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Saturday, March 30, 2019

48 Hours of Fun on a Budget in Edinburgh

In this blog series I show you how easy it is to budget travel anywhere and I also give you a quick overview of a new city each time in a brief 48-hour itinerary.

In my last post I showed you how to spend 2 days in Edinburgh if you're a Potterhead, and in this post we're going to talk about Edinburgh if you're not that into Harry Potter and just want to see the city (or you are spending more time in the city than just 2 days). I'll have a week to spend there, though 2 of those days will be doing wedding activities, so that means 4 full days, and part of a couple on top.

Photo by Liam Macleod on Unsplash
If you're going to Edinburgh for a short (or long) getaway, here's how I would spend 48 hours there:

Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

Day 1

We'll assume you got into town the night before or early this morning. Start your morning with a hearty breakfast from Scran Bistro, specializing in lovely coffees, in-season ingredients, and a cozy atmosphere. This hidden gem gets high praise from locals and tourists alike. Allow £25 for two.

Walk up to the Grassmarket area where you can wander the gorgeous Victoria Street and Royal Mile. Visit an actual castle. Edinburgh Castle is a wonderful historic castle built in the 12th century and a fantastic way to spend your time in the city. Though you may find it very busy with tourists, one of the most popular times to visit is around 1pm when they do the firing of the gun. If you want to enjoy a less crowded experience, head here directly after breakfast. The earlier, the better. Admission is £17pp if you purchase ahead of time (saving you £1.50pp). 

Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

If you are craving a sandwich, but a really goooood sandwich, fresh-made each day in a historic pub, then skip the castle's cafe and head over to the Canny Arms. This pub and restaurant was established in 1871 and has some of the coolest decor. The main bar also holds over 250 whiskeys, so this is a great place to sample some of the local booze. The food is really reasonable, and the open faced SMØRREBRØD sandwiches are their "bread and butter". Without alcohol, plan for £25 for two for lunch.

Walk back to the Royal Mile and check out St. Giles Cathedral, considered as the home of Presbyterianism, this 900 year old church (or kirk) has amazing gothic architecture and stained glass. Visiting is free, unless you want to take photos, which will cost you a small fee. 

Photo by Juli Vo on Unsplash

Make sure you've got your good walking shoes on and climb up to Arthur's Seat that is a hill formed by a 350-year-old volcano. You'll get some fantastic views of the city, meaning photo ops galore. If you time it just right, you may be able to catch the sunset too. The climb takes about an hour and their are ruins to see on the way up or down. The climb and the view is absolutely free. 

All that walking has probably given your appetite a jump start, so now it's time for dinner. Check out Under the Stairs back in Old Town and indulge yourself with a 3-course set menu (and drink), consisting of the best seasonal ingredients in dishes like corned venison stovies, celery root croquettes, and lamb cutlet. Set menu is £25 per person. 

Now that you're tired and full, head back to your room, rub your feet, get a good night of sleep so you are rested up for your next day.

photo credit

Day 2

Get up and start your day right with a full Scottish breakfast, or something a little more palatable at The Royal McGregor. The food is highly recommended and they feature Scotland's best produce in their dishes. Expect to spend around £18 for two meals and drinks.

Walk a few blocks down and get in on a free tour of the city from Little Fish Tours. See some of the sites you saw yesterday and then some, or totally new things that you might want to see on your next visit. This tour lasts a little less than 2 hours and might take you to and tell you about The Grassmarket, Greyfriars Bobby, and the outside of Edinburgh Castle. Tour is free and runs on tips. Slip your guide £5-10 for being awesome.

Grab a quick bite if you're hungry from all your walking and learning at Alba Bistro. If it's nice outside, you can get a sidewalk table and indulge in some traditional Scottish eats. The soups and the ham baguette both are high up on the list of recommendations, thought you can get something more substantial if you're hungrier (though I find a baguette is always a good choice). I can't find a menu with pricing, but I will estimate a total of £30 for lunch.
A few blocks away you'll find the National Museum of Scotland, a free museum that is home to Dolly the sheep, the first cloned animal. If you want to make the most of your time here, hit up the Scottish history area, the Natural World exhibit and the Science & Technology gallery (where you can find Dolly), then head up to the roof for panoramic views of the city. You could also bring your lunch up here instead of dining at the bistro. Admission is free, though you could drop a few £ in the donation box.

If you're a fan of whiskey (or want to learn more about it), then make sure you book yourself a tour at the Scotch Whiskey Experience. This replica distillery will take you through the ins and outs of the distilling process, the different types of whiskeys and also give you samples during/after your tour. You even get to ride in a barrel while seeing the world's largest collection of whiskey! The Silver Tour is 50 minutes and a great introduction. It can be booked online in advance for £16pp. 

If whiskey is not your thing or you want to do another weird thing before dinner, check out the Edinburgh Dungeon. We've been to several Dungeons around the world, and they are all kitschy fun. Learn the (possibly stretched truth) seedy history of Edinburgh, including the torture chamber, the courtroom, the witch's judgement and a boat ride. I'm afraid of most things, but I find the Dungeons hilarious, except for the hall of mirrors that many seem to have (where nothing actually jumps out at you), though this one has a graveyard. The Dungeons are dark, but you are taken through by a guide. Hold your loved one's hand tightly. Book online to save up to £8pp. The convenient flexi ticket is £17pp. 

Photo by Bryony Caldwell on Unsplash

Grab a late night (or regular dinnertime) bite at The Devil's Advocate, where the chefs create inventive Scottish dishes with in-season ingredients. Some of the stand-out dishes on the menu right now are the fillet of cod & coconut curry, cornfed chicken and couscous, and the winter board of garlic & maple chicken wings, venison chipolatas, and date & bleu cheese croquette. I'll estimate high here and say dinner for 2 will come to £50.

Take a stroll through the Grassmarket and see the castle lit up at night before heading back to your room for a good night's sleep and your trip home tomorrow. 

There's so much to do in Edinburgh, but luckily most things are located in the same Old Town area, which is smallish and very walkable, saving you money on transportation, though getting around by public transport or Uber is also quite easy and affordable. If you do everything on this list, your 2 packed days in the city come to £305 or around $485 for both you and your travel companion, which isn't too bad considering the food in Edinburgh is a little more than you might spend elsewhere. Obviously, you can save off this total by eating more cheaply. These are just the places I've got on my list.

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? What are your top suggestions?

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