Sometimes all you need is a weekend to fall in love.
I, however, fell in love with this country before I even visited.
It all started in high school. My English teacher was fascinated with the country and its rich culture. The hundreds of years of fascinating history. The charm. The attractions. His vivid descriptions of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum peaked my interests into this beautiful country, that I feel like I had planned my holiday since then. I even read Fordor’s Travel Guide from front to back (I’ve also read Japan’s, but we’ll leave that for another day). One thing I knew: this would be the first country I traveled to outside of military travel.
What I hadn’t known? That I’d be doing it with a toddler. By myself.
So, while I’m not a travel-expert by any means, here is my itinerary on how to spend 48 hours in Edinburgh with a little one.
Start your day off by booking a hop on/hop off tour of the city. I booked with City Sightseeing and was thoroughly impressed by the information provided through their audio commentary. The commentary is in 9 different language, and there’s even a “Horrible Histories” to keep the kiddos entertained. Ride the tour the entire way through the first round, but during the tour’s next loop – jump off at Lawnmarket (stop 6).
Make your way up to Edinburgh Castle. If you purchased a ticket with your tour bus, make your way to the entrance. If not, you might experience a bit of a wait. However, once inside – pick up an audio guide or find the big red clock and wait for the next guided tour to occur. Just a heads up: I experienced a little bit of difficulty navigating with a stroller, and even downsized from my mammoth jogger to a “convenience” stroller, so I opted to do my own tour.
After touring the castle, make your way down the Royal Mile until you get to a little pub on the corner called Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. The pub is named after Deacon Brodie – the inspiration behind Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. According to Historic UK, William Brodie was a member of the Town Council as well as a deacon. However, he had a secret night-time occupation as a leader of a gang of burglars. His crimes ultimately led to his death, by hanging, in 1788. I recommend ordering their famous Nicholson’s fish and chips and washing it down with one of their very own pale ales.
After you’re good and full, head back towards the castle and stop in at The Scotch Whisky Experience. If you’re not a liquor drinker, I still recommend going on the tour, because when in Scotland! Buttt I would advise purchasing the silver tour. After contemplating purchasing the golden tour (because you know, maybe I’ll like drinking whisky straight after I learn how it’s made?!), I opted not to, because that would have been a wasted expense. If you’re handling a stroller, leave it at the front desk for the barrel ride through the production of Scotch whisky – while you’re little one may not care about the provided information, they’ll surely enjoy the ride! You’ll be able to pick it up at the end of the ride, and take the lift up to the second level to meet the rest of your tour group. My favorite part was the introduction to aromas in whisky, and how each region has distinctly different smells. With the silver tour, you get to sample a whisky from a region of choice while your little one [under the age of 18] gets to sip on Irn Bru. The entire tour was roughly an hour.
Head across the street, maybe a little tipsy [depending on how many samples of whisky you tried], to Camera Obscura. If you’re pushing a stroller, you’ll have to leave this in the allocated space, because there are no lifts. Head up to the rooftop and feel like you’ve just completed the most intense leg day of your life [seriously, especially if you’re towing a toddler as well]. You’ll be instructed to sit around a large table in a dark room, where you’ll be able to view the entire city of Edinburgh, and squish real people, as they walk the streets below you [though they appear to be the size of ants]. You’ll then make your way down each flight of stairs, exploring 5 floors of illusions. And your children will have a blast. Let them do their own thing. Giggle. Laugh. The adults sure were.
After an eventful day, head to dinner at Nandos (they are conveniently placed all around the city). This chain restaurant was established in South Africa and is now all over the world [including Washington DC]. Head back to your hotel after this, and get ready for an even busier day tomorrow!
Wake up early and eat a hearty breakfast, like a full Scottish breakfast. Complete with bacon, sausage, baked beans [although not the overly sweet BBQ sauce beans we serve at barbecues in the states], haggis, black pudding, a broiled tomato, and a potato scone. Eating haggis was definitely on my culinary to-do list while in Scotland – and it should be on yours as well! (I can’t personally recommend a place because breakfast was complimentary at my hotel, so I just compiled my own traditional breakfast).
Make sure you brought your walking shoes today, because you’re climbing Arthur’s Seat! Arthur’s Seat is the main peak of a group of hills (aka an ancient volcano) which boasts a spectacular view of the city. Bring a carrier if you have a toddler – because a stroller will not make it up. Trust me, I tried. And we made it over half way before I had to cut my losses and turn around. My fear of falling down the slope far outweighed my desire to reach the top. So, don’t be like Samantha, come prepared.
Once you take an awesome panorama shot of the city, head back down and head over to Palace of Holyroodhouse. Once you enter, you’ll be provided with an audio tour (these audio/self paced tours are seriously the best) of the building where The Queen resides when she is in Scotland. If you have a stroller, you’ll have to leave it with the front entrance personnel, but the tour is short enough that your little ones shouldn’t get anxious.
After all of that walking, you’re probably hungry (or maybe that’s just me)? Start heading up the Royal Mile and stop by Oink for some pulled pork. This small chain has been rated as one of the best cheap eats in Edinburgh, and they didn’t lie – even my toddler was shoveling the pulled pork into her mouth.
Now it’s time to walk the Royal Mile and purchase souvenirs for family and friends. The full walk is just over a mile in length from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to Edinburgh Castle (and you’ll unfortunately be going uphill, sorry!). Some of the souvenirs I would recommend purchasing are: 100% lambswool scarves, heathergems jewelry, Scottish whisky, and food items: haggis, shortbread, Scottish tablets (wait to pick up Irn Bru for when you’re at the airport and have gone through security).
Spend the rest of your afternoon, until it closes, browsing the National Museum of Scotland. The admissions is free, so if you’re only there for an hour or so, you won’t feel like you’ve wasted money. But it’s definitely worth a visit. If you’re there in time, catch one of their free guided tours, or just go at your own pace.
You’ll have a bit of a time lapse before your restaurant opens up (but trust me, it’s worth the wait). So, take a stroll along Victoria Street – the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Daigon Alley (because, if you weren’t aware, Harry Potter was born just around the corner at The Elephant Café).
Don’t go too far. You’re dining at Howies right there on Victoria Street. If you’re there right at opening, you should be able to get a seat, but I would make a reservation ahead of time… the restaurant fills up quickly. Spend this last dining experience knocking off more of your culinary must tries by starting off with Cullen skink – a Scottish smoked haddock, leeks, potatoes, and cream chowder. For your main meal, I suggest the fillet of Shetland salmon, before finishing off the evening with their famous banoffie pie. The great news is that your little munchkin(s) can dine a three course meal right along with you.
After you stuffed yourself to the brim on good ole traditional Scottish fare, head back to your hotel for either traveling back home or heading to your next destination. Hope you enjoyed your weekend in Edinburgh!