Get to Edinburgh for the perfect sightseeing and foodie lover’s get away
By Martina Nee
After a truly magical, feast for the senses, trip to Edinburgh I am now wondering why I have not visited this great city before. Forget those other far flung and exotic places, take a trip to our neighbour, Scotland, for a great break for you and the family.
Scotland has always been on my list of ‘Places to Visit’ but for some strange, unknown, reason I never got around to it, that is until now. My first, and hopefully not the last, taste of Scottish hospitality took place in the great city of Edinburgh which is just so easy and convenient to get to from the west of Ireland simply by taking a Flybe flight from Ireland West Airport Knock, Co Mayo. Honestly, I left Galway city centre just after 11am, got onto the 12.40pm flight, arrived at Edinburgh Airport, hopped into one of the many waiting taxis, and was checking into the gorgeous and modern four star Apex City Hotel in Grassmarket, right in the heart of the city, well before 3pm, now you can’t beat that for timing!
The rooms at the Apex City Hotel are contemporary but still manage to maintain that welcoming feel with the best beds you will ever have the pleasure to rest your weary bodies on, a soothing bath, and giant refreshing shower as well as little extras such as complimentary newspaper, tea and coffee facilities, widescreen TV and free wi-fi, all the things that make your stay that bit more special. However enjoying these luxuries had to wait for a bit longer as it was time to hit the streets of Edinburgh for a spot of sight-seeing and it couldn’t be easier as the Apex City Hotel is surrounded by the city’s iconic attractions.
No first day exploring a new city is complete without the words hop on, hop off, being mentioned. Just a short walk from the hotel is an area called Waverley Bridge with a whole multitute of tour busses. Although Edinburgh city is extremely easy to get around, with the major tourist attractions within walking distance of one another and plenty of tourist information offices dotted around the place, a bus tour is highly recommended. The bus tours bring you through all of the city’s most interesting streets, past the many monuments and statues, while telling the tales of some of Edinburgh’s most famous and infamous names and histories; some that spring to mind are the home of Robert Louis Stevenson, author of the The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, tales of a witchy nature, of William Pitt - the youngest British prime minister (1759 - 1806) - a statue commemorating George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822 - the first of a reigning monarch since 1650 -, the history of Grassmarket, which was not only the location of the city’s main markets but was also the setting for public executions - a popular tale is that of Maggie Dickson, a fishwife hanged in 1728 for murdering her baby, however she later awoke in her coffin and since under Scots law she had served her punishment she was set free. There is now a very lively pub named after Maggie situated on the Grassmarket. The tour buses also take you along the historic Holyrood Road where tourists are brought to see popular family attractions such as Our Dynamic Earth, an interactive exhibition where visitors go back in time to experience how The Earth was formed and shaped, Arthur’s Seat, a main peak of a group of hills which form most of Holyrood Park, the very modern Scottish parliament building, and the Palace of Holyrood House which is the official residence in Scotland of Queen Elizabeth II and is perhaps best known as once being the home of the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots.
Edinburgh is a perfect weekend break destination as there are plenty of interesting attactions. Of course no visit is complete without storming the gates of Edinburgh Castle armed with your camera and few pounds for the souvenier shop. Dominating the city skyline Edinburgh Castle is without a doubt a spectacular sight. There are plenty of knowledgable tour guides to take you through the history of this wonderful place, as well as audio guide tours, bringing you on a journey to the oldest part of the castle, St Margaret’s Chapel (dating back to the 12th century), the Great Hall which was erected by James IV around 1510, the Half Moon Battery by the Earl of Morton Scotland’s regent in the late 16th century, and the Scottish National War Museum. Visitors are also guided to view and marvel at Scotland’s crown jewels, and see the Stone of Destiny, Scotland’s ancient coronation stone is steeped in history. Hours can be spent meandering around the castle until you find the exit, walk a little way down Castle Hill to find the amazing world of wonder and optical illusions, Camera Obscura, and the Scotch Whisky Experience where there is a rather impressive tour looking at whisky making, learning about different variations of the tipple, followed by the chance to wet your whistle. Some of the other amazing attractions in Edinburgh include: The Real Mary King’s Close, a warren of streets beneath the City Chambers on the Royal Mile where people once lived, worked, and died between the 17th and 19th centuries, and The Edinburgh Dungeon which seeks to transport visitors into Scotland’s most horrible history using live actors, two thrilling rides, interactive shows and special effects.
Apart from the endless attractions and places to explore this amazing city is also home to some of the best restaurants around, where the food is just heaven on a plate. And if it is foodie heaven you are looking for then Angels With Bagpipes, an exciting new Scottish restuarant with a Italian flair, will not disappoint. Another great restaurant is the Castle Terrace where chef Dominic Jack uses his expertise and passion to serve outstanding French-Scottish dishes. The restaurant was awarded a prestigious Michelin ‘Rising Star’ in January 2011 and it is little wonder as I enjoyed every moment I spent here. Another restaurant visited was the Cafe St Honoré which is located down a cobbled land in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, only minutes away from Princes Street, and offers great food in a friendly atmosphere.
Overall, I just loved everything about Edinburgh from the attractions, which were all run so professionally run by the friendly staff, to the top-class restaurants. Also there is plenty to satisfy even the most prolific shopoholic and many a welcoming pub where you can soothe your weary feet and down a refreshing beverage or two. Get to Edinburgh for a perfect city break.
For more information on things to see and do in Edinburgh visit www.visitscotland.com/surprise
Accommodation: The Apex City, Grassmarket, Edinburgh - www.apexhotels.co.uk
Attractions: Edinburgh Bus Tours, www.edinburghtour.com; Edinburgh Castle, www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk; The Scotch Whisky Experience, www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk; The Real Mary Kings Close, www.realmarykingsclose.com
Flybe information: Flybe currently operates flights from Knock to Edinburgh three times a week, with fares available from €29.99 each way including taxes and charges. Book now via www.Irelandwestairport.com or via www.flybe.com