When my friends at Travel Mindset asked if I would be interested in covering Scotland for an upcoming partnership with Visit Britain I first imagined waterfalls and William Wallace charging over the hills of the highlands. As we started to discuss the trip and my time in the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh I became excited to learn more about the culture those cities were offering visitors. From the music scene and stunning architecture of Glasgow to the old world charm of Edinburgh, I felt like I was unearthing a side to Scotland I never knew. So let's take on Edinburgh first, shall we?
1. How I got there... Virgin Atlantic LAX outbound.
For this flight I took Virgin Atlantic from LAX to London Heathrow then British Airways up to Edinburgh. I hadn't flown Virgin Transatlantic in a couple years so this gave me the opportunity to try out Virgin's new LAX Clubhouse located in Terminal 2. Really enjoyed the renovated clubhouse with great usage of local artists to give it that cool "Virgin" feel. Their drink menu was incredible...except for a glass of white, I opted for the pressed juice route. They had quite a selection, so I ordered one of each. This also gave me an opportunity to spend a little time one on one with Bae (my camera), who becomes my dining partner on my trips.
2. Where I stayed... 24 Royal Terrace
Perfectly situated walking distance from all the must see places in Edinburgh. Newly renovated with a great art collection lining the very photogenic stairwell. The bathtub came in quite handy especially after a long day walking around Edinburgh.
I enjoyed a great traditional Scottish breakfast, they only offer Tapas in the evening but the portions were very generous. The location couldn't have been better for my needs, I was able to get up to Calton Hill in 5 minutes. I went up early one morning for Sunrise and was also able to catch the sunset from the hill. It gives you a great opportunity to see all the spots in town you'll be visiting. What spots are those Pete? Well...that's Take number 3.
Well that was a nice welcome Edinburgh...the light in Scotland is legendary and when my cab driver was taking me to my hotel at magic hour, I was fit to be tied jumping around in the back seat...luckily he knew the perfect spot and darted through the streets to get me up here just in time. Thanks cabbie Stephen!!! On assignment w/ @LoveGreatBritain #AmazingMoments Shot on #LeicaMP240 #🔴📷
3. What I Ate & Drank...
When you think of Scotland, you obviously think of Scotch...and there is plenty of that. I wasn't quite sure on the cuisine I'd be enjoying. Here are a list of the places I ate and my "takes".
The Southern: I used Four Square to find a place for dinner after attending a traditional Ceilidh dance (more on that later). It has a very cool vibe, felt more like an American Gastropub with a Scottish flare. The bartender was very knowledgable about their local beers and helped me pair the WILLIAMS BLACKBALL STOUT with their famous burger "THE BLUE MURDER" 6oz beef patty, flat cap mushroom, smoked bacon, blue murder cheese, garlic mayo. They also have a Gluten free menu...of which I did not partake in. :)
The Bramble Bar - I hadn't heard of this bar before, but after I posted about it on Instagram, I couldn't believe how many people had been there. Seeing as you can only fit about 50-75 people in here, it's a pretty exclusive place (in a good way). I was set to meet Sam one of their head bartenders before they opened so he could take me through their menu.
This is Sam (@sam_mcgarry91)...I spent the afternoon visiting him at Bramble Bar. He made me some of their unique cocktails and we chatted about the thriving bar scene in Edinburgh. If you're ever in town drop in and say hi...it's a little tricky finding the front door, but that's part of the charm. On Assigment w/ @LoveGreatBritain #AmazingMoments #MakePortraits #BrambleBar
Bramble hits all the good notes of a solid bar. Welcoming bartenders who make new great drinks but can also make all the classics. The mystic of finding Bramble adds into it's charm, you'll know what I mean when you visit it for the first time.
The Witchery by the Castle - Besides having probably the best "hours of operation" sign ever. The Witchery has your traditional Edinburgh dining experience. White table cloth, extensive wine list and a historic setting. I thought that it might be a tad touristy because of it's location, but that wasn't the case. I would say it was a good mix of high end business lunches and locals there on special occasions. Well and a travel photographer...all alone having lunch with his camera (that's me). I did appreciate the hat stand when I entered as most of you know I love my hats.
The Balmoral: Scotch, Scotch, Scotch...
The Life of a travel photographer means sometimes you have to wake up early and go for a scotch tasting right after breakfast. That was exactly what happened here...I went to historic Balmoral Hotel located in downtown Edinburgh. I met my nice young Bartender/Scotch Expert who talked me through the history of Scotch and how to enjoy it like a local (expert).
Few tips I learned: It's ok to add some water,...but only after greeting your scotch and enjoying the first sip. When adding the water, use a straw or eye dropper as to not add too much. It will cut into the alcohol and bring out the flavors. In America, we do a Whiskey chaser...in Scotland, the Scotch comes first.
4. How I got around...
Edinburgh is a very easy grid to walk around and I did my fair share of walking. I did however have a number of appointments to get to with limited time, so I found myself in in the need of transport. I downloaded the Taxi App "Gett" which is basically Uber for Taxi's. Couldn't have been happier with the service and the Taxi Cabs. Every driver was extremely friendly and talkative, which I love. They gave me stories and tips on the city, things that you don't get from services like Uber. I'm not always pro-taxi...but in the case of Edinburgh, I'd say it's like hiring a guide and a driver. The rates were very good and like Uber no cash changes hands, just say cheers and hop out of the cab, your Credit Card is charged and you're emailed a receipt with a map of where you drove. Very handy for record keeping. If you do download the app and try it, use the code GTAQRTH for 10 British Pounds off your first ride.
The other bonus of riding in Taxis is street shooting, here are a few shots I grabbed from the back of the taxis in Edinburgh.
5. The things I did and the people I met...
A Scottish Kilt Maker, a black cat named Sir William and an Instagrammer by the name of @Wilde_Oates...just another day at the office.
I found Steven on Instagram and he was kind enough to spend an evening with me and show some of his favorite spots to shoot around Edinburgh. Steven is also a very active member in the local Edinburgh Instagram community regularly holding Instameets and moderating the http://instagramcom/IgersEdinburgh account.
Spent the evening showing @petehalvorsen around some of my favourite spots and viewpoints of the city at sunset while he explores Edinburgh with @lovegreatbritain. Had lots of fun making each other stand closer and closer to the edge of the crags (be careful folks!) as the sun went down. Now enjoying a well earned Schiehallion to finish off the day. Great to meet people from out of town through @instagram, and hopefully show off how great our city is. Not many places can beat a view like this on an October evening!
All I knew about local kilt maker Howie Nicholsby was that he'd made a kilt for Vin Diesel and Lenny Kravitz. But walking up to his shop http://21stcenturykilts.com I understood pretty quickly what the attraction was with these custom made kilts. He has a created a hybrid kilt combining the historic tradition of the kilt with the new styles and usability of 2015. A place for your iPhone in your kilt? Howie has it. Howie and I shared a Guinness and a few laughs at his favorite pub across the street from his shop. Howie is as eclectic as the kilts he makes, it's worth a stop just to meet the man behind (and inside) 21st Century Kilts.
Sir William welcomed me in front of Rosslyn Chapel just 20 minutes outside Edinburgh. Pete, that's a cat...
Not just any cat mind you...it's Sir William named after the architect of the gothic chapel from the 15th century. Sir William even has a book written about him, penned by the Countess of Rosslyn no less. http://www.rosslynchapel.com/shop/william-the-cat-and-the-rescue-of-rosslyn-chapel/
You've probably heard of Rosslyn Chapel from Da Vinci Code books. They saw an increase from 35,000 visitors to 175,000 visitors in one year thanks to Dan Browns imagination. I really enjoyed walking the grounds with Ian the head curator of the church. It sits on a picturesque piece of countryside and is well worth the quick trip outside the city for the experience and photo op. There are many other mysteries and secrets this chapel has, beyond the Holy Grail.
No trip to Edinburgh is complete without visiting "The Castle" and Victoria Street...but I figure you knew that already.
Up next... 5 Takes - Glasgow & Glencoe (Scottish Highlands)