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My girlfriend and I flew into Edinburgh from London on a Tuesday morning and back the next night. Although it was a short trip, we managed to pack in a lot. For starters, we checked into a terrific and fairly cheap hotel, right in the middle of town, called the Bank Hotel. Its in a converted bank and the suites are all themed after a famous scottish inventor. We had the Robert Burns suite and it only cost around £110 pounds for the night. The food in the hotel wasn't stellar, but for a quick pint its okay and it seems to draw quite a crowd at night and is filled with characters by day. At the time we went (early December) there was a fun fair and german christmas market on in the central square, which is nestled in a kind of valley with no river in it, below the castle high above on a hill.
The buildings in Edinburgh are quite old, as the city was never really bothered by any of the world wars. So everywhere you walk there are incredibly old buildings and tiny alleyways, some of which lead to the haunted vault city....but more on that later.
It was a dream of mine to go to a scotch distillery in Scotland, and the closest one (and one of my faves luckily) is the GlenKinchie distillery. Glenkinchie is part of a larger Scotch company that also owns and operates Oban, Dalwhinnie, Talisker, Cragganmore and Lagavulin, although most of these distilleries are on islands a few hundred miles north, in the middle of nowhere. So for the lay scotch enthusiast, its not only the closest (about 20 miles from the city) but you learn about all the other brands as well and get to taste those and many of the other classics at the end of the tour. Upon taking a bus to a nearby town, and waiting for a taxi, we were approached by a kindly old man that handmakes weird musical instruments like lutes. He gave us some laughs and scurried off to get home to his wife. We got into the final tour of the day, around 3 in the afternoon. After doing a leisurely and fascinating tour and tasting with only one other couple, the guy who did the tour gave us a lift back into town and we chatted about Mogwai and Frightened Rabbits with him. We found the people in Edinburgh to be overwhelmingly friendly and willing to chat anytime.
That night after getting back to the hotel, we had a date to have some Scottish venison and lamb at a fantastic restaurant called The Grain Store where they were even better than expected. The interior felt like a tiny castle and the waitstaff were perfect. After our meal I left an extra generous tip and the waiter was so appreciative that he brought out some super hard to find scotch you can only get if you know someone at the distillery called PC6, which has an extremely high alcohol content (62% as opposed to the usual 43%) and tastes so salty and peaty that its a whole other experience. Utterly unforgettable and incredibly nice of him, probably the best restaurant experience of my life. Can't recommend more.
From there we had to dash through a cold windy night in order to get to our spooooooky haunted ghost tour. We chose Mercat Tours' Ghosthunter tour (mercattours.com/the-ghosthunter.asp) and they were terrific. You walk around a church and some old institutions for a while while your tour-guide tells you tales that occurred there and occasionally screams at you to freak you out. After that you descend into the old Edinburgh vaults where you proceed to go into small rooms made of stone, blowing out the candles behind you as you walk. Although the guide told us we were in the most haunted place in the world, I didn't feel the presence of sprits, but definitely got a little weirded out by the small spaces and the candlelight playing tricks on my eyes. The tour itself was perfect length and a great end to a long day.
The next day was fairly relaxing and uneventful, upon waking we had some food in the German christmas market with some mulled wine. Then we had a walked around the old town and found lots of great shops and galleries to explore. Finally before catching a bus back to the little airport, we found a pub with a couch to settle into, and we taught the bartender how to make mulled wine and hot toddys. Edinburgh is a great little addition to a trip to London or Ireland and can definitely be done in a day or two.
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