I’ve wanted to visit Scotland ever since I saw the amazing Christmas markets years ago, and as someone who hasn’t been past Durham nor been across the sea to Ireland, I thought it was high time I get my act together and explore parts of the country I’d often brushed over.
Earlier this year I thought about how crazy it is that Scotland is right on our doorstep yet we tend to go elsewhere in Europe for short trips, so a few months ago I finally made a plan to head up over Christmas and get to experience true Scottish weather and culture for myself.
Very kindly, Travelodge offered me a night’s stay in one of their central locations (we opted for Prince’s Street, set right on the doorstep of the Christmas Market but tucked down a side street) which was great for a whirlwind trip – we knew we’d have minimal time in the room due to exploring, so it’s a great central hub where you can drop off bags, have a little sit-down between exploring/getting over the cold, and all rooms come with king beds too which is good if you need to stretch your weary legs.
Due to a 4pm wake-up call and the smell of roasted onions coming from the markets, we headed straight to the food stalls in East Prince’s Street Gardens to grab something to quieten our rumbling bellies. I’d luckily done a lot of research for vegan food via VeganEdinburgh‘s blog which is so handy if you’re vegan and looking for great places to eat in the city, and managed to hit up almost every stall serving yummy vegan treats.
First up was Babu Kitchen, a Bombay street food stall that had some delicious chai spice and pistachio brownies – it was a good texture although I have had fudgier, but the flavour more than makes up for it. Lighter than a gooey brownie, it’s good if you’re sweet tooth has boundaries and you want something you can eat in one go and feel okay/not sick afterwards 😉
Another highly rated stall was Mimi’s Bakehouse, literally round the corner from Babu; their vegan hot chocolate is highly rated (and sadly they were all out of brownies the day we visited but I’m assured they’re delicious) and it was a lovely smooth pick-me-up after being out in the cold for a while. They have lots of other yummy treats including cakes and fancy hot chocolate flavours so it’s well worth a visit just to marvel at them – and maybe take home a cupcake or two.
A stall we sadly missed because we were full/fools for not going back was the French Crepe stall which I sadly don’t know the name of but they did serve up some pretty delicious looking galettes (which I kept calling croquettes. I would have enjoyed either) so maybe a reason to go back next year.
Finally for the potato lovers out there, there’s Chip on a Stick, which basically sells a whole potato twirled into a spiral and flavoured with whatever you choose. It’s great. They are pricey at £4 a stick but it’s potato and I love potato (albeit a very salty potato) and something you could share as you walk around the market – just don’t take a photo of you eating the top of it as it’s very phallic…
After an hour or so exploring the stalls, we headed east of New Town to Broughton Street where there were some shops I’d been eyeing up. Sadly Life Story was closed both days we went but I’ve heard great things about it so if you’re in town on a Wednesday onwards, pop inside!
I’m going to do a more in-depth post on my favourite shops I visited but we picked up some lovely treats from Curiouser and Curiouser, smelt all the coffee in Artisan Roast, plus wished we could take home the festive plant displays in Narcissus (which were frankly too beautiful and the reason I can’t look after plants.)
After a lot of shopping and a hot chocolate stop (second of five) we decided to venture South towards the Old Town for a bit of architecture porn so to speak.
It required walking up a lot of stairs but the view of the park and also the centre of town was so beautiful it was worth the huffing and puffing – I think.
We walked towards Royal Mile which just housed some beautiful buildings that I could’ve photographed all day, before walking around to the bottom of Candlemaker Row, a truly unique and quirky curved street that is rightly photographed and Instagram daily. The lights up and down the street were so festive plus at the time of day we visited, the sun was casting a glorious glowing orange light through the gaps of the buildings that made it feel so warm and cosy and truly Christmassy (plus I got an epic shot of the street with 4 guys taking a selfie in the corner – truly captured a moment there ;))
We finally made it to the castle in time for sunset and BOY did it look amazing – the whole sky was orange, the light was incredible, and you could see for miles which was breathtaking as one side was the busy city and on the other in the distance were huge hills and mountains. We didn’t go inside but I’m sure in warmer weather or by actually booking in advance you can explore even more and learn about the history, but at that point, hot chocolate three was calling me…
We ended the night at Dishoom, which again I’d never been to after much raving from others, and after fobbing off another reservation we managed to get in at 5:30pm when it was near-empty inside, which really meant we’d get our food quicker and I was super excited for that.
We opted for vegetable samosas (puff pasty with potato, peas, and cinnamon aka me), Bedmi Puri curry (which was super hot but delish), Bhel, Gunpowder Potatoes, and fresh greens. The staff were amazing and found us some coconut yogurt when we asked for something to knock back the curry, and I think it’s being stuck south so long but everyone was SO FRIENDLY!
Finishing it all off with mocktails, we flopped on our bed at 8pm (!!) and slept until 7am which was pretty impressive (minus some late night partiers coming back late) and set us up for a pretty chilled last day.
We only had a few hours so after breakfast we walked back to a few shops we’d previously visited for last minute gifts, walked along the side-streets to grab a pizza which was very yummy, and then finished it all off with – you guessed it – a hot chocolate and a long sit-down.
Looking back, it’s seems crazy how much we fit in and I think with an extra day you could do it all at a slower pace, but it’s greta having a central base to drop heavy bags off and also a fab variety of cafes to visit and top up your energy levels.
In a short space of time, I fell in love with Edinburgh’s beautiful architecture, beautiful food, and even more beautiful people, and I’ll definitely be back again come summer and Christmas – just don’t forget to wear tights under your jeans, because it’s a wee bit chilly!
Now if you’re wondering about all my hot chocolate recommendations, well you’ll just have to stay tuned a little while longer…
I was a guest of Travelodge on this trip, all thoughts are my own.
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