Year of the Staycation: Edinburgh & the Scottish Highlands

Although the UK’s green list for travel has updated since my last staycation post, it’s still too complicated for Sam and I to plan going abroad. We’re due our second vaccine soon, so we might be more inclined to look into it more but for now, we’re happy to explore closer to home.

Scotland, you’re up! We decided to fly to Edinburgh and rent a car when we arrived. Driving there would too much for us, especially as we had a jam-packed itinerary planned. An 8+ hour drive each way would just be a waste of valuable holiday time! We did look into the overnight sleeper train from London but it was fully booked.  

Thursday – day 1

The flight was early so we arrived on Thursday morning with a full day ahead. As we had the car, we headed to Jupiter Artland, which is basically an art gallery but outdoors. Set over 10 acres of woodlands and meadows, it was a brilliant way to stretch our legs after travelling and see cool artwork. There’s a lovely café there too, which is worth visiting alone!

Finding cake very funny at Jupiter Artland
Admiring a very big flower (the “Love Bomb” by Marcus Quinn)
Getting our bearings!

After spending 2 hours in JP, we drove into the city centre for a wander and refuelled at Fortitude, a small but mighty coffee bar overlooking York Place. It’s only a tiny nook so we didn’t get a chance to sit in but a takeaway espresso perked us right up. The strongest coffee we’ve both tasted! Sam even went back to buy a pack of ground beans for his colleagues. That will keep them going in meetings.

Fully caffeinated, we drove to our accommodation in time for check-in. I chose Aparthotel Adagio on the Royal Mile as it was ideally located in the heart of the city and had parking facilities. A quick freshen up and we were ready for a bite to eat at quirky, LGBTQ friendly venue, Paradise Palms.

Welcome to Paradise!
A vegan BBQ platter from Lucky Pig @ Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms is one of those places you won’t come across often. It’s colourful and eclectic with cuddly toys hanging from the ceiling, bizarre antiques, vintage records and groovy wall-hangings. It also had the added bonus of American diner inspired vegetarian and vegan cuisine by Lucky Pig. Yum!

Friday – day 2

On the second day, we set off for Fort William, a town in the Scottish Highlands. It was a 3-hour drive from our hotel but the views were spectacular so it wasn’t a chore. Following this year’s hikes to Snowdon and Scafell Pike, our mission was to climb Ben Nevis.

The higher the climb, the better the view!

At 1345m, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK and not to be taken lightly. Even as experienced hikers with very good fitness levels, we both found it challenging. It felt like it was never going to end!

We definitely had a snowball fight!
Made it!
A victory selfie!

It took us just over three hours to reach the summit and about the same time to come down, as my feet were so swollen. I think the problem was my hiking boots than anything, I need to invest in a new pair a size bigger than normal. Or at least air my feet in intervals.

Summit BN!

With travelling to and from Fort William as well as the climb itself, it took up all of our day. We hadn’t planned anything else so we couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel for a hot shower and a well-deserved rest! Taking my boots off was BLISS.

Saturday – day 3

Not too much rest though as we love to keep busy! As we had the car for one more day, we ventured to North Berwick, a seaside town about an hour away in East Lothian. The plan was to spend the day on the beach but the rain had other ideas. It absolutely hammered down!

Flowers brightening up the beach in the rain
Bass Rock in the misty distance!

But we didn’t let it dampen our spirits. We strolled along the sea front and ambled through the quaint independent shops in the downpours. It would have been much more picturesque if the weather was better, but it was still a pleasant way to spend the day. A highlight was sampling the fresh seafood platter at The Rocketeer restaurant.

I LOB YOU! I’m not squidding!

We spent the evening at Filmhouse watching the Last Man Standing documentary. The rain was the perfect excuse to go to the cinema for the first time since all the covid-19 madness. And it was cool to visit an arthouse cinema rather than a chain. We like to do something a bit different and it’s nice to support local businesses.

Sunday – day 4

Our final day was leisurely but still busy. We had breakfast at Southern Cross Café, a wonderful eatery serving simple food but done well (the smoked salmon toast was SO GOOD!), watched street performances, met Hazel the eagle-owl and visited Edinburgh Castle.

The gals! Having a catch-up with Hazel
Sam and his two birds

And if we hadn’t got enough steps in the past few days, we also climbed Arthur’s Seat. Situated within Holyrood Park, it’s an ancient volcano which offered amazing views of the city at the top. It’s not a particularly strenuous walk, it only took us about 20 minutes even with my sore feet after climbing Ben Nevis.

Halfway up Arthur’s Seat
On top of the world…ish!

We made it down just before the thunder and lightning started, ready for a cosy night in and a takeaway before our early morning flight back the next day.

Monday – day 5

We ended our trip by calling to East Village café in Clifton after landing and then for afternoon tea at the Celtic Manor. I think it’s safe to say we made the most of our time off! Scotland, you were non-stop thrills from start to finish.

Until the next adventure!

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