Weekend Break: Edinburgh

I was up at the crack of dawn on Friday morning, sorting my last bit of packing before lugging my bags to work so that, as soon as I clocked off work at 4pm, we could get on the road.

The journey up to Edinburgh in the car took about two and a half hours which wasn’t too bad, though I was a little gutted that I missed getting a photo of the ‘Welcome to Scotland’ sign! We arrived at ‘The Northumbrian Hotel’ around 8ish and got signed in and settled easily. As my boyfriend booked the hotel I had no idea what to expect and his disclaimer that it didn’t have great reviews worried me. It was actually totally fine, however… I wouldn’t rate it highly but it was clean and comfortable which is all we wanted.

Since we arrived so late and we pretty hungry we headed straight out to a local Chinese restaurant ‘Good Year’. As a veggie I often struggle with Chinese restaurants but this one was great, it was small but there was plenty of choice and it was reasonably priced. As it was ‘Bring your own’ we also indulged in a gorgeous bottle of wine from a local down the road. We didn’t want to have too late a night so it was back to the hotel and a movie for us to chill before a big day ahead.

The Royal Mile from Camera Obscura
The Royal Mile from Camera Obscura

The excitement really started on the second day. Heading into town on Edinburgh’s very reasonably priced bus service we wandered through town and up to the Camera Obscura. For a photography lover it was a brilliant experience! We headed straight up to the top floor where we got some amazing panoramic views of Edinburgh before heading into the show. This was done in a dark room where they projected the camera onto a wooden table and gave us a tour of the city. It was a little dim as it was a gray day but it was still incredible, with the ability to zoom in and show us important landmarks as well as play with the projection.

After this we made our way downstairs to the various levels which had different exhibits on types of photography, images and visual illusions. It is a beautiful place full of lights and interactive displays. Highlights included their visual illusion sets where you could be part of the illusion in your photos, and the light tricks which had me mesmerised.

After we has spent a photography-filled morning there and some time lingering in their gift shop, we decided it was time for some lunch and walked back through town to the Elephant House cafe: the birthplace of Harry Potter. As an elephant lover and a complete literature geek this was a must-see. There was quite a queue but we persevered and we didn’t have to wait too long. Inside looked fantastic… so many elephants! It had a really chilled out cafe feel even though it was so busy. We got seated by the staff who were lovely, and both ordered lasagna; mine was delicious! This was followed by some lush waffles and maple syrup and accompanied by traditional leaf tea.

Feeling very full we left and rambled back up to the castle for our afternoon there. Exploring the castle and visiting the museums was really interesting but the entry was quite expensive considering it didn’t
take us very long to get round. It’s a tough decision as to whether you would choose to do this on a budget but I’m glad we did; it was fun and I learnt a lot about the history of the castle that I was totally unaware of before.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

With a good chunk of the afternoon left we wandered into town just to see a bit of the city. Taking a stroll through the park would probably have been more fun on a warm summer day, however it was pleasant and made so much more fun by some brave squirrels who came looking for food. We then went for a little bit of an explore in the shops along Princes Street, only to walk all the way back up and along the Royal Mile to visit a book-shop that I found on a guide to Edinburgh for book lovers called ‘The Old Town Bookshop’. It was a book-lover’s dream!

After a peruse in the shop we wandered back along to catch a bus back to the hotel so that we could change and freshen up before going for food. Except with no knowledge of Edinburgh’s bus network we landed quite far away from the hotel! We trundled back, had a chill and change, then made it out to walk along to the restaurant. We were intending to get mezze at a Turkish place but once we arrived they said we needed a reservation. So we headed back a long to a Nepalese and Indian restaurant we had found called the ‘Yak and Yeti’ which was absolutely fantastic. For a small restaurant they had a good drinks menu, their food was delicious and the service was high; we left very happy and satisfied.

We returned to the hotel to relax and recuperate for another early start. Checking his pedometer app, my boyfriend informed me that our wandering had taken us over ten miles! We had literally wandered in circles going between places; no wonder we were spent! So top tip to anyone thinking of a trip to Edinburgh: plan where you are going and when!

Day two we rose early again, packed up the car and headed straight to the zoo. We had booked a panda viewing slot at 2.30 so the plan was to make our way round the rest of the zoo first, including a break for food and then reach the pandas last. This worked really well, we managed to do the zoo in a nice circuit, only doubling back on ourselves when we went for lunch. We both really enjoyed seeing the animals, as we are such big kids and I loved taking photos.

My personal favourites were the meerkats asleep in a pile, the quite elusive sun bears, the penguins (obviously) and the very sleep giant panda! We got a great view of the penguin parade, where three of the penguins decided to waddle out and join the keepers on the walk, just before out panda viewing. Getting into the panda area, I was worried they wouldn’t come out but we were lucky enough to see the male panda, Yang Guang, asleep in a wooden hut like shelter. He slept the whole time but did wriggle around enough for us to be able to see him properly and get some good photos, so we were very happy.

Yang Guang, the Giant Panda
Yang Guang, the Giant Panda

A quick sweep through the gift shop rounded off our visit and we drove over to Holyrood Park to checkout Arthur’s Seat. We got some brilliant views even from the field, but a combination of it being quite late for getting home, feeling pretty tired and sudden rain meant we didn’t get to climb it. This was a bit of a shame, but it wouldn’t have been great to do considering the weather so that was probably one for the summer.

Arthur's Seat, Holyrood Park
Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Park

Getting back in the car we set off for home to make sure we didn’t get back too late for work the next day. We were both tired and physically knackard from a pretty jam packed weekend so kudos to my boyfriend for driving home too as he was definitely more sore than me!

We had a brilliant weekend; it was fun, exciting and interesting. Considering the weather forecast we were very lucky on that front. Edinburgh is a beautiful city and in 48 hours we only just scratched the surface of what you can do there! But my boyfriend asked me on the way home what I would have done differently, and other than maybe some better pre-planning,  I honestly wouldn’t have changed a thing.


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