Day 1. Travelling to Edinburgh by train

It’s not long since I returned from Madeira,  my short working week over, I was off on my travels again.  Late on a Thursday afternoon I was on my way to Scotland’s capital city, travelling by train on a Cross Country service.  I had reserved a window seat and although it was already dark,  its nice and cosy to be able to curl up in the corner.  I enjoy travelling by train, not the short commuter routes, but those long journeys when I can sit for several hours encapsulated in a metal tube relaxing with the soothing, gentle rocking motion of the train.

I travelled alone but had everything I needed to keep me happy – sandwiches,  a drink, chocolates and various bits of electronic gadgetry.  On my Kindle,  by coincidence,  I’m currently reading ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins, a psychological thriller, not a genre I would usually select but I’m finding it captivating.

As the train pulled into Newcastle,  the River Tyne came into view, the lights from its bridges twinkling in the night sky.  The journey northwards from here hugs the coast,  and if it were light, one would be able to view the rugged Northumberland  coastline and, on a fine day,  Lindisfarne (Holy Island).

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Scottish piper outside Edinburgh’s Waverley Station

My journey reached its end at Edinburgh Waverley Station, and as I climbed the steps that brought me out onto Princes Street I felt at peace with the world.  Over the last few years I have spent much time in this northern city and I feel a sense of belonging.   I’d arranged to meet one of my children who was arriving by plane, it’s less than four weeks since we were last together but its still exciting to be able to spend the weekend together.

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Travelodge Queen Street, Edinburgh
We met as planned and enjoyed supper together in ‘The Standing Order’ pub before checking in to our hotel, the Queen Street Travelodge in Edinburgh’s new town.

 

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Day 2. Out and about in Edinburgh

It was 8.00 am when we roused from our slumbers and on opening the curtains we noticed  it was raining so our first stop was to Wetherspoon’s on George Street for their traditional Scottish breakfast.  Next, we wandered up to St. Andrew’s Square and spent a leisurely hour in the Virgin Lounge sipping cappuccinos and reading the newspapers.

Still raining,  we decided to do some shopping, and conveniently our favourite store, John Lewis, was just around the corner so we browsed in there getting some inspiration for Christmas present ideas.

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The Royal Mile

On leaving the store we found the rain had stopped so we walked along Princes Street and climbed the Playfair Steps at the side of the Scottish National Gallery and made our way to the old town.  We looked over the castle walls and then wandered along the Royal Mile passing St. Giles Cathedral on our right and a little further down the hill we visited the Museum of Childhood.  This museum is quite small but contains a large collection of toys and games from Victorian times to more recent days.  I pointed out a metal spinning top similar to one I used to have and a ‘ride on dog’ on wheels almost identical to the one I played with many years ago.  It was lovely reminiscing about my old toys and finding it amusing that toys such as the ones I used to play with are now museum pieces.

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The Museum of Childhood

A few doors further on is the Museum of Edinburgh so we looked inside before visiting the modernist building of the Scottish Parliament.   It’s free to enter the Parliament and after passing an airline type security check we took the lift to the viewing gallery of the Debating Chamber.

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The Museum of Edinburgh

The Scottish MP’s were not in session but it was still interesting to view the chamber.  Across the road stands the majestic Holyrood Palace .  We had been inside before so today we just looked through the gates and viewed Arthur’s Seat from Holyrood Park, this is a dormant volcano rising 251 metres above the city.

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Inside the Scottish Parliament

We considered walking up the path to the summit but as it had been raining a great deal recently the path looked very muddy so we decided against it.  Instead, we clambered  to the top of Calton Hill, home to an old fort and the observatory.  The wind was very strong on the hilltop but we didn’t mind as we had splendid views over to the Firth of Forth and its road bridge and looking the other way we could see the Scott Monument and Princes Street.

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Calton Hill

For dinner we feasted on a traditional favourite of battered fish, chips and mushy peas, delicious comfort food on a bitterly cold night.   Later on we walked through the Christmas Market in the Princes Street gardens, such a beautiful setting for the ice rink and the many little wooden stalls selling festive fare and gifts.  Eventually we returned to our hotel feeling tired after walking more than 10 miles around the city.

 

 

Day 3. Exploring Edinburgh

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The path to Cramond Island

We woke to a bitterly cold morning with clear skies, Edinburgh was bathed in sunshine as we strolled onto George Street for our breakfast at the Standing Order pub.  We then bought a one day Lothian Buses pass for £4 each and took a bus to the coastal village of Cramond four miles to the south of the city centre.  Cramond is a small village alongside the River Almond with a small harbour at the mouth of the river.  When the tide is out its possible to take a walk along the narrow causeway stretching out to Cramond island but this morning it was high tide and the causeway was covered in water so, instead we strolled along the shoreline passing some white painted stone cottages, the Cramond Arms, a gallery and a cafe.  There are good views across the bay to Fife and of aircraft coming into land at the nearby Edinburgh Airport.

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River Almond, Cramond
On leaving Cramond we headed to Leith, home to the now retired Royal Yacht Britannia.  We have toured the ship before so today we just admired her from the nearby Ocean Terminal waterfront shopping and entertainment complex.  A little time was spent glancing in some of the stores then it was back towards the city centre pausing briefly at the Meadowbank outlet for a little more shopping before returning to the Virgin Lounge in the city centre for afternoon tea.
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Royal Yacht Britannia,Leith, Edinburgh

As darkness fell,  the Christmas Market got into full swing and crowds gathered, we wandered around there awhile before having dinner in the Alexander Graham Bell pub, named after the Scottish inventor of the telephone.
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The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

After a short rest back at our hotel we took a walk through the old town, wandering  along to the attractive Grassmarket area which is now home to many bars and restaurants.  Continuing along the Mound we took one final look at the festive market stalls before heading back to our hotel after another fun filled day in this beautiful Scottish city.

 

Day 4. In the footsteps of my favourite Edinburgh author

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Stockbridge market
Another bright sunny morning, we checked out of our hotel and enjoyed a full Scottish breakfast in The Standing Order pub once again.  We then strolled down the steep hills to Edinburgh’s new town.  We passed along Dundas Street, Moray Place and India Street on our way to Edinburgh’s delightful district of Stockbridge made famous by the author Alexander McCall Smith in his ’44 Scotland Street’ and ‘Isabel Dalhousie Sunday Philosophy Club’  books based in this beautiful city.

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Fettes College
McCall Smith’s style of writing beautifully portrays life in this genteel part of the city.  He is perhaps most famous for his ‘No.1 Ladies Detective Agency’ series but for me, his Scottish stories are my firm favourites.  I wonder if many readers of this blog also share my love of his books,  I would be very interested to find out!
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A typical example of one of Edinburgh’s new town homes

Our first stop was a visit to the Sunday morning Stockbridge market, a feast of locally produced food, it’s always well supported and on this cold, sunny morning itt was bustling with activity.   At the far end of the village stands the magnificent Fettes College.

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Pizza Express, Stockbridge
This school was founded in 1870 taking both boarders and day pupils.  Originally a boys school, it has also catered for girls since 1970.   We continued wandering through the neighbourhood,  pausing frequently to look around the interesting small,  independent shops and later enjoying a late lunch in Pizza Express.  The Stockbridge branch has to be one of their nicest, with its tall clock tower and position overlooking the Waters of Leith.

Returning to Edinburgh’s new town up the steep cobbles of  Wmyss Street we arrived back onto Queen Street and collected our luggage from the hotel.  There was just time for afternoon tea before heading to nearby George Street to watch the Edinburgh Christmas Lights being switched on as darkness fell at 5.00 pm.  This was the icing on the cake of our lovely weekend in Edinburgh.  

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Lovely old sign in Waverley Station
A rock choir performed on the main stage followed by the Scottsh singer Susan Boyle switching on the lights and leading the singing of the carol  ‘Silent Night’.  To finish, a magnificent firework display enthralled the huge crowds of Edinburgh and I then had just enough time to return to Waverley Station for my rail journey home after another delightful weekend in Scotland’s capital city.

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Weekend in Edinburgh