Guest Post by Hadley
The isle of Great Britain is in the spotlight this month with people from all over the world flocking to London to enjoy the 2012 Summer Olympics. As exciting as the Games are, things are about to get very hectic in the capital, and visitors should take note of the other great destinations in the United Kingdom that are just a short distance from the soon-to-be overrun city. So before, during, or after your trip to London to be a spectator in the Olympiad, consider taking a short escape with a weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland.
I’ve traveled many places in my life and moved around several times, but the only place I ever truly felt my best self was in Edinburgh. I will never forget getting picked up from the airport the first time I visited and listening to the cab driver go on about how much he loved the city; he alleged “when it rains in Edinburgh [and they pronounce that ed-in-bur-ayah] it’s like glitter coming down from the sky.” I could go on and on about how perfect the city is and how lovely the people are, and so I will: here’s your itinerary for 48 hours full of things to do in this glorious city.
Getting to Edinburgh from London
- Train: During the summer high season, one way tickets from London’s King Cross (KGX) to Edinburgh Waverley Train station (EDB) are around 50 pounds (about 70 bucks). Book through The Train Line.
- Bus: A cheaper option is traveling by bus from London to Edinburgh for about 30 pounds round trip. The downside: buses take around 9.5 hours from London to Edinburgh. Book through National Express.
- Plane: From Lonton Luton (LTN) to Edinburgh (EDI), direct flights are around 93 dollars on EasyJet. From Edinburgh Airport take the 24-hour Airlink shuttle directly to Waverly Station in downtown Edinburgh for only 3.50 pounds (buy tickets on board).
Day One of your Weekend in Edinburgh
10 am: Arrive in Edinburgh and head to the Royal Mile, the cluster of streets that make up the heart of the Old Town of Edinburgh. Pop into St. Giles Cathedral, a historic church with its crown spire standing out on the street between Edinburgh Castle at one end and the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom. Go around to the side of the church and get an amazing organic meal at St Giles Cathedral Café. Not many people know about this terrific little café — I was shown by a local and it’s still one of my favorite meals (the carrot cake is to die for).
11 am: Right outside the church head down the Royal Mile and meet in front of Starbucks for a free 3 hour walking tour. Sandeman’s runs the tours, and you can peel off whenever you wish with your red-shirted history buff of a guide. I did this tour the last week I was studying in Edinburgh and wish I had done it the first; you learn so much history about the city and the monuments, plus all about Edinburgh’s influence on the Harry Potter series (JK Rowling wrote the first book in The Elephant House café).
2:30 pm (If you endure the whole tour): Go to the National Museum of Scotland with tons of exhibits on Scottish artifacts, then have lunch (or just a tea) at The Tower Restaurant on the top floor of the museum for stunning views of the city. If you’d like a cheaper alternative for lunch try the Mosque Kitchen, perhaps the best Indian food you’ll ever have for the best price.
4 pm: Head back down the Royal Mile to the Scotch Whisky Experience to learn about the history and making of Scotch. It is quite an experience.
6 pm: Walk directly across the street to Camera Obscura, a super cool museum with optical illusions. See moving images of Edinburgh projected onto a table atop the Victorian rooftop chamber via a giant periscope while simultaneously learning a ton about the history of Edinburgh.
8 pm: Ascend the elevator at 33 Castle Street to have a lovely dinner at the award-winning restaurant Oloroso. The elevated location overlooks the entire city and the food is the finest Scottish food you’ll ever eat.
10 pm: Mosey down to the Cowgate and Grassmarket areas and duck into a pub — you will be welcomed anywhere. Both of these areas are connected and are historic markets in the Old Town of Edinburgh. (The city is divided into the Old and New Town). The Cowgate is a bit more dicey and grungy, but cool nonetheless. My personal favorite is Rush Bar in the Cowgate for cheap drinks and shots. Always a lively, student crowd.
12 am: Find your way to George Street in New Town for the posh club scene. My favorites are Opal Lounge, Why Not (under The Dome bar) and Lulu. For a less posh, more laid back crowd try Cabaret Voltaire, The Liquid Room, Sneaky Pete’s and The Hive (although the crowd tends to be quite young here).
For the exact locations of the places we’ve listed on this itinerary, please refer to this customized map — cool, huh?
Okay, so far your weekend in Edinburgh hasn’t been much less hectic than if you’d just stayed with the other revelers in London. Will we let you sit down and relax on day two of your getaway? You’ll have to check the last half of your Edinburgh itinerary here to find out!