Travel, Food & Books

Edinburgh Scotland

The sun was just about to rise on the horizon at 8:40 am when Dad drove us to Piccadilly station to catch the train to Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland. We’ve already booked the return tickets online, and when we got to the station, we printed it out.

Our train departed at 9:26 am and reached York after 75 minutes journey. From this station, our next train journey to Edinburgh Waverly station took 2 hours and 27 minutes.

Macdonald Holyrood Hotel & The Holyrood 9A

Macdonald Holyrood Hotel was located just about 950m from the train station, but because we weren’t familiar with the place, getting our bearing right took us some time. Thankfully, after thirty minutes of walking around the area, we managed to get to the hotel and checked in 20 minutes before Mike’s scheduled phone interview with the BC.

Once he settled with the official thing, we headed out to have our first meal and drinks at The Holyrood 9A located about 500m from the hotel. The BBQ Burger I had was tasty, but they didn’t have my favourite Kopparberg Strawberry & Lime Cider flavour and only had Pear on that day.

The Wash Bar

In the evening, we managed to tour around the area for a while before the Hailstones pounded the earth, and we were forced to take shelter in the Wash Bar. It was pleasant and warm in the bar with the heating on, and after 2 pints of Strongbow, and a packet of roasted and crispy bacon, I was dreading to face the cold temperature outside, but we must continue our walk.

The Attraction, Bar & Food

The Street of Light in Royal Mile

The Street of Light event where thousands of colourful neon lights lit up the street in the Royal Mile was a sight not to be missed. This event started from the 30th November until 24th December featuring music from Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Edinburgh Gay Men’s Chorus, Edinburgh Police Choir and Edinburgh Royal Choral Union.

AlBanach Whisky Bar Coinburch

Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped for dinner at AlBanach Whisky Bar Coinburch. It was a busy night, but thankfully they still had a room for two. I first tasted Mulled Cider here, and immediately fell in love with it, in my opinion, it tasted much better than Mulled Wine. It was also my first time eating Haggis Fritters, but I couldn’t stomach it, and it wasn’t because of the sheep’s stomach, but for me, it was greasy.

The main course we had was Fish & Chips, and it was the biggest one I’ve ever seen! Mike had Hand-battered Haddock Chips, and mine was Bannerman’s of Tain Scottish Scampi.

Some of the AlBanach Food’s Pricing:

£3.99 – Homemade Soup of the day
£5.29 – Haggis fritters / Welsh rarebit with mushrooms / Chicken liver pate with cherry compote
£5.49 – Prawn cocktail / Breaded Calamari Rings
£5.99 – Freshly Made Cullen Skink Soup
£6.99 – Large Bowl Cullen Skink Soup / Smoked Scottish salmon

£8.49 – Chicken and salmon bacon / Slow-cooked bbq pulled pork / Smoke Scottish salmon

£9.49 – Pumpkin, smoked cheddar, thyme & chilli burger
£9.99 – Classic chicken burger
£10.49 – BBQ pulled pork burger
£10.99 – Cheddar & smoked bacon burger

Chef’s selection
£9.49 – Spicy aubergine & roasted beetroot curry
£9.99 – Chicken tikka masala
£10.99 – Chicken salad nicoise
£11.99 – Scottish salmon fillet
£12.99 – Sea bass fillets / Balmoral chicken

£8.99 – Orkney cheddar macaroni cheese
£9.49 – Caesar salad / Scotland’s favourite dish Haggis neeps and tatties
£9.99 – 8oz grilled gammon steak
£10.49 – Bannerman’s of Tain Scottish scampi
£10.99 – Belhaven best steak pie / Smoked Scottish salmon & prawn salad / Beef lasagne
£11.99 – Our award winnings freshly hand-battered haddock & chips / Hunter’s chicken
£12.99 – Slow-cooked lamb shank

Succulent steaks
£15.99 – 8oz Sirloin
£17.99 – 10oz Ribeye
£1.29 each topping – Peppercorn sauce / Diane sauce / Whisky sauce / Haggis

£3.99 – Luxury dairy ice cream and sorbet
£4.49 – Baked Alaska
£4.99 – Apple and blackberry crumble / Sticky toffee & date pudding / Bakewell tart / Triple-chocolate brownie / Millionaire’s caramel cheesecake / Chocolate Sundae

Hot drinks
£2.79 – Espresso / Americano / Tea
£2.99 – Double espresso / Cappuccino / Latte / Hot Chocolate
£3.29 – Mocha / Luxury hot chocolate

The City Cafe

On the second day, we had our brunch at The City Cafe. I had waffles with maple syrup & Nutella chocolate. The food was delicious, menu selection was great hence, it quickly became our favourite dining place.

Some of The City Cafe’s Food Pricing:

All time favourite
£7.00 – City cafe posh mac ‘n’ cheese / Cincinnati vegetable chilli
£8.00 – Chili con carne
£8.50 – Classic chicken Caeser salad
£9.00 – Piri Piri chicken
Sizzling Fajitas – Vegetable @ £9.00 / Chicken @ £10.00 / Beef @ £11.00

Sausage Dogs (Gourmet bavarian bockwurst sausage dogs)
£7.00 – Classic dog with caramelised onions, smoked bacon & mild American mustard / Veggie dog Glamorgan sausages topped with cream cheese @ pickled vegetables
£8.00 – The bulldog with Chilli con Carne, creamy coleslaw & mild American mustard
£9.00 – Deluxe dog smothered with BBQ pulled pork @ melted Monterey Jack

All day breakfast
All day cooked breakfast @ £8.00 (large) / £5.50 (small)
(Bacon, free range egg, pork sausage, black pudding, potato scone, baked beans, sauteed mushrooms, hash browns, haggis & toast)
All day vegetarian breakfast @ £7.00 (large) / £5.00 (small)
(Vegetarian sausage, free range egg, hash brown, vegetarian haggis, potato scone, sauteed mushrooms, grilled tomato, baked beans & toast)
£6.50 – Eggs Benedict / Eggs royale / Eggs Florentine

£8.00 – The original burger
£8.50 – Monterey jack cheeseburger
£9.00 – BBQ chicken burger / Spicy bean burger / The Apache Burger
£9.50 – Piri Piri chicken burger / Californian burger / Hawaiian burger / Mexican burger

Grazing plates
£4.00 – Mug of soup
£4.50 – Garlic & rosemary flatbread / Crispy fried calamari (spicy) / Garlic & herb mushrooms on toast
£5.00 – Southern fried chicken strips
Corn tortilla nachos @ £5.50 (for 1) / @ £7.50 (sharing)
£7.50 – Baby back ribs (full rack)
Meat feast nachos @ £8.50 (for 1) / @ £10.50 (Sharing)

The Real Mary King’s Close

In the afternoon, we went to a few places, and the main one was Mary King’s Close guided tour. Our guide led us to the well-preserved passages beneath the Royal Miles, showed us the living conditions during the time and told us the grim history of the place. The journey lasted for an hour, but unfortunately, no pictures were allowed throughout the tour, and to make up for it, I bought a fridge magnet from the place.

I also took the chance to change some of my Malaysian Ringgit at the company called NO.1 Currency located at 207 High Street. Pounds Sterling soared high with the exchange rate at 7.0294. (MYR 720 for 102.43 pounds).

Pictures Around the City

St. Giles’ Cathedral

Founded in 1124, St Giles’ Cathedral also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh was one of the most important architectural landmarks along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

Calton Hill

Calton Hill together with Arthur’s Seat and the Castle Rock was formed by volcanic activity about 340 million years ago. Around two and a half million years ago the first of many Ice Ages began in Scotland, and Edinburgh was buried under a massive ice sheet, hundreds of metres thick. Throughout each Ice Age when the glaciers were at their heaviest, the weight of ice carved and gouged out many of the hills you see today.

Information from the board

Arthur’s Seat

Holyrood Park’s highest point was Arthur’s Seat. This ancient volcano is 251m above sea level, and coming to this spot gave away an excellent view of Edinburgh city.

The Portuguese Cannon

The Portuguese cannon was one of six cannons that once sat on Calton Hill. The others were melted down in 1940 to supply metal for World War II.

This brass cannon has travelled all over the world. Cast in the early 15th century, with the Royal Arms of Spain on its barrel, the cannon was transported to the Portuguese colonies in Southeast Asia sometime before 1785.

Then, either by trade or capture, the cannon came into the possession of the King of Arakan, ruler of a state on the west coast of Burma. It was subsequently captured by the British during their invasion of Burma in 1885.

In 1886 the cannon was presented to Edinburgh and placed on Calton Hill the following year.

Information from the board

After the visit to Carlton Hill, we stopped by Serenity Homemade and ordered Beef Meatballs with fries and cheese for takeaway. Back at the hotel, we rested for a while before heading out to Hemma where Mike had his Nordic seafood stew and a few pints of William Joker & Barneys. After the long walk today, we couldn’t stay up for long, and our last stop was at Holyrood 9A.

Princess Street Gardens

The next morning, before walking down to Princess Street Gardens, we had our breakfast at City Cafe. It was almost 11 am by the time we got there, and the Christmas market already starting to get busy.

The Scott Monument

Erected 1840-44 to the memory of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). Born in Edinburgh, Lawyer and ardent patriot, he won enduring fame as a romantic poet and the author of the Waverley novels. This monument was designed by George Meikle Kemp and the statue of Scott is by Sir John Steel.

Information from the plaque

We strolled along the path towards the castle, crossing the bridge while admiring the beautiful view of nature with the castle standing proudly above the hill.

Edinburgh Castle

No trip to Scotland’s capital is complete without a visit to Edinburgh Castle. This mighty fortress perched on a volcanic rock has been a place of sanctuary and a symbol of power for about 3,000 years, and now, this place operates as a large museum comprising a wide range of Scottish history.

When we got to the ticket booths, the queue for the ticket was long, but with so many fascinating things to see inside, waiting for our turn in the chilly weather was worth it. The entrance ticket cost £33 for the two of us.

Cemetery for Soldiers’ Dogs

This small plot of land overlooking the city is a cemetery for dogs that belonged to Scottish armies recording back to 1840.

St Margarets Chapel

King David I built the chapel around 1130 and named it after his mother, Queen Margaret. This oldest building in Edinburgh once used by Scotland’s royal family for worshipping, nowadays open for visitors, and the chapel also hosts weddings and christenings.

Mons Meg

In 1449, the Duke of Burgundy – Philip the Good ordered this as a wedding present for King James II of Scotland who married his great-niece, Mary of Gueldres in 1457. Named after the Belgian town where it was made, this six-tonne siege gun made from wrought iron could fire 150kg gunstones for up to 3.2km.

One O’Clock Gun

The firing of the gun dates back to 1861 when businessman – John Hewitt brought the idea to Edinburgh from Paris. Ships in the Firth of Forth once set their maritime clocks by the sound of the gun fired. To this day, the gun is still fired every day at 1 pm, except on Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day.

Prisons of War

A glimpse into the life of prisoners in the 1800s where hundreds of prisoners were held in these bleak and confined spaces in the vaults below Crown Square.

Prison Life

The prisoners’ living conditions were regulated by law. They were generally better off than common prisoners.

Health Care
A surgeon was assigned to each British prisoners of war. The surgeon for this prison was John Thompson, who regularly attended the prisoners here and converted a house in Edinburgh into a temporary hospital for sick prisoners.

Each prisoner received a daily ration of:
2 pints (1100mm) of beer
1½ pounds (680g) of bread
¾ pound (340g) of beef
+ ½ pint (280mm) of pease every other day
+ ¼ pound (110g) of butter and 6 ounces (170g) of cheese instead of beef on Saturdays

Because the Americans were officially regarded as pirates, they received only 1 pound (560g)of bread a day.

Every prisoner was given clothes and 6 pence a day. In addition, French prisoners received an extra penny a day and clothes from their own government.

Passing Time
Gambling helped to while away the long days of captivity. Prisoners probably used the chess sets, backgammon boards, dice, dominoes and drafts that they made for sale. Some prisoners would gamble on anything – even the time it took for a rat to appear from its hole in the wall.

Information from the board

Bar Hopping around Grassmarket

Once we finished the tour at the castle, the activity afterwards was drinking around Grassmarket. We went from one bar to another.

Starting from Brew Dog to Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar, then to the Last Drop, the Beehive Inn, Maggie Dickson’s where I had Rekorderlig Mango Raspberry Cider and O’Donnells crisps and the last one at our favourite dining place, The City Cafe where I had 2 shots of coke whisky and chicken strips. Before heading back to the hotel, we also ordered Kebab Donar to take away at Moratti, and it was the perfect food to end the day.

Funny signboard

Brew Dog

I had cider Fanny’s Bramble Sandford Orchard Cider with Blackberries, and it was excellent. I also learnt the process of making beer, not live but from the explanation on the board 🙂

Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar

A local man named John Grey was a regular in Greyfriars, and when he died in 1858, his dog named Bobby, a scruffy Skye Terrier slept at his grave for fourteen years until his last breath. The locals then buried Bobby alongside him and erected a statue in tribute to Bobby’s loyalty.

In this bar, I ordered my new favourite drink – mulled cider and also Nobby’s nuts.

Holyrood Palace

The next morning before leaving this place, we went to Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh and also home to the Scottish royal history.

Before taking the train back, we stopped by for one last time at our favourite cafe to have breakfast. I ordered the same menu as yesterday but with an additional of Milk Shake Strawberries.

The train departed from terminal 9 to Houston London at 12:51 pm and arrived at Preston after two hours and thirty minutes. When we got there, the train to Picadilly was already there waiting for us, and after fifty-six minutes journey, we arrived in Manchester.

During the ride, there was no ticketing officer who came and checked our tickets. On this four-day three-night trip, I enjoyed my time there, there were plenty of sightseeing places, and just by walking around the city, we’d walked for a total of 18.5km, such an exciting place to be.

Travel Date: 21st – 24th December 2015

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