Day 1.  An afternoon in York on my way to Edinburgh

On my way north to Edinburgh for a pre Christmas weekend away with one of my sons, I decided to spend the afternoon in York as that was where I needed to change trains.

Late autumn foliage in York

I hadn’t visited this historic northern city for several months so on this bright but chilly afternoon I started with a walk by the river.  Most of the leaves had fallen but here and there were still glimpses of the glorious late autumn foliage.  I strolled alongside the old walls, considered climbing up for a walk along the top but with my wheeled luggage it seemed a bit of an effort as I can easily return another time to do this.

Pleasure boat in York

The Christmas Markets were underway and I glanced in the small wooden huts which looked inviting, lit with twinkling fairy lights selling festive decorations, candles, scarves and hats.  I tried some mulled cider instead of my usual choice of mulled wine and I have to say it wasn’t the best, only luke warm and quite watery in taste so it’s definitely mulled wine for me at Christmas Markets in future!

Attractive stalls at the York Christmas Market

After strolling round the market and in some of the bigger stores along the narrow streets, I found a cosy bar for a snack before returning to the station to catch my  6.50 pm train to Edinburgh.  The journey north to Edinburgh takes about two and a half hours and it felt warm and cosy in my window seat and it being a Thursday evening my carriage was fairly quiet.  I started reading ‘Brooklyn’ on my Kindle, having seen the film I thought I’d now read the book and I passed the time away reading and nibbling chocolate, the book being so interesting that I didn’t even glance at my phone or remove my iPad from my bag!

The Dome, George Street, Edinburgh looking festive

Arriving just a few minutes late into Edinburgh Waverley, I made my way to the nearby ‘Booking Office’ pub where I’d arranged to meet my son.  He was arriving into Edinburgh Airport as I arrived at the pub but I needed to wait awhile for him to get into the city centre.  The pub is open until midnight but last orders for food end at 11.00 pm so we were just able to order supper before the kitchen closed.  Following our light meal, we walked along to our hotel in the new town, the Queen Street Travelodge where we also stayed last year finding it to be both central and convenient.

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Day 2.  A sunny day in Edinburgh

Waking up to bright blue Scottish skies we started the day with full Scottish breakfasts then took a look inside ScotlandsPeople near Waverley Station on Princes Street.  This beautiful building is the official Scottish government resource for genealogical research and despite not having any Scottish ancestors ourselves it’s still an interesting place to visit in the city centre to admire its stunning interior and courtyard garden.

Interior of ScotlandsPeople, Edinburgh

Leaving here, we caught a bus to nearby Portobello (3 miles east of the centre) for a bracing walk along the seafront.  Our bus (No.26) took around 20 minutes and after a brief walk along the High Street, we walked off our large breakfasts along Portobello’s promenade.  Apart from an amusement arcade and a couple of cafes, there’s not a great deal happening here in winter but there were plenty of people about, like us, enjoying a Friday morning stroll with views across the Firth of Forth.

Portobello seafront

Our exercise complete, we returned to the city centre by bus and after spending a little time window shopping along elegant Princes Street with its shops on one side of the road and gardens with stunning views of the castle on the other, we decided to visit Georgian House a Scottish National Trust property located on the north side of Charlotte Square.  I’ve visited Edinburgh many times but had never visited this Georgian home before so it was a treat to look round especially as the house had already been decorated for Christmas.

Outside the Georgian House, Edinburgh

Edinburgh New Town was Robert Adam’s masterpiece of urban architecture, designed as the paradigm of the Georgian ideal.  Sweeping crescents, broad avenues and elegant squares offering wealthy citizens of Edinburgh in the late 18th century a means to escape from the overcrowded Old Town.

A festive entrance to the Georgian House

Tours of Georgian House are self guided with Scottish National Trust volunteers on hand in most of the rooms to answer questions and point out items of interest.  The house has been magnificently restored to depict a typical Edinburgh New Town house of the late 18th century.  It contains a fine collection of period furniture, porcelain, silver and glass reflecting the lifestyle of the era.  It was restored in the early 1970’s to return the property to its former glory and it’s certainly worth a visit.  Admission is free to National Trust members, both Scottish and English.

Elegant interior of the Georgian House

Later, we caught a bus from Lothian Road to the attractive suburb of Morningside, a district I’ve often visited that’s filled with interesting small shops and one that has a prosperous feel.  After browsing numerous shops for Christmas gift ideas, we strolled along to Bruntsfield which merges into Morningside and then caught another bus back to the city centre.  Those of you who enjoy reading Alexander McCall Smith novels will be familiar with these parts of Edinburgh as his 44 Scotland Street and Isabel Dalhousie books are set here.  McCall Smith is one of my favourite authors and if you haven’t read any of his books you might perhaps like to try one.  If you do, please let me know what you think!

Grassmarket, Edinburgh

After an early evening meal in The Standing Order pub on George Street we enjoyed an evening stroll through the Old Town walking first up to the castle then through the vibrant district of Grassmarket with its wide, cobbled street lined with bars and restaurants spilling out onto pavements just below the castle.

Victoria Street, Edinburgh

From here, we strolled down to the Scottish Parliament building and Holyrood House before returning to our hotel by bus from Meadowbank.

Day 3.  A day of two parts: Leith and Murrayfield 

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we bought day tickets for Lothian’s trams and buses costing £4 each and after taking a look in the beautiful Jenner’s department store, we caught a bus along to Leith.  There was a small market taking place so we glanced round the stalls and sampled some Taiwanese Oolong tea which, as well as tasting delicious, warmed us up nicely on this bitterly cold but bright morning.  Nearby, we strolled along the quayside which is very attractive with its characterful old stone buildings, many of which are now cafes and restaurants.

Quayside, Leith

We wandered alongside the Waters of Leith pathway to Newhaven, expecting that the path would keep close to the water.  Strangely, the path veered inland for a large part of our morning walk so wasn’t as scenic as expected.  On arrival in Newhaven we strolled round the harbour towards the white lighthouse at its entrance.  It was low tide so the little boats were sitting on the muddy harbour floor rather than bobbing about in the water.  Newhaven, although small, is pleasant beside the quay with a good selection of eateries offering sea views.

Newhaven harbour

Returning to the city centre by bus, we paused for a coffee and a short rest at St. Andrew’s  Square then looked round the Christmas market and ice rink for a short time.  St. Andrew’s Square is the second stop on the tram line and at 3.00 pm there was already a large number of people waiting on the platform for the service towards the airport.  We just managed to squeeze on board for the 10 minute journey to the home of Scottish Rugby Union, Murrayfield.

Scottish pipers outside Murrayfield International Rugby Stadium, Edinburgh

After we had booked our hotel accommodation for our pre Christmas weekend in Edinburgh, we noticed that one of the Autumn International rugby matches would be taking place during our stay so we managed to get a couple of tickets to experience our first ever live rugby match.

Pre match light show

We arrived at the ground around 90 minutes before the 5.00 pm kick off but there was so much to see and do around the stadium that time flew by.  Scottish pipers were entertaining the crowds on their bagpipes with a medley of tunes and over on the other side of the ground a band played on a temporary stage.

Fireworks prior to the start of the rugby international

The ground holds just over 67,000 spectators and we had good views from our seats in the North Stand.  Before the match started all the stadium lights were turned off and everyone was asked to turn their phone torches on which made the arena look beautiful.  This was followed by a stunning firework display from the top of the stadium just before the teams came out onto the pitch.

Scotland v Argentina Autumn International

Scotland were playing Argentina and when the national anthems were played it was no surprise that the stadium erupted to the sounds of Flower of Scotland, the unofficial Scottish national anthem.  The first half was very stop and start, both teams making mistakes and at half time the score was level.  The final 40 minutes proved much more exciting with much more action with Scotland scoring a winning penalty on the last kick of the ball to win 19:16 so almost everyone left the stadium feeling happy at the final score.

Preparing for the winning penalty

We were wrapped up warmly from the cold but when I got up to leave the stadium my feet felt frozen after sitting in one place for so long!  There was no chance of returning to the city centre without a lengthy wait for a tram so we followed the crowds and walked back into town.  Roads had been closed to traffic making it easier to walk back and it wasn’t too much later that we were warming up with chicken and chips in a cosy pub.

Final score!

Our verdict on attending a Rugby Union international –  an amazing experience, both the build up and the match itself, perfect for families too as all the spectators were impeccably behaved – perhaps we’ll try Twickenham next time, we’re definitely keen to return.  Tickets were moderately priced, we had excellent views and paid just £20 for each ticket.

Day 4. Edinburgh Christmas 

Our final morning in lovely Edinburgh and the time has sped by so quickly. we’ve had so much fun.  After checking out of our hotel, the Queen Street Travelodge, we left our luggage to collect later in the day and went off to a nearby pub for breakfast.

Standing Order Pub, George Street, Edinburgh

A little later on, we returned to Queen Street to visit the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  I’ve walked past here so many times but never been inside so on this frosty Sunday morning, we decided to take a look.  The exterior of the building is red sandstone and resembles a neo-gothic palace.  It was built in 1889 as the world’s first national portrait gallery.  The interior boasts galleried landings with elaborate arts and crafts styled friezes.

Interior of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

After viewing each of the galleries and admiring portraits of Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns et al, we wandered downhill to the lovely, new town district of Stockbridge.  No visit to Edinburgh can take place without our stroll around this elegant suburb, especially if it’s a Sunday morning when the weekly Stockbridge Market is taking place.  It’s crammed full of little stalls selling organic produce, street food, handicrafts and much more and is always popular with locals and visitors to the city.

Stockbridge Sunday Morning Market, Edinburgh

Exploring the market completed, it was then onto the high street to peruse the collection of small, independent retailers and admire their festive windows.  Amongst them you will find Mellis’s Cheesemongers, an old fashioned cheese emporium stocking a vast selection of cheese displayed on marble slabs.

Edinburgh Christmas Lights

Some time later and weighed down with shopping bags filled with Christmas gifts, we stopped off for a late lunch at the Stockbridge Pizza Express branch where we had a window table overlooking the Waters of Leith.

Street of Light, George Street, Edinburgh

Reluctantly it was then time to return to our hotel to collect our luggage and then pop to a cafe for hot drinks before my son had to return to Edinburgh airport for his flight home.  Travelling by train, I still had a little longer to enjoy the city before my train departed.

Edinburgh Christmas Market

I headed to George Street and joined thousands of other people along the street, just in time to watch the Edinburgh Christmas lights switch on.  A huge stage had been erected at Charlotte Square and it felt very festive listening to the Edinburgh Festival Choir singing traditional Christmas favourites.  Then at 5.00 pm the Scottish Olympic cyclist, Callum Skinner turned on the 2016 Edinburgh lights and we were treated to a splendid firework display.  It was then back to Waverley Station where my train departed at 6.30 pm after another wonderful weekend in one of my favourite cities.  If you are interested in taking part in the Edinburgh Christmas festivities in the future, they commence in mid November and continue until the first week in January.

For more ideas on how to spend a weekend in Edinburgh, you might like to read my previous series of posts Edinburgh Weekend – November 2015

Christmas decorations in Edinburgh

Now, all that remains for me to do, is to wish everyone of my readers who celebrate Christmas a magical festive period.  This is only my second Christmas as part of the WordPress community but I have loved every minute of it!  Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my posts and for the many lovely comments I receive.  Interacting with you all really brings my blog to life and I have made so many good friends both near and far.  Of course, I derive just as much pleasure from reading your posts too, so keep up the good work!

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas!

If you have enjoyed reading this series of posts on Edinburgh you may also enjoy reading about my other weekend there.

Weekend in Edinburgh