At the end of January I ran off for a mini solo adventure to explore Edinburgh. I thought I'd write a bit about why I went, where I went and what I ate and drank! So pop the kettle on, grab yourself a brew and carry on reading if you'd like to find out more...
W H Y S O L O ?
Although I've travelled to a lot of places alone and love exploring and spending time on my own, I've never actually been away for an overnight stay or holiday completely alone. It's something I've often thought of doing but never really needed to or made the effort to go out of my way to plan. I want to make more of my little lone ventures out though and combining my lust for travel with stepping out of my comfort zone more often, I thought work based solo adventures might be a great place to start!
Also, The Beard had to go away to Japan with work, which I was insanely jealous about so I felt the need to plan something super fun to do whilst he was away... perfect excuse, right?
W H Y E D I N B U R G H ?
Back in 2008, I spent a short weekend in Edinburgh and it completely stole my heart! I can't tell you exactly why but I just felt at home there. When Will and I stopped in Edinburgh overnight on the way to Glen Coe in December we didn't get chance to do or see much but that feeling of being at home still had hold of me and I knew I had to plan a trip back.
Another reason I've wanted to visit Edinburgh again is because one of my very first ever (and most favourite) stockists is based there. The Red Door Gallery have supported me since day one with Hello Sunshine so the chance to hand deliver an order AND meet the lovely faces behind all the emails sent over the years had to be done.
Overall, Edinburgh felt like a the perfect place to go and a safe, friendly and familiar choice for my first solo adventure. That might sound like a bit of a cop out but for someone who's an anxious over-thinker, staying overnight somewhere alone in itself felt like a big enough step out of my comfort zone for starters so it made sense and allowed me to get over excited instead of over-anxious when I planned everything.
So there you have the WHYs and now I'll try and remember to tell you about all the WHATs and all the WHEREs from the three days I spent in Edinburgh at the end of January.
W H E R E & W H A T ?
I feel like I went to SO MANY places and did so many things but when I look at the list of recommendations and my diary notes, I realise I barely scratched the surface! I'll try and give you a little visual diary of where I did manage to go during my time there though... be prepared for a lot of photos.
D A Y O N E
After finding the cute apartment I had booked, I dropped off my bags and headed straight back out again with my parcel of stock in hand and went to find The Red Door Gallery. Victoria Street in general had been recommended to me many times already and when I got there I totally understood why - not only the inspiration to Diagon Ally but one of the most colourful streets full of shops bursting with charm and character!
Popping in to Red Door Gallery and meeting Ashley (hi Ashley!) in real life after so many email conversations was magical, not only that but the gallery itself is even more incredible than I imagined! Small yet perfectly formed and filled to the brim with SO much work from talented artists and makers. After making all important pizza plans for the following evening, I left Red Door Gallery, wandered up the rest of Victoria Street, beaming as I took in all the colours!
From Victoria Street, I pootled around to visit Greyfriars Bobby, a statue of a famous little doggo in Scotland. Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh for spending 14 years guarding the grave of its owner until he died himself. People tend to rub the statues nose for luck so it's super shiny but I just stood, smiled and took a snap.
I wandered down and round through part of The Meadows from there and looped back up towards the castle where the city views and grand architecture of The Royal Mile took my breath away.
By this point, I had been up since 4.30am and other than a tea and half a sandwich on the train I hadn't eaten anything so it was time to refuel and I decided to head to another recommended place on my hit-list, Baba Budan.
Now you don't have to say coffee and doughnuts more than once to get my attention and this gorgeous little coffee shop is nestled in one of the old railway arches on East Market Street, behind Waverly Station. Not only is the interior and location wonderful, the salted caramel doughnut I inhaled was like a dream!
Feeling the sugar and boost of energy surge through me, I decided to make the most of the sunlight and sunshine whilst it was still around (I was so lucky to have a sunny afternoon!) With that, I trundled off up towards Calton Hill to take in the spectacular panoramic views of the city I had been promised. It didn't disappoint!
I didn't stay up on Calton Hill long, mainly because my boots were starting to hurt (damn you new eskimo squishies!) and also because the observatory was closed for renovations and the light was fading. I would LOVE to go back though and take in those views and explore more of the monuments properly.
Although it was starting to get dark, I figured if I was quick about it I could get back to the apartment, which was pretty close to Calton Hill, change my shoes and get back out and scamp out the route to Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat ready for Tuesday's adventures.
Timing was pretty perfect as I managed to get back out before dark and even stomp my way up to Saint Anthony's Chapel Ruins part way up the summit path to Arthur's Seat. It's a gorgeous spot, which offers more great views and before the light disappeared completely I managed to get down the other side and round the lake before heading back to the apartment again.
After a pretty full on day and all that walking, I was ready for my bed so rather than going out to eat I opted for a quick supermarket trip to pick up snacks and treats for a cheeky indoor picnic. Armed with some of my favourite cheeses, crusty bread, crisps and beer that I got ID'd for (I'm 15 years over the legal age!) I headed back to my little home for the night and put my feet up - I was a very happy bean!
D A Y T W O
I fell asleep watching Only Connect on the sofa (which isn't exactly a late night show) and after crawling into bed and a nice BIG sleep, I was up bright and early to head up to Arthur's seat. It was another clear, dry morning and I was super happy to have scoped out the route the night before as it wasn't long before I was singing my way up the summit path, taking in the VERY fresh and cold morning air and more amazing views.
The walk was super simple and easy going (especially compared to the icy covered path I slipped my way up with Will the previous month!) and in what felt like no time I was at the summit, taking in the gorgeous views and trying not to let the wind blow me over.
Apart from passing a couple of people on the way up and down, I had the summit to myself and the views were breathtaking. I took a bit of time to drink it all in I made my way back down the path that leads to Salisbury Crags. Unfortunately the path that takes your right underneath the crags was closed after rock fall but the path that leads around provides some more great views and I enjoyed the easy stroll back towards Holyrood Palace and my route home.
After a quick shower and clothing change, I was ready to venture out again and start the hunt for breakfast. I planned to walk into Leith towards the port and had been told good things about Toast, so headed there past the odd Trainspotting landmark.
The delicious feast of avocado, chorizo and feta on sourdough toast was perfect! Hipster AF but who cares when it tastes good and you can enjoy watching the world go by with a cup of tea.
From Toast, I wandered down towards the port, waved at the Royal Yacht Britannia and headed towards the Leith Water Walkway, a route that follows the water all the way through to Stockbridge and Dean Village, which I'd been told was also beautiful!
It was a lengthy walk but with music, maps and a happy tummy I followed the water and before long found myself wandering through Stockbridge and it's elegant Georgian and Victorian terraced houses. I would have liked to explore more but was conscious of time and rather than stopping for coffee, cake and shopping, I was enjoying being outside far to much so carried on down the riverside and in to Dean Gardens.
Following the water down through Dean Village was so picturesque and the charm and character of the village won me over instantly, especially the old yellow buildings!
It was about 2.30pm now and I had walked almost 12 miles so I was feeling mighty hungry again! I had planned to pop in to The National Museum of Scotland so made my way over there and decided to enjoy a brew and snack in their cafe. I was looking forward to just sitting down but when I was greeted with the most impressive, beautiful interior of the museum my jaw dropped.
I could have spent HOURS in here but I had a date with some kitties and a pizza supper to look forward to so just made time to pop up to the roof to take in another fabulous city view and had a nosey around the Natural World Galleries (animals are always my fave in museums!) I can't recommend visiting this place enough, with free entry and SO MUCH to explore inside, it's a must.
I think it's safe to say Maison de Moggy is one of the best Cat Cafes I've been too, I can't get over how many GORGEOUS floofs were there! Not only are they the happiest kitties, it's clear they're looked after with so much love and attention and the interior is so fun! Make sure you pop over to their website to meet the rest of the kitties, especially little Elodie the Sphynx in her jumper!
As if the day couldn't get any better after spending time with all the cats, I left the cafe and headed off to sample the incredible Pizza, recommended by so many, at Civerinos Slice. I was so tired by this point but also very much looking forward to hanging out with Nicky and Ashley properly and I was also hungry again!
It's a good job I was hungry too because these slices were INCREDIBLE! As big as my head, the most delicious base and the Thug Slice Fries were topped with MEATBALLS and cheese! I was in heaven and happily chatted away for a couple of hours with the Red Door Gallery girls, it was the perfect end to my BIG day out.
D A Y T H R E E
I think I *might* have overdone it with everything I packed into my second day in Edinburgh, because the next morning I woke up with a rather grumpy tummy and ached all over. It was totally worth it though and after a slow shower I packed my things and got ready to head into town for my final few hours in Scotland.
Sipping tea and watching the world go buy was the best way to ease into things and although I couldn't eat anything from their delicious looking counter, The Milkman was the perfect spot. Teeny-tiny and super cosy, I loved it in here and hope to visit again for their coffee and croissants!
It was another beautiful morning in Edinburgh and although it had tried to snow as I walked into town, I enjoyed a stroll through Princes Street Garden on the way to my pre-booked tour. I had been looking forward to this since I arrived as I'd had to book quite a few weeks earlier to ensure I could get a space and take a peek inside one of my favourite Gin Distilleries.
The Edinburgh Gin tours had come highly recommended and seeing as I already knew I enjoyed their beverages I thought it would be rude not to pay them a visit... when in Rome and all that!
The Discovery Tour is only a tenner and the talk itself was so funny and informative that I would have happily paid for that alone. Getting to peek inside their teeny but perfectly thought out and designed distillery was great and although I struggled with my free G&T at the end of the tour (thanks grumbly insides!) I thoroughly enjoyed myself!
I already knew of Edinburgh Gin, their original is one of the nicest Gins we've tried (our bottle didn't last long!) and their Rhubarb and Ginger Gin Liqueur is AMAZING! So when they spoke about their Seaside Gin, inspired by the East Coast Scottish beaches, I knew I had to try some. I chose that as my free taster at the end and it was so good I came home with a bottle...
Following my tour, I didn't have long left before I had to get my train home *sob* but the distillery was right by the coffee shop which charmed me on our fly by visit in December - Cairngorm Coffee Company. So I popped in their for a quick cuppa (and longingly looked at their grilled cheese again) before heading back in the sunshine towards the station.
I was sad to leave Edinburgh behind but with an unhappy tummy and tired feet, I also felt happy to be heading back to Cambridge for Cat cuddles and my own bed. I had also picked up the perfect little Stay Home Club pin from Hannah Zakari to keep me company on my journey home. I might have also fan-girled pretty hard when I popped in there and got chatting whilst swooning over lots of my creative pals work I spied in there!
That brings my three day adventure to an end, I mean unless you count the delayed trains and epic journey back to Cambridge but not much happened other than me snoozing. Looking back at everything I managed to squeeze it it feels like I was there a lot longer but I had THE BEST time and being alone wasn't at all scary, intimidating or lonely at all.
SO... W I L L I G O B A C K?
100% and hell to the yeah I will! Not only do I still have an epic list of things I want to go back and do, I know The Beard wants to visit again after our flying New Years stopover so I think it’s safe to say Edinburgh will see me again. I just need to decide what to tick off the following list of remaining recommendations first:
T O D O :
Royal Botanic Gardens
Royal Mile Market
Real King Mary's Tour
Museum of Modern Art
Museum on the Mound
T O E A T:
Kitchen - Stockbridge
Union Of Genius
Mary's Milk Bar
The Rabbit Hole
Gourmet Mash Bar
I hope you’ve found this rather long post interesting, I must apologise if it seems a little light on words and poetic language - that's not my strong point but I hope the photos and list of all the places I went to (and still want to go to) helps make up for it if you're also interested in visiting Edinburgh.
If you have any questions about my little solo adventure or any further recommendations for me to add to the lists above please do let me know in the comments and I hope you enjoyed the read. Fingers crossed throughout the year (and beyond!) I'll be back to blog about more solo adventures. So far I have Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow on my hit list... feel free to throw more suggestions at me though and as always, THANK YOU for reading and following me and my creative adventures!
Until next time, Sunshine lovers...