We have to start this piece by saying 48 hours is just not enough time! Seriously… If you can re-work your itinerary and allow yourself a few more days, do it! You will thank us later.
We were only able to spend two days in Scotland. Scotland was part of our winter trip to Europe and our itinerary consisted of three stops… Scotland, Croatia, and London. We quickly learned the hard way that there are not many flights from Edinburgh to Dubrovnik during the winter. We ended up being very limited as to what days we were even able to get a flight. This is how we ended up only having two days, but we made it work and we had a blast.
Since this was a quick trip we had to decide between Glasgow and Edinburgh. We had to cut out visiting the highlands all together (not a decision we took lightly). We chose Scotland’s capital city, Edinburg and we couldn’t be happier with our choice.
Edinburgh is a compact city. This makes it easy to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. We decided to stay at the Waldorf Astoria due to its central location and the incredible price we were able to snag due to it being the off-season. The Waldorf sits right on the edge of old town with a stunning view of the Edinburgh Castle.
Our flight landed late in the day, and despite being jet lagged we hit the ground running. We knew we wanted see a bit of old town and the Royal Mile, but first we needed to eat. Our hotel concierge steered us in the right direction to a charmingly wonderful little restaurant named “Howies.” Howies is located on Victoria street in the Grassmarket area of town which sits right below the Royal Mile. It was the perfect place to grab a hearty Scottish meal and warm up our California bones. As you can imagine, Scotland is quite chilly in February!
After dinner, we explored a little bit of old town. We absolutely loved the gothic feel of the city and realized we could walk the streets for hours on end. We journeyed through the Grassmarket, which is home to many restaurants, bars, and cafes. One cafe in particular we stumbled upon was The Elephant House, a cafe made famous by author, JK Rowling. This cafe is the where she wrote her famous Harry Potter novels. Looking around the area it is easy to see how the feel of this city influenced her stories.
The next day morning came early, but we pulled ourselves out of bed to make sure we had the entire day to explore the city. We were both hungry and really wanted to try as much of the local cuisine as we could, so we went downstairs and had ourselves a wonderful Scottish breakfast. Our breakfast included haggis, which is is a savory pudding consisting of sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs. We were a little hesitant to try it, but we did and we were both pleasantly surprised and found it quite good (even though the thought of it was disgusting.) It tasted a little like corned beef hash or a mixture of a salty sausage.
After breakfast we headed up to the Edinburgh castle. We would have loved to have the time to tour through the castle, but we decided not to since we were planning on touring Stirling Castle later in the day. Instead, we spent the next hour or so on the Royal Mile walking though St. Giles Cathedral, listening to some traditional bagpipes, shopping, and taking in the sites.
During our visit we really wanted to get out of the city and see some of the Scottish countryside. The little town of Stirling seemed like the most logical choice since it is only about an hour train-ride away. We were excited to head out and get on our way to Stirling castle, so we headed to the train station, which was easy to get to from the Royal Mile. Starting from St. Giles Cathedral, the train station is just down the back set of stairs across the street. We were pleased with ourselves to have stuck to our schedule and got to our train on time. We actually had a few moments to sit back and relax. Well, that all came to an abrupt halt when we realized we were on the wrong train! We were about 20 minutes into our ride when we asked the conductor how much longer to Stirling and in return he shot us a puzzled look. We were on the wrong train heading the opposite direction! Oops. Once we turned around and got on the right train, we had lost about an hour of time. A little bit of advice from us… always double check your train before you leave the station.
As we pulled into the Stirling station and saw the picturesque town with a castle on the hill, we knew we would enjoy our brief stay here. Because of our mixup, we didn’t have a lot of extra time but of course, we found a little time to shop. Tiffany is part Scottish and she was on the hunt for some cute hats, scarves and other pieces in her family’s crest fabrics. We popped into a little tartan (Scottish clan fabrics) shop and found that the prices were even better than what we had found back in Edinburgh. The shop owner was very lovely and chatted with us for quite a while. We love how personable people are when you get into the smaller towns. Once we were done shopping, we headed up the hill to Stirling Castle.
Stirling Castle was once considered the key to the kingdom of Scotland, and sits high on a hill where the highlands meet the lowlands. Since it was the end of the day and in the middle of winter, we pretty much had the entire castle to ourselves. The views from the top looking over the countryside are just spectacular.
The William Wallace monument is also here in Stirling. We had a cab driver take us up to the monument but unfortunately it was already closed, so please enjoy our only photo we have of the landmark.
We caught the next train back to Edinburgh. The day was officially over, but our night was just beginning. We both were ready to unwind and have a little fun. We were on the search for some good whisky bars with traditional folk music. Our concierge recommended a few, but one of our favorites was Sandy Bells. There was live music in the back, but the place was so packed we couldn’t really make it back there to check it out.
Instead, our bartender talked us into doing some whisky tasting. He was very knowledgeable of each of the whiskeys, and we both learned quite a lot and had a fun time. (We have to say that Tiffany doesn’t normally drink, but she thought, “When in Scotland, do as the Scottish do!” So, she decided to taste test by sipping.) 😂
We still really wanted to sit and listen to some traditional Scottish folk music, so we moved on to Captain’s Bar on College street which is not too far from Sandy Bells.
After the bars, we slowly made our way or “stumbled” our way back to the hotel taking in the city one last time and snapping more photos along the way.
In this short amount of time we both realized we LOVE Scotland. We definitely got a quick taste and now we are ready to visit again and experience even more of what this beautiful country has to offer.
We are two San Francisco Bay area moms who love fashion, film, and lots of traveling. Check out our write ups on the blog to learn how we live life to the fullest, look fabulous, and still get our kids to school on time!