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Edinburgh – We love thee, let us count the ways!

What to do for our fifth wedding anniversary? Behold, a home exchange offer in Edinburgh, Scotland appears in our inbox. You should have seen Sheila wagging her tail. Five years ago, we went to Scotland for our honeymoon (also a home exchange, our first) and LOVED IT! No discussion required – let’s GO!

We already knew we love Scotland, especially her stunning coastline, glorious green munros, powerful history and gracious people. We’re not generally city folk, but we knew that Edinburgh is near interesting places to explore so we figured it would be a great base. We had no idea how much we would fall in love with the city itself. Edinburgh ranks high in several lists of “Top 10 Cities” and now we know why. Friends visited us from southern England and Austria and they all loved it, too.

Sweet 16 reasons we loved being in LOVE in Edinburgh

1. Walkable City Sites – Edinburgh is very walkable – and perfect for hand-holding. It’s clean, friendly, and well-maintained with lots of interesting architecture, history, parks, shopping and pubs. Grassmarket Street and Princes Park are excellent examples. After 5 1/2 weeks in Thailand having to be careful of ANY public affection, holding hands while exploring was a treat!

2. Calton Hill – A great place for a short hike to see a few monuments (in strangely diverse styles) to Robert Burns, John Playfair and others, plus snap some panoramic photos of the city skyline.

3. Edinburgh Castle – A huge castle dominating the city skyline that can be seen for miles. Loads of interesting history here. This statue is the Royal Scots Grays Memorial.

4. Royal Botanical Gardens – Very large, diverse, and well done with a nice gift shop and friendly staff.

5. Arthur’s Seat – An ancient collapsed volcano at the edge of the city with fun hikes, long and short, easy and strenuous, all with views of the city and countryside. Added bonus – wildlife (including lots of snails).

6. Edinburgh Pubs – This may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or ale), but we enjoyed sampling the variety of pubs, for their buzz, atmosphere, friendliness, history, and architecture – and, oh yeah – the beer and the whisky sampling. Great for cozy conversations and good food. We enjoyed Beehive Inn, Rose & Crown, Maggie Dickson’s and The Standing Order. See more at #8.

7. Edinburgh Tattoo – Edinburgh International Festival, Fringe Festival, and Royal Military Tattoo – Edinburgh is famous for its festivals – especially the big one that lasts most of August. Unfortunately, our stay ended when it was just starting. But we did manage to score tickets to the rehearsal /media night of the Tattoo (at half price!). What’s a tattoo? Nope, not body art. This one’s a lavish production in a 5,000 seat stadium adjacent to the castle featuring many international military bands, precision drill teams, cultural dance, awesome lights and sound. Kilts and bagpipes would have been plenty enough for Sheila, but this had those, plus far more, including bands and dancers from our US. Hard to describe, but a bucket list experience.

Hear and see a few moments of the Edinburgh Tattoo. 2015’s theme: East Meets West.

8. Neighborhood strolls – Edinburgh has many fascinating neighborhoods, each featuring shopping, restaurants, parks, and of course, pubs. We were fortunate that our home exchange was in the heart of the Stockbridge neighborhood with lots to see and do and eat and drink within a 5 minute walk. The Royal Botanical Gardens were just a 10 minute walk, the castle and Royal Mile shopping was just 15 minutes. And the historic Waters of Leith was along our property.

We enjoyed: Raeburn Pub (where we had a fun visit with “friends of a friend” we’d never met before!), Bell’s Diner, Ping On, Hector’s and Veritas. Here are a few favorites Sheila enjoyed while Tom played golf: The Remedy Rooms (Vicky is wonderful!), Stockbridge Kitchen, I.J. Mellis Cheesemonger (Liz is great), and anywhere that sold little bags of locally made tablet (butter fudge)!

Daytrips from Edinburgh – There is so much cool stuff to see within a short drive from Edinburgh. Make sure you have a good GPS.

9. Royal Yacht Britannia – Pretend you are royalty as you wander the decks of the massive yacht where the queen and family vacationed and entertained diplomats and presidents for over 40 years. She’s now berthed just 5 miles away from Edinburgh in the port of Leith. Audio tours are informational and there’s a great gift shop.

10. Falkirk Wheel – Strain your brain at this engineering marvel – a very creative way to move a river barge to a higher/lower elevation with almost zero power – lots of fun and educational exhibits.

11. Bamburgh Castle – It’s down the coast across the English border – a great day trip. Our friend Annika from Austria flew over for a weekend of exploring with us. Visiting Bamburgh Castle was on her fun list, otherwise we wouldn’t have even known about it! And check out the village of Sea Houses nearby for lunch and shopping. We enjoyed lunch at The Bamburgh Castle Inn.

12. Holy Island – When the tide is in, it’s truly an island. When the tide is out, you can drive to it. Plan your trip accordingly or you might be here longer than you planned. We stumbled upon this place on our way home from Bamburgh castle. It has a castle of its own, abbey ruins and a cute little village.

13. Coast Scenery – So many interesting seascapes and coastal villages to explore – just drive along the coast with a good map, watch for festival signs, and follow your nose. We explored from North Berwick all the way to the English border.

14. St. Andrews – It’s more than just the “Home of golf”. There is a gigantic ancient cathedral ruin, a castle, and lots of shopping and food and drink – plus, a miles-long beach for strolling. Especially enjoyed Mitchell’s Deli!

15. Isle of Skye – We carefully watched the weather forecast and picked a perfect stretch of days for a road trip through beautiful scenery to the Isle of Skye. It was so nice we wrote a separate Isle of Skye story.

16. Cruden Bay – Through a fun connection from an earlier trip to an elephant rescue sanctuary in northern Thailand, we lucked into a special excursion to Cruden Bay for coastal scenery, puffins, fabulous golf, and new friendship. Cruden Bay story.

17. Bonus! Golf -Tom played nearly a dozen rounds of golf and wrote about why Scotland Golf is better.

We loved this very special Home Exchange and the Stockbridge neighborhood!

[singlepic id=5043 w=320 h=400 float=left] St. Bernard’s Cottage – Our Edinburgh home exchange was absolutely perfect! We couldn’t have asked for a nicer home in such a central location. St. Bernard’s Cottage is a beautiful Georgian home with charm and historic details, yet lovingly remodeled with all the modern comforts. There are spacious, open living areas, plus four double bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Great for having friends from England and Austria visit us! Luckily, we also got to meet the homeowner / exchanger in person.  Colette is fabulous! So are her friends. We wished immediately that we were sharing our vacation WITH her instead of on different continents. She and a friend enjoyed our Colorado home while we enjoyed her home and it all worked out beautifully. We are now certified Edinburgh lovers, and would visit again in a heartbeat! Visit Home Exchange and check out her home.

Home Exchange

Wales in a whirl

After our home exchange, we took a whirlwind road trip south, along the west coast, castles and national parks of Wales. Wales story.

Southern England: Friends and fancy yachts

We had a great visit with friends in Kingsbridge (Devon) and then sailed with fun friends in the Isle of Wight, England’s sailing capital of the world, then a lovely London friend toured the city with us before we flew from Heathrow. Photos and stories soon…

RTG Helpful Hints

We highly recommend our Edinburgh host! Visit their Home Exchange Profile.

Trip date: July / August 2015

 ? What places have touched your heart like Scotland has ours?



  1. March 19, 2016 at 9:57 PM — Reply

    We were REALLY hoping to make it to Scotland this summer, but after doing a bit of research we’ve decided we want more than 2-3 days that would be available to us this year and instead save it for our next trip when we can stay a few weeks. I’m definitely bookmarking this for reference as we get closer to planning the details!!! So, so beautiful

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      March 20, 2016 at 3:58 PM — Reply

      Hey Sheri! Definitely agree with your decision to wait. We’ve made a few “mad dashes” through countries/areas and are left feeling more tortured and unfulfilled than excited about the visit. I’m thrilled to think how much fun your family is going to have exploring Scotland! Some of the castles have significant kid friendly activities as part of the experience, so they’re not just for the romantics like us 🙂 Here’s a link to all our Scotland stories for when you’re ready for more ideas: RTG Scotland stories Thanks for reading our story!

  2. March 19, 2016 at 12:05 PM — Reply

    How lovely! Scotland has been on my travel list for quite some time. All that green makes me happy. I didn’t know much about Edinburgh before reading this post. Thanks for your list of fun things to check out during a visit!

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      March 19, 2016 at 2:23 PM — Reply

      Hi Jen, thanks for your note. Agree about the green 🙂 As much as we love our beautiful Colorado mountains, there is something so vibrant and soul inspiring about the greens of Scotland. Actually, in some places I remember feeling certain that huge buckets of every shade of green paint had been dumped down the mountainsides and thru the glens. In our honeymoon story I even said that Scotland feels like a gigantic, green hug <3

  3. March 19, 2016 at 11:24 AM — Reply

    I love this post! Thank you for all the great ideas! I’m planning a solo trip in September for 2 weeks for England and Scotland and this definitely helps in creating my wish list for things to see in Scotland.

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      March 19, 2016 at 2:15 PM — Reply

      Excellent! Glad you liked the ideas in our post, Heather! Bet you will LOVE your trip. Since your visiting both England and Scotland you may also want to learn more about the areas that “border” in southern Scotland and northern England. We have a few more stories you might find helpful that cover a bit of The Lake District (EN) and Dumfries and Galloway (SC) areas. Each story has descriptions and photos you might like for waterfalls, landmarks, lighthouses, castles, pubs, and more. Enjoy! Our Scotland stories

  4. Yasha Langford
    March 19, 2016 at 7:45 AM — Reply

    I was in Edinburgh in 1984 and I loved it. This post brings the memories flooding back. Your photos in particular make me want to visit again. This is one of the things I love about reading other travel blogs – the wonderful memories they often evoke. Thanks.

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      March 19, 2016 at 2:04 PM — Reply

      Thanks Yasha! Wonder how different Edinburgh is now from ’84. It tends to feel as if it’s been this way forever. Glad you enjoyed our story and we agree about enjoying other blogs! It’s great to be revisit memories, see places from other people’s view and learn about new experiences & places to add to the ever-growing bucket list!

  5. marie
    March 19, 2016 at 2:02 AM — Reply

    I love your joyful enthusiasm – it is just great. It looks as if you both had a lot of fun on your tip, enjoyed reading about it! Marie

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      March 19, 2016 at 1:59 PM — Reply

      Hi Marie, thanks! Enthusiasm we have for certain! LOL – Of course, exploring romantic and exciting places adds to that. 🙂 Glad you liked our story!

  6. March 18, 2016 at 7:27 PM — Reply

    Scotland looks incredible. I’m heading there quite soon. This post is just making me so excited. Love the photos!

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      March 19, 2016 at 1:49 PM — Reply

      Yay! Glad our post could inspire you and super glad you have plans to visit Scotland. Hope you love your visit! Depending on where you’ll be, we have a few more Scotland stories with descriptions and photos you might like for waterfalls, landmarks, lighthouses, castles, pubs, and more. Enjoy! Our Scotland stories

  7. March 18, 2016 at 12:58 PM — Reply

    Fantastic shots! These all look incredible. I love exploring castles!

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      March 19, 2016 at 1:45 PM — Reply

      Thanks Kevin! This may sound odd, but sometimes the more dilapidated the castles are, the more fun to explore. We’ve enjoyed touring the elegant, intact and sometimes even still lived-in castles, but our fondest memories are of wandering thru open shells imagining what used to be…

  8. March 18, 2016 at 12:11 PM — Reply

    Ohh I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland, and my last name is Scottish so I’d fit right in, haha. Your pictures are stunning! Glad you had fun. 🙂

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      March 19, 2016 at 1:40 PM — Reply

      Thanks so much, Maggie! And Maggie is such a lovely Celtic name, too 🙂 Really hope you make a trip to Scotland happen. For some of us it’s a bit like finding “home”. 🙂

  9. March 18, 2016 at 9:40 AM — Reply

    Wow! Those photos are stunning! I’ll definitely have to put Edinburgh on my list now 🙂

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      March 18, 2016 at 12:02 PM — Reply

      Inês, we hope you do! Edinburgh surprised us even though we already knew we love Scotland. Such a special place 🙂

  10. March 18, 2016 at 8:31 AM — Reply

    I love this post! I’m heading to Scotland in October! I’m writing this down to add to my trip plans!

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      March 18, 2016 at 11:45 AM — Reply

      Oh Amber, we’re so excited for you! Hope you love your experiences in Scotland as much as we have! You may find our other Scotland stories helpful, too, depending on where you plan to visit. It’s ALL great, but we especially loved the Isle of Skye, Cruden Bay, Staffa Island, Oban and all around the Dumfries and Galloway areas. Each story has descriptions and photos you might like for waterfalls, landmarks, lighthouses, castles, pubs, and more. Enjoy! Our Scotland stories

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