Less than an hour away by train, Edinburgh is the perfect location for a day trip from Glasgow. In the past 11 years that I’ve been back living in Glasgow, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve probably been to Edinburgh no more than 10 times. So I’m making it my mission in 2019 to explore Edinburgh and it’s surroundings more.

If you’re heading to the city soon, looking for things to do and hotels in Edinburgh to stay in while you visit, this post is just perfect for you.

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat
Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

When you first think of Edinburgh, I’m sure that first thing out your mouth would be Edinburgh Castle, THE most historic castle in the world, in my opinion. From the Edinburgh Tattoo to Hogmanay celebrations, its no wonder that this beautiful 12th-century masterpiece is Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction. But what if you wanted to explore more of what Edinburgh has to offer? Today I’m showing you what I got up to in this east coast city for the day, just don’t expect me to start putting sauce on my chips anytime soon. Seriously, who invented that?

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Food for Fuel

Away from the crowds of the Royal Mile, I started my day with Bross Bagels in Edinburgh’s West End to fuel me for the day ahead. A short hop in a tram from Haymarket, its been one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit but ended up always visited the city when it was closed. I finally made it this time and it didn’t disappoint. I ordered the ‘Lickin’ Chicken’ (£5.50) which was sliced chicken breast, salami, Monterey jack cheese & honey mustard, on a poppy seed bagel. Absolutely delicious. Ross ordered the special of the day and opted to have it on an ‘Everything’ bagel. This bagel was filled to the brim with Salt Beef, applewood cheese, smoked crispy onions, sauerkraut and rock sauce (£5). We may have also ordered a cheeky third to go. We did need fuel after all. 

With three locations around Edinburgh, I would make it my mission to try this gem. If you can’t quite manage to make it or live far away, they also do UK Wide delivery of their Montreal style bagels to have at home. Bonus. 

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Explore Scotland’s National Museum

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Renovated in 2011 at a cost of £47 million, within the National Museum of Scotland, there is an abundance of galleries and exhibits for everyone to enjoy. From Scottish History to Dolly the sheep, you could get lost in here for hours. My top tip? Head to the 5th floor first, go through the Enquire gallery towards the lift/stairs to the 7th floor where you can access the roof terrace and are met with some of the best views of the city. 

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Once you’ve soaked in the stunning scenery, make your way down floor by floor. My picks? Exploring East Asia, Ancient Egypt and Animal Senses.  Favourites of mine no matter the museum. The National Museum of Scotland is one of the best museums I’ve been to in a very long time and love how inclusive it is no matter the age. Even better? It’s free to enter. 

Get a caffeine hit

What I love about Edinburgh is the number of high quality independent coffee shops there are in the city. While in the West End we popped into Cairngorm Coffee after brunch for my first coffee of the day. It was the first time I had visited this branch and loved the decor inside. Alas, I couldn’t spend too long here because I had to explore the city. So after a quick piccolo, we jumped back on the tram and headed central. 

Later in the day, to soothe my sore feet and give them a rest after hours of walking, we headed to Lowdown Coffee in one of my favourite streets in Edinburgh, George Street. Lowdown is a beautiful small coffee shop a stone’s throw away from Princes Street and is by far my favourite in Edinburgh. From knowledgeable staff to ever-changing beans, their coffee has never let me down. They also do some great cakes too. 

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Greyfriars Bobby, the most devoted dog around

Greyfriars Bobby is definitely the most famous dog in Scotland. So famous he has a life-sized statue of himself outside Greyfriars Kirk. Bobby slept next to his master’s grave for around 14 years before his own death in 1872.

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

My visit to Greyfriars Bobby was tinged with sadness as my beloved dog Bobby (and his namesake) passed away last Friday, 15th February. I’m filled with sadness at losing him after almost 13 years together by my side. My visit to Edinburgh was at a time earlier this week when I wanted to keep myself busy and clear my mind as its still so raw. Seeing this statue in real life, knowing Bobby was named after him by my late grandfather brought some joy to a very sad week. 

Dogs called Bobby really are the greatest. 

Stroll through Grassmarket

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Nestled within the heart of the Old Town, Grassmarket is one of the most picturesque and lively areas of the city. With colourful shops and curved street its no wonder locals and tourists alike flock here. Victoria Street is a popular spot for independent boutiques, food and drink. In the olden days, the area was used as a cattle market and more notoriously, where public executions took place. I visited as the sun was started to set and the sky was utterly beautiful. Definitely very magical around that time. 

Explore the gardens

Separating the Old Town from the New, the Princes Street Gardens are a wonderful setting for relaxing away from the hectic city life. During warmer days, these gardens are overflown with people basking in the sun. In autumn, filled with visitors to the Edinburgh Festival and with Winter comes Winter Wonderland and Hogmanay. If you love exploring, monuments and nature, this is one sight not to be missed and once again, even better, is free to enter. 

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Authentic Mexican at El Cartel

With hundreds of restaurants in the city, its no wonder that you could dine at a different restaurant daily. Edinburgh is a melting pot of International cuisine catering to the diverse residents who call Edinburgh home. We decided to dine at El Cartel on Thistle Street for something quick before our train ride back to Glasgow. 

Freshly-made, authentic Mexican street food, we ordered Duck Carnitas, Carne Asada and Baja Cod Tacos with Chamoy Chicken Wings and Jalapeño Bombers on the side. This was undoubtedly the best Mexican food I’ve had in Scotland. Tacos were bursting with flavour, taking on a modern twist with ingredients such as pomegranate, dried cherries and pecan salsa. The Jalapeño Bombers were addictive, I could have eaten platefuls of these but all in moderation and all that. You can’t book a table at this branch, so wait in line and you’ll end up thanking me later. 

No sooner had I finished my last bite than it was time to head back West to Glasgow. As we had a tram pass, we jumped back on the tram from St Andrews Square to Haymarket to catch the connecting train to Glasgow. A quick 48 minutes later, I was back West Side in my natural habitat planning my next adventure. 

Have you been to Edinburgh before? What are YOUR favourite things to do in the city? Let me know below. 

Collaboration post: Spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.

On a recent trip to St Andrews, I was in the mood to explore some other villages in the surrounding area. One that stood out for me was the pretty village of St Monans on the East Neuk of Fife, a little over 12 miles south of St Andrews. St Monans is the smallest of the East Neuk fishing ports, filled with 17th and 18th century colourful homes wrapped around the harbour.

For most, life can be very hectic. You’re stuck in a robotic rut of waking up, going to work, coming home and then doing it all again the next day. It gets stressful, especially with everything else in between. 

Have you ever just wanted to escape?

I have and last weekend, I did just that. 

Nestled within the surroundings of Loch Ard, the MacDonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa is set within 25 acres of landscaped gardens overlooking Ben Lomond. The hotel boasts 53 luxurious bedrooms, 2 suites, 65 self-catering lodges, two restaurants, spa, swimming pool and fitness suite. After an £3.5 million renovation investment over two years, the hotel has seen its bedrooms, cocktail bar, piano lounge and Garden Restaurant transformed. 

Yearning for some serenity, I made my way up north. 

Getting there

Making sure to pack some road trip snack essentials and a new playlist to boot, I hopped in my car and drove up north via the Erskine Bridge for around 45 minutes. In Scotland, I think we forget just how close places like Loch Ard and the MacDonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa are from cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. No sooner are you out of the city before you are transported to the most idyllic location for a weekend getaway. Don’t drive? MacDonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa is 14 miles away from Balloch Railway Station and you will need a taxi to take you the remainder of the way. Alternatively, you can get a bus to Aberfoyle and once again complete your journey in a taxi. 

First Impressions

As soon as my car swooped around the winding roads and I was met with Loch Ard for the first time, I was instantly blown away by how beautiful the surroundings were. I couldn’t believe it was so close to my house and I had never been in this area before. 

Entering the reception, I couldn’t help but notice a flock of ducks on the lawn outside and I was reliably informed by staff that there is also a herd of wild goats causing havoc, which I later came to see for myself. 

Now you really know you’re in the countryside! 

MacDonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa- Bedroom Loch View