Asih Wulansari was amongst the very first followers of Travel Junkie Diary and we are so thankful! Her lust for travel is visible in all her Instagram posts and pictures. A never read before detailed diary in Scotland! A place which is on our bucket list and somewhere I personally dream of living in and our first diary in Scotland here on Travel Junkie Diary!
Here is her Diary
Destination Scotland, Edinburgh
I always wanted to travel on my own, wandering the streets alone, rub shoulders with total strangers. But never had the opportunity to do so, not that I complain since having someone to travel with you is a blessing (one of my favorite travel partners is my Mom!), until… I went for my Scotland trip.
It was ideal. I had enough time on my own to explore the city with the help of Google Maps and went out to celebrate the night with my friends who live in Edinburgh.
Stayed in Exploring hotels whenever I travel always excites me. But apart from allowing me to travel (partly) on my own, this trip gave me a different experience of staying in an apartment for a change. No, not the Airbnb kind, but at my friend’s apartment in Rankeillor Street which she very kindly offered me to stay, along with her flatmates. I have to conclude, after almost one complete week of wandering about Edinburgh, the flat is strategically located. This translates to just 15-20mins walk to Old Town and the same distance to Princes Street or should we say the ‘New’ Town.
Although if I have to choose for an accommodation, it would be between The Glasshouse boutique hotel or the small and quirky Grassmarket Hotel.
In your suitcase
I have been told before my trip by a fellow Scottish colleague that although I am going to Scotland during summer time, it can be easily compared to the coldest winter in Dubai – if not more. So as cautious as I am, my huge trunk can thankfully fit three kinds of jackets (a short waist jacket, a thin long coat and a thick coat for the expected cold nights). As additional precaution, I also packed a hat and a raincoat, completed with a foldable umbrella that I bought after I reached Edinburgh. The rest would be 2 pieces dress that I can easily mix and match, lots of leggings, comfy boots and one pair of heels for girls’ night out.
People who have traveled with me would have known, plus some who are expected to travel with me soon, that I am very particular and detailed when it comes to travel itineraries. Typically the day-to-day schedule is detailed to breakfast, lunch, dinner plans to feed my passion for food, and the attractions / artistic venues / shops that complete the itinerary in between, with some plan B and optional destinations.
The majority of my ‘routines’ in Edinburgh starts with walking towards the day’s destination, mostly museum or gallery, and pick-up a snack to go from some local eatery that constitutes as my breakfast. The destination itself usually offers not just breathtaking view / collection, but also allows visitors to dine at its one of a kind location. For example my day at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art filled with macaroon and a quick coffee before I took the shuttle bus to Scottish National Portrait Gallery where at the end of the tour I had my afternoon meal at the museum’s own restaurant, with melodramatic scene and breathtaking view of the Princes Street Gardens, before and after the rain… Should I go on?
The route back to the apartment post the day’s adventure was carefully selected so I can pass by a particular café which I want to try and grab coffee / ice cream from. Evenings are colourful with dinner plans to try out various cuisines, followed with lounges/pubs hopping. As everyone told me before I went to Edinburgh, the Scottish people that I met were very warm and helpful throughout my journey. It was never difficult to ask my way around nor strike a conversation; bottom line as a tourist you would feel more than welcomed.
Dined in This is an easy answer, although Edinburgh has quite a few good restaurants. Kanpai would be my pick. It is a small Japanese restaurant, which is always packed and requires reservation in advance. The food was exceptionally good and fulfilling selection of classic Japanese food, wrapped with the unexpected Eastern hospitality that planted its customs deep inside Edinburgh’ street.
For the non-Japanese cuisine lovers, I would recommend Indigo Yard. The ambience is very cool with great greenery infused interior and good food. I went there for lunch but it turns out that it is quite busy during the night too!
Allow me to list down some names for coffee lovers out there. Edinburgh has a good number of small cafes and coffee shops, such as Brew Lab with its good range of beans for the serious coffee connoisseur, Peter’s Yard, Project Coffee, and The Elephant House – which is famous as the place of inspiration for J.K. Rowling.
What to expect? What to do? Not to do? Religion/culture? And what influenced you the most in that trip.
Expect some rain and unexpected cold weather even during the summer in Edinburgh, although I would say that June is amongst the best times to visit Edinburgh. You can even get away without jacket during the warmer days. Expect warmth from the Scottish people, which makes up for the cold weather.
I am tempted to give a long to do list, but here are the carefully shortlisted activities:
– Edinburgh Castle: at the end of the day, we are tourists. And how can an adventure in Scotland be enough without visiting the most popular destination?
– Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: the good news is there is a complimentary shuttle bus that regularly commutes between the two distant museums.
– Grassmarket: it is an area of small shops, restaurants/pubs, with wonderfully structured streets in different levels. Reminds me a little bit of the streets in Lisbon.
– Princes Street Gardens and The Meadows: green, beauty, and more green. For us UAE residents, should I emphasize more of this appeal?
– Royal Botanic Garden: more aesthetic greenery with its Victorian style glasshouses and rock garden.
– Stockbridge Market: this pop-up market is a regular every Sunday and a favorite amongst local residents. Although small in size, but is rich in variety. Each stall has absolutely different thing to offer. And the quality of food / goods made my 45mins walk there totally worth it.
– Scottish Parliament Building: the controversial building with its unique architectural shapes and symbolic forms.
– Highlands Tour: spare one day for a tour up to the North of Scotland. Indeed Edinburgh itself has charming nature, but you will find more scenic beauty at the Highlands. My route includes lunch at a castle (yes, a real castle with Duke & Duchess who actually live there), a visit to a small farm to take dozen pictures of the famous Highland Coo or Cow with their long forelocks and thick shaggy hair, and enjoying the summer breeze at Loch Lomond.
– Glasgow Trip: with just over an hour distance from Edinburgh to Glasgow via train, I don’t see any reason not to do a day trip there. I was accompanied with three friends from Edinburgh and another two that came from London. In short, the Glasgow to do list includes lunch at the magical garden of Ubiquitous Chip restaurant – my Indonesian friends and I agreed that this place reminds us of Bali, the famous Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and ended with a stroll at Merchant City before we settled at a restaurant for dinner.
If I had one or two extra days in Edinburgh (my trip ended in exactly a week), I would definitely do the following:
– Climb up to the top of Arthur’s Seat: a dormant volcano that promises the best view of the city.
– National Museum of Scotland
– Rosslyn Chapel – made famous by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code
– And perhaps try out one of the ghost tours
My shopping craving level drops drastically whenever I travel. I am more focused on the experiences, pictures and the need to plant the memory in my head. Having said that, there are a couple of shops that captured my attention:
– Small boutique shops in Grassmarket area: if you’re into one of a kind vintage items, contemporary art, then this is your playground.
– Whittard of Chelsea: exotic flavours for tea lovers. Oh and they have cool tea sets too!
– Oliver Bonas: although I tried to avoid attire-shopping spree during my travel, this retail shop was able to trigger my cravings for some good quality clothing, accessories, and even furniture items.
Mode of Travel I got there with British Airways, which includes one stop at London Heathrow Airport. Overall it was a good experience.
This trip answers my curious need to try out as a lone traveler. And when I was on my own, I gained the total freedom of exploration, pay more attention to the roads (there will be much lesser chance of knowing my way around the Edinburgh streets if I was always spoiled by the company of others) – although being lost sometimes gives you the opportunity to find unexpected new places, ended up meeting new people along the way, and more importantly, perhaps in between the lost and found of ways, it gave me the time to think and know myself more, and come up with more effective ways to deal with things and situations.
I would never expect how this short one-week trip can contribute to a fresher mind, such a memorable adventure and even bring distant old friends closer than ever!