I did not want to follow the creepy old guy into the graveyard. He came out of nowhere and offered to take us around, but my cynicism didn’t believe he wanted nothing in return. But in the end, we followed him through the dark gate, sloshed around in the mud and were charmed by the eerie and wild tales he told about his hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland. From the creepy science experiments to the haunted graves, he regaled us with local tales of myths and legends.
With his guidance, I got up a little liquid courage to finally conquer the Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. My real reason for visiting was hearing that JK Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter books, had been inspired by some of the names written on graves in the yard. Our new Scottish friend knew exactly where each of these hotspots were, gathering more wandering tourists in the mud as we moved along. By the end, we were a pretty big group pausing over “Tom Riddle’s” tombstone and “Professor McGonagall” place of rest too. It was a wild introduction to one of the new favorite cities in the UK. I couldn’t wait to see more.
Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar
Just outside the graveyard was a perfect place for a pint of cider before venturing into the spooky darkness. In front of the pub is a small statue of a dog, honored forever for his loyal deeds. His master died of tuberculosis in the 1800s, and for the next 14 years his dog faithfully came to visit the grave. When leash laws were eventually passed in the city, The Lord Provost of Edinburgh has a special license and collar made for the dog so he could continue to roam free.
Old Town Context
After I got my fair share of tartan scarves, I wanted to have a peek at some more unique gift I could pick up in Edinburgh. We stumbled into this curiosity shop, covered from floor to ceiling in cheeky items and vintage finds. Old Town Context is difficult to pigeonhole, as it’s an independent store that has everything from globes and printed cards to home décor and books. You can have a look at their items too online to get an idea. It almost felt like going to a small museum, especially the font room filled with glass display cases of monocles, magnifying glasses and baubles.
I’ve been to my fair share of bars and pubs. These days, it takes a lot for it to be a memorable experience when it comes to ambiance and menu choices. But the new cocktail lounge inside the G&V Hotel is worth a special trip while in Edinburgh. Ideal to kick off the evening or end it with a nightcap, Epicurean has created a special environment to sip cocktails inspired by Scottish painters.
Have something gin, vodka or whiskey-based that is enhanced with herbs, florals, bitters or other accoutrements that are delightfully fresh. The splashing watercolors across menus and décor also made for a tranquil, yet chic place to enjoy a few tipples and chats with friends.
When we left the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh and I found a tweet addressed to me from Ian Rankin, famed author, I couldn’t believe it. My husband said this was one of his favorite hangout spots and inspiration for his books, but apparently it really holds true to its claim. Unpretentious and simple, it’s a good pub for a few pints and chats with the locals over the weekend.
Located right on the Royal Mile, it’s a classic looking pub that has an impressive selection of beers and ciders. The Ensign Ewart is also known to be a good place to sample some local whiskies as well – just ask the friendly staff which ones are best to try. Several days a week the pub hosts traditional bands that play lively folk music.
We drove outside the city on Sunday to get a quick feel for the coastline and take a little breather. it was a quick and easy jaunt from our base on Prince’s Street at the cosy Mercure Hotel. It was ideal for not only visiting all of the city’s curiosities only a short walk nearby, but to jump off to other places around the south of Scotland.
On our way to the fishing village, we stopped in Kirkcaldy for gas and decided to pop into this small coffee shop opposite a nondescript mall. However, Robertons had some of the best scones I’ve EVER had in the UK, slathered with jam and clotted cream. Bonus for me as you can order fruit free versions – I’m not a fan of raisins and this is rare. There’s also homemade cakes and plenty of gluten free options too, which can be paired with fresh coffees, teas and ice cream for the kids (OK really, ice cream for me).
Anstruther Fish Bar
Obviously, fish takes better the closer you are to the coast. So when we ordered our takeaway from the Anstruther Fish Bar, it couldn’t have tasted better while looking out into the harbor form our car (it was December, wish we could have sat outside!) I first was impressed by the prices – everything on the menu was widely affordable for sustainable, freshly-caught seafood. We ordered heaping portions of haddock fish and chips, friend prawns and calamari rings, which came with all the necessary condiments too. I wish I had room for dessert, and the attached ice cream bar was super temping, even in freezing temperatures.
Looking to spend more time in Scotland with friends and family? Here’s a great guide for a whole week in Scotland!
Have you been to Edinburgh? Find any hidden gems? What’s the most unusual thing you’ve encountered on a trip?