Ever since my husband presented me with a thistle wrapped carefully in tissue on our grade 11 camp, I have wanted to go to Scotland. We landed and I almost cried with happiness as we heard – and understood – those around us. It had been a month of trying to converse in broken Italian/Spanish/French and even the Scottish brogue couldn’t have dampened the moment. In fact, the Scots are some of the loveliest people you ever did meet, and I wanted to fold the travel lady into a hug as she gave us cheerful directions to our hotel.
We checked into the Crowne Plaza Edinburgh and I took a moment to congratulate myself for the choice of accommodation. Located perfectly, it was close to public transport, overlooked Charlotte Garden Square, and was sandwiched between the main eat streets of George and Rose. There were bedside chocolates, a hand-written welcome note, and the best part – robes that made you want to snuggle into their oversized softness at every given opportunity.
Images by Crowne Plaza Edinburgh
We made our way to Edinburgh Castle and forked over the pounds for entry plus an audio guide – a good recommendation to heed. Stopping at each of the numbered positions, we listened to history unfold. It really did make our castle exploration worthwhile and we emerged a couple of hours later with a newfound respect for everything the Scottish people had endured.
The evening brought excitement as we met friends at Jamie’s Italian for dinner. We are massive fans of Mr Oliver and were pumped to check out his menu and restaurant. Reasonably priced, my pasta was al dente, the wine went down well, and the company couldn’t have been better… well, unless Jamie himself showed up. We farewelled friends before braving the icy walk back to our comfy suite.
After allowing ourselves to sleep in, we made our way downstairs for breakfast. Although I do love a good breakfast out, it is convenient to have it included onsite. This way, you can fill up on the buffet and then walk it off which is exactly what the day entailed. We walked the Royal Mile passing a plethora of touristy joints, before coming to St Giles Cathedral and Palace of Holyrood House. We stopped in interest to watch fudge being made from scratch using fresh whipping cream at the Fudge Kitchen. A kilo heavier later, we left laden with sea salted caramel, choc peppermint, and traditional toffee. Yes, I know, we were eating our way around Europe.
The eighth of November brought about a day we had longed for: a tour through the Highlands and Loch Ness. Rugged up and ready, we hopped onboard with Timberbush Tours and travelled through Sterling to the Scottish highlands. It was hauntingly beautiful. Craggy mountains gave way to winding rivers, and brought to life childhood drawings. The heavens may have been bleak but it simply added to the moody atmosphere. We took a river cruise up the Loch Ness to Urquart Castle (really just a pile of ruins now) and I strained my eyes trying to catch a glimpse of Nessie. I’m on the line on this one. She could be a plesiosaur. Maybe.
Our last day was spent wandering around Edinburgh and being caught in a mini hail shower. We sought refuge in the nearby cinema, digging fingernails into my palms as we watched Captain Phillips on the big screen. Afterwards, the weather had dried some so we made our way back through the street markets. I loved this city vibe! Good intentions aside, we forewent a pub dinner in exchange for room service and our last night in the fluffy robes.
Scotland is one of those places that I would love to return to in the opposite season – I feel like it deserves to be experienced in both summer and winter. As much as I was drawn to the highlands and natural scapes, I was surprisingly also drawn to the old town city and back street atmosphere. This bonnie land is full of warmth, even when it’s cold outside – the perfect place to snuggle up with your loved one.
Images by Mr + Ms Chevron