HAGGIS, TATTIES AND NEEPS: 10 THINGS TO DO IN EDINBURGH

We had a brilliant time in Edinburgh and it hardly rained at all, although it did! Here are a couple of tips in order to have a really good time in the Scottish capital.

Bagpipes

1.  Eat Scottish food: Scottish food is pretty rustic and includes such fare as haggis, which is mutton or lamb offal, minced and mixed with, oatmeal, suet, herbs, spices, various seasonings, potatoes known as tattties and Swedes (in Scotland) or turnips (England) known as neeps, stuffed into sheep’s stomach!

Haggis, Tatties & Neeps

It is an acquired taste and can be slightly gritty so try not to think about it!

You can get it all over Edinburgh. We went to a restaurant called The Royal McGregor which is on the Royal Mile. It showcases local Scottish food with a modern twist and supports independent breweries. We had: Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. Cullen Skink which is a traditional Scottish soup made with smoked haddock, potatoes and cream and served with crusty bread and The Wee Taster which was a sample of three local beers comprising of Dragon Head (Orkney), Wayfarer (Orkney) and Lia Fail (Inveralmond).

Cullen Skink

2.  Go to Edinburgh Castle: Edinburgh Castle is the city’s main tourist attraction and source of historical life. It is a mighty fortress which defended the nation and soars over the city. It’s powerful stonewalls have supported battles and sieges and is home to the Scottish crown jewels, three military museums, the National War Memorial, the Prisons of War exhibition, three gift shops and is an absolute “must –see” and a world heritage site.

It is also host to The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo ceremony which takes place in August. Guided tours are available and at least two hours are needed.

Edinburgh Castle

3.  Go on a Walking tour: Walking around is a brilliant way to see where you are, establish your bearings and get to grips with your surroundings. In economic times, finding a way to cut costs is the rage, so a free walking tour is an excellent choice. There are many companies to go with, such as SANDEMANs NEW Europe free walking tours and you can read more about it here in the bloody streets of Scotland!

Our Free! Free!! Walking tour.

4.  Climb Arthur’s seat: Arthur’s seat is the main peak of a group of hills known as Holyrood Park. Robert Louis Stevenson, a famous Scottish poet once described the hill as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design.” Holyrood Park is opposite Queen Elizabeth’s official Scottish residence and a stone throw from the Scottish parliament building. It’s also a huge Royal Park that covers lochs, hills, crags, terrains and parkland.

On the path to Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s seat is the largest of three parts of an extinct volcano approximately 350 years old. It is said that Arthur’s Seat is so named in reference to King Arthur of legend, and that the name is a corruption of Ard-thir Suidhe meaning “a place on high ground.”

The Music Producer” and “The Tall Young Gentleman” climbed this hill and it was a good walk. Quite windy, open to the elements and natural. Note that the pinnacle terrain is quite demanding and uneven, but you are rewarded with fabulous views. There are no barriers, a few rabbits, shrubs and lots of thistles (Scotland’s native flower). Definitely, take a jacket or jumper, good sturdy shoes and a camera.

Arthur’s Seat – the extinct volcano

5.  Make peace with ghosts: We weren’t able to go on a ghost walk on this trip but I have been on one, years ago. They are good. Very good.

Edinburgh is just ripe for stories of murder and gore. It has always had public executions, religion was taken seriously, superstition was rife, body snatching was common and murder was always around the dark, narrow, cobbled corners.

However, I made some enquiries and if you do want to go, check out the following organisations: Cadies & Witchery Tours – a witchery tour of fearless phantoms in a suspenseful and mirth-filled tour of Edinburgh’s Old Town. The Real Mary King’s Close – a costumed character tour guide in a warren of underground streets and spaces. The Ghostbus Tours Edinburgh – a theatrical sightseeing tour on a classic 1960’s Routemaster.

Mary King’s Close

6.  Go to the Pub: There are so many wonderful pubs in Edinburgh and you can’t fail to find something for you. On the Royal Mile, you can sample lots of booze from local breweries and local farmers both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Have you ever heard of whisky such as: Queen Islay, Island Hopper and Bruichladdich Range? What about Scottish brew such as Innis and Gunn Oak Aged Beer, St Mungo Lager, Fraoch Heather Ale or even Red Kite also known as Black Isle Organic? How about traditional Scottish drinks such as Atholl Brose and Drambuie? Let us also not forget “soft” drinks such as Irn Bru and Red Kola?

Inside The White Hart Inn

7.  Scare yourself silly at the Edinburgh Dungeon: Whenever, we’re in Edinburgh, it’s one of the places we go to and is good old fashioned horrible fun! The Edinburgh Dungeon is an off-shoot of the London Dungeon with other branches in Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Warwick Castle, York, and The Blackpool Tower.

It’s the ultimate thrill-filled story of Edinburgh’s horrible past in which costumed actors try to chop off your head, sentence you to hell, take out your entrails, lose you in Mary’s King’s Close and generally, give you a scary good time. Give yourself at least an hour and a half and pre-book if you can, as queues tend to be long.

The Edinburgh Dungeon

8.  Do a bit of culture: Bring your camera ‘cos there’s just so much to see. We had a quick peek at the University of Edinburgh, the Palace of Holyrood House which is the Queen’s   official Scottish residence, The Queens Gallery, the Scottish Parliament, and we just managed to squeeze in the “People’s Story Museum”.

We also went to the New Town which is the Georgian part of Edinburgh and houses the National Gallery, the City Art Centre, the Royal Gardens and Park, the Scotsman Hotel, and Princes Street which is the High Street for those who want to go shopping. In fact, for a short trip of two nights and two days, we did pretty well!

On the other side of Edinburgh Castle

9.  Have an early dinner: I live in Berlin and I’ve lived on the Continent for a very long time and although I am British, I tend to forget that as far as dining and going out is concerned, Britain is still stuck in 1912!

In short, if you want to go out for dinner, make it early. Early being, 6-8 p.m. as in many establishments, the kitchen closes at 9p.m. Many dining establishments also do not welcome children after 7p.m. In one particular restaurant, they said that 5p.m. was the very latest time and we would be put at the back of the restaurant.

I – don’t – think – so!

I pay good money and I therefore want to have a good seat, feel relaxed and made to feel as comfortable as possible, and not like a thief in the night just because we have a child!

Berlin, where I live, is fantastic in that regard as restaurants are open up to 11p.m. and sometimes even 12 midnight. Restaurants in Berlin would wait for the very last guest and that could spill into the wee hours of the night. Ditto: going out for a drink. In Edinburgh, the pubs at the Royal Mile were lovely, friendly and open ‘till 1.a.m.

In the New Town, we didn’t dare go in. There were huge, grim bouncers outside and the clientele were rough-looking and rowdy. In Berlin, nobody leaves the house until 10p.m. to go out, and if you’re really pushed, 9p.m. when Happy Hour ends!

Be aware that in Scotland, in the UK even, early dining is necessary and enquiries made if you have children in tow.

Scones and yummy sandwiches

10.  Talk to the locals: Regardless, of Nr.9; Scottish people are lovely. So friendly, so open-minded and very interested in others. So many people would ask if they could help whenever, we even so much as stood still. People were delighted to have “The Music Producer” who is German, as a tourist in the city. One delightful man even apologised for the less-than fantastic weather and hoped that we were nevertheless, enjoying Edinburgh. “The Music Producer” was amazed; that would not have happened in Berlin!

The George’s Heriot’s School, which is a leading independent private £10,299. per year co-educational school founded in 1628, was about 10 minutes away from our hotel and every time we passed it, everybody thought we were parents applying to register “The Tall Young Gentleman” into the school. So cute.

They were very helpful too!

Hanging out with one of the locals

If you want to go to Scotland, now is a good time as 2013 is the Year of “Natural Scotland” focusing on Scotland’s wildlife and wild natural landscape.

2014 is “Homecoming Scotland” focusing and welcoming the world to “come home” and celebrate the very best of its culture, ancestral heritage, natural resources and delicious food and drink. It should be a good year.

The Royal McGregor restaurant can be found on the Royal Mile. We tried Haggis, Neeps and Tatties – £9.50, Cullen Skink – £5.95, and The Wee Taster – £3.60. http://www.royalmcgregor.co.uk/

Information about Edinburgh Castle can be found on http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/. Adults £16.00. Children £9.60.

Information about the Cadies & Witchery Tours can be found on http://www.witcherytours.com/. Adults £8.50. Children £6.00. Suitable for children.

Information about The Real Mary King’s Close can be found on http://www.realmarykingsclose.com/. Adults £12.95. Children £7.45. Not suitable for children under 5.

The Ghostbus Tours Edinburgh can be found on http://www.theghostbustours.com/edn/edinburgh.html. Adults £16.00. Children £12.00 All children under 15 must be accompanied by an adult. Not suitable for young children.

The Edinburgh Dungeon can be found on http://www.thedungeons.com/edinburgh/en/.

Adults £16.50   Children £12.60. Keep a look out for discounts and vouchers as pretty much every map or pamphlet has a “2 for 1 entry” or “£6 off” voucher enclosed!

An array of kilts

This article is not sponsored and all opinions are my absolute own.

Edinburgh is a fabulous city of mystery and intrigue. What do you think of these Edinburgh tips? Do you agree? Have your say!

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THE BLOODY STREETS OF SCOTLAND

Edinburgh has a history that you wouldn’t believe. It’s a city of mystery, murder, darkness and secrecy. It’s a city that you can do a lot in, in a very short amount of time.

Walking around the Old Town
Walking around the Old Town

We took the train with the Virgin Train company which was pretty comfortable, so comfortable that “The Tall Young Gentleman” thought the seats were first class! They weren’t.

Our compartment was in second class, had soft comfy seats, free 30 minute WIFI, which was a little faint but still, and was in the quiet zone. We travelled from Warrington Bank Quay to Edinburgh Waverley. I wasn’t exactly sure how far our hotel was from the centre as there were 7 Premier Inn hotels in Edinburgh so I picked the station that I knew for sure, was in the centre of the city.

The Virgin Train
The Virgin Train

We were travelling on from Edinburgh to Inverness so I booked advanced single tickets: £50 pounds for two adults and £12.50 for a child. A total of £62.50 or about €75.

My husband had never been to Scotland before so one of the first things you just have to do, in any city, is to go on a tour. Edinburgh is an old historical city so the best way to see it, is on foot.

I am a walker. I absolutely love walking. Walking around is a brilliant way to see where you are, establish your bearings and get to grips with your surroundings. In economic times, finding a way to cut costs is the rage, so a free walking tour it was to be.

I had gone on the internet looking for a tour that would be informative and at the same time local and found SANDEMANs NEW Europe free walking tours. This company runs tours in Tel Aviv, New York, and most European capital cities. In fact, I have taken the Berlin walking tour myself. Even though, I live in Berlin, I love taking a tour so that I can keep up to date with new buildings and infrastructure. The truth is, most people have absolutely no idea of their own city. It just makes logical sense!

Our free! Free!! Walking tour.
Our free! Free!! Walking tour.

Anyway, as soon as we had checked into our hotel and sorted out things that needed to be sorted out, we rushed to the meeting point of the Edinburgh walking tour which was outside Starbucks on the Royal Mile.

The Royal Mile is a very long road and is, as it suggests, a mile long but not as we know it today but rather, a Scottish mile. A Scottish mile of old is about 1.81km or 1.12 miles today and roughly spans from Edinburgh Castle to the Queen’s official residential Palace of Holyroodhouse. It is also in the Old Town.

The Royal Mile is actually made up of four distinct streets; Castlehill, Lawnmarket, the High Street and Canongate. If you’re familiar with British history, you’ll know that names aren’t just names but had significance in them. So for example, Castlehill would be the hill surrounding the castle, Lawnmarket which is the oldest part of the Old Town, would be where goods from the countryside, would be sold in the market, Canongate because of the “Canons” of the local Abbey and “gaet” because of the various pathways and passages, etc.

St. Giles Cathedral
St. Giles Cathedral

We met our tour guide – a Scottish young man called Ben Hunter who originally came from Aberdeen! He was a brilliant guide. He told us of the 5,000 year old history of Scotland, the story of the Scottish people’s fight for autonomy and the issue of self-rule and independence once again.

He took our group around the many cobbled streets of Edinburgh on a 2.5 hour walk in the Old Town, near the castle, outside the steps of St. Giles Cathedral, to the grave yards because of Edinburgh’s most famous dog, Grayfriar Bobby, and the bodysnatchers of the Victorian age and of course to where it all began. J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. All around can be found glimpses of Hogwarts and the very café and hotels where J.K. Rowling wrote her books.

The statue of David Hume with Ben.
The statue of David Hume with Ben.

There was also a snack and toilet break halfway through in the Grassmarket part of the city where hay, corn and seeds used to be sold as well as public executions for the pleasure of the brawling public in the 17th century.

The oldest pub in Edinburgh.
The oldest pub in Edinburgh.

All in all, it was a really good walk and great value for money. It was so good that we gave Ben a well-deserved generous tip.

Did you know that Edinburgh is divided into two parts: the Old Town of medieval days and the New Town of Georgian splendour?

Did you know that the Scottish people derive from the Scots or the Gaelic Celts, the Picts, the Britons, The Celts, the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse Vikings?

Did you know that Scotland has produced world-reknown writers and poets such as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Did you know that Scotland has its own church – the Church of Scotland – and its own Scottish currency?

Scottish money is 1:1 in the UK.
Scottish money is 1:1 in the UK.

Did you know that Prince William went to the oldest university in Scotland: the University of St. Andrews, in Fife?

Did you know that Edinburgh as the capital of Scotland, is an important member of The Kingdom?

I know many people find this issue confusing. I know my students do!

The definition of the United Kingdom and that of Great Britain is a little complicated but basically, as I understand it, the UK consists of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They are separate countries with individual laws, but they are not sovereign.

Great Britain on the other hand, consists of The Kingdoms and all the crown dependencies such as the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, the Isle of Wight and other little islands surrounding it and of course, British Overseas Territories such as Bermuda, the Falklands and Gibraltar.

"The Tall Young Gentleman" having a good old laugh!
“The Tall Young Gentleman” having a good old laugh!

Virgin Trains can be found on: http://www.virgintrains.co.uk/

The free walking tour can be found on: http://www.newedinburghtours.com/daily-tours/new-edinburgh-free-tour.html. Bring sturdy shoes and a raincoat, jacket or jumper. Price: Absolutely nothing!

SANDEMANs NEW Europe also does other tours which unfortunately, are not free such as: The Dark Side tours which focuses on 18th century murder and gore. Price: €12.

The Castle Tour which focuses purely on Edinburgh Castle and its history. Price: €33 and no queuing!

Last, but not least, they also do a New Edinburgh Pub Crawl which focuses on hidden pubs and local bars and clubs. Price: €15 and you must be over 18 years old.

This article is not sponsored and all opinions are my absolute own.

I personally consider Edinburgh to be a primarily rugged kind of place but with alarmingly beautiful landscape, mysterious side streets and alleyways, a city of culture and learning with a dark and unforgiving past. What do you think? Is Edinburgh a city with a past or a city of the future?

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Sometimes, it’s alright to admit that hotels are better than hostels!

We’re in Inverness – Scotland – so go on then, admit it. Sometimes, it’s alright to admit that hotels are better than hostels!

We recently returned from our family holiday Scotland trip and because summer was brilliant in Berlin, we decided to stay at home and go on holiday later in the year – cue – Autumn.

I love travelling and my favourite places have been the Czech Republic, Poland, Ireland, Wales, France, Italy, America, Hong Kong, Bali, and Vietnam.

My family under the waterfall in Yosemite National Park - USA
My family under the waterfall in Yosemite National Park – USA

The crazy places have been India and Andorra!

The places that I haven’t liked have been the Dominican Republic, South Africa and Singapore!

We are a family of travellers and in the past five years alone, we’ve been to France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Wales, England, the Isle of Wight, the United States and of course, different parts of Germany. In some situations, we visited these countries a few more times again as we absolutely love Italy, spend our summers on the Polish Baltic Sea and go skiing in the Giant Mountains of the Czech Republic.

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On the Polish Baltic Sea
On the Polish Baltic Sea

In 2012, we went skiing in the Czech Republic for the winter, England in the Spring, Tuscany, Italy in the summer, and Brandenburg, Germany in the Autumn.

Horse-riding in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales.
Horse-riding in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales.

In 2013, we went to London for the winter, Osnabrück (Germany) in the Spring, stayed in Berlin for the summer and where did we go for the autumn – The Highlands in Scotland!

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I'm a Scottish Viking!
I’m a Scottish Viking!

It’s been five years since we last went to Scotland and then it was the holiday period in which our son (now to be known as The Tall Young Gentleman and I spent quality time alone together.

Believe it or not but I am what is known as “an older yummy mummy” as such, it’s important to me that my time is utilised in as qualitative a way as I can, bearing in mind that I’m also a career woman. In that wise, my husband and I – otherwise known as The Music Producer also spend some adult time together alone when “The Tall Young Gentleman” is at summer camp in the Bavarian part of Germany, on a school trip with the American boy scouts or with his grandparents in Northern Germany.

Generally, the three of us spend our main holidays together as a family.

Now depending where we are going and when, accommodation can differ. When my husband and I travel alone, its glamour and champagne all the way, with “The Tall Young Gentleman,” it’s a mixed bag of bed and breakfasts, hostels and hotels and whenever I travelled alone in the old days, I went as cheap as I possibly could. At one point, my hostel room was mixed with both males and females…..

This time around as I said previously, our family holiday was in Scotland. I am the Chief Organiser when it comes to our family time so of course; I had booked flights at the beginning of the year and started making enquiries about where we were going to go and for how long. In 2014, we are going long-haul to Asia for our much postponed honeymoon LOL! As a result, our 2013 budget had to be as cheap as we could possibly make it.

We decided to spend some of our holiday with my younger brother and his family in Cheshire, England.

I had booked flights with Easyjet at a return flight cost of about €300 for us all. In hindsight, it might well have been better to book a scheduled flight……

I’m doing a Masters at the University of Chester in which I commute from Berlin to Chester roughly every six weeks. My 1st semester course happened to coincide with the weekend that we were supposed to go on our holiday so I had to change my flight at a (luckily?) cost of €43.00 and leave two days earlier…..I was a little worried as this is the first time that The Music Producer and The Tall Young Gentleman would fly without me and while our son has a British passport, my husband has a German one….

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"The Music Producer" and "The Tall Young Gentleman" in Scotland.
“The Music Producer” and “The Tall Young Gentleman” in Scotland.

A lone man travelling with a child from one country to the next, doesn’t look good so I wrote a letter giving him permission to take our son outside the country with a copy of my passport and Berlin residential documentation.

They were fine until they got to Britain. I was on tenterhooks and had my mobile phone on full alert in case the authorities wanted to see me as I was on the other side of the airport, but everything went well. Phew!

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A Scotsman on alert.
A Scotsman on alert.

Our time in Cheshire was spent at the cosy English suburban home of my brother with children, Kellogg’s rice krispies, and chocolate éclairs flying all over the place, until it was time to take our second part of our journey to Scotland.

We were going to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and Scotland is a pre-historic country rooted from the Celts, the Scots, the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings. Edinburgh as an energetic city, is one of Europe’s most visited and as tourists, we were no exception.

A view of Edinburgh Castle not far from our hotel.
A view of Edinburgh Castle not far from our hotel.

As Britain is my home-nation, I always try to keep an eye out for money-saving possibilities, just in case. As budget was a consideration for this holiday, I had whipped out the article that I kept about a hotel company called “Premier Inn”. I had never used them before and since Edinburgh has a reputation for being outrageously expensive – a budget hotel it had to be. However, not before I had tried my best to find a hostel.

I love hostels.

I am a hostel babe and I’m not embarrassed to tell you that my first point of call is always to investigate the option of a hostel.

Indeed, The Tall Young Gentleman and I are veterans. The trick is to go for a private room as the days of a dorm-bed for £2 a night (sigh!) are definitely over, as are the adventures that go with it!

Book your hostel here!

Anyway, I searched and searched and searched. All I could find were party hostels, hostels that didn’t welcome children or hostels that had private rooms so highly priced that hotels were cheaper. Ditto B&B’s. I love a good bed and breakfast but I’m not prepared to pay £120 per night for it.

No Sire!

This isn’t London you know!!

So I had a look at Premier Inn.

Their website tells us that they are a budget hotel brand across the UK and Ireland with an emphasis on comfort and quality. I can’t fault them on this as our room had a lovely double-bed, an ensuite bathroom with a bath and shower, a TV,  free WIFI for 30 minutes, otherwise a general access to WIFI, a desk, spacious wardrobe, and I have to say, ample space to move around.

We did have a few teething problems at first though as I thought the bed for The Tall Young Gentleman wasn’t in the room and for a moment I thought he would have to sleep with us! His single bed was under ours but there were also no bed sheets and towels for him, and only one chair in the room.

On informing Reception, they promised to sort it out for us and when we returned from our day out, his bed was pulled out and made up as I had requested, and there were abundant towels and two more desk chairs in the room.

We had booked the non-smoking family room for 2 adults and 1 child and the room cost?

Wait for it.

A very reasonable.

£98 for 2 nights. That’s £49 a night!

In Edinburgh.

Who knew?!

In addition, a £2 booking fee and so all together, a round sum of £100!!

There are 7 Premier Inn branches in Edinburgh so be careful and do your research. We stayed at the Edinburgh Central (Lauriston Place) as we wanted to be within walking distance of The Royal Mile. I’d say about a 15 minute walk: give or take.

This wonderful price doesn’t include breakfast although the hotel does offer it and at least two children under 16 can eat for free if an adult books a premier breakfast too. Adults have to pay £8 for the hot and cold buffet. That would be £16 for my husband and I and honestly, Berlin spoils you. I just couldn’t contemplate paying €24 for breakfast!

Absolutely not!

So out we went.

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Looking for something to eat!
Looking for something to eat!

The first morning we went to a sweet little café. On the second morning to a workman’s but more likely student caff, that The Music Producer didn’t like at all as everything served was plastic including the cutlery. It did have a view of “Arthur’s Seat” though! On our third and last morning, I relented and we had breakfast at the hotel.

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Breakfast from a local cafe. A bun, tatties, black pudding, baked beans, sausages, bacon and HP brown sauce. Oh, and a mug of workmans' tea.
Breakfast from a local cafe.
A bun, tatties, black pudding, baked beans, sausages, bacon and HP brown sauce.
Oh, and a mug of workmans’ tea.

We coughed up the extra dosh, had a buffet breakfast at the hotel and you know what, it was perfectly alright!

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The Scottish flag.
The Scottish flag.

This article is not sponsored and all opinions are my absolute own!

See you next week!

Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland

Watch this space!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links, I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

Sometimes, it’s alright to admit that hotels are better than hostels!

What do you think? Are hotels better than hostels? Are you a hotel magnet? Would you ever set foot in a hostel? Let me know in the comments below!

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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