of Scotch Whisky.
It Cost what!?!?!
My arrogance was quelled when upon bragging to the hosts/scotch experts that I’m on my 3rd bottle of Johnny Walker Blue ownership, they redirected my attention to truly rare and expensive whisky. I actually considered selling my house for the novelty. My son doesn’t really need to go to college right? I was even more exasperated to learn that some “poor” chap a week prior purchased a $25,000 Pound bottle and spent a total of over $40K Pounds. I’ll get there one day. There’s also a cool whisky chart which matches the flavor to the brand, for novice drinkers like myself.
Buy a bottle – Live a little!
3. LOCH NESS & HIGHLANDS DAY TRIP
I booked this day tour offered by The Hairy Coo through Trip Advisor. They offer many other tours throughout Scotland, but this one was convenient and enticing, especially with the whisky tour. The 10 hour itinerary was well thought out and included key stops like the Highland Hairy Coos, Glencoe, Whisky Distillery, Fort Augustus – home to Loch Ness, the Commando Memorial, Cairngorm Park, and Pitlochry. You can check the full itinerary here. Although Loch Ness was beautiful and worth the trip, you’ll be sorely disappointed to not catch a glimpse of it’s most famous inhabitant.
What a Bridge!
On your return, you’ll cross and witness three amazing bridges adjacent to each other, one of which – The Forth Bridge– is a UNESCO site. The tour guide was friendly, knowledgeable and brimming with that Scottish wit.
Well worth the day – at least once!
4. FINE DINING
So many options- so much quality. Edinburgh is definitely a foodie destination for fine dining. You should check out my list of 10 AMAZING RESTAURANT & FOOD EXPERIENCES IN EDINBURGH. From traditional dishes like Haggis, Neeps & Tatties, to exclusive restaurants booked up months in advance, Scotland definitely has the food chops to satisfy your taste buds.
Food is most definitely a worthy Splurge- do it!
5. SO MANY PUBS… AMAZING SPEAKEASIES… GREAT NIGHTLIFE
As expected, I encountered more pubs in a 1 mile radius in Edinburgh than anywhere I’d been outside the U.K. People love to drink, and a pubs like The Advocate, The Cafe Royal Circle Bar and The Bow Bar, stood out for me as great places to knock down a few cold ones. If you fancy top-notch cocktails then there are some speakeasy type bars of high caliber like Panda & Sons and Head & Tails. For a speakeasy in the truest sense you’ll have to search the alleyways for Bullard & Worth – I won’t give you the address, but instead give you a clue. Most locals don’t even know how to find it, and it’s location on google maps was incorrect (purposely?). I had to ask several people and store owners in what felt like a treasure hunt.
Success at last…
I finally found what I had been looking for- approached, knocked, and was rewarded. The bartender was as an amazing conversationalist as he was a cocktail wizard. I’ll say no more so good luck!
As far as clubbing there are a ton of options from clubs teeming with college-aged patrons, salsa dancing, hip-hop lovers and live music. My article 10 BEST NIGHTLIFE IN EDINBURGH SCOTLAND will give you a list of good recommendations when you’re in town.
Edinburgh has great nightlife – party on!
6. CRASH A TRUE SCOTTISH WEDDING… THEN GET KICKED OUT
There I am- minding my own business at Ghillie Dhu, when I’m approached by a kilt-wearing Scotsman who wants me to buy him a pint. I oblige and as a reward he takes me upstairs to the reserved hall to see a “true Scottish wedding” as he put it. After a few drinks and introductions to the groom, I’m taking it all in being particularly wary of my visitor status. I stand to the side respectfully and silently appreciate how folks from all walks of life celebrate life’s milestones similarly but in their own unique way.
Unfortunately, no one told the bride and ten minutes later, I’m being awkwardly escorted out of the wedding by the stoic security. No love lost though- since it was worth the experience and good blog fodder. I’m not encouraging you to intrude on someone’s big day, but try to synch with the locals in some way and get a true experience as to how folks live and celebrate.
People are different, but the same – even in Edinburgh!
7. SEE LEITH THEN WALK AIMLESSLY UNTIL PORTOBELLO
I took a cab down to Leith- a historic and artsy port Northeast of Edinburgh’s city center. It’s a must-see with top-notch restaurants, pubs and home to the Royal Yacht Britannia. The weather was great so I opted for a stroll along the canal, then made my way back inland toward the Leith Links (public parks). After catching some cricket and picnics, I headed back to the shore for some photography.
How’d I get Here?
Two hours later I’m in Portobello and realized with no cab in sight, I’d have to trek it back to the city. Using the street signs, I self-navigate past Holyrood Park and if not for my impending dinner reservations, would have walked back all the way. A kind local gives me exact change for the bus fare back to my hotel and I fulfill my dinner plans.
Great scenery & photos off the beaten path – dress for the walk!
8. STUMBLE UPON A TRADITIONAL MUSIC BAND COMPETITION
It’s a Sunday and I finally decide upon Princes Street Gardens, which is literally a stone’s throw from my hotel. With camera in hand, I knew I’d score some great shots by way of the park’s natural beauty. It’s descended location gives an almost serene respite from the bustling streets above. It isn’t long before I hear an army of bagpipes and drums. I was pleasantly surprised to spectate dozens of traditional bands practicing and performing in a competition- free to the public. I snapped away and appreciated the unique experience. The park is not open 24/7, and is worth a visit especially with kids in tow.
The Edinburgh 2019 Pipe Band Championship was amazing- the Gardens are still worth a visit!
9. BE AMAZED BY HISTORY IN OLD TOWN
There is history everywhere in the buildings, streets and closes (alleyways) of Edinburgh. If you’re a history buff or lover of things ancient, then Edinburgh is a mine of activities. Edinburgh Castle was built upon remnants of an extinct volcano, and from its elevated point you can see much of this beautiful city. A great portion of New Town with this area has been categorized as a UNESCO Heritage Site. As you descend down the cobbler streets, you’ll probably catch one of the many guided tours such as the Harry Potter Walking Tour. Much of the books and films were inspired by the streets and architecture of Old Town Edinburgh. I personally find it fascinating to walk among buildings that are older than the U.S. as a nation.
History can be awesome- don’t miss it!
10. WALK THE ROYAL MILE
The ROYAL MILE is the main street running from Edinburgh Castle all the way down to Holyrood Park. You’ll find a variety of top tourist sites like Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh Museum, Scottish Parliament, St. Giles Cathedral, and Holyrood Palace. You can stop at several pubs and eateries along the way, easily spending a full day experiencing all it has to offer. I definitely had a blast and have the pics to prove it.
Grab your camera- This is Edinburgh!