We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian Hotel and were treated to a luxurious room with a view of the castle. Known locally as “The Caley”, the 5-star property received Scotland’s 2013 Hotel of the Year honors. Their Pompadour restaurant is one of Europe’s finest. Our first night we sampled the Galvin Brasserie de Luxe’s finest Scotch Whiskey and authentic haggis. Haggis gets a bad rep in some parts of the world, but I loved it! (The Whiskey, too!) I was pleased to see it on the hotel’s daily breakfast buffet … it shared similar traits with our Eastern Shore scrapple. After dinner we strolled down Princess Street, the main shopping district. The city was all lit up for the Christmas Holiday. A giant ferris wheel had been erected in the middle of a sprawling Christmas market. Santa’s village was brimming with children and included a train to escort them through the reindeer forest.
The next day our friends Tony & Leigh picked us up at the hotel to show us the town. We had met them on our Tahiti cruise last year and kept in touch. They moved from Edinburgh to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, but decided to return home for the holidays. The sun came out just in time for our ascent up to the top of Arthur’s Seat. From up above we were able to enjoy panoramic views of the Firth of Forth and Holyrood House, the official residence of the British Monarch in Scotland. The downs of lochs of the Scottish countryside were absolutely gorgeous and we saw plenty of wild geese in the park that day.
Our next stop was Calton Hill. We parked up and hiked to the top of this famous city lookout and basked in the glory of the iconic Dugald Stewart Monument. Named after an influential Scottish philosopher, the monument is a popular backdrop for many local artists. Next we trekked up to Edinburgh Castle to see the sights along the famous Royal Mile. The castle is home to the 15,000-pound Mons Meg cannon, the One O’ Clock Gun which jolts the city daily, and the Crown Jewels. It is also the site of the world famous Military Tatoo (August) and Hogmanay (January) celebrations.
All that hiking made us peckish, so we descended the Royal Mile and feasted at Brown’s Bar & Brasserie on George Street.
Our final day we indulged ourselves on the Scotch Whiskey Experience Tour. This fantastic adventure starts in an oak casket ride that glides through the various elements of aging and distilling whiskey. Then you learn about the four varieties of scotch via scratch & sniff and actual sampling: Highland, Lowland (subtle & malty), Speyside (mellow, sweet & fruity) and Islay (heavily peated & smoky). We saw the planet’s most diverse collection of Scotch, including a bottle of single malt that retailed for $32,000. The gift shop was a Scotch lover’s dream and we brought plenty home for Christmas presents.
We finished the day with a brilliant lunch at nearby Amber and then an intimate dinner of Cullen Skink Soup & fresh Hake & poached egg at the Cellar restaurant. We loved our trip to Edinburgh – the people were friendly, the air is clean and the cuisine and shopping are top notch! – Sean Rox