Hidden Gems of Edinburgh, U.K – Guest blog post for earthtoconnie.com

Firstly I just want to thank Connie over at Earthtoconnie for inviting me to be her first guest blogger in her new series – Hidden Gems! In this post, as the title suggests, I’ll let you in on some of my favourite ‘off the beaten path’ spots in Edinburgh.

1. Tani Modi

One word BRUNCH.

I just recently stumbled across this adorable place hidden on Hannover Street! The cafe itself is much bigger than you think and it’s extremely affordable! Order the American style maple syrup and bacon pancake stack as they are the best pancakes I’ve had in Edinburgh!

And no…I did not have an espresso martini for brunch but a fancy looking ice coffee instead!

2. Ting Thai Caravan

Do I need to say anymore…just look at this Thai food! This quirky restaurant is very popular with students as it is located just opposite Edinburgh University. You cannot book this restaurant in advance so if you want to be sure of a table try come in between lunch and dinner! This place is also great if you are on a budget, most dishes are under 10 pounds!

Top tip – bring cash as this restaurant doesn’t have a card machine!!

3. Rabble

I have been living in Edinburgh for almost 4 years now and have also only recently discovered this gem! Just below George Street you will find this beautiful bar that is perfect for date night or chilling with friends.

4. Stockbridge Market (10am-5pm)

Looking for a local experience on your Sunday in Edinburgh? Head to Stockbridge Market for the ultimate street food experience!

5. Fingal

It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Fingal, which is a new boutique hotel in Leith that I am loving working on! Most people in Edinburgh do not know yet that non-guests can make a booking to enjoy the unique experience of our Lighthouse Bar. Our bar offers Afternoon Tea, Evening Supper and amazing cocktails!

Want to be one of the first onboard?

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post as much I have enjoyed writing it!

If you would like to read more of Connie’s blog posts, including her Hidden Gem series feel free to head over to her blog at Earthtoconnie.com. Or if you would like to follow her on social media then check out her Twitter here and her Instagram here.

If Home is Where The Heart is…My Heart is in Fife

I know it has been a slow start to the blog this year and I wanted to post more consistently….but life happens! I’m currently in my final year of my event management and tourism degree and things are a little hectic. Anyway, I have been home for the weekend and it dawned on me that I have never written about where I grew up! This post is all about my favourite places to visit, eat and relax around Fife. Firstly, for those who do not know where the Kingdom of Fife is, it’s a region in the East of Scotland (1 hour from Edinburgh and 1 hour and a half from Glasgow).

1. St Andrews

I’m sure most of you have heard of St Andrews if not Fife with the golfing and royal connections. For readers who don’t know this is 1. The HOME of Golf and 2. Where Prince William met Kate Middleton at university.

So with that amazing little introduction to this student seaside town I will tell you my favourite places to check out!

West Sands Beach

This is a beautiful stretch of beach that is a major pull factor for visitors to this town. You can try some water sports such as surfing and windsurfing if you are brave enough to get in the North Sea. Or if it reaches above 18 degrees and remains sunny you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who come to sunbathe!

If you are willing to splash out a little on a cocktail or nip of whisky head to the 4th floor of The Old Course Hotel to get an uncompromising view of this stunning spot.

The Himalayas

No..I’m not actually referring to the mountain range in Asia but there is a fun putting course named after it! It is open every day April to September and only costs £2!!!

This is one of my favourite childhood memories , I am sad to say that I’m still not a pro golfer. However, navigating this tricky course can fool even the best golfers….tell me how you get on!

The Cottage Kitchen

This is the cutest little cafe nestled in the alleyways of St Andrews. Grab a light lunch made with all local ingredients or indulge in their delicious home baking!

Rufflets Hotel

Just outside St Andrews is home to one of the prettiest country house hotels in Scotland. My family have celebrated many special occasions here over time including birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

The inside of the hotel has the most beautiful decor and has many separate rooms if you would like a private function. In addition, you can explore the large garden area which is a perfect backdrop for wedding and celebration pictures!

The Seasons restaurant has an excellently priced 3 course lunch menu for £20 that still includes all the frills!

2. Anstruther

Anstruther is a picturesque old fashioned fishing village near St Andrews, that is known for its harbour and award winning fish and chips! It is popular in the summer months with day trippers visiting to indulge in some of the best seafood in Scotland.

As a child I spent Summer evenings eating fish and chips from the BEST FISH SHOP which is the Anstruther Fish Bar overlooking the busy harbour.

3. Elie

Elie is another charming coastal town to visit in the East Neuk of Fife. In addition to the beach, there are many lovely coastal walks and small boutique gift shops. As a child my family owned a timeshare at Kilconquhar Castle Estate so we spent a lot of time enjoying Elie!

Elie Ness Lighthouse Walk

This lighthouse was built by David Stevenson (cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson) in the early 20th century and has become a well loved attribute of the town. One of my favourite walks in Elie is around the lighthouse. If you continue on the Fife Coastal Path you will journey past some ancient ruins called Lady’s Tower. This was built in 1760 for Lady Janet Anstruther so she can change in private for her morning skinny dip routine!

If you are driving to Elie you can park in the car park next to the lighthouse walk!

The Ship Inn

This restaurant has been open in Elie for many years and is always a favourite. It is known for it’s fresh seafood and beautiful views of the sea!

In the Summer months the patio area overlooking the beach is open for BBQ nights

Elie Watersports

Ever wanted to try SUP paddling, surfing or tubing? Now is your chance!! Grab a couple of friends and pray the Scottish weather will work in your favour and have the best time!

If that doesn’t sound like your thing and you would rather just throw yourself off the pier….hire a wetsuit and do that too! Trust me the wetsuit is essential…..

4. Crail

If you have an obsession for quirky little houses with steps down to the sea and want to try fresh lobster (literally caught that day) visit Crail!

This vibrant little fishing village is home to a very busy harbour where you can see fishermen coming and going out to sea everyday. One of my favourite spots in this village is right down by the harbour at Reilly Shellfish. This is where you can grab a picnic table and eat the freshest shellfish hidden within the harbour walls.

As well as the huge fishing scene, Crail is known for it’s vibrant Festival scene at the end of July. The festival showcases the best of Crail and the produces of the villages surrounding it.

The last year I went there was a stall for the Cocoa Tree which is my favourite cafe in the East Neuk! Perfect for a fellow chocoholic…

5. Falkland

I am saving the best till last…..home is where the heart is and my home is Falkland. Falkland really is a hidden gem but is getting even more popular as it was featured in the Outlander series which is now known worldwide!

This little village is full of beautiful architecture, former home of Scottish Royalty and surrounded by an ancient estate developed in the Victorian period.

Falkland Palace

Falkland Palace was the country home to royalty such as Mary Queen of Scots and is now owned by the National Trust Scotland. Wander around the beautiful palace and stroll through the acres of garden and orchards.

These are the entry prices shown on the website: Adult £13, Family £30, One adult family £23.50 and Concession is £9.

Falkland Estate

This estate was the former hunting grounds for the Kings and Queens that resided in Falkland Palace. It’s one of my favourite places to go when I am home, especially up to the hidden waterfall (follow the trail named Maspie Den)!

The Stag

One of my favourite restaurants in Falkland is The Stag. It is a cosy restaurant and bar located near the now famous water fountain (seen in Outlander).

After being away from home for so long and coming back, really does make me appreciate the beautiful environment I was brought up in. I hope you visit Fife and the East Neuk sometime too!

HOW TO EAT AND DRINK YOUR WAY AROUND EDINBURGH

In this post I will let you in on my favourite spots to eat and drink in Edinburgh! I know I’ve written a post about my beautiful capital before…however this one is based on only my OWN recommendations!  Besides…my last post was a mix of sights to see, walks, bars and restaurants…now I am focusing on the priority. 

My Top 3 Restaurants

1. Howies

This restaurant is perfect for any occasion! I would say that the restaurant on Waterloo place is a more unusual building and better for larger groups, but the restaurant on Victoria Street is ideal for a more romantic atmosphere.

The menu here is excellent, it is extremely varied and it’s based on seasonal and local produce! If you haven’t already booked a table here this might make you confirm a booking….there is a lunch menu that will serve 2 courses for £11.95 and 3 for only £14.95….

I do like to change it up every time I go….but some things are just too good to change! Order the Cullin Skink Soup and the Hot Fudge Sundae for dessert…I’ll let you pick your main course…maybe.

2. Angels Share

I LOVE this restaurant! It is situated at the West End of Princes St on the ground floor of The Angels Share 4* Hotel. The decor is so glamorous I could definitely get some interior design tips walking through these doors  (hinting at the 5 chandeliers and mirrored walls)…..  30176418_1832686253418492_1375613239_o

It serves heartier than expected but still beautifully presented dishes with a Scottish twist.  I have only been here once (on St Valentine’s Day) but I still have dreams about the Red Velvet Cake…..Untitled design (2).jpg

 

3. Pizzeria 1926

Naples or Edinburgh?!

Step into your pizza eating dreams and immerse yourself in the BEST PIZZERIA IN EDINBURGH for a truly authentic experience! I am lucky enough to live with 3 Italian’s who insisted I check this place out….they know what a GOOD pizza should taste like!

This small restaurant is always packed so make sure you book a table! I would say this is the best pizza I’ve eaten outside of Italy and it’s so cheap!!!

*Top Fact* The name of the restaurant emerged from the love for the Naples Football team that was established in 1926 that the family support. 

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Top 3 Bars

1. 99 Hanover Street 

This is my favourite bar in Edinburgh! It is a great place for girls night or date night with the comfy seating, cool music and chilled atmosphere. I have been into this bar a fair few times and it has never been too busy to not get served quickly. The quick service definitely adds bonus points seeing as time standing around the bar (usually in heels) is not my ideal night!

Order the Elder-flower Edinburgh Gin! 

2. Badger & Co

This is a cosy bar located on Castle Street (just above Princes Street). There are so many reasons to visit this place! The Wind in the Willows decor runs through this bar and also appears in the cocktail menu adding to the whimsical experience.

In the Summer they usually open The Outdoor River Area (downstairs section) which is decked  out floor to ceiling, matching the theme of the whole bar! This area is covered enough that you wouldn’t get wet if it rained (happens once or twice in Scotland) but is still open if you want to catch a glimpse of the stars. If it’s not a warm Summer evening don’t worry you can still enjoy the outdoor area next to a flame heater!

In the Winter months the drink pictured below is a must try!

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Signature Whisky Hot Chocolate

3. Hoot The Redeemer

This bar is insane! It is owned by a company called Panda and Sons that are known to have the most unique bars dotted around the city. Even the entrance is unusual, it’s hidden behind an old looking door tucked away, next to Costa on Hanover Street.

As soon as you find the door and walk down the stairs it becomes a bar like no other…greeting you with “Hoot The Redeemer” himself. The bar is decorated to reflect a 1950’s New Orleans style carnival complete with an alcoholic ice cream machine (seriously thinking about buying one for the flat..)

In addition you can pick your cocktail flavours from the infamous claw machine so you can live out your childhood memories of wasting all your parents money. Only joking it will be your friends money….also if you don’t manage to grab anything just grab a bartender (they have a knack)…

THIS BAR GETS EXTREMELY BUSY SO GO EARLY ON WEEKENDS OR VISIT ON WEEKDAYS!

Top 3 Cafes

1. Procaffeination

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This cafe is a gem! It is situated just on the corner of the Royal Mile and is perfect for a healthy lunch stop. Take a seat in this tiny cafe and pick from a range of homemade organic foods and juices. The smoothies are my motivation for climbing up Arthur’s Seat!

2. Cafe Noir

This charming cafe is situated in a leafy area of Edinburgh, not far from Haymarket Station. It has so much on offer, the menu is crazy! Who knew there was such a thing as Pink Latte and Lavender and Vanilla Hot Chocolate but it’s definitely a thing here. This cafe is perfect for a chilled Sunday morning or if you want to bring your laptop and use the free wifi to study ( password = wedrinkitnoir).

The savoury croissants are a MUST!Untitled design (1)Untitled design30768964_1834588923228225_809859880_o.jpg

3. Hotel Chocolat

Hidden at the back of the Hotel Chocolat shop on Fredrick Street you will find a luxurious little cafe. Most people are not aware that this chocolatier actually has a cafe inside and they are totally missing out!

The menu highlights that they include a chocolate twist in everything they sell. All their products are made by various cocoa roasting techniques especially designed for the cafe. People pick the drink they would like such as a latte and decide if they would like it “adapted“. All the chocolatey additions are actually made from more cocoa and no syrups. This means less sugar = major win!

These are just a few of my favourite places in Edinburgh to indulge and enjoy! If I mentioned all the places I liked to eat/drink the blog post would turn into a novel so you are lucky I narrowed it down for you all….

I would love some recommendations for other cities to so feel free to leave them in the comments!!!

 

Scottish Highland Escape

Day 1

As much as I love Edinburgh it is always good to travel further north. Scotland is wild and whimsical. That’s why thousands of people travel, from all over the world, to visit this small welcoming country. Whether it’s a home from home, as so many people are lucky enough have a little Scottish blood somewhere in their roots……whether it’s to seek the Loch Ness Monster or brave a piece of haggis with breakfast (without googling the ingredients)…. Scotland is a thriving destination.

I have visited Aviemore and the Cairngorms many times on family holidays but have only discovered it’s true charm after living in a city for a few years. The rustic villages and surrounding woodland makes it feel like you have travelled so much further than a few hours out of the capital city! As well as being able to relax and take things at a slower pace than 9-5 allows Aviemore is also a hot spot for outdoor activities. It has many horse riding, quadbiking and water-based activities that really let you explore the Highlands in a unique way.

 

We rented a car from Europcar and picked it up from Edinburgh airport which was easy then we were on our way. On the way to Aviemore we decided to stop off in Pitlochry along the way. This turned out to be one of the trips highlights as we found this quirky cafe called Cafe Biba which served an extensive range of pancakes (always a foodie)!IMG_3228

 

After rolling our way out the cafe we walked around the village and journeyed up to visit the 4* hotel and popular wedding venue, Atholl Palace.  The location of this hotel is perfect, hidden away within the trees really enhances the fairytale-like atmosphere of the place! IMG_3219

After travelling another hour up North we checked into our well situated Airbnb  . I honestly can’t rave about this website enough! It is so easy to use, accurate, well-priced and bursting with insider tips on the local area. This time we stayed with Yvonne in her cosy ensuite room in the Spey Valley. I know there are some sceptical people over the whole Airbnb situation, I was one too! However, I did not know that many rooms were just as private as a hotel room, with your own bathroom and entrance facilities (some even have their own mini kitchens). On the 2 occasions that we did meet the hosts they were very warm and welcoming.

On our first night in Aviemore we had dinner and drinks at The Winking Owl . This restaurant is owned by the Cairngorm Brewery Company  and is full of unusual craft beers such as the Nessie Monster Mash and the Sheepshaggers Gold Beer… Aside from the beer the place has a lovely atmosphere and serves hearty dishes!

Day 2

On the second day we drove 20 minutes to Loch an Eilein. This has always been my favourite spot in the area as you can walk around the whole loch (1.5 hrs)! This is one of those places in the world that really makes you feel lucky to be surrounded by so much nature – time stops.

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After our walk we headed back to the car (£2 for parking) then journeyed up to the Cairngorm Mountains. We were incredibly lucky with the weather this time! It was a complete winter wonderland, everywhere was covered with snow and the sky was clear blue.  It took around 30 minutes to get from the loch to the Glenmore Forest Centre where we had lunch watching the loch below.

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When we got to the Cairngorms we headed to the car park to ride all the way to the top of the mountain on a funicular train. This is definitely a must whether you are there to ski or not! The view from the top is breathtaking….. but make sure you layer up….my hands felt like they were frozen solid…. If you don’t want to spend too long in the snow there is a cafe and bar at the top of the mountain with panoramic views that are hard to beat!

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That evening we decided to indulge at the most popular restaurant in the whole of Aviemore – La Taverna .  In my opinion no trip to the area is complete without at least one trip to this place! They are known for serving their pizza and pasta buffet all night everyday of the week – make sure you eat lightly throughout the day 😉 La Taverna is always busy so make sure to book in advance!!!

Day 3

On our way back to Edinburgh we stopped off in Dunkeld to break the journey up a little. Dunkeld is a town that is sometimes also known as the “Gateway to the Highlands” and is situated between Perth and Birnam. We didn’t have much time here but we did manage a beautiful walk along the riverside and admire the 13th century Cathedral.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh

“Where is the coward that would not dare to fight for such a land as Scotland?”

– Sir Walter Scott

Edinburgh the heart of Scotland is the place I am privileged to call home for the time being. I have lived in a cosy one bed flat at the top of Leith for 4 months now and i’m  loving my time here.

I have had itchy fingers and felt like writing even though I haven’t been able to travel very far since Prague. On the other hand I think that there is no place like home so why not blog about the beautiful and historic capital of Scotland!?

If you have a few days to spare you should visit Edinburgh, it is extremely accessible with the multiple stations and is home to Scotland’s largest airport.

During your stay in Edinburgh of course you will want to explore Princes Street, with all the best high street shops as well as having a tremendous view of the Castle while you do so. However, if you are looking for more designer shops, upmarket bars and restaurants go to George Street which is located 2 streets above Princes Street. If you enjoy the Spanish cuisine don’t miss out on Cafe Andaluz which is a charming Spanish Tapas restaurant offering delicious food (best tapas I have ever had)! If you are looking for something special, The Dome is a very famous restaurant and bar which offers stunning Afternoon Teas and is home to one of Edinburgh’s largest Christmas trees in December. However, The Dome is only for those who have a slightly more generous budget!

Walking down from George Street you will come to Frederick Street and Hanover Street which is home to all my favourite indulgences…what’s not to love about boozy milkshakes, unique bars and irresistible hot chocolate! Yes these small streets have it all! If you enjoy fantastic milkshakes and are eager to shake things up a bit enter down the stairs to the Boozy Cow and grab a burger and a shake…would highly recommend the Reece’s Peanut buttercup shake!  Also, if you are looking for a fun cocktail experience then pop into Hoot The Redeemer’s. This bar really is something special…although it’s easy to walk past because it’s an old door which is always open to reveal the stairs down to the bar doors where you will be greeted by the first surprise of your visit. One of the best bars I have ever come across! If all that wasn’t enough to make you head straight to these streets then visit the Hotel Chocolat shop and head to the cafe at the back to order the most indulgent  hot choc you have ever tried. They have flavours such as chocolate orange, ginger and chilli!

If you are keen to know more about what makes Edinburgh special visit the Castle and journey back in time or have fun at Camera Obscura which is a whole attraction dedicated to the world of optical illusions. (Fun for all ages)…I promise!

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If you do any attractions in Edinburgh it has to be  The Royal Yacht Britannia which has remained Scotland’s Best Tourist Attraction for the 11th year. The ship is docked in Leith which is only a 15 minute bus ride from Princes Street. The admission charge is £15.50 for an adult and is very good value for money, as the tour takes roughly an hour and a half to enjoy.

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Walk , walk and walk again

Edinburgh is a very easy city to walk around (despite the hills) so whenever you feel like stretching your legs avoid the bus fair and walk! You can easily walk to the Royal Mile from Princes Street via The Mound (steps) and get a beautiful view over Edinburgh. In addition to the infamous Arthur’s Seat you can also enjoy the Edinburgh skyline from the top of Carlton Hill (one of my favourite places). If you keep walking past Waverly station you will see a hill with various monuments, that’s Carlton Hill! It won’t take you long to climb the steps to the top of the hill (best time to climb to the top is to see the sun setting over the city.)20117446_1563787946974992_273967160_n20117451_1563787950308325_1428630380_n20120718_1563787980308322_893485016_n

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Leith

This section is dedicated to the hidden wonders of Leith! Many tourists do not stroll down into Leith from the city centre as they are unaware of the fantastic eateries, trendy bars and quirky gift shops that occupy the area.

You can reach Leith by journeying down the longest street in Edinburgh (Leith Walk) which will take you roughly 20 minutes from Waverly station. If you fancy a tasty cocktail in one of Leith’s coolest bars , The Lioness of Leith, continue down into the heart of Leith. As you are strolling nearer the sea take a minute to enjoy The Shore area where you are spoilt for choice if you want some good food. A personal favourite is The Granary! It is an intimate dining opportunity with a relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff and the tastiest local food. If you are interested on a longer walk in Leith head to the Western Harbour. I love it there, it’s a beautiful location to visit.

If you enjoy climbing or looking for something  a little different to do then head to Alien Rock which is a climbing wall and bouldering centre near the harbour.

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“Piled deep and massy, close and high; Mine own romantic town.”

Sir Walter Scott

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