Saturday, July 9, 2022

5 Days in Edinburgh, Scotland | What to do

Many of you know that I studied in Scotland for the 2019-2020 school year. I was a postgraduate student earning a MSc in Creative Writing. However, due to COVID, my time in Edinburgh got cut short and ever since I've been itching to go back. I finally got the chance, and some family and I went to Edinburgh in early May 2022. There were nine of us traveling together.

Where we stayed:

We got hotel rooms at the Wilde Aparthotels By Staycity Grassmarket. This location was fantastic. It's at the base of Castle Rock and on a street lined with pubs. The famous Victoria Street is at the other end and leads you straight to the Royal Mile.

We considered getting an AirBNB, but the houses that could fit all nine of us were pretty far from Old Town and my sister was concerned that there weren't enough bathrooms for us to all get ready in a decent time every morning. It was an interesting concern for her to have, but at the end of the day, it was valid. Plus, after spending all day together, it was nice to go back to a hotel room with only one other person.

What we did:

My family members had flight vouchers because they were supposed to come visit me in early June 2020. For that trip, we were planning on doing both London and Edinburgh, but since a few travel restrictions were still in place when we were planning our new trip, and we didn't want to have to take off too many days from work, we decided to only visit Edinburgh. I did my best to cram as much as possible into the short trip, and not to toot my own horn, but I think I did a pretty good job.

We really lucked out with the weather. If it rained, it was a light rain that only lasted for a little while.


Our red eye flights were scheduled to land in Edinburgh around 9:20am, however we ended up getting slightly delayed. No big deal, we grabbed our luggage and headed to the hotel to drop our bags.

I reserved lunch at The Three Sisters because it was one of my favorite places to go while I was at school. It has gone through some updates since 2020, but it was still great to visit and it was nice to start our day with a meal. On the way there we walked through the University of Edinburgh campus, where I had most of my classes, and stopped into the gift shop.

From there we walked to the Monkey Barrel Comedy Club because it is the meeting place for the Mountebank Comedy Walk. I knew we were all tired from traveling, and a two hour walking tour might not have sounded awesome to everyone, but I figured it was the best way to get a quick overview of Old Town and keep us from falling asleep too early. I had done the tour when my friend, Casey, came to visit me and loved how Daniel led his tour. We laughed hard while we learned about famous serial killers and the history of the Scottish national animal (it's a unicorn!). Daniel does a fantastic job of getting to know each of his tour groups enough to make them feel included, and crack jokes at their expense.

After the tour, we grabbed a drink at The Last Drop, since we had learned about it on the tour (it was where prisoners got one last drink before being hanged) before going back to the hotel to regroup.  

We ended that first day at Biddy Mulligans


Friday we did the Rabbie's Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Highlands 1 day tour. This day started early, which I did partially on purpose to get us up and moving and partially because the weather that day was the best when I was scheduling this event. The tour left at 8:00am and got back to Edinburgh at 8:00pm. It was long, but it was fantastic. Our driver/tour guide Pete was amazing at storytelling - he was able to recount Scottish history while pointing out landmarks that we were driving past.

The tour stopped at Rannoch Moor, Glencoe, Great Glen, Fort Augustus, Loch Ness, Grampian Mountains, and Highland Perthshire before making one last stop to see Highland Cows. The Highland Cows were my highlight, but the longest stop was in Loch Ness where we were able to take a boat cruise on the Loch and learn about Nessie. 

When we got back to Edinburgh, we ended up grabbing some food at Mamma's American Pizza. This was unplanned, and what felt like the only open kitchen in Edinburgh by the time we got there. Afterwards, my sister and I grabbed drinks at The Black Bull.


My sister and I got up early to try to find a place for breakfast before dragging our whole group around the city. We walked to Em's Kitchen, which is delicious, but ultimately decided it was too far to make everyone walk to and ended up at Alba Bistro right in the Grassmarket, which was perfect.

We spent most of Saturday in Stirling. Stirling Castle is a lot of fun because it has tours and actors in costume to talk about what the castle was like when Kings and Queens lived there. After we explored the castle, we stopped at the ice cream truck that was parked outside (I got a 99 Flake), before walking towards the gin distillery. The Stirling Distillery ended up being closed for a private tour, so we walked right down the street to The Settle Inn, which is Stirling's oldest alehouse. It was the perfect Scottish pub: quaint, wood burning stove, great bartender - the works!

When we got back to Edinburgh, we grabbed dinner at City Restaurant. My friend from Grad School met us for dinner and it was great to see her again! My sister and I brought her back to her apartment and then met some of our group at The Black Bull.


Happy Mother's Day! At least it was for us/America. Because of this, I made a reservation at Tigerlily for brunch. We all loved it and agreed it was something we would do again if given the chance. On the walk from our hotel to Tigerlily we stopped in Princes Street Gardens to take a picture in front of the Ross Fountain.

My mom really wanted to see the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, so we walked there, but it was too early in the season and there weren't many flowers to see. We also accidentally walked to the entrance further away which added like a half hour to our walk. So all in all, not the greatest addition to our trip, but it was still nice. We could tell it would have been beautiful if it was further into the season.

We took a double decker bus back to Old Town and some of us did some shopping on the Royal Mile, while others went back to the hotel to relax before dinner. On the bus ride back, I made a reservation at The Pear Tree because they were able to show the Bruins game for us. It was a great addition to our week because it was a playoff game that was an afternoon game in Boston, so timing wise worked out great for us in Scotland.


Our last full day. We had breakfast at Alba Bistro again, before climbing the stairs to Edinburgh Castle. Unfortunately, they weren't doing any tours at the castle the day we were there, but we spent about 2 hours walking around. From there we went to the The Scotch Whisky Experience. The experience starts with a ride in a whisky barrel and tells you how Scotch Whisky is made. Then you get to watch a short video about the different regions of Scotland and you select which Scotch you want to try. The Scotch Whisky Experience is home to the largest Scotch collection in the world, and looking at the different bottles is very interesting while you taste the Scotch.  

At the time of our trip, we needed negative COVID tests to travel back into the states. So, after we grabbed lunch at Deacon Brodies Tavern (I got a steak and ale pie - wicked good), we took a bus to a clinic right by Murrayfield Stadium. Thankfully we were all negative and got to come home with no issues the next day.

After our tests, we went to The White Hart Inn and Biddy Mulligans again.

What we didn't do:

There are plenty of more things to do in Edinburgh and surrounding areas, but of all the things I planned for, the only things we didn't do included extra walking. They were Arthur's Seat, Calton Hill, and the Meadows. Arthur's Seat and Calton Hill give great views of the city. We actually did walk to the Meadows on our way back from our COVID tests, but no one wanted to take the full lap. They would have been nice additions to our trip, but I can't really blame anyone for not wanting to do more walking.



  1. The best souvenirs from travel are the stories we gather along the way, each one a testament to the richness of the human experience.

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