A Weekend Break in Edinburgh

Saturday, 28 June 2014
View of Edinburgh
Image credit Stuart Cale

As I'm sure I've mentioned plenty times before, I bloody love my little city.  Edinburgh really is one of the most beautiful places in the UK (I'm biased, but it's true!) and there is so much for you to do, it's a great place to be a tourist.  Given that we're fast approaching one of the busiest times of the year for Edinburgh tourism (the August fringe festival) I thought it would be a good time to share with you some ideas on the best way to spend a couple of days in the capital.  

Whenever I get asked by people who are visiting the city what they should see/do on their trip I tend to avoid recommending the "big" attractions like Edinburgh Castle and the zoo etc as I feel that as a local I should really be telling them about the places no one really knows about.  At the same time though obviously tourists do want to see the things that the city is famous for, so for this weekend break itinerary I've tried to create a balance between the two, with a mix of well known attractions and places that are more frequented by locals. 

Day 1 Itinerary
I'd recommend starting off the day with brunch at Mimi's Bakehouse down at the trendy Shore area in Leith (I can't believe I just used the word "trendy").  You can then work off that full Scottish  breakfast (or my personal favourite, french toast with bacon, mmmm) by taking a walk along the Water of Leith.  I honestly think this is one of Edinburghs' best kept secrets - I only discovered that we had a river running through the city a few years ago, and I've pretty much lived here all of my life!  The Water of Leith walkway runs for 12 miles from Balerno to Leith and it's a really beautiful walk, for most of it you feel like you're a million miles away from a bustling city.

The Water of Leith
The Water of Leith - image credit Andrew Girdwood

I'd suggest following the path from the Shore up to Stockbridge, this is another little hidden away area of Edinburgh that you probably wouldn't stumble across unless you were looking for it.  There's a host of cute little independent shops and restaurants, as well as amazing local food shops from patisseries to cheesemongers so it's the ideal place to pick up some lunch for a picnic (I suggest getting a french stick and some meat and cheese - just pretend you're in Paris).

Princes St is just a short walk from Stockbridge, so I'd suggest heading up there so you can have your picnic in Princes St Gardens.  On a sunny day the gardens are full of people relaxing on the grass, under the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, enjoying a spot of lunch or just indulging in that great Scottish past-time of sunbathing until your pasty skin turns pink.

Princes St Gardens Edinburgh
Princes St Gardens

After lunch why not walk up the mound (stopping to admire the view and taking a few photos) and then along George IV Bridge to the National Museum.  I've written a full post about the museum before as it's one of my favourite attractions in the city, there's so much to see and it's also free which is a nice bonus (seasonal exhibitions have a fee).  My favourite bit is the Natural World, or in other words "the animal bit".  This is a room 3 levels high just FULL of stuffed animals and lots of little facts and games and things (like you can stand on a scale and see what type of animal you weigh as much as).  You could literally spend a whole day in the museum going round all the different sections so I'd suggest taking a few minutes to peruse the map before you start and deciding which bits to focus on.

National Museum Edinburgh
National Museum of Scotland

Once you've had your fill of the museum (I don't know about you but I start to get cranky after about an hour in a museum, it's like yep this is fun and everything but my feet are starting to hurt now so can we please do something else) I'd suggest taking a walk along to the West End (via Lauriston Place) for an old school cinema experience.  Edinburgh has a good range of cinemas, from the big modern multiplexes to the more traditional theatres like the Cameo and the Dominion.  I loooove the latter with its sofas and recliners, definitely worth a visit.  If you're getting a bit hungry then you could even buy some frozen yoghurt for the walk from Frisky just round the corner from the museum (fun fact - this shop used to be my old hair salon!).

Cameo cinema - image credit woodyellen

Once you're out of the cinema I'd recommend going for dinner and drinks at The Blackbird on Leven Street.  This is a nice little quirky pub about halfway between the Dominion and the Cameo (so well placed for a post-movie munch) and it serves awesome burgers as well as a great selection of cocktails (I recommend a Kick Ass!).

Day 2 Itinerary
You'll probably want a wee bit of a lie in after the previous days activities, so I'd suggest heading out about 11ish and going down to Cramond for a walk along the beach towards Silverknowes.  It's only about 30 mins on a bus from the city centre, and on a good day the views across to Fife and the Forth Road Bridge are just stunning.  After a walk I'd recommend stopping for a well deserved carvery lunch at Toby Carvery at Lauriston Castle.  This is literally a 3 minute drive from my flat and there's been many a Sunday where we've come here for a carvery lunch - the perfect hangover cure!

Silverknowes Beach Edinburgh
Silverknowes beach
Before heading back into town I'd suggest taking a walk around the grounds of Lauriston Castle itself, there are some really beautiful gardens here, and you could even take a tour of the Castle if you fancy it (I did just that last year which you can read about here).

Lauriston Castle Edinburgh
Lauriston Castle
Once you've got a bus back to the city centre, depending on your mood you could either spend the afternoon indulging in a bit of retail therapy (we've got huge Primark, H&M and Topshop stores on Princes St, Mulberry, Louis Vuitton, and Hollister on George St, as well as department stores like Jenners and Harvey Nichols), or if you're up for something a bit more cultured then you could check out the latest exhibition at the National Gallery.

National Gallery Edinburgh
National Gallery

Finally, before heading home why not enjoy one last little luxury with afternoon tea at the Balmoral Hotel.  This 5 star hotel is one of the most recognisable buildings in the city (fun fact - the clocktower is the 2nd most photographed attraction in Edinburgh), and they serve a really good afternoon tea in their Palm Court restaurant.  Indulge yourself with sandwiches, scones, pastries, and cakes (and even a glass of champagne if you want) and then you're just a short stumble from the train station for your journey home (the airport bus also stops just round the corner).

Balmoral Hotel Edinburgh
Balmoral Hotel & Edinburgh Castle - image credit Jenni Douglas

That sounds like quite a lot to pack into two days but there is just soooo much to do in the city that it would feel like a waste if you didn't try and get the most out of everything.  Hopefully this has given you some ideas for things to do if you're visiting Edinburgh soon, and if you're not planning a visit then, well....you blimmin' well should! ;)

Also, here's a quick list of some other fun things to do in Edinburgh:
  • visit during August when the city becomes a hub of festivals!
  • go ice skating at Murrayfield Ice Rink (or watch an ice hockey game)
  • drink cocktails in teapots at the Roseleaf
  • visit the most Christmassy place on earth - The Dome (in December, obvs)
  • take a trip on a boat out to Inchcolm Island
  • experience a proper Scottish ceilidh at Gillie Dhu
  • scare yourself silly on a ghost tour (ideally one where you visit the city vaults)

This post serves as my entry into the HRS Battle of the Nations competition.  A selection of bloggers from across the UK have been invited to write about why their home city is the perfect place for a weekend break, and the chosen winner will receive a voucher for a weekend away of their own.  I very rarely enter blogger competitions these days but I love writing about Edinburgh and this is the sort of post I would have written anyway so hopefully you enjoyed it too! 


  1. My favourite part of the museum is the section about stars. I also really like visiting the roman and viking section in the basement because it's always very quiet! This is a great post Lynne!
    Water Painted Dreams xo

  2. I moved to Edinburgh last August and I'm a bit embarrassed by how little I've explored in nearly a year so this has given me some good ideas of where to start! I have discovered the Water of Leith though which I love - it really does feel like you're miles away from the city centre x