Tag Archives: Edinburgh

What to do in Edinburgh, the best Edinburgh attractions and places to stay in Edinburgh.

grassmarket hotel dandy room

Review of the Grassmarket Hotel Edinburgh

I stayed at the Grassmarket Hotel in Edinburgh for one night in November 2013 on a complimentary basis. The hotel is at a central location, close to Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile.

grassmarket hotel exterior

The exterior of the Grassmarket Hotel

The receptionist who checked me in was charming. I was allocated a double room on the first floor. I liked the view from my room. The secondary double glazing shut out most of the exterior noise.

grassmarket hotel view from room

View from my room at the Grassmarket  Hotel

I thought that my room was quirky and fun. There was a large map of central Edinburgh on the wall opposite the bathroom door.

grassmarket hotel map in room

Edinburgh map in room at the Grassmarket Hotel

The wall above the desk had Dandy comic front pages as wallpaper. The red kettle, teapot and colourful mugs all added to the upbeat atmosphere. There were a couple of single-serving ground coffee packs, herbal teas and Tunnock’s Teacakes. The bathroom was very swish with dark tiles and a walk in shower with a rainhead fitting. The towels were fluffy and the toiletries lovely. The bed was very comfortable, with excellent quality linen and pillows.

Although the WiFi in my room was reasonable on the afternoon of checking in, it became awful that evening and the next morning. I didn’t want to go down to the lobby to work, so I connected to mobile broadband with my USB modem. I was awakened at 7am by the TV in the neighbouring room. I don’t know if the occupants had the volume high or if the TV was on the adjoining wall, meaning that the wall acted like an amplifier.

grassmarket hotel room

My room at the Grassmarket Hotel Edinburgh

I was told at check-in that breakfast was served in Biddy’s Bar, the pub next door, until 12.00. I went down for breakfast around 10am. There were a few items out buffet-style, some melon, cereals, ham and cheese that looked a bit dried out, fruit juice, bread to make your own toast with and croissants.  I ordered the bacon, French Toast and maple syrup.

When there was no sign of my cooked breakfast after around 20 minutes, I went over to the bar to enquire when it would arrive. That member of staff said I’d need to speak to someone else. I spotted the member of staff who had taken my order and went over to ask her. She told me that, when she asked me if I wanted to order a cooked breakfast, I said I didn’t want anything. I was taken aback by this response which was shifting the blame to me. I just left the pub, as I wanted to check out soon and wasn’t prepared to beg for my breakfast.

There must have been some misunderstanding/confusion about my order, mistakes do happen, but the responses from both staff were very unsatisfactory and inappropriate.

In my opinion, the first member of staff I approached should have said she “would find out what was happening”, instead of taking the stance that it was nothing to do with her. The member of staff who I thought had taken my order should have said, “sorry about that, what did you order, I’ll get it for you as soon as possible”.

In summary, I was left feeling very ambivalent about the Grassmarket Hotel. I loved the location and most aspects of the room, but the poor WiFi, the noise from the adjacent room and the issues over breakfast spoiled my stay.

Keep it real reviewsKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

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Review of Quality Hotel Edinburgh Airport

We stayed at the Quality Hotel Edinburgh Airport, now the Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Airport, for one night in December 2013. I booked the room through the Superbreak site. It cost £86 for a double room including full breakfast and up to 15 days parking. Unfortunately, we couldn’t leave our car in the mono-blocked hotel car park, but had to put it in the long-term car park opposite the hotel, which was icy and full of potholes.

quality hotel edinburgh airport exterior

The hotel is re-branding to the Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Airport in January 2014. The lobby was being renovated during our stay.

quality hotel edinburgh airport lobby

Our first floor room felt as if it had been recently refurbished; the downside of that was that there was some residual smell from the redecorating, probably due to the room not being aired enough. The bathroom was lovely with a large shower. It was disappointing that the water flow varied in temperature. There was a neat little shelved area with the tea and coffee making facilities leaving the desk space free. The office chair by the desk was so comfy, I wished that I had one like that at home.

quality hotel edinburgh airport

Although the hotel offered free WiFi the signal in our room was awful, so I had to use my USB modem. It didn’t feel as though the bed was new, it was a bit soft and lumpy. The duvet wasn’t large enough to cover us both properly. We could hear planes taking off through the double glazing. With decent sound insulation, e.g. as used at the Citizen M hotel at Amsterdam Airport, it is possible to have a quiet room close to an airport.

We had breakfast in the Auberge Restaurant. There was a continental buffet with cooked breakfast to order. However, when the hotel re-brands to Holiday Inn Express, it’ll be a standard Holiday Inn Express breakfast on offer.

In summary, the Quality Hotel Edinburgh Airport was a mixed bag. I liked the room size and decor and the price was reasonable.  But they really should’ve aired the revamped rooms before letting to guests, fitted a decent thermostat to the shower, bought new beds and some larger duvet covers and filled in the potholes in the long-term car park.

Review of the Macdonald Kinloch Rannoch HotelKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

royal observatory east tower dome

The Royal Observatory Edinburgh

I finally visited the Royal Observatory Edinburgh during the Doors Open Days in September 2013. I reckoned that the Observatory would be one of the most popular venues, so we set out from Berwick upon Tweed early with the intention of getting to the Observatory by 10.30 at the latest. We arrived soon after 10am; it was easy to find a parking space and to get tickets for first show at the Starlab Planetarium.

royal observatory exterior

The exterior of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh

In the few minutes before the Starlab Planetarium I posed for an infrared photo in the Library. The hottest parts are displayed in red, so I suppose that the red area around my forehead relates to brain activity, while my nose, eyebrows and cheeks were a cooler white colour.

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Infrared photo of me

The Starlab Planetarium was in a domed indoor blow-up tent. The presenter Ally gave an excellent overview of the different seasonal constellations. It was so funny when a young child asked Ally how long it’d take to travel to Mallorca by rocket.

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Copper dome of the East Tower at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh

There’s a large telescope in the East Tower.

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Telescope in the East Tower

royal observatory telescope

Telescope in the East Tower

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Information board in the East Tower

The views from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre over the city and the Forth Estuary were amazing.

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View of Salisbury Crags from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre

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View of Edinburgh Castle from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre

The Deep Space Gallery was accessed from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre. There were rocket making workshops and meteorite handling sessions taking place in the Gallery.

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Light pollution map of Europe in the Deep Space Gallery

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Information about the seasonal constellations in the Deep Space Gallery

Normally individuals can only visit the Royal Observatory Edinburgh during monthly Public Astronomy Evenings. Places need to be booked in advance. The cost is £4 per adult, £3 for concessions and children, payable on entry by cash or cheque.

 

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Photo Tour of the Museum of Fire in Edinburgh

We visited the Museum of Fire in Edinburgh during the Doors Open Days in September 2013. I’ve walked past the building in Lauriston Place on many occasions, assuming that it was still an operational fire station.

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Me at the Museum of Fire

Edinburgh was the first city in Europe to form a fire brigade, the Edinburgh Fire Establishment in 1824.

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1824 Edinburgh fire engine at the Museum of Fire

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Me in the former control room at the Museum of Fire

The Museum of Fire is home to fire engines from all the UK.

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Fire engine from Huntingdon in the Museum of Fire

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Row of firefighter’s helmets at the Museum of Fire

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1901 fire engine from Tullis Russel paper mill in Fife at the Museum of Fire

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Long ladder stretches up the stairwell at the Museum of Fire

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Models of fire fighting appliances at the Museum of Fire

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South Eastern Fire Brigade engine

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Fire engine from Dunbar at the Museum of Fire

The Museum of Fire is staffed by volunteers and is usually open 10.00 -15.00 weekdays, but it’s better to phone in advance to check opening hours on 0131 228 2401.

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Doors Open Days in Edinburgh

We visited some of the Doors Open Days venues in Edinburgh during the last weekend of September 2013. It was really hard to draw up an intinerary as there were so many interesting venues, predominantly open between 10am – 4pm.

The Royal Observatory Edinburgh

My priority was to see the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, as I’d never been there. We planned to arrive soon after the 10am opening time to find parking outside the Observatory and secure tickets for the Starlab Planetarium.

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East Tower of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh

The views over Edinburgh from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre are wonderful.

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View of Arthur’s Seat from the Rooftop at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.

We then headed in the city centre. I reckoned that it was too time-consuming to visit more venues on the periphery of Edinburgh. It was easy to find free parking in the city centre on Sunday. We parked close to the Fire Museum and walked around the rest of the venues.

Museum of Fire Edinburgh

The Museum of Fire  has a collection of fire engines from all over the UK.

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Fire engine from Fraserburgh in the Museum of Fire

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1901 fire engine from Tullis Russel paper mill in Fife at the Museum of Fire

Edinburgh College of Art

The Edinburgh College of Art has been located in Lauriston Place since 1906. I’ve been in the modern wing during the Degree Show. There were guided tours of the college, but we had a wander around on our own.

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 Exterior of the Edinburgh College of Art

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The 1960s Boardroom at the Edinburgh College of Art

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Cupola at the Edinburgh College of Art

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Exhibition at the Edinburgh College of Art

B+B Edinburgh

B+B Edinburgh is a boutique Bed & Breakfast hotel in the fomer home of John Richtie Findlay, owner of the Scotsman newspaper.

B+B Edinburgh stained glass window

Stained glass window at B+B Edinburgh

B+B view

View towards Dean Village from B+B Edinburgh

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Cloud lampshade in the foyer of B+B Edinburgh

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Embellished ceiling at B+B Edinburgh

B+B breakfast room

Another unusual lampshade in the Breakfast Room

All in all, we had a really interesting time on the Doors Open Days in Edinburgh. Next year I’m planning to book a hotel room in Edinburgh on the Saturday night, so I can get around more of the venues.

Read more of our articles on what to do in Edinburgh.

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An Evening Stroll Along Portobello Prom in Edinburgh

We had a stroll along Portobello Prom in Edinburgh one evening in May. It had been a pretty showery day. The mix of dark clouds and evening produced some beautiful colour combinations.

The pillars in the Community Garden were taken from the garden of Argyle House (now a nursing home) in Portobello’s Hope Lane

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The impressive pillars in the Community Garden

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Looking back along Portobello Beach

 

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edinburgh national monument

Going Greek on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill

A Greek style acropolis sits atop Calton Hill in Edinburgh. The 1829 National Monument which commemorates Scottish soldiers and sailors who died in the Napoleonic Wars, took its inspiration from the Parthenon in Athens. Many assumed that the structure was left unfinished due to lack of funds, but evidently the architects, William Cockerell and William Playfair, plans only portray the current twelve columns.

If you’re visiting Edinburgh when the weather is clear and dry you should take a walk, or drive, up Calton Hill for a closer look at the National Monument and the views of Edinburgh.

edinburgh national monument

The National Monument on Calton Hill Edinburgh

View toward Edinburgh Castle from Calton Hill

View from Calton Hill towards Edinburgh Castle

The National Monument isn’t the only landmark on Calton Hill; you can climb the Nelson Monument for even better views of the surrounding city. The Nelson monument, completed in 1815, marks Admiral Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805; appropriately it’s shaped like an inverted telescope.

Nelson Monument & National Monument on Calton Hill Edinburgh

National Monument & Nelson Monument on Calton Hill Edinburgh

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jurys inn edinburgh

Review of Jurys Inn Edinburgh

I won a two night stay for two people including breakfast in any Jurys Inn hotel in the UK in a business card prize draw. I redeemed my prize at the three star Jurys Inn Edinburgh. The hotel’s very centrally located at the side of Waverley railway station. The hotel’s exterior is a bit of an eyesore, but the glass frontage cleverly reflects Calton Hill, which gives the building a bit of character.

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Exterior of Jurys Inn Edinburgh

It’s quite strange that you have to exit reception and cross an access road to reach the lifts to get to your room. We were allocated room 517 at the front of the hotel, which had a view over the station, its adjoining car park and over to Calton Hill. Althought the windows were double glazed, we could still hear a lot of exterior noise from passing traffic and trains coming in and out of the railway station.

View to Calton Hill from our room at Jurys Inn Edinburgh

View from our roon at Jurys Inn Edinburgh

Our room was a triple with a double and a single bed. The room was a pretty good size; often when I sit at the desk in a hotel room there’s very little space to get past me, but that wasn’t an issue at Jurys Inn Edinburgh. There was a fair amount of storage space with a built in luggage rack which could easily accommodate my medium suitcase and some open shelving and hanging space. Jurys Inn are still charging £10 a day for in-room internet access, which is really annoying as I couldn’t get a decent signal with my Three mobile broadband dongle in our room.

Jurys Inn Edinburgh triple rom

Our room at Jurys Inn Edinburgh

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Day Trips from Edinburgh by Car

I reckon that if you want to explore the countryside, small towns and villages around Edinburgh in Scotland, you really need a car. Public transport can be expensive and/or infrequent. Having your own transport makes you much more flexible with timings and if you are enjoying a location/attration, you can stay for longer than planned. Plus you can carry a lot more gear with you e.g. a picnic and change of clothes for the four seasons in a day which you may encounter.

highland cows and calves at paxton house in the scottish borders

Highland cows & calves at Paxton House in the Scottish Borders

Here are my suggested itineraries for three day trips by car from Edinburgh.

Fife

The dog-head shaped Kingdom of Fife lies north of Edinburgh. You’ll  need to cross the clearly signed Forth Road Bridge to get there. A few miles after the Bridge, you can turn off into Dunfermline to visit Dunfermline Abbey and Pittencrieff Park.

Photo Tour of Dunfermline, Scotland

The Glen in Pittencrieff Park

From Dunfermline, head east on the A921 coastal road to visit the beaches in Aberdour and Burntisland.

Burntisland beach

Burntisland Beach

Then continue along the A921 to Kirkcaldy to pick up the A92 dual carriageway. A few miles north of Glenrothes, join the A912 heading for Falkland. Just outside the village is a single track road which takes you half way up Falkland Hill. It’s not too arduous to climb to the peak for wonderful views. There are plenty of picnic beanches and toilets at the car park, so it’s a good spot for a picnic.  If you’re interested in Scottish history you can visit Falkland Palace.

Cheats Guide to Climbing a Scottish Peak: Falkland Hill

View from Falkland Hill

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