I recently blogged about our Irish Road Trip (here for more!). We also visited Scotland in the same vacation. Once in Europe, flights between countries are almost too good to pass up. So, when we found a flight for 12 € (roughly $13) from Dublin to Edinburgh, we knew we had to go!
From the ‘Home of golf’ to Harry Potter, there’s something for every one in this country!
Stay in a Scottish Castle
We all have that dream of being a princess (wait, just me?). Scotland has many beautiful castle hotels that allow you to live out your fairytale dream without breaking the bank. Staying in such a luxurious accommodation was completely out of the norm for us. However, if the goal is to stay in a castle hotel, friend, live it up! We’re talking Beauty and the Beast, Kate Middleton style! After a thorough Pinterest search we found Dalhousie castle .
Just outside the bustling city of Edinburgh, sits Dalhousie Castle. There are a variety of room options available. If you want an authentic stay within the castle itself, choose one of the many castle bedrooms. While the Castle Rock suites are beautiful, they are not within the castle itself. We booked the standard castle bedroom. With champagne and chocolates upon arrival, it’s easy to understand why they received the honor of Scotland’s Castle Hotel of 2016.
- Couple’s duo spa day package: This included a one hour massage and full access to all of their spa facilities. A couple favorites were the hydro pool and rain/fog shower. We then took our afternoon tea out on the Tepidarium overlooking the castle grounds.
- Falconry: If you’re like my dad an enjoy bird-watching, the Falconry is the perfect spot to spend a day. With multiple species of birds you’re taken on a guided tour around the Falconry.
- Archery: Gus and I seriously considered archery. You learn how to be a proper archer with an instructor to guide you. Sounds so Royal! However, I’m no Katniss Everdine and I didn’t think now was the time to volunteer as tribute so we opted for horse back riding.
- Horseback Riding: Gus had never been on a horse prior to our trip, so it was great that we got to experience his first ride together. Riding in an English saddle is definitely different than what I am used to, but it was so much fun getting to see the Scottish countryside on horseback.
Dinner in the Castle
Be sure to book a reservation to dine in the dungeon! Your dining experience begins in the Library for cocktails and h’ordeuvres. If only I had brought my candlestick and Scarlett dress it would have made for the perfect Clue set up. While sipping on your Scotch whiskey, the waiter asks you to place your dinner order. When you’re finally seated your food is delivered right to you without waiting! With the knights in shining armor standing guard and the candlelight setting the mood, we enjoyed a wonderful castle-perfect dinner together.
While I thoroughly enjoyed castle life, there was still so much left to see. Early the next morning we set off for the Fife Coastal Path and the seaside towns of Scotland.
Fife Coastal Path
The Fife Coastal Path stretches 117 miles along the coast of Scotland. Since we had rented a car, we decided to follow the path and enjoy the views. We stopped in a few villages so we could walk the path and enjoy the views. I’m so glad we did because we came across hidden gems and friendly passersby along the way.
While the coastline is gorgeous, there is also an abundance of the vegetable, Rapseed. This vibrant yellow vegetable covers fields as far as the eye can see. Sometimes God just blows me away with his beautiful creations.
The most notable city on our road trip was St. Andrews. Most recognized as the ‘Home of golf,’ the first-rate golf courses are worth an 18-hole round for the views alone! There is such a rich, religious history associated with St. Andrews and many historical sites and museums you can visit.
Some of these include:
- St. Andrews Cathedral
- St. Andrews Castle
- Martyrs’ Monument
At last we arrived in Scotland’s capital. A hilly, dense city, Edinburgh is best explored by foot. The first thing to do if you have a car is park it at your hotel or airbnb. There are many hidden gems and things to do so let me break it down for you.
Old Town Edinburgh
- The Royal Mile: This stretch of road begins and ends with two major historical sites–Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle. As you make your way uphill, you’ll find boutiques, cheese mongers, restaurants, kilt shops, and bagpipes to entertain you for hours. At the end of this climb is Edinburgh Castle sitting atop Castle Rock.
- Edinburgh Castle: I highly recommend touring the castle and taking in the views of the city below.
- Victoria Street: The curve in the street is dotted with historical, colorful buildings with unique shops and restaurants. There is a rooftop terrace overlooking this street and makes for some fantastic people watching.
- Dean Village: Within the Stockbridge neighborhood is Dean Village. A quiet, residential area, this quaint neighborhood allows you to see into the every day life of a local in Edinburgh. Situated along the Water Leith, we enjoyed exploring the neighborhoods, cobblestone streets, and beautiful homes.
- Circus Lane: Another picturesque street I was dying to walk through was Circus Lane. The wisteria was in full bloom as we walked through and the views did not disappoint.
Harry Potter Spots
- Yes, friends, I have a princess fairytale dream and I’m a proud potter head. When I found out that Edinburgh was where J.K. Rowling wrote many of the HP books, I set to work finding the locations! I’m sad to report my husband is not part of this “cool” crowd (probably would be sorted into Slytherin, sorry Gus!). Unfortunately we did not go on a Harry Potter tour, but there are many available. Check them out here!
- The Elephant House: Where it all began, folks. In a tiny table in the back of an unassuming cafe, J.K. Rowling gave us the boy who lived. While I tried, and failed, to sit at the exact table, I was close enough to see Edinburgh Castle high atop the hill. Also, I totally went to the bathroom to check out the Harry Potter love notes other people wrote.
- George Heriot’s School: The inspiration of Hogwarts. Enough said.
- Greyfriars Kirkyard: Normally graveyards aren’t on my “must see” list. However, there was the challenge of trying to locate Tom Riddle’s grave. It took an embarrassing amount of time and following a group of girls that had international data plans to find it, but alas there it was. Note: This is an actual grave site, be sure to respect the grounds.
- Victoria’s Street: I know I mentioned this street earlier in the blog, but the street also inspired Diagon Alley. You can’t see it here, but there is a joke shop on the street, too!
Parks, Monuments, & Look Out Points
- Arthur’s Seat: An ancient volcano, and fairly steep climb, this lookout point provides some of the best views in the city, so I’m told. Unfortunately, my feet were aching and I couldn’t get them to make the hike (excuses, I know!).
- Princes Street Garden: A public park in the center of Edinburgh. We enjoyed an ice cream on the lawn staring up at Edinburgh Castle. Many notable monuments are located within the park including the Great Scot Monument! For a small fee you can go to the top of the Monument and see out over the park and city.
- Calton Hill: This notable hill is part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site and is situated in the center of Edinburgh. The National monument, replicating the parthenon in Athens, towers upon the hill. We climbed to the top and enjoyed the panoramic views of the city from this area.
Food and Drink
- The Scotch Whisky Experience: I suggest you try this if you like Scotch whiskey. Unfortunately, Gus got sick towards the end of the trip and didn’t feel up to the tasting, but it had great reviews.
- The Witchery: Snag a reservation well in advance for a luxury dining experience inside a Gothic, boutique hotel.
- Haggis: I’ll try anything once, but I’ll never do Haggis again. Thanks, Google, for reminding me of the main ingredients: Sheep heart, liver, lungs and stomach. Try it once (just forget I told you what was in it).
- The Colonnades: We had an afternoon tea experience at our castle hotel, but I had this on my list of places to go.
- The Standing Order: A bank converted into a pub. Huge open area and a fun place to grab drinks in a lively bar.
Devon Morton said it best, “A queer compromise between fairyland and battleground is the very quintessence of Edinburgh.”
The medieval city of Edinburgh is charming, haunting, and a city unlike many others. See more Scotland pictures in the gallery!
P.S. I am aching to go to the Scottish Highlands. I truly believe that is where the magic of Scotland lies. So, obviously, I’m watching Google Flights for the next drop in prices to this gem of a country! If you get there before I do, let me know if you catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster. 🙂
Until next time, friends!