Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Auld Reekie...

If you asked me my favourite city in the UK, then Edinburgh would be right up there, without question. I first visited over 20 years ago, when on a speedway trip north we had a few hours to kill before heading to Powderhall Stadium for the meeting, we were turned loose in the city for a whole to explore. Since then I've taken every opportunity to return - repeated holidays spent at the Fringe Festival, Ben and I got engaged there, and subsequently it was the first overnight stop on our train tour of the UK honeymoon. Any excuse for a visit really! When we were planning our recent jaunt north for Easter, it wasn't long before one of us said "...and we could end up with a couple of days in Edinburgh!"

It is an easy drive across from the Lakes, so off we headed after packing up a rather soggy tent - thankfully not required for the remainder of the trip, but more on the accommodation in a minute... A meander north via M6 & A74M, then hang a right onto the A702 and it was a straight road to our destination, the lovely Mortonhall Camping & Caravan Park - this one definitely does get a mention. Superb facilities, excellent prices for what is basically a city centre (just a short bus ride from Princes Street) location, and a Good Beer Guide pub on site - who could ask for more?! Highly recommended by us, and quite the poshest shower block on any site I've visited - underfloor heating and all! Anyhow, rather than having to erect the tent again, we had booked one of their rather fab Wigwams - here, let me show you....

Cute eh? We were most impressed that there was an electric kettle and a fridge - there's a TV and microwave too but we didn't use either of those. Basically it's a tiny self catering unit - should you want to do "real cooking" there is a small kitchen across the way in the Courtyard - we cooked breakfast in there on our second morning as the weather was terrible!
It didn't take us long (once we'd stopped marvelling at the wigwam!) to get sorted, and then the pubs of Edinburgh called us...who were we to argue?! With arrangements to meet friends later in the evening, we headed straight for one our our favourite pubs, the Guildford Arms, and followed that with a quick drink in the Cafe Royal's beautiful bar too. Edinburgh has lots of truly amazing pubs - not only from a beer, but also an architectural point of view - and the pub where we were meeting pals Colin & Aileen was no exception - The Cloisters is an old parsonage - and rather a spectacular building. Inside is no exception with about 8 handpumps on the bar each with a different real ale - a good night was clearly on the cards! From there it was a short walk around the corner to Bennetts - which boasts some of the most incredible stained glass and a wooden "gallery" behind the bar which you would never get tired of admiring! Thankfully another of this pubs remarkable features was the proximity to a rather good fish & chip shop so dinner was assured as well before getting the bus back to Mortonhall.

The following day dawned grey and cloudy, but dry, so we felt that some exploring was in order. First to Leith - our "day tickets" for the buses allowed us to travel all over the city which for just £3.50 was good value - we've visited Leith before some years back and liked it, but this time we had to say it disappointed - it seems to have lost a lot of it's "buzz" - there are trendy restaurants everywhere but no atmosphere. A shame, and we didn't stay long, choosing instead to get the bus back to the centre and walk through to the Botanic Gardens - as recommended by the lovely Fay at The Wind & The Wellies.

Well, thank you do much Fay - we loved your "wee garden" - from the beautiful and grand glass house to the area devoted to herbs of culinary & medicinal uses, via the fantastic Memorial Garden for HRH Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Wonderful place - we'll be back! All walked out (and having sampled some tea & shortbread!) we took the bus back up the hill to the pub where we were meeting yet another friend - Laurie -(perfectly summed up by Ben afterwards - with "what a lovely girl!") so another few drinks were consumed there! Food was courtesy of the Stable Bar back at the campsite - where we screeched in through the doors at the very last knockings for food service but they were still happy to serve us up two enormous platefuls thank goodness!
Tuesday morning dawned damp, grey, and distinctly sleety. The sleet then turned to wet snow for a bit, before deciding to simply tip down with proper snow....! We were extremely glad to be in a wigwam not a tent, I can tell you! By the time we had finished packing up the snow had more or less stopped, a relief considering the length of drive ahead of us! First though a diversion to Portobello and our favourite cheery butchers shop Findlay's for some Haggis....we decided to treat ourselves to some square slice (Lorne sausage) too - not only delicious but excellent for tormenting Facebook friends with too as we soon discovered! Yum!


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