It’s often the case that the best holidays happen almost by accident. This summer, as well as a brilliant last minute holiday in Pembrokeshire, we found ourselves on an impromptu trip with our dog to Edinburgh which was somewhere we’d not had any intention of going to at all.
We were supposed to be booking a last minute cheap and cheerful family trip to Spain using my husband’s Airmiles but as a result of complications over childcare we found ourselves without children, with a week booked off work and no responsibilities at all. Suddenly the thought of staying in an umremarkable, homogenous hotel on the outskirts of Barcelona without our dog lost its appeal and didn’t feel much of an adventure.
I’d had this niggle about Edinburgh in the back of my mind for a while. I’d planned to visit with a friend last year but the trip didn’t come to fruition and I’d been carrying the disappointment around with me since then. As I started researching trips the tax on the flights to Spain seemed more or less equivalent to two train tickets to Edinburgh and so after an 11th hour volte-face we found ourselves on our way to the north.
There is something about travelling by train that makes every journey feel like an adventure. Train travel definitely becomes part of the holiday rather than just the means of getting to it. Sitting in a car and spending hours upon hours on the motorway just isn’t the same. And starting your train journey from the one of the wonderfully atmospheric Victorian platforms at the newly renovated Kings Cross station makes the journey north feel even more special.
There are many ways of seeing landscape quite as good; and none more vivid, in spite of canting dilettantes, than from a railway train.Robert Louis Stevenson
The train journey to Edinburgh goes by in a flash, surprisingly and almost disappointingly quickly. Once York is left behind the scenery is stunning: the windswept Northumbrian coastline with tantalising glimpses of Holy Island and Lindisfarne, the old world charm of Durham railway station, the thrill of crossing the bridge that dissects the pretty border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed and the journey right through the heart of industrial Newcastle. My head fills with the possibility of new places to visit, future trips to plot and a resolution to explore more of this unfamiliar part of the world. It’s a fabulous train journey and I am slightly sorry to leave the train when we arrive at Edinburgh Waverley.
We climb out of the train and feel oddly that we are back in London. Classical Victorian station architecture, the hustle and bustle of a capital city and the incongruous black London cabs feel all too familiar. But as we drop down from Princes Street into Stockbridge comparisons with London seep away. The elegant, handsome, sombre townhouses and tenement buildings, the little enclosed garden squares and the soft rumble of the cobbles under car tyres feel quintessentially Edinburgh and we have most definitely arrived.
We stay in a lovely Airbnb apartment in a stupendous location right in the heart of beautiful Stockbridge. Our new home is decorated in the manner of Colefax & Fowler which fits right in with the traditional, genteel feel of the area. There is a little garden for our dog to explore and a covetable key to The Dean Gardens where we fall in the habit of taking our morning walks before breakfast.
We quickly realise that Edinburgh must be an incredibly easy city to live in. It’s not too big, not too small, and as well as being perfectly walkable is ridiculously dog friendly. We benefit enormously during our visit from the local knowledge of our friends who live there. We arrive the day after the festival ends (the reason we were able to find great accommodation with just a week’s notice) and after dinner trundle up to Inverleith Park to watch the cacophony of fireworks over the castle. It’s a splendid way to mark the start of our stay.
By the second day we’ve settled into a happy morning routine of coffee and Swedish cinnamon buns from Sodeberg, a walk through The Dean Gardens or along the Water of Leith, followed by brunch at The Pantry. Our evenings are spent wandering the pretty cobbled squares, the elegant circuses and the instafamous Circus Lane. We visit our friend Jessica Buckley’s drop-dead gorgeous interiors store and we eat in the absolutely wonderful Café St Honoré. I quickly begin to develop little fancies of upping sticks and moving to the city as it feels so easy to slot into life there, although I do have to keep reminding myself that the gloriously sunny weather is not typical.
Being accompanied by our dog means no visits to museums or galleries and so instead it’s a resolutely outdoor affair. As well as happily wandering the cobbled streets, we climb Arthur’s Seat to see the view and we also take little train trip down the coast to North Berwick to meet up with some friends. There’s something lovely about a holiday within a holiday and this pretty Victorian seaside town is well worth the 30 minute journey. Our dogs run along the beach together and we eat lunch outside in the baking sunshine at the Steampunk Coffee cafe.
After three short days it’s time to leave. I strangely feel as if Edinburgh has become our home and I am reluctant to leave. We have many friends in Edinburgh and I’ve often thought that if I had to live in any other city than London it would be there and this little adventure has done nothing to change my mind.
- Our lovely apartment (the apartment is not dog-friendly, we were given a special exception)
- Café St Honoré
- The Pantry, Stockbridge
- Jessica Buckley Interiors
- Steampunk Coffee, North Berwick
- Sodeberg, Stockbridge
- Our Two Together Railcard saved us far more than the £30 cost in just this one journey.
- We took advantage of the brilliant £20 First Class upgrades, so worth it on a journey of this length.
- Sit on the right hand side of the train on the way up for the best views.
- North Berwick is just a 30 minute trip from Waverley and makes a really nice day trip
In the last year I have run six Bleak House Experiences and they have transformed my business and my life. Here is a recap and celebration of the first wonderful year.
In July I walked with a friend for three days from hut to hut in the Dolomites. We found an enchanting land of wild flower meadows, rock gardens, marmots and cows with bells and had the most wonderful adventure.