48 hours in Edinburgh

How to Spend 48 Hours in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, the second largest city in Scotland, is my favorite city in the world. The combination of scenic hikes, cobblestone streets, gothic churches, Greek Revival architecture, gardens, fascinating museums and variety of cuisine make it a destination that anyone can enjoy.

While I recommend spending a few days in Edinburgh if possible, you can see the main highlights in two days since the old portion both the city is fairly compact and easy to explore by foot.

Related: While you’re in Edinburgh, check out these 10 fantastic vegan restaurants

What to see:

The order in which you visit the sites below really depends on the weather. If the forecast calls for sunny weather on your first day in Edinburgh, visit the outdoor destinations and save the museums and indoor activities for the second day.

The Royal Mile
Located in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, the Royal Mile connects Edinburgh Castle with the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace at the other end. The main street includes a mix of historical sites, such as St. Giles’ Cathedral, along with kitschy souvenir shops. Make sure to venture off the main street and explore the narrow staircases and closes.

Time spent: 1 hour

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Royal Mile.
The Royal Mile, Edinburgh
Cute little street just off the Royal Mile.
St. Giles' Cathedral on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh
St. Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile

Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Palace is the Queen’s official residence while in Scotland, located near the Salisbury Crags. When the Queen is not in residence, visitors can take a tour of the palace and get a glimpse of modern royal life. On my second visit to Holyrood Palace, I was unable to tour the palace since Prince Edward was in residence. I spent a few minutes taking photos from the main gate and was able to meet his super friendly dog.

Once you’re done with the palace tour, spend some time wandering around the abbey ruins and gardens.

Time spent: 2 hours

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland
Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland
Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Palace from above, Edinburgh, Scotland
Holyrood Palace from above
Abbey Ruins at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland
Abbey ruins at Holyrood Palace.
Holyrood Palace Abbey Ruins and Gardens
The palace gardens and ruins.
Abbey ruins, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland
Inside the ruins.
Holyrood Palace unicorn
Unicorns are everywhere, if you know where to look for them.

Edinburgh Castle
Perched atop an extinct volcano, the 11th-century castle dominates Edinburgh’s skyline. Not only is the massive fortress beautiful, it’s also rich in history.

The castle served as the royal residence for Scottish Kings and Queens until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. St. Mary’s Chapel, the castle’s oldest building, was created by David I and is still used for weddings and religious ceremonies today. The Great Hall was built before the death of King James IV in 1513 and was primarily used for state assembly.

Other areas of the castle house the National War Museum, Crown Jewels and the Prisoners of War barracks, one of my favorite areas of the castle. Here you can see where Americans, French, Irish and other prisoners were housed during the American Revolution. I especially loved the sign about Americans = pirates.

Time spent: 2 hours

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle


Edinburgh Castle Prisoners of War
Americans got less rations because they were pirates.
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Inside Edinburgh Castle.
Lion statue at Edinburgh Castle.
Lion statue at Edinburgh castle.
Scottish Parliament
Located across from Holyrood Palace, the Scottish Parliament building sits in stark contrast to the more classic buildings nearby. If Parliament is in session, you can observe the proceedings from the public gallery.Time spent: 15 minutes

The National Museum of Scotland
Perfect for a rainy day, the National Museum of Scotland houses over 20,000 artifacts from prehistoric times to recent history. My husband and I spent several hours in the museum, mostly in the Scottish history section.

Time spent: 4 hours

The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
The National Museum of Scotland.

Calton Hill
Calton Hill is famous for its collection of Greek-inspired monuments, giving Edinburgh the nickname “Athens of the North.”

The views from Calton Hill are spectacular and they’re even better at the top of the 143-stair Nelson Monument.

Other monuments on Calton Hill include the Dugald Stewart Monument, Old Royal High School, City Observatory and the  National Monument, created to commemorate the Napoleonic Wars.

Time spent: 1 hour

View from the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill.
View from the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill.
Calton Hill, Edinburgh
Calton Hill, overlooking Princes Street.
Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland
Calton Hll, Edinburgh.
National Monument, Edinburgh.
Looking down at the National Monument from the top of the Nelson Monument.
Princes Street, Edinburgh Scotland
Princes Street, as seen from the top of Nelson Monument
Salisbury Crag, Edinburgh, Scotland
Looking towards Salisbury Crags.
Nelson Monument, Edinburgh
The Nelson Monument.

Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat
Located in Holyrood Park, Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat are among my favorite places in Scotland to relax and just enjoy the view. The climb up to Arthur’s Seat is steep but the views of Edinburgh are well worth the effort. If you don’t feel fit enough to make it up to Arthur’s Seat, spend time on the paths around the rim of Salisbury Craigs, where you’ll also get great views of the city. Keep your eyes peeled for the ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel, built in the 1300s and the only remaining building in Holyrood Park.

Once you’ve finished with your hike, reward yourself with ice cream from the Mr. Whippy truck, located in the parking lot.

Time spent: 4 hours

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh
Walking around Holyrood Park.
Arthur's Seat, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh
You can see the top of Arthur’s Seat.
Holyrood Park, Edinburgh
Walking around Holyrood Park.
St. Anthony's Chapel, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh
The ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel
Salisbury Crags, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh
Walking around Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park.
Salisbury Crags, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh
At the edge of Salisbury Crags

How to get around:
Edinburgh is a wonderful walking city. During my two days there, I walked everywhere and only hailed a cab once, when my feet were tired after hiking up Arthur’s Seat.

Edinburgh has an extensive network of local buses and you can take advantage of Lothian Buses DayTicket, which allows unlimited daily travel around the city.

Since Edinburgh’s streets are maze-like and parking is expensive, I do not recommend renting a car in the city.

Other helpful tips:

  • The weather in Edinburgh is very unpredictable. Always layer your clothing and bring an umbrella or a rain coat.
  • If you’re arriving from London, consider taking the train. It’s an enjoyable way to get to Edinburgh and you’ll arrive at Waverly Station, right in the center of the old city.
  • The roads are very narrow and maze-like so avoid bringing a car into the city if possible. If you’re going to explore other areas of Scotland, rent a car at the airport and go from there.

Import note: Edinburgh is actually pronounced Ed-in-bruh. I thought it was pronounced Ed-in-burg, which resulted in some funny looks. Trust me on that one.


Help save Kauai’s shelter dogs

Before my recent trip to Kauai, I was browsing the Alaska Airlines Flyertalk forum and came across a post asking for volunteers to help transport pets from the Kauai Humane Society to one of the non-stop destinations Alaska Airlines serves from Lihue. I love supporting shelter animals in any way possible so I emailed the shelter manager and agreed to transport some puppies on my return flight on September 11th.

According to the shelter’s website, the Alaska Airlines Pet Transfer program has sent over 400 animals from Kauai to the mainland, where they get adopted much more quickly. If the dogs are accompanied by a passenger, the cost of the transfer is free. The volunteer only needs to meet a representative from the Kauai Humane Society at the Lihue airport and hand off the dogs to a volunteer on arrival at the mainland.

On my return flight, my husband and I helped transport 4 adorable puppies to the Seattle Humane Society in Bellevue, WA. The dogs generated a lot of attention from fellow passengers and I think a couple of them wanted to adopt the puppies right there. On arrival at Seattle, we met up with a volunteer from the Seattle Humane Society who took the puppies home before delivering them to the shelter the next morning.

If you’re flying to Kauai via Alaska Airlines, I highly recommend contacting the Kauai Humane Society to see if you can help transport some Kauai pets to the mainland.

Kauai Humane Society Alaska Airlines Pet Shelter Transfer

Kauai Humane Society Alaska Airlines Pet Shelter Transfer

Kauai Humane Society Alaska Airlines Pet Shelter Transfer



In Pictures: London’s Borough Market

What to Eat: London's Borough Market

On my recent trip to London and Scotland, I spent half a day roaming around Borough Market, stuffing my face full of delicious food. Borough Market, located in Southwark, is a gourmet food market, consisting of over 70 vendors, ranging from cured meats to gourmet cakes. While it’s not a hidden gem, the market is definitely worth a visit if you like to eat (which is pretty much everyone, right?).

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the market:

Borough Market: Fresh Produce
Fresh produce at Borough Market
Borough Market Coconut Pancakes
One of the Thai restaurant vendors cooking up the most amazing coconut pancakes. I’m obsessed.
Borough Market: Duck Confit
Making duck confit at the market.
Borough Market: Duck Confident
The finished product: Duck confit sandwich
Borough Market: English muffins
The largest English muffins I’ve ever seen.
Borough Market Meat
Borough Market Cheese
Delicious cheese.
Borough Market Cheese
I think I tried one of each.
Borough Market Croissants
You can never go wrong with croissants.
Borough Market Produce
I love how fresh and vibrant the produce looks.
Borough Market London produce
I think I’d shop here every week if I lived in London.
Borough Market meat
One of the many meat shops.
Borough Market Scotch Eggs
Scotch eggs.
Borough Market meat
Sigh. I miss this place.
Borough Market Mushrooms
I love mushrooms.

When to go:
The full market is only open Wednesday through Sunday from 10am – 5 pm.

Getting there:
The easiest way to get to Borough Market is to take the tube to the London Bridge Station, serviced by the Jubilee and Northern lines. Visit Borough Market’s page for full directions.

Top tips for visiting the market:
Avoid mid-day Saturday or Sunday if you can. The market was an absolute zoo and was so hard to navigate. Try to visit during a weekday if at all possible. Make sure you bring cash; not all vendors accept credit cards.

Off-road adventures in central Washington

Last weekend, my husband and I took out the jeep (aka Zombklr) for some off-roading and camping fun in the central Cascades. Our destination was Gallagher Head Lake, part of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, just past Salmon La Sac, ending at the base of Hawkins Mountain.

The real adventure began as soon as we left the FR 4330 for trail 4W301, a rocky, one-lane off-road trail with some steep 1,000+ foot drops on the side. For 2 1/2 hours, we were bumped and shaken inside the Jeep as we made our way over rocks, through streams and wash outs. We had to pull over a couple of times since the transmission fluid in the Jeep kept overheating.  Continue reading “Off-road adventures in central Washington”

In Photos: Caye Caulker, Belize

I visited Belize in January 2014 as part of a Guatemala, Belize and Mexico comfort tour with Intrepid Travel. The 9-day tour started in Antigua, Guatemala and ended in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

In this edition of In Photos, I’m going to focus on beautiful Belize, where the highlight was by far a snorkel tour with Ragamuffin Tours, off the coast of Caye Caulker.  Enjoy! Continue reading “In Photos: Caye Caulker, Belize”

Playing with puffins in Scotland

Back in mid-May, my husband and I joined Staffa Tours for their Treshnish Isles and Staffa tour, departing from Fionnphort on the Isle of Mull. We spent the morning wandering around the neighboring Isle of Iona (which I’ll cover in a future post) and boarded our boat bound for the Isle of Lunga (aka Puffin Island) around noon. Continue reading “Playing with puffins in Scotland”

London hotel review: 51 Buckingham Gate

I’ve been fortunate to stay at a number of luxury hotels and resorts over the years but none of them have been quite so special as 51 Buckingham Gate in the Westminster area of London. Just a short walk from Buckingham Palace, 51 Buckingham Gate is a 5-star all-suite hotel owned by Taj Hotels. The hotel features 85 suites, ranging from one to nine bedrooms, all with fully-equipped kitchens, a living room, bathroom and bedroom. Continue reading “London hotel review: 51 Buckingham Gate”

7 tips for driving on the other side of the road

I recently returned from a trip to Scotland, which involved driving over 1,000 miles on the other side of the road, starting at the Edinburgh airport. I’m not going to lie when I say I was having pre-trip nightmares about driving on the other side. I’m happy to report that driving on the left was easier than expected and I only scared my husband a couple of times.

If you want to rent a car in the UK, Ireland, Australia or a number of other countries, you’ll need to adjust to driving on the left side. In Scotland in particular, renting a car gives you the most flexibility to visit the highlands, islands and other rural areas.

Here are a few helpful tips for driving on the other side of the road: Continue reading “7 tips for driving on the other side of the road”