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It’s me, hi (again), and I’m back with part 2 of our UK trip blogposts! This one is a real short one, covering our 3D3N spent in sleepy lil’ Edinburgh and our epic 12-hour day trip to the Scottish Highlands.
When we hopped off the train from London (after a 5-hour ride that took us past snowy fields, stunning coasts and plenty of sheep), we were welcomed by warm sunshine, a much welcome change from drizzly & chronically cold London.
Overall, we found Edinburgh absolutely charming and magical. It’s a highly walkable city brimming with culture (read: bagpipe buskers and pub-goers in kilts), quaint cathedrals/stores/restaurants, and a view of the sea & mountains in the distance (my two favourite things in life).
As usual, I’ll dish out some useful tips and share what’s on our must-do/must-eat list, so stick around till the end! And if you’d like to check out our full 11-day UK trip itinerary (including London and Bath/Oxford day trips), why not head over to the previous post?
our itinerary (10-13 March)
|Day 1 (Fri)||London 🚆 Edinburgh (Britrail pass Day 1)|
🏨 ibis Edinburgh Centre South Bridge – Royal Mile
🥾 Edinburgh Royal Mile, St Giles’ Cathedral
🍽️ Oink Victoria Street (pulled pork sandwich)
🍦 Mary’s Milk Bar
🥾 Princess Street Gardens
🌅 Calton Hill
🍽 Bertie’s Proper Fish & Chips
|Day 2 (Sat)||🚌 Loch Ness & Highlands Day Tour from Edinburgh|
– Drumochter Pass, Loch Laggan, Laggan Dam
– Commando Memorial
– Fort Augustus + Loch Ness cruise
– Glencoe Visitor Centre
– Three Sisters of Glencoe
|Day 3 (Sun)||🍽️ Cafe Edinburgh (Scottish breakfast)|
🏰 Edinburgh Castle
🍽️ Vittoria on the Bridge (Italian)
🏛️ National Museum of Scotland
🥾 Dean Village
🛍️ Princes Street
🥾 Greyfriars Kirkyard
🍦 Alandas Gelato
🍽️ The Mussel and Steak Bar
|Day 4 (Mon)||Edinburgh 🚆 London (Britrail pass Day 2)|
our top 5 (relatively affordable) food recs in Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s fare is considerably less international than London’s, so we were ‘forced’ to try more Western cuisine instead of our usual comfort Asian food.
We managed to find a number of gems over our few days in the city, and the best part is that all 5 spots we’re recommending are within 5-10min walking distance of each other, conveniently located near the Royal Mile (city centre)!
1. Oink (hog roast)
Cheap, convenient and 100% scrumptious – what’s not to love about Oink? At £5-8/person, this quick service hog roast joint serves up heavenly pulled pork sandwiches with flavourful toppings that are guaranteed to fill your tummy without breaking the bank.
I ordered their medium sandwich, playfully dubbed an Oink (the others were Piglet and Grunter). The pulled pork was scooped piping hot from a tray containing a literal whole hog, then topped with a dollop of homemade haggis and chilli jam.
It was so good that we devoured our sandwiches in 5 minutes. It’s a quick stopover and a definite must-try, especially with haggis (I can assure you, it’s quite excellent, creamy and doesn’t taste like offal at all)!
2. Mary’s Milk Bar (gelato)
Arguably Edinburgh’s most famous (and cutest) ice cream shop, Mary’s Milk Bar offers up a gorgeous selection of hand-made gelato that would make every sweet-toothed person weep tears of joy.
Mary (the owner) creates new flavours every single day, ranging from relatively tame options like Hot Cross Bun Spice and Rhubarb & Cinnamon, to wild ones like Olive & White Chocolate, Salty Ricotta & Figs, or even Mango/Lime/Chilli Sorbet.
Much like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you really never know what you’re gonna get each time you step into this store! And condolences to the lactose intolerant people out there…
3. The Mussel and Steak Bar
We shared the Surf & Turf, which came with an 8oz rib-eye and a generous heaping of fresh mussels cooked in a flavour of your choice (we opted for chilli & garlic). Considering we had just snacked on some pre-dinner gelato, the portion size was perfect for two.
Edinburgh is a coastal city, so their seafood is insanely fresh and affordable. I personally loved the juicy mussels, but the steak was pretty average and just a good accompaniment to the seafood.
(And for the record, my travel bud wanted to rank this as #1 on this list)
4. Bertie’s Proper Fish & Chips
Serving up crispy and golden haddock, while also offering sides like black pudding scotch eggs and haggis spring rolls, this is a classic Fish & Chips restaurant with a Scottish spin! It was a satisfying meal, but nothing to write home about.
5. Vittoria on the Bridge (Italian)
We were getting bored of other Western food (there’s endless places serving burgers, fish & chips or pizza), and this Italian restaurant was conveniently located near Greyfriars Kirkyard and the National Museum of Scotland, so we headed to this Italian restaurant for a quick pasta fix! It was on the pricier side, but the seafood in our pastas was generous and superbly fresh.
our top 5 things to do in Edinburgh
There’s not much variety of things that one can actually get up to in tiny Edinburgh, so here’s how we spent 3 days in the region!
1. Scottish Highlands day trip
Fair warning: this day trip is not for the faint-hearted or motion-sickness prone. We covered 510km in one day, road-tripping around Scotland in a 16-seater van for 12 hours, from our pickup at 7.30am till we made our way back into the city at 7.30pm.
We bought our tickets from Trip Advisor (linked here) at ~SGD$90/person, and our tour guide offered a useful tip – pick a weekend to do this day trip, since there’s considerably less traffic going in and out of the city, saving you an hour of travel time!
Ally (short for Alistair) from tour agency Rabbies was our hilarious and absolutely stellar driver/trusty tour guide, regaling us with Scottish history tidbits interspersed with dad jokes and on-point pop culture references, making the long hours spent on the road far more enjoyable.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of all the places we visited:
- Drumochter Pass, Loch Laggan, Laggan Dam*
- Callander (30 min rest stop)
- Commando Memorial*
- Fort Augustus + Loch Ness cruise (90 min break for lunch, inclusive of a 40 min cruise)
- Glencoe Visitor Centre (30 min stop)
- Three Sisters of Glencoe*
*these were short/<5 min stops purely for photo-taking and getting a quick breather
Overall, visiting the Scottish Highlands is a must-do if you’ve already travelled all this way. There are other multi-day tour options if you’d like a guided tour at a more relaxed pace, or you could always embark on your very own road trip.
2. Calton Hill
I made my way up Calton hill twice – it takes 5-10 minutes to reach the top, so it’s clearly not a very tall hill – once to catch the sunset on our first day, and another time to enjoy a quiet early morning soaking up the serene (and slighly foggy) views of the sleeping city below.
This hill is apparently a UNESCO World Heritage Site, who would have thought? Various famous structures sit atop it, including the National Monument of Scotland (modelled upon Athens’ Parthenon), Nelson Monument, Dugald Stewart Monument and Calton Hill Observatory (converted into an art gallery).
It was terribly crowded around sunset as hordes of locals and tourists alike flocked to the hilltop. Some even managed to climb atop various structures, just to position their tripods and beers at the perfect spot to catch the golden sunset!
3. Royal Mile + Edinburgh Castle
The Royal Mile is pretty much Edinburgh’s main tourist street, lined with cathedrals (St Giles’ Cathedral, Tron Kirk), endless souvenir shops, as well as good breakfast spots. There’s also a Starbucks.
The Royal Mile ends at the top of the hill, where Edinburgh Castle sits. It costs £16 to enter the castle, significantly cheaper than London’s historical attractions, so we went in to explore!
We spent an hour roaming the castle grounds and its various exhibitions, although you could easily spend 2-3 hours in there if you’re a Scottish history buff.
4. Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard is a cemetery most known for being the resting place of various people who inspired Harry Potter characters’ names. There’s even guided tours and/or maps for Potterheads to locate headstones belonging to the likes of Robert Potter, Elizabeth Moodie, William McGonagall*, and Thomas Riddell.
*William McGonagall, dubbed ‘the worst poet in British history‘. Here’s one of his masterpieces (to be read in a Scottish accent): “On yonder hill there stood a coo / It’s no’ there noo / It must’a shif’ted” 😨
Filled with groups of tourists clamouring for pictures with the ‘famous’ headstones, it was unusually lively for a cemetery…
5. Dean Village
A leisurely 20-30min walk from the city centre, Dean Village is a rustic residential area by the Water of Leith (Edinburgh’s main river). We wandered along riverside paths for some distance, going past people’s houses and soaking up the sounds of trickling streams.
There isn’t much else to do in the area other than take photos and chill, making it ideal for a quick mid-day detour before heading back into the city centre!
Edinburgh was lovely and a welcome change from the bustle and pollutedness of London, making it a perfect 3 or 4-day getaway in the middle of our 11-day trip. You certainly won’t regret visiting this charming city.
That’s all for this short UK series, but if you have any other questions or want specific tips for your trip-planning, feel free to DM me on Insta or leave a comment below! 🙂
I’ll be dropping a special post on 1 April, so keep your eyes peeled! 👀 In the meantime, be sure to follow my Insta or like my Facebook page to stay up to date with my latest adventures, day-to-day doctoring and life updates!
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If you’re interested in exploring my blog, click here for an index of all the posts I’ve ever written (travel, doctoring, psychology, random musings), or check out my most read series below:
- the Chasing Dreams series: a series chronicling my thoughts, dreams & changing ideals over the years (since 2018), including burnout, quitting the rat race, migration and trying to find my path in life
- the (not-so-definitive) guide to doctoring: Getting into Med School & FAQs | Surviving your Clinical Years | MBBS Tips | Life as a M1 // M2 // M3 // M4 // M5 during COVID // Life as a Doctor (monthly series) | Chasing Careers series
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