This was a return to Edinburgh for me after 5 years. The occasion of our trip was a joyous one, we were celebrating our engagement. This was a scaled back trip by my usual relentless standards.
Nira Caledonia Hotel
Our short trip began with a midday flight from Dublin. Arriving at 1:45 we took the airport shuttle into the city. Disembarking at Waverley Bridge, the bus takes around 30 minutes. As we meandered our way through Georgian Edinburgh to Stockbridge, the cold was crisp. We arrived at the Nira Caledonia Hotel, part of an impressive looking block of 3 story terraced houses. The welcome was exuberant- our room was almost ready, and we were seated in the bar with the offer of a complimentary drink. 2 cappuccinos later we were ushered to our room. I had booked an executive double, and it was located on the top floor. 4 flights of stairs later, some huffing and puffing, and we were there. No lifts, the building is listed.
The room was uniquely decorated with some bizarre wallpaper. Strangely it worked. A coffee machine and dab radio with docking station added a modern touch. Having booked their romantic package, the mood in the room was perfect, rose petals caressing the bed under candlelight.
The bathroom had a bath with air jets and a selection of L’Occitane en Provence toiletries. And yes, I did use the duck.
We took a stroll through Edinburgh as dusk fell around us. The pattern of streets off Princes Street provide excellent opportunities for shopping. The moon rose to provide an interesting perspective on the Scott Monument. The Monument was built in Victorian/ Gothic style to honour Scottish author Sir Walter Scott and was opened in 1844. For those who are inclined a stairs leads to a viewpoint inside. Having previously succumbed I didn’t this time.
We stopped into Patisserie Valerie on Rose Street to indulge our cravings for cake, before heading back to the hotel. Dining in the hotel that evening was a disappointment, my medium-rare rib-eye steak was a poor cut with excessive fat and was cooked far beyond my favoured red core. The staff offered free desserts but it didn’t appease me much.
Day 2 began better with a wonderful made to order breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Full-Scottish was the start I needed. Our stay wasn’t blighted by the dinner, the hotel in all other respects was excellent.
I went for a morning stroll through Dean Village while Beata relaxed in the hotel room. It was a short distance from the hotel to the Water of Leith, where things got more picturesque. The walk winds past St Bernard’s Well, a waterfall, and some brooding houses perched on the hills above.
Dean Village was a former milling Village. It is endowed with a number of wonderful looking buildings and houses from the 19th century. Full of narrow streets and alleyways all worthy of a stroll down, it is rightly regarded as being amongst the most picturesque areas of Edinburgh.
We ambled into Edinburgh. Taking the North Bridge to the Royal Mile you are flanked by the imposing Balmoral Hotel before coming up on the Scotsman, a former newspaper office operating now as a hotel. It’s rooms apparently border on the bizarre. On the left is a pleasant view of Calton Hill. With an abundance of historical buildings lining the Royal Mile there is a plethora of sights to see. The old and new towns of Edinburgh are a World Heritage Site. As with any great city, several days are needed to see it. We had several hours before our bus back to the airport. So we had to be selective.
St Giles Cathedral
St Giles Cathedral sits on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace if Holyroodhouse. The street widens to give it more reverence. It has a distinctive crown shaped spire. Private tours are available at £6 per person, or you can visit for free. We entered for a short look around. The stone work around the entrance are very detailed and there are some excellent stain glass windows. The highlight is The Thistle Chapel. It is a Chapel to honour the Order of the Thistle, which is the highest honour awarded to persons of Scottish descent. Its ceiling evokes memories of the organic style ceiling in the Sagrada Familia, and it contains stalls for the knights of the Order. The stalls are decorated with the colours and imagery of the individual knights. The sovereign stalls against the back wall have the greatest detail. For more info.
The Real Mary King Close
Edinburgh has a fascinating history and one of the most intriguing aspects is surely how some of the closes (small narrow streets) that existed are no longer at street level. Formerly the scene of much dereliction, poverty, and disease, the decision was made to build the modern city above these closes. What was left makes for some really interesting tours. One such tour we took, into The Real Mary King Close which is a warren of streets that lie completely below ground. The 17th century tale is told of its inhabitants with emphasis placed on how the bubonic plague ravaged the population, and how they were futile in the efforts to stop it. The iconic image of the plague doctors, with their beaked masks is central to this story of the huge loss of human life. The tour takes an hour and is entertainingly presented by the tour guide. More info. Admission is £15.50. Sadly, no photography allowed inside to share the tour.
As we passed by Gladstone’s Land, a local Scot was selling the experience of having an Eagle Owl perch on your arm. For £5 it was well worth it. I won’t forget the soft texture of his feathers in a hurry. It was huge and a little scary.
Dinner in Amarone
We went for an early dinner/ late lunch in Amarone. A huge Italian restaurant with an extensive menu, we both opted for the San Daniele pizza. It was terrific but enormous. We asked for a doggy-bag. When we got back to the hotel the concierges eyes swelled with envy. It was his favourite restaurant. Good choice. We ended up taking a taxi back to the airport as time was running short for our flight back to Dublin. Short time on a short trip, but Edinburgh as ever was immensely enjoyable.