We love a bank holiday, well who doesn’t and especially the Easter break. Two extra days off work!
This Easter we were at a wedding in Newcastle the Thursday before Good Friday so thought we’d make the most of our long weekend and head up to Scotland, specifically Edinburgh & Loch Lomond, after the festivities.
For those who don’t know, Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and full of history.
The city is very hilly but compact. There is a medieval old town, elegant Georgian new town, a castle, a palace, beautiful gardens and plenty of monuments all within walking distance of each other.
It is also a great foodie destination with plenty of great cafes, restaurants and bars to enjoy.
Ok, so some people might not consider a graveyard to be high up on their list of places to visit but Greyfriars Kirkyard is different. The graveyard was founded in 1561 and is associated with Greyfriars Bobby, who was a loyal dog who guarded his master’s grave for 13 years. The dog is buried in the yard and there is a statue of him just opposite the entrance to the graveyard. Don’t forget to rub his nose for luck!
The main reason we visited though was it is allegedly the place where J.K. Rowling got the inspiration to name a few of her characters in the infamous Harry Potter books and that the graveyard inspired Godric’s Hollow…(now you are interested, aren’t you?!). We aren’t going to give it all away but make sure you check out the tombstones…you might see some familiar names!
As our apartment had a beautiful view of Arthur’s Seat, we thought we would spend Saturday morning climbing up it to admire the view.
Arthur’s Seat is the main peak in a group of hills which forms most of Holyrood Park. Rumour has it, that it is named after King Arthur himself. The hill is reasonably easy to climb and gives stunning panoramic views of the city and surrounding area. We climbed up from Holyrood Park where there is a lovely lake (good spot for lunch) and part way up there is the ruin of St Anthony’s Chapel which is worth a quick look (and breather) before you continue the climb.
Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street Gardens run along Princes Street, the main street in Edinburgh and are directly below the Castle. The gardens are full of lovely flowers complete with fountains, band stands and a rustic gardener’s cottage. There is also a lovely monument to the Royal Scots at one end of the gardens which was one of the reasons for visiting. Gemma’s great uncle served with the Royal Scots during WWII but was unfortunately killed in Europe during Operation Marketgarden.
With the beautiful flowers and backdrop of the castle, the gardens make a very photogenic location so make sure you take your camera!
Edinburgh Castle is the most iconic and popular place to visit whilst in the city. Perched at the top of Castle Rock it dominates the landscape. There is so much to do whilst you are there including visiting the museums (the Royal Scots and National War Museum were our favourites), the Pet Cemetery where pets of British Army Officers are buried, Mons Meg which is a massive cannon, St Margaret’s Chapel which is the oldest building in Edinburgh, the Scottish Crown Jewels, Stone of Destiny and the beautiful Scottish National War Memorial.
It is quite expensive to get in. Tickets are £17.00 per person but we really enjoyed it and would recommend a visit if you haven’t been before.
Accommodation: We stayed in a lovely apartment which was very close to Arthur’s seat and the palace of Holyrood. There was free parking on the street and all the main attractions were within walking distance. https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/3099029
Food: Edinburgh has plenty of food options. Whether you fancy a quick bite or a fancy sit down meal, you will be well catered for (pun intended!).
Elephant House – A lovely cafe which is a bit touristy but was where JK Rowling ate whilst writing the Harry Potter books. Try and sit at the back and enjoy the view over Greyfriars Kirkyard. http://www.elephanthouse.biz
Civerinos – A great pizza place just off the High Street. Delicious authentic Italian pizza and open till 1 am so perfect for a late night feed. http://www.civerinos.com/gallery
The Mussel Inn – Lovely fresh seafood in a relaxed atmosphere. Not just mussels but you’ll be missing out if you don’t have an order. We recommend keeping it simple with white wine, garlic and shallots. http://www.mussel-inn.com
The Witchery by the Castle – Our treat to ourselves. A delicious 3 course meal, wine and a whisky to finish. Great food and fabulously attentive staff. They have two restaurants, the airy Secret Garden or the atmospheric main dining room at the Witchery with leather backed chairs and dark oak-panelled walls. One to make a reservation for. http://www.thewitchery.com
Drinks: Edinburgh has a load of cool cocktail bars that we would highly recommend sampling. The places we went to had friendly, knowledgeable bar staff and were happy to recommend other bars to try. If you like an underground speakeasy vibe, you need to visit Panda & Sons (the outside is a barbershop and you need to go through a bookcase at the bottom of the stairs) and Hoot the Redeemer (which is entered through a fortune teller machine like that in the film “Big”). If glitz and glamour is your thing, visit The Dome – it used to be the headquarters of the Commercial Bank of Scotland and as the name suggests, has a huge glass domed roof in the centre. Also on our bar crawl were Lucky Liquor, Bramble, Bon Vivant, Nightcap and The Boozy Cow.
After the city break in Edinburgh, Loch Lomond was a complete change of pace where the only attraction is the natural landscape. The lake itself is the largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain and accommodates kayaks, canoes, jet skis, speedboats and even a seaplane! There are loads of walking and cycle paths for all abilities so we would recommend bringing your bike and/or your walking boots and getting amongst nature.
We chose to stay in a lovely little village called Luss which is set right on the banks of the Loch. There is a small beach, beautifully ornate church and a pier which gives a lovely view of the lake. The village consists of independently run shops selling gifts and homeware, restaurants making beautifully home-cooked meals and a large country pub which is great for a few beers after a walk along the Loch front.
Cassel Forest Walk
Go Outdoors has a useful blog listing recommended walks for all abilities around the Loch – www.gooutdoors.co.uk/blog/10-stunning-walks-loch-lomond-trossachs/
We chose the Cassel Forest Walk. There are actually 3 loop walks that can be started from the visitors centre. We chose the middle red walk which is 4.5km and has some steep bits. Although the views are great throughout the walk, the panoramic view of the loch and surrounding countryside at the top is truly breathtaking. The picture doesn’t do it justice!
Accommodation: We stayed in a beautiful log cabin which had stunning views of the loch. It was very cosy, quiet and relaxing. It was absolutely perfect. https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/12180693
Food: As Loch Lomond is vast and the villages are scattered around, there are limited places you can go out to eat without having to drive.
The House of Darrach – Although a gift shop, the cafe is well worth a visit on the drive to Loch Lomond. The vast cake selection is worth checking out so don’t fill up too much (or just have some cake and a coffee). Also check out the food hall for homemade and artisan foods, drinks and dressings. http://houseofdarrach.com
The Village Rest – This is a cute family run restaurant which serves home-cooked food. Service was fabulous. The steak was cooked to perfection and the mac and cheese was just like your mum would make it! http://www.the-village-rest.co.uk/index.html
The Boathouse – This restaurant is situated on the grounds of Cameron House, a luxurious hotel on the edge of Loch Lomond. The hotel is beautiful but we were a bit disappointed with the food in the Boathouse. The service wasn’t great – we ordered our food and then got told we had to change our order as they had run out of lobster. We chose other options which were ok. Maybe this was because we had our hearts set on our first options. The place itself is lovely but the food and service was not reflective of the luxuriousness of the hotel and setting. http://www.cameronhouse.co.uk/dining-1/the-boathouse.html
Loch Lomond Arms Hotel – Lovely country pub with comfy chairs, fireplaces and plenty of choice of beers. We didn’t eat here but spent the late afternoon relaxing in front of the fireplace having a few beers and putting the world to rights. The food did look really good though! http://lochlomondarmshotel.com
Take a coat for Arthur’s Seat – it is very windy at the top of Arthur’s seat so take a coat and plenty of layers. It isn’t too strenuous a walk though and you would be able to do the walk in trainers.
Make sure you get to Edinburgh Castle before 1pm – the 1 o’clock gun is fired everyday over the castle wall over looking the gardens. Try not to jump when it goes off though!
Meet a Highland Cow – the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel in Luss has two lovely highland cows called Moorag and Mooriel. Make sure you go and say hello, they are beautiful.