I celebrated my birthday earlier this month and got some lovely gifts and cards, along with the promise of a little trip away with K a couple of weeks later. One of our favourite occasional treats is going to Edinburgh for lovely food and drink, an overnight stay, shopping and visit a gallery, museum or other place of interest, depending on the weather. Since we discovered Tigerlily, a gorgeous boutique hotel, we’ve always stayed there, seeking out the special offers and off-peak rates to make it possible a little more often. During COVID restrictions we haven’t been able to do this, so it was extra special to go back (with a little help from friends and family who helped with dog-sitting)
Edinburgh is compact but hilly and, in places cobbled, but my little Mobie folding disability scooter behaved like a mountain goat, taking all the challenges it met with relish, even the portable access ramp up the rather steep steps of our hotel (a former town house in George Street, part of the Georgian New Town district)
Checking into Tigerlily we discovered that we’d been given an upgrade to stay in Room 1 – Georgian Suite. What a lovely surprise! Decorated in sumptuous fabrics with modern furniture that complimented the original Georgian features and high ceilings, our suite included a four poster bed, two sofas and an enormous bathroom (you could have held a party in the shower alone).
It’s the little details that make something special, like the thick bathrobes, expensive toiletries and good quality coffee/fresh milk available in the room, even the Edinburgh edition of Monopoly!
We enjoyed a beautiful meal that evening in the hotel restaurant. The hotel is famous for its cocktails and our table was close enough to the bar to watch these being prepared (which is almost as much fun as drinking them). One of the Tigerlily mixologists (mixing cocktails is a science….honest!) once told me that the perfect cocktail should contain a good balance between strong and weak (eg spirits and mixers) and between sweet and sour (fruit, juices, syrups and bitters or sharp flavours like lemon or lime). It works! I’ve also been shown how to squeeze and flame the oil from a disc of orange peel to create a hint of burnt orange on the surface of a classic Cosmopolitan. It’s a great party trick! The entire staff team are dynamic, charming and friendly – nothing is ever too much trouble.
Breakfast the following morning , accompanied by lots of juice and coffee, set us up for a full day in Edinburgh. It is one of my favourite cities and not too far away for us to get to by car or train. I love the architecture and the way that every street seems to have amazing views towards a landmark building or statue or even to the Firth of Forth.
One of the big changes we noticed was the new St James Quarter shopping mall – four levels of shops and places to eat and drink under an elegant curved glass roof with an unusual spiral tower. Princes Street, once Edinburghs principle shopping street, now looks past it’s best, with the loss of the famous Jenners department store, Debenhams and several other brands. I hope that future redevelopment will turn Princes Street back into a destination worthy of its prosperous past, but sustainable, and different enough to compliment the modern mall.
I couldn’t resist a visit to the new John Lewis store’s haberdashery in the new centre. The department’s entrance is graced by a pair of massive textile sculptures – stags (known as Monarch and Glen), upholstered in fabrics and trimmings all of which are available to buy in the store. They look stunning.
K is a keen cook and particularly loves Italian food. We decided to visit the famous and long-established Italian delicatessen and grocer, Valvona and Crolla. Floor to ceiling wooden shelves are filled with jars of antipasti, tins of biscotti and packs of pasta in every imaginable shape. The refrigerated counter displays cured meats, cheeses and baked goods. There are even fresh vegetables and herbs, a whole wall of different kinds of olive oil and an extensive wine department. The staff were helpful and knowledgeable too, serving us samples to taste before we decided to buy some delicious pecorino cheese.
After that we walked/scooted to the Botanical Gardens, which took about 20 minutes. We’d been blessed with beautiful weather so it was a pleasure be out looking at the old builldings we passed. The Gardens are lovely – admission is free. Late summer/early autumn is not always the best time for such places as most of the summer flowers have finished and trees have not yet acquired their autumn leaf colour. We did see some seasonal specialities however, including carpets of cyclamen and autumn crocus in shades of pink, mauve and white.
The gardens contain some magnificent glasshouses which normally house important collections of rare tropical plants and trees. These have been carefully moved to temporary homes while the glass houses undergo a massive refurbishment, which includes replacing every single pane of glass. Closed until work is complete in several years time, the project will safeguard the future of these plants for many more years to come.
We always enjoy looking at the alpine collection, which includes a rock face featuring mound forming plants to show just how they would grow on a mountainside at high altitude.
It was certainly a perfect day to be outside.
After a lovely afternoon admiring the gardens in the sunshine we took a taxi to Waverley station, allowing plenty of time for the build up of rush hour traffic. We arrived back in the city centre in time for a drink and found an outdoor pop-up bar close to Waverley station. They were serving the Edinburgh Gin range of flavoured gins and gin liqueurs – I chose raspberry, with tonic, one of my favourites: a perfect end to to our brief time in Edinburgh.
Then it was time to board our train and head for home. I’m so lucky to have had such a lovely and indulgent treat for my birthday.
What’s your favourite city to visit?