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.

A couple of months ago when I was through in Edinburgh for a full day, I was invited to check out The Magnum situated on Albany Street. I had never heard of this Bar & Restaurant before but I’m always up for trying somewhere new. From their website, they state they “combine Scotlands best local ingredients with traditional flavours. We serve classic Scottish dishes alongside fresh seasonal game and seafood”. Since Ross and I had a jam-packed day, we decided to have lunch instead of the original dinner invitation.

We walked in and on first impressions, The Magnum is beautifully decorated, very contemporary and laid back. The restaurant was rather empty and we clocked less than a handful of tables at the height of Sunday lunch service. We had a choice of table and decided to sit next to the window so we could people watch. Beautiful fairy lights cascaded down the window but what wasn’t so pleasant was the little family of rather noticeably dead wasps which were laying all over the window sill along with a layer of dust. Cringe.

Choosing to clean away the wasps ourselves,  our drink order was then taken and paper menus handed out. We were informed that we couldn’t order A la Carte and that we could only order from the Bar Menu or from the Set Lunch Menu. A little disheartening but this was my own fault for not checking what their weekend lunch service is like.

Looking at the menu’s, I was rather perplexed why a Sunday Roast was not on offer. The mains offered within the Set Lunch Menu were not appealing therefore we decided to just order off the Bar Menu and request if we could order a Starter from the Set Lunch Menu. Thankfully, our request was granted.

After a short wait, our starters arrived. I decided to try the Buccleuch Haggis Spring Roll with Hickory Relish and Rocket. I loved this starter. A beautifully crispy Spring Roll shell surrounding a wonderfully spiced Haggis which was cooked perfectly. Sometimes with Spring Rolls, they are drowning in oil but I’m glad to say that there was no grease in sight. The Haggis Spring Roll was complimented with a Hickory Relish and a Mixed Leaf Salad (instead of Rocket as advertised). I didn’t get a huge Hickory Barbecue taste from the Relish but worked very well alongside the Haggis. I’d definitely order this again.

The Magnum Edinburgh Buccleuch Haggis Spring Roll with Hickory Relish and Rocket

Ross opted for Homemade Soup of the Day which was Roast Tomato and Basil if I recall. It isn’t something he would normally order but with limited choices, it was the best of a bad bunch for him. The soup was a lovely vibrant red colour and smelt wonderful. It tasted as good as it looked, ignoring the rather strange balsamic glaze squiggle. You could taste the basil throughout the soup but it didn’t overpower it. Thumbs up.

The Magnum Edinburgh Roasted Tomato Soup

It took a while for our plates to be cleared and for our mains to arrive but we didn’t reach the fidgety stage, yet. I ordered Tempura Battered Haddock and Handcut Chips with a Sweet Lemon and Gherkin Aioli. Two beautifully cooked chunks of Haddock were on my plate in a light crispy Tempura Batter. The fish was soft, flaky and fresh. Paired with the Sweet Lemon and Gherkin Aioli, it was a winner. The Handcut Chips could have done with some more seasoning, but when dipping into the Aioli, you didn’t mind. This was by far one of the best Fish and Chips I’ve had in a Restaurant.

The Magnum Edinburgh Tempura Battered Haddock and Handcut Chips with a Sweet Lemon and Gherkin Aioli

Annoyingly for me, Ross ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich in a Rich BBQ Sauce on a Glazed Brioche Bun with Baby Gem Lettuce, Apple and Fennel Coleslaw and Beer Pickled Onion Rings. I detest Pulled Pork. I think it is one food item that needs to end. STAT. Ross however, loves it. The Pulled Pork was tender and smothered in the Rich BBQ Sauce. I tasted a little of the sauce and it was delicious. We both weren’t huge fans of the Apple and Fennel Coleslaw and the Onion Rings were too sweet which was a little off putting.

The Magnum Edinburgh Pulled Pork Sandiwch in a Rich BBQ Sauce

Once again, service was slow at taking our plates away. The restaurant wasn’t busy at all which, if was, I could understand why service would have been that slow. It seems our waitress was more interested in chatting to one of their female friends that entered the bar just after we finished our starters. I really don’t think we needed to hear about our waitresses love life or how drunk she had been lately. Sadly, we couldn’t get away from it as they were far from quiet. It was rather off putting. The bill couldn’t come quick enough so we could leave and have dessert elsewhere.

It was a rather sad end to a mostly enjoyable lunch. The food for the most part was very good and I’d definitely return again for the Haggis and Tempura Haddock, if different staff were on duty. It’s just a pity that the staff let the kitchen and Restaurant down.

Disclaimer: I was invited by The Magnum Edinburgh as a guest in return for a review. Whilst my meal was complimentary, we paid for drinks and left a tip. I was under no obligation to write a positive review and my comments reflect my true experience that afternoon.

Click to add a blog post for The Magnum Bar & Restaurant on Zomato

If you didn’t know the exact location of  the Stockbridge Restaurant was located on St Stephen Street in Edinburgh, you’d more than likely walk past it and continue down the road, double back on yourself and then finally notice the fairy lights guiding you down rather steep steps to the entrance. Blink and you’ll miss it.

Ross & I were welcomed by a rather friendly maître’d who instructed us to pick whichever table we wanted. The restaurant was rather quiet at 7:30 and were able to pick a quiet table in the corner so I could watch other diners and take photographs without bothering anyone. 

When looking at the menus, we decided to go dishes from the À la carte menu instead of the set menu unlike the other diners. Trouble was, there were several things that I wanted and found it hard to finally settle of what I wanted. I’m rather indecisive when it comes to food at times.

While waiting for our starters, we were served the amusebouche of the day which was a salad of vine tomato, mozzarella, parma ham and balsamic. Small, simple and delicious. 

Amuse Bouche

To start, I ordered the Seared Scallops with cherry tomatoes, tapenade, aubergine and tomato vinaigrette. The scallops were cooked perfectly and when married with the tomatoes, tapenade and aubergines, it was a perfect introduction to the Stockbridge Restaurant. The flavour combinations were very well executed and would have gladly eaten more.

Seared Scallops with cherry tomatoes, tapenade, aubergine and tomato vinaigrette

Ross ordered the Goats cheese fondant with beetroot salsa, caramelised walnuts and toasted brioche. The goats cheese was rich and creamy, however, the plate was overloaded with beetroot salsa and distracted you from the Goats cheese which was meant to be the main attraction. The beetroot salsa was enjoyable but you just got bored with it after a few mouthfuls.

Goats cheese fondant with beetroot salsa, caramelised walnuts and toasted brioche

A short interlude, our mains had arrived. Ross had ordered the Venison loin with venison pie, braised red cabbage, parsnip puree and a port wine sauce. The Venison was cooked beautifully, it melted in your mouth and the port wine sauce ensured that each mouthful was succulent. The main star of the plate though was the Venison pie with parsnip crisps. A mini shepherd-esq pie which was rich in flavour and very very delectable.

 Venison loin with venison pie, braised red cabbage, parsnip puree and a port wine sauce

For my main, I ordered Roasted rack of Hugh Grierson organic lamb and braised flank with tapenade creamed potato, polenta, feta and vegetable terrine and rosemary sauce. Once again, the meat was cooked beautifully, however, there was just a little too much fat for my liking. Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things though. The tapenade creamed potatoes were an ample amount and very tasty. I love olives so I loved the idea of incorporating it within mashed potatoes in this way. It worked very well. Sadly, that’s all that worked for me. The Polenta, Feta and Vegetable terrine was very disappointing. It just didn’t work. The flavour combinations were strange and after one bite, I pushed it aside. It’s a shame really because it looked beautiful.

Roasted rack of Hugh Grierson organic lamb and braised flank with tapenade creamed potato, polenta, feta and vegetable terrine and rosemary sauce

To cleanse our palates before dessert, we were served the most mouth-watering passion fruit sorbet which the head chef hand makes himself. Beautifully smooth, sweet and tangy, it was the best sorbet I have ever tasted. Delicious.

Passionfruit Sorbet

I read rave reviews of the Banana tart tatin which the restaurant serves along with butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream so ordered that for my dessert while Ross ordered the Vanilla rice pudding with apple compote, shortbread crumble and cinnamon ice cream.

When I was served the tart tatin, I was slightly confused to find big chunks of banana vertically arranged on a small piece of pastry. Only the ends of the banana ended up properly caramelised and the rest was rather mushy. The butterscotch sauce was incredible and the vanilla ice cream was a welcome addition. Sadly, the tart tatin was a miss for me. If the bananas were sliced and arranged in the traditional way ensuring they were caramelised then the dessert would have been outstanding. It’s just a shame the size of the bananas let it down for me.

Banana tart tatin

Ross’ Vanilla rice pudding with apple compote was a high-end version of Ambrosia. Creamy and comforting. The cinnamon ice cream like the sorbet, was of very high quality and delicious. Jason should really think of selling his sorbet’s and ice creams outside of his restaurant. They were THAT good.

Vanilla rice pudding with apple compote, shortbread crumble and cinnamon ice cream.

Overall, it was a mainly positive dining experience, it’s a shame that certain elements of the dishes didn’t work for my personal tastes. The Stockbridge is a beautifully designed restaurant, the staff are friendly, attentive and welcoming, it’s no wonder that while dining, we noticed several regulars returning and chatting like old friends. I loved that the clientele ranged from pensioners to couples in their early 20’s so you never felt out of place like you do in some restaurants in the city.

Disclaimer: I was invited by The Stockbridge Restaurant as guests in return for a review. Whilst our meal was complimentary, I was under no obligation to write a positive review and my comments reflect my true experience on that evening.