It’s been a while since I’ve written about spending New Year in Edinburgh – mainly because we’re usually booked well in advance. We’re all booked up again this year, so don’t delay if you’re looking to bring in 2016 in Edinburgh.
We’ve come up with a list of some ideas for a rainy day in Edinburgh, focusing on activities within an easy walk of Craigwell Cottage. So grab a brolly and head out to enjoy these delights. There’s so much going on in the Canongate area, that you could probably spend most of your time within 1/2 mile of the cottage!
Visit the Museum of Edinburgh
Until 2012 you could be forgiven for having walked past the Museum of Edinburgh without noticing it was there, but with its new paint colours, you certainly won’t miss it! A recent article in the local Evening News explains more about the paint colours, and the treasures within.
How to get there from Craigwell Cottage: Walk up Campbell’s Close to the Royal Mile, and turn right (uphill). Cross at the pedestrian crossing nearby and then walk up the left-hand side of the Canongate section of the Royal Mile until you see The Museum of Edinburgh.
Visit Dynamic Earth
One of the popular activities for visitors to Edinburgh is to climb Arthur’s Seat. From our living room window at Craigwell Cottage you’ll be able to glimpse views of people taking the high route along the top of Salisbury Crags, from which you can see (on a good day) views over the city to the Castle and the River Forth. But if it’s raining, you have the opportunity to find out more about the geological past of Scotland at the fabulous Dynamic Earth while you wait for better weather for your climb. You can also find out more about local resident James Hutton, the father of modern geology. He proposed that the earth was much older than originally thought.
We’d recommend: taking your time on the approach to the building as the very stones on the approach paths are examples of the different ways our land was formed. Also, make sure you don’t rush in to the Time Machine too quickly – some of the most interesting exhibits and facts are in the first room and it’s easy to miss them if you have younger children in tow, who are desperate to take the trip back in time.
How to get there: Walk up Campbell’s Close to the Canongate section of the Royal Mile, cross over at the pedestrian crossing and then turn left into Bull’s Close. Walk down to Holyrood Road, then turn left and you will see Dynamic Earth ahead of you.
Visit the Scottish Parliament
Whether your interest is architectural or constitutional, or even poetical, a visit to the Scottish Parliament should be on your itinerary for a trip to Edinburgh whatever the weather. Some of our guests have arrived at Craigwell Cottage all set with a plan to visit while debates are in progress.
If you want to do this, it will be important to time your visit for dates when the Scottish Parliament is in session. You’ll find all the information you need on the visit and learn section of the Scottish Parliament’s website.
We’d recommend: taking a look at the poetry wall for some wonderful words about Scotland and Parliament. You’ll find it on the side of the Scottish Parliament which borders the Canongate section of the Royal Mile.
How to get there: we like the view of the Parliament set in the surrounding city scape which you get when you approach from Abbeyhill, so from Nether Craigwell turn left down Calton Road, keeping to the narrow pavement to the left of the road, then cross Calton Road just beyond Robertson’s Close at the end of the road where you will see the Palace of Holyroodhouse to the left, Salisbury Crags in the centre and the Scottish Parliament to your left. Just like this:
Visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse and The Queen’s Gallery
As you’ve seen from the photograph above, we’re only a short distance from The Palace of Holyroodhouse and The Queen’s Gallery.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the residence of the Royal Family when they are in Scotland, and the gardens of the Palace provide the venue for the garden parties when the Queen and other members of the Royal Family present awards to Scots to recognise their achievements. For those interested in the story of Mary Queen of Scots, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is an essential visit when in Edinburgh.
The Queen’s Gallery is a modern addition, providing a space in which to display selections from the wide-ranging collections owned by the Royal Family. Exhibitions change twice a year, so you should check the website for details of which exhibition will be on when you’re visiting.
If there’s a break in the rain (and let’s hope so), then we’d recommend a visit to the beautiful gardens surrounding the Palace.
How to get there from Craigwell Cottage: it’s just opposite the Scottish Parliament, so follow the directions above.
Visit the Scottish Poetry Library
One of only three specialist poetry libraries in the UK, and the only one housed in its own purpose-built building, the Scottish Poetry Library can be found in Crichton’s Close. It’s a warm and bright space to visit, and you can consult over 45,000 volumes as well as seeing the mysterious book sculptures or visiting one of their special exhibitions. It was designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects, and is an interesting building architecturally as well as poetically!
How to get there from Craigwell Cottage: head to the Royal Mile via Campbell’s Close, turn right and cross the Canongate at the pedestrian crossing at the Royal Mile Primary School. Keeping to the left hand side of the road, find Crichton’s Close by turning left at Starbuck’s.
Go shopping in the Canongate, Royal Mile
We could send you off to an indoor shopping mall, such as Princes Mall or the St James Centre, both of which are just a short welly walk away on even the rainiest day, but if you’re armed with an umbrella, we’re sure you won’t mind dodging the puddles for a browse in some of the quirky and unusual shops we have very close to us in the Canongate section of the Royal Mile.
Let us know if you find others which are of interest, but here are some to entice you:
Cadenheads Whisky – check their Facebook page for details of whisky tastings in local pubs.
Carson Clark Gallery (now in St Mary’s Street)
Ye Olde Christmas Shop – where it’s Christmas all year round
Cranachan and Crowdie – for fine Scottish food and gifts
Pinnies and Poppies – artisan shortbread baker in St Mary’s Street
Ragamuffin – with branches in Edinburgh and Skye
We hope that with this small selection of things to do when it rains in Edinburgh, you’ll find plenty of reasons to grab your brolly and get out to explore the immediate surroundings when you’re staying at Craigwell Cottage. If you haven’t yet booked your stay with us, then here’s how to book a weekend break in Edinburgh. For lots more ideas, we’ve created a Pinterest Board – CanonGREAT, Royal Mile, Edinburgh which has a map showing all the locations.
Address: 354 Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 2NE (on left hand side as you head towards Edinburgh Castle – Telephone: 0131 550 0441
Restaurant: http://www.amber-restaurant.co.uk (Telephone: 0131 477 8400)
Scotland is known the world over for its production of Scotch Whisky, which is a major export for Scotland. The main markets as of 2011 are USA, France and Singapore. (Source: BBC News)
If time is tight on your visit to Scotland and you don’t have time to visit one of the many distilleries around the country which offer tours, then a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience might prove an excellent alternative.
We have had guests at Craigwell Cottage who have come to Edinburgh to enjoy one of the Scotch Whisky Certificate Courses which are run monthly throughout the year, but you may choose to pay a visit for one of the three different tours which run frequently each day.
As a result of hearing about our guests’ experiences, and a chance meeting with Lara Dunston, a world travel blogger, I decided to pay a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience after the attraction had kindly hosted a Travel Tweetup in September 2011 and given me a couple of complimentary tickets to go on a tour.
At this point I have a confession to make. Despite being Scottish, I don’t think I have ever sampled neat whisky more than a few times in my life, and can confirm that these times have been restricted to tastes of my Orcadian Uncle’s favourite tipple, Highland Park, or as a liqueur in the form of Drambuie, which I do like over ice. And what’s more, I’ve committed whisky sacrilege by using up our supplies of whisky miniatures making our annual batch of mulled wine. I feel better for these confessions – you know that any comments on the tour and the tastings are not being done from any past history of enjoying or knowing anything about whisky.
As I was going on the tour to represent the point of view of ‘ignorance of the product’, I thought it would be a good idea to bring along someone whom I know enjoys the odd dram or two. I can tell he does because I’ve seen photographs on his daily photo blog on Blipfoto, where the subject often turns to which whisky he’s been sampling (whether a wee dram from a miniature; quaffing different samples in the pub or even taking his samples abroad and in my favourite blip of all time: a cold night on the Royal Mile).
So in early November 2011, Mr G and I set off to sample the delights of the Scotch Whisky Experience tour. I knew that I’d selected the right man for the job when he sent me a message the night before saying that he was practising!
We arrived at the Scotch Whisky Experience a few minutes early and took the opportunity to have a little browse in the well stocked shop by the entrance. There were plenty of gifts and cards of good quality to buy as well as whisky and whisky-related goods. My companion became quite animated at the sight of a range of whiskies which were from the ‘Flora and Fauna’ range. He explained these were small batches of single malts released by producers who normally do not retail single malts, but usually provide the component malts for the production of blended whiskies. Blends comprise over 90% of the global sales of whisky.
We were soon off on our tour, starting with a barrel ride where we learned about the ingredients which go into a single malt – barley, water and yeast. We did observe that there was perhaps a missed opportunity in this area to present photographs of the beauty of the Scottish countryside where the barley is grown.
Our next stop was to learn about the different regions of production throughout Scotland, and the characteristic flavours and scents pertinent to each region. In doing this we were able to identify which notes were most appealing to us and had the opportunity to select a sample to taste.
Mr G was soon armed with a peaty Islay malt, and I selected a floral Speyside. We moved to the room housing the Claive Vidiz collection – the world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky, where my companion was like a wee boy in a sweetie shop as he took some of the details of this vast collection. In fact we could quite easily have spent a lot longer in this area poring over the labels, bottles and different varieties.
We were instructed in how to taste and savour the whisky we’d selected, and I can report that the AnCnoc which I’d selected was wonderful – I’m completely won over with the idea that there is definitely a whisky to suit every palette. However, Mr G’s selection smelled altogether less appealing, although very distinctive. Even from yards away his selection was reeking like a fireman’s jacket, and I had real difficulty in understanding how he could actually swallow the stuff. But that’s the lesson learned, and a great opportunity to find out more about our national drink.
I’d definitely recommend a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience to visitors who want to understand more about whisky before making a purchase to take home, or who would be interested in whiling away a couple of hours sipping some additional samples by extending their tour – either formally, or informally in the well stocked bar of the Amber Restaurant where I could quite easily have spent the rest of the afternoon.
Other ideas to try:
- Glenkinchie Distillery (near Pencaitland, only 20 miles from Edinburgh)
- Scotch Whisky Association
- Rabbie’s Day Tour from Edinburgh
I’m excited to see that the Granturismo Project being undertaken by Lara Dunston and Terry Carter will culminate in the two globe-trotting travel writers spending two weeks in Edinburgh in January 2011. They’ve chosen a great property in Edinburgh’s historic New Town to base their stay.
Over the course of the last year, it’s been entertaining to dip in and out of their posts to see what their latest adventure or discovery has been as they make their way slowly around the Globe, staying in vacation rental homes in each of their destinations. Self-catering holiday property stays are favoured by more and more travellers who like the options to eat out or eat in, get up late, or get up early – in short to enjoy freedom to relax and enjoy slowing down and remembering to savour cultural and local highlights wherever they choose to spend their precious days away from normal routine.
I look forward to seeing what culinary discoveries they make when exploring Edinburgh – they’ll be able to buy a great range of Scotland’s best produce at the weekly Edinburgh Farmers’ Market, and I’m sure they’ll be sampling haggis, whisky and shortbread. A personal favourite would also be a trip to Clark’s Fishmongers in Musselburgh. Where else in Edinburgh do you think we should recommend they visit to source local delicacies?