This itinerary of how to spend a girls’ weekend in Edinburgh got way too long, so here’s Day One.
I have been begging my friends to come visit me in Europe. It’s no big deal,: leave your family, take off work, fly across the ocean at great expense, and come play with me! Luckily, my dear friend, Jen, took me up on it. (And there are more buddy visits to come!)
Jen and I met when we were assigned to share a dorm room at Humboldt State…a couple years ago. Since then, we have worked in a cave in Sequoia National Park, lived together in Missoula, vacationed in Sedona, become Junior Rangers in several National Parks and Monuments, and had many other adventures together. Her Scotland visit was our first international extravaganza and it has me thinking we need to do more.
Jen and I spent a few days exploring castles and the Highlands before wrapping up our trip in Edinburgh. We had so much fun, that I wanted to share our itinerary with you. Now you can plan your own girls’ weekend in Edinburgh.
We spent one day exploring the Old City and another in the New City and Stockbridge. While a lot of girls’ weekend itineraries include shopping and nail shellacking, you will find those activities absent from my Edinburgh itinerary. We wanted to get out there and explore! You will find lots of eating, walking, and flowers.
Before you head to Scotland, read these ten tips for your first Scotland trip.
Jen and I stayed at the Radisson Blu on the Royal Mile as it was conveniently located. They kept messing up our room – we walked in on a surprised couple when given the wrong room and key. Oops! Then several other minor mishaps took place, but all in all it was a great hotel. There are also a ton of other places to stay. Click through the link below to find the best for you.
Breakfast at Hendersons Holyrood
There are four Hendersons around Edinburgh, but this one is right near the Holyrood Palace and has seating for 45. You can also take away. The food is vegetarian–mostly vegan–and so good you meat eaters won’t miss a thing. I recommend the breakfast burrito: tofu + spinach + mushrooms + veggie haggis + avocado + chili jam. Yum! Goes well with tea, coffee, or one of their juices.
Hendersons Holyrood, 67 Holyrood Rd, EH8 8AU, 0131 557 1606, Monday to Saturday: 7:30am – 5pm, Sunday: 10am – 4pm
Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Holyrood Palace is a just a five minute walk from your breakfast stop. This is the Scottish residence of the Royal Family, but you can walk through and see how they live when they aren’t there. You’ll see the Royal Apartments, Mary, Queen of Scots Chamber, the Abbey Ruins, and my favorite, the gardens. The audio tour is included in the entrance fee and tells the tale of the Holyrood history and how it is used today. You’ll also learn that it is pronounced “holly rude.”
Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, The Royal Mile, EH8 8DX, £12.50 for adults, check the site for hours and closures.
Royal Mile Self-Guided Walking Tour
There are tons of guided walking tours in Edinburgh; some of them are even free. Jen and I wanted to be on our own schedule, so we opted to download a walking tour of the Royal Mile from GPSMYCITY.
The Royal Mile is the name given to a succession of streets forming the main thoroughfare of the Old Town. We started at the Holyroodhouse and walked uphill. At each stop, Jen would read aloud and we learned a little something. Basically, I had a guided tour.
I know I said there was no shopping on this women’s weekend in Edinburgh, but if you want to shop, you can pop in and out of the stores on the Royal Mile while doing the sefl-guided walking tour. We were both drooling over the Harris Tweed handbags and Jen got one! You can also buy them on Amazon—here’s the one I dream of!
The Royal Mile ends at the Edinburgh Castle. We opted not to go in because we have seen so many castles. Also, I think Stirling Castle is better and less crowded if you want to see a restored castle. However, seeing the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny is cool. And, I had already been there. You decide.
Lunch at the Witchery by the Castle
Near top of the Royal Mile is The Witchery. We couldn’t go to this city known for its witchy heritage and not eat at a place where witches would eat. Andrew Lloyd Webber asked, “Is this the prettiest restaurant ever?” At least that’s what it says on their website.
This is a restaurant I really wanted to go to, but wouldn’t take my kids. Not that they couldn’t handle it, it’s just pretty pricey for people who won’t totally appreciate it. Jen and I appreciated it.
We ate in the Secret Garden, which is filled with light and plants. The room is adorned with ancient oak, stone, tapestries, and vines, and opens onto a secluded terrace. The main dining room looks lovely, too, but may be more suitable for dinner.
There are so many things to do in Edinburgh in two days, but make sure you get to one of the fun eateries.
The Witchery by the Castle, Castlehill, The Royal Mile, EH1 2NF, 0131 225 2513,
We failed to make reservations, so we did not enjoy any spa services. We were looking forward to relaxing at our hotel, taking a sauna, and getting facials. Alas, do not make the same mistake we did. There are plenty of places to get a massage or soak in a thermal pool, including the Melrose Spa at the Radisson Blu, One Spa at the Sheraton, or Floatarium Day Spa. Did I say to make a reservation?
If you are feeling active or don’t have a spa reservation, you can hike to Arthur’s Seat and get a bird’s eye view of the city. Arthur’s Seat is the top of one of two extinct volcanoes in Edinburgh (the castle is atop the other). Depending where you start, it is about three to four mile round trip.
You can get specific walking directions and a map from Walking Highlands or walk down to the Parliament building and head up the hill. Within the park you can also visit the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel – a 15th century medieval chapel, Salisbury Crags – a series of 150 foot cliff faces dominating Edinburgh’s skyline, as well as Duddingston Loch – a fresh water loch rich in bird life.
Sidenote: I love the Walking Highlands site and used it for almost every walk I took in Scotland. I even found info on a walk in Germany we are planning.
After a late lunch and an active day (with more to come!), we decided to grab some yummy salads and treats from Pret a Manger and eat in our hotel room. Jen and I both fell in love with this place in London and don’t need much of an excuse to indulge in their natural foods. There is a shop less than a block from our hotel, so it was an easy choice.
Pret a Manger, 30 North Bridge, EH1 1QG, 0131 226 2861
Graveyard Tour of Edinburgh
It’s cheesy, it’s silly, it’s a little scary, but we had to do one of the creepy night tours Edinburgh is famous for. We chose City of the Dead since they’ve been around a long time. Plus, they are the only ones that go in the Covenanter’s Prison (it has been closed to the public due to poltergeist activity. I am not kidding.)
Our guide, whose name may have been John, was both terrifying and funny. We went on the Double Dead Tour (their name, not mine) and went into the South Bridge Vaults as well as the Covenanter’s Prison in Greyfriars Graveyard. We also learned a lot about the unseemly history of Edinburgh.
Highly recommended. Be sure to go after dark for maximum creepiness and take a friend you can grab onto. Jen accidentally grabbed an unsuspecting lady standing next to her while I was screaming.
City of the Dead Tours, £14 for adults, buy tickets online, meet in front of St. Giles on the Royal Mile. Do not expect a warm welcome even though your guide repeatedly says, “make yourselves comfortable.”
Things to Do in Edinburgh (more posts!)
- Things To Do on a Girls Weekend in Edinburgh, Day One: Eat vegan food, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Royal Mile self-guided tour, Witchery by the Castle, Spa Services, Hike Arthur’s Seat, Graveyard Tour
- Things To Do on a Girls Weekend in Edinburgh, Day Two: Best Brunch in Edinburgh, Royal Botanic Garden, Water of Leith Walkway, Dean Village, Panda Speakeasy
- Things To Do With Kids in Edinburgh: Free Walking Tour of Edinburgh, Harry Potter Walking Tour, Edinburgh Castle, hold and owl, J.K. Rowling Café, National Museum of Scotland, parks in Edinburgh, Dynamic Earth, Hikes in Edinburgh, climb the Scott Tower, Camera Obscura, Real Mary King’s Close
If you are thinking about visiting Scotland’s “other city” check out this guide to Mackintosh architecture in Glasgow.
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