February 2010- Edinburgh

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Edinburgh military tattoo with Edinburgh castle in the background

Edinburgh military tattoo with Edinburgh castle in the background

Organising a girlie weekend is usually a spontaneous event that comes from a sudden urge amongst us ladies to leave the country.  The question is where to go without spending hours on a plane and wasting valuable time that could be spent in spas, shopping and sightseeing.

Just a short hop (a forty minute flight) across the water, the historic city of Edinburgh will satisfy all of those needs and the whiskey isn’t half bad either.

Your spa requirements will be met by staying at The Scotsman Hotel and Spa on North Bridge, just around the corner from Princes Street and the Royal Mile. The hotel housed the Scotsman newspaper for nearly 100 years.  Sympathetic restoration of the hotel has ensured that many of the original features of the publishing house have remained intact including the beautiful wooden panelling of the reception room which is now the bar and brasserie and a marble staircase underneath a glorious full length stained glass window.  The old press room was housed in the lower ground floor but today the hum of exercise bikes has replaced the hum of printing presses and a one hour workout session with Jessica (who has run the Dublin marathon) will leave you exhausted but primed for a ‘Top to Toe  Signature’ treatment in one of their seven treatment rooms.  Top to Toe includes a facial and something called a Marine massage whose movements are supposed to emulate the lapping of waves.  Whether they lapped or not was neither here nor there as I found myself drifting into that light doze that comes from the luxury of having my muscles massaged.  I nearly cried when my time was up.

Shopping in Edinburgh is more eclectic that most other cities.  On the one hand you have the Princes and Georges Street area which has the usual mix of high street names and designer shops and also Jenners, Edinburgh most famous department store which has been open since 1838.  On the other hand there is the Grassmarket area where you can browse through some of Edinburgh’s more quirky and interesting shops.  For all things Scottish (cashmere, shortbread and the ubiquitous haggis) try the Royal Mile.  There is a plethora of retail experiences here all shrouded in tartan and reeking of whiskey.

One of Scotland most famous landmarks is just up the road.  Edinburgh Castle clings perilously to a cliff face affording spectacular views across the Firth of Forth to Fife on the other side,  although this was disputed by an American lady in our group, wearing a tartan beret on her head like a cupcake, who pointed to Fife and asked, “Isn’t that Norway?”

Bones found at the castle suggest there has been a stronghold here for three thousand years but some of the buildings only date back a mere thousand years. The Scottish Crown Jewels are housed here alongside a nondescript rock known as the Stone of Destiny or the Scottish Coronation throne.  This stone was thieved by the English and kept in Westminster for 700 years before being returned to Edinburgh in 1996.  It will be lent to Prince Charles should he become King, although I suspect this time the Scots will ask for a receipt.

 

 

For an even better view of Edinburgh visit the Camera Obscura located in a wonderful Victorian rooftop chamber on the Royal Mile.  The Camera Obscura will show you live, moving images of the whole of Edinburgh projected onto a viewing table through a giant periscope which will also give you a chance to ‘interfere’ with people as they walk around the city (you’ll understand when you visit).   Behind the building there is an open space which used to contain Nor Loch.  Nor Loch was an open sewer and when the good citizens of Edinburgh decided to build the New Town during the Georgian era, they decided to drain the Loch.  It took twenty years what with all the running up and down the hill with buckets but the most interesting thing about the Loch was the three hundred bodies found at the bottom.  These were mostly women who were accused of being witches and had their legs and thumbs tied together after undergoing the old ‘float or sink’ trial. – float and you are guilty, sink and you are innocent.  Unfortunately, the side effect of sinking was also drowning.

Back at the Scotsman Hotel the only question I was asked was whether I would like a hot whiskey in front of the blazing fire.  Now, what more could a girl ask for?

 

  • For a quick round up of Edinburgh take a hop on hop off bus tour.  There are great views from the top of the bus and the tour takes around an hour.
  • The Scottish Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile is a tour with a difference in that you actually get to ride around in a barrel rather than just look at one.
  • The Literary Pub tour (www.edinburghliterarypubtour.co.uk) will tell you everything about Edinburgh’s literary past as you stroll through pubs and the old town and is great fun.
  • n Despite the influx of visitors due to the popularity of the Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel has still maintained it dignity.  The sheer beauty of its delicate carvings is breathtaking.  The No 15 bus will bring you to the village of Roslin.
  • The Royal Botanic Gardens was established in 1670, attracts 660,000 visitors each year and is acknowledged to be one of the finest botanical gardens in the world.
  • The Stand Comedy Club is open seven nights a week and features comedians from all over the world.
  • Daily flights from Dublin to Edinburgh with www.aerlingus.com.
  • For information on visiting Edinburgh this winter and great accommodation offers, see www.visitscotland.com/whiteinvite or call the national booking and information line 0044 845 2255121

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