To get the flight times we wanted, we connected in Brussels (Brussels Air) on the way there, and returned direct on on the way back on EasyJet. Direct is about a 2 hour flight, with an hour time change from Stuttgart. Uber is a thing there, however there is a premium charge for an early morning flight, plus traffic, so allow plenty of time to return back to the airport.
We didn’t realize that during the month of August, festivals take over the entire old town area. It was good because many streets were closed to traffic but it was a sea of people everywhere. Fringe is a theater festival where groups from all over the world come to perform for free. It is up to them to promote their shows and get people in the door so there were actors dressed in costume everywhere. There is also a small artists market surrounded by street performers at all corners reciting poems, singing, playing music, throwing fire and doing acrobatics. We didn’t stay for many performances because we were so lucky with good weather that weekend, we could stay outside.
The Weather & Scarves
Don’t forget umbrellas, a scarf and maybe even gloves for the night. We bought some cheap plaid umbrellas in the tourists shops on the Royal Mile. It was cold (about 50-60 degrees F – in August) and rained on and off the first two days but after that, we were very lucky with only clouds and some actual sun late in the day. There are scarf shops everywhere too if needed. We bought one from a kilt shop where everything is actually made in Scotland and they also provided a family history on which pattern suited your family name if you have any Scottish or Irish in your background. That was neat to hear about. There were 2-3 shops like that in old town. We went in all the stores along the mile I think. It is really easy to tell the good ones from the cheap from China shops.
We stayed at the Hub by Premier Inn which made for a perfect location for the weekend. Plus we flew in late and they have 24/7 snacks and bar service. Amazing. We were in walking distance to everything, plus free coffee and tea always.
Free Walking Tours – We booked one online, but we think the one we went on was not the one we booked. There are several but Sandemans sort of overtakes the street so we went with it. Next time we will do a non-Sandemans one. It was a 3-hour walk around old town pointing out famous streets, cafes and ends in a cemetery. Along the way there is lots of reference to movie scenes and Harry Potter spots with overall history. The free walking tours are always a good way to start in a new city.
Cocktail Festival – There are pop-up cocktail experience bars with live music outside, and underground in caves below the bridge or by the water with food booths too. We stopped at a few different spots to listen to the music and check out the temporary art spaces. If you plan to drink a lot, for £15 an experience pass gets you discounted cocktails the whole month.
The Military Tattoo is something we had never heard of, but when searching for things to do, this was a must see online, so we booked it. Military bands from various countries come together to perform and march in formations at the castle with a light show and a couple of fireworks. There are various packages for tickets, all expensive from $150 and up. We booked the middle level Bruce package with fireworks (though there really weren’t any – and we had great weather that night). The tickets included dinner, whisky tasting, small entertainment preview, and prime viewing seats in section 8. On the way to the show after dinner you also walk through the worlds largest whisky collection which is pretty neat to see. Great show, a little long since you are sitting out int the cold at night, but great. Bands and dancers from India, the U.S. and Japan were there along with Scottish, English and Irish bagpipers. Best thing we did was buy a wool blanket from one of the cheap shops on the mile beforehand too. Life saver. They do check your bags coming into the show, but you can bring your own water bottles, blankets, umbrella etc.
These shops were our favorite:
- Jeffrey St. Whisky & Cigars – Fore new whisky people, this was the best tasting we had. We walked in but its likely best to book in advance, they have three levels of tasting options and spend a full hour with us alone answering questions, making recommendations and going gover the process. We bought the best bottle of the trip here too that we both liked. They also have a ton of craft beer and cigars.
- Royal Mile Whiskies -We were advised in advance of a shop with a little older lady who helps you taste and buy whiskies. This was it. She was great, answered all our questions, helped us taste a few things to figure out what to buy. They change tastings daily also.
- Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop (172 Canongate) – Independent bottler. Very knowledgable, took time to let us try some things before we bought that we could only get locally.
- Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar & Shop – The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a membership club for their own single malt limited edition whisky however, they have a bar downstairs at their Kaleidoscope location that anyone can come into to taste their private blends or have a cocktail. The staff was so helpful and found a few great options for us based on aromas and flavors versus by the location as the other tastings did. It is definitely worth a look into the membership if you are in the areas that they have locations and events.
We took a day trip to the Highlands that included a stop at a distillery not far from Glasgow. We did the tour with two tastings. They rush you through the first one a bit and don’t explain it. There is instead, a brief promo video of the family business since the 1800’s. The tour was interesting, though it was hard to understand the guide sometimes, she was from Russia originally. No photos are allowed due to signal interference which we found strange, but it was cool to see the process in person and compare it to how beer and port is made. The tour ended in the gift shop of course, where they pour the second tasting. All in all, a good experience.
We opted to do the day trip on Sunday to the Loch Lomond, Stirling, and Glengoyne Distillery Tour from Edinburgh. Be aware, this and other trips from old town are only transport, and do not include entrance fees or any actual tours- which add up to more than the bus itself costs. The bus had about 25 people and leaves precisely at 9 a.m..
Stirling Castle – If you like history, you can easily spend 2 hours here. The entrance fee was about £11 or so (discounted with the bus). There are tours offered on the half-hour that take about an hour and give a good history but don’t walk you through the inside which is the better part of the castle. Most of the castle is restored as it was converted for military use after its royal purpose.
Lunch – The bus stops for lunch at this small town with 2-3 eating options. We opted for the Aberfoyle Deli & Trossachs Butcher where they made burgers for us on the spot for cheap. We walked from there to the grocery store down the street to have a beer and buy water before heading back on the bus. Much better option than going to the tourist restaurants. There is a wool outlet we didn’t have time to go in with a petting zoo/sheep area in front as well.
Loch Lomond is a pretty lake with a touristy ice cream shop, and quick hike for a view above the lake and a photo.
After the last stop to the distillery tour, the bus pulls off below Stirling Castle again for a photo opp with the famous horned cows to end the trip. Since the Fringe Fest is going on, they drop you off in New Town across the bridge from Edinburgh old town.
New Town – Rose and Prince Streets
Rose Street is the cutest street with mainly bars and restaurants. Prince Street is a shopping street. It’s a good area to walk through.
More To Do
Holyrood Palace – This was a great tour because the audio guide is at your own pace, you can read and walk through without a massive group pushing forward. There are three levels, we opted only for the palace vs the gallery and gardens too. It was perfect. It is cool that the palace is still in working use by the Royal Family today. There is also a 20 minute hike up the hill on the other side for great views.
Calton Hill – This was a shorter walk up another hill for great views where the national monument is. There is also an old open cemetery on the way. The top of the hill offers 360 views of the city, green hills and water.
- Baba Budan – Best breakfast (small menu) and donuts ever. The coffee was good, but the roast of the day was too sweet for me. We went every morning they were open for a filled donut.
- Wanderlust Cafe & Bistro (274 Canongate) – Another breakfast stop before jumping on the bus for the day trip – they made us egg and cheese sandwiches to go even though they weren’t really on the menu – awesome.
- The Doric – Great food and craft beer too. Had the fish & chips and shepherd’s pie. Make a res for dinner.
- No. 1 High Street – Best most affordable stop for a bite and a beer. Great service.
- Oink – Best pulled pork pit-stop to make – period.
- The World’s End – didn’t actually go but the reviews were good and the food in the window looked amazing for fish & chips or anything.
- Edinburgh Larder – We stopped in here but they only have a fixed menu and we were that hungry. Looked really cute though.
- 1780 Restaurant on Rose Street – Best fish & chips of the trip actually was here. They were out of most of the beers we ordered that were on the menu but they were really nice.
- OX184 – Late night restaurant/bar across from Brewdog. Was ok, service was not very good but it was open and they had a table with decent food, beer and cocktails.
- The Amber Restaurant was part of our tickets for dinner before the Military Tattoo in the Whisky Experience. It was good, we got to try some of the local Scottish foods we normally wouldn’t try like Haggis in a tasting menu. We would not go there on our own for dinner, only with the show experience.
- The Fudge House – Must stop for the best fudge in your life. It’s on the way to/from the Holyrood Palace in old town. Danger – they also ship.
- Salt Horse – This was only a few minutes walk from our hotel so we made a stop most nights on the way home. Local vibe, great selection of rotating taps and bottles. Small homey place.
- The Hanging Bat – Best beer bar, most selection. Helpful staff, plus there is food.
- Brewdog – Went here only because it was on the way home and a guaranteed good beer. The negative in that part of the city for that small bar was that after 10 p.m. you cannot sit outside so everyone was crammed into their narrow space. We met a few people while we were there though so that was cool.