The best bits for when you visit Edinburgh
We LOVED our visit to Edinburgh and based our trip on lots of research, so read our honest account of the best bits for when you Visit Edinburgh, whether it’s purely for pleasure or like us you need to check out the university area.
Where to stay when you visit Edinburgh
Without doubt, stay at the very historic Balmoral hotel when you visit Edinburgh. We LOVED it and I would definitely stay there again. This heritage building is managed very professionally by the Rocco Forte group. The location is superb for all the major sites of Edinburgh, and it’s a few minutes walk from Edinburgh Waverly station.
We took the Virgin trains service from Kings Cross, that was about a 4.5 hour scenic journey. Do look for special tickets. The convenience to the station and the sites was a major factor for us booking The Balmoral. There are a variety of room types but if you can afford it opt for one with a view of the castle. We had a superior deluxe castle view room that comfortably slept 3 adults. We really appreciated our welcome strawberries and Scottish shortbread on checking into our room.
The hotel has a great gym and pool too. Edinburgh can be cold even in high summer, but the hotel will keep you warm in both body and mind! Don’t leave without trying a whisky in the award winning Scotch bar and learn about how to drink the best whiskies in the world. I knew about the Talisker brand but I didn’t know there were 10 different kinds! Did you know that dark chocolate brings out the sweeter notes in whisky while salted almonds bring out the saltier, peaty notes?
Where to eat when you visit Edinburgh
Our top meal in Edinburgh was definitely dinner at the Number One restaurant at The Balmoral. I wasn’t sure if we were doing the right thing eating at a Michelin starred restaurant, I thought it would be too formal and stuffy, but I couldn’t have been more wrong!
It’s the signature restaurant of the hotel and it’s literally a few steps away from the main entrance. We had a 6 course menu that focused on first class Scottish produce at all times. Even the tonic for my excellent Botanist gin was produced specially for the Balmoral by Walter Gregor. It’s made in a small distillery called Summerhouse Drinks in Pitsligo and has quinine, cinchona bark, citric acid and some botanicals. The excellent sommelier Emma introduced me to this combination and ordered my wine.
Emma and the rest of the staff made me feel completely at ease. They selected an amazing combination of food and drink based on MY TASTES but at no point did they make me feel my own paltry knowledge was inadequate in any way. I really appreciated that. Expect to eat smoked salmon with lemon butter, quails egg and caviar to start with and I recommend the wild turbot to follow, but there’s nothing I wouldn’t recommend from this menu. It’s been put together by head chef Brian Grigor.
What to see when you visit Edinburgh
Walk down Princes street outside your hotel and just stop where you feel like, there’s always something going on, walk down the road parallel to Princes Street, that’s Queens’s street and take in the atmosphere of George street too. Pop into Harvey Nichols or Louis Vuitton if you feel like!
Walk to the Golden Mile area and look at all the historical sites but just outside the hotel is the National Gallery. Have a browse around here and walk in Princes Gardens after. I bought some beautiful greetings cards here to use throughout the year.
We loved our walk in the Royal Botanical Gardens. It’s an easy 15 minute taxi ride away and has an impressive display of orchids and greenhouses. It’s not one of those things you see on many tourist guides to Edinburgh but a friend from Dubai who now lives there said it’s a must see. She was right! We only had 2 nights in Edinburgh and packed in as much as we could. I think we’d have gone down to the sea if we’d had more time.
University tour if you visit Edinburgh
Edinburgh has an amazing university that’s been established for many years. It has a worldwide reputation to match. Call them up and book ahead to say you’re coming. We spent a few hours attending 2 tours, one especially for international students, the other specifically that took us round all the facilities.
We walked to the main student accommodation area, The Pollocks to get a good feel for how far it was located from the college. We also wanted to understand about the facilities on offer. Do wear comfortable walking shoes, and take a mac incase it rains.
We used Uber extensively on our trip to Edinburgh without any problems. If you’re going to London after or before, you should check out these great London cafes.