When Viola was a baby, she never slept. That’s why it really takes a good reason to kick me out of bed when it’s still dark outside. I probably don’t need to say that the best motivation comes from travelling. I’m perfectly capable of jumping out of the duvet and be ready in 10 minutes if that means I’m going somewhere new.
On a foggy Tuesday dawn I made my way to King’s Cross station to start a three days trip to Edinburgh. I was so excited about it. I’ve been to Edinburgh once for the Fringe festival and I’ve always wanted to come back. Also, I find Scotland so fascinating. Maybe it’s because of the amazing landscapes – green highlands, wild cliffs, castles – the people and their accent… and I’ve probably seen an Outlander series too much.
This time I was invited by the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa to discover the city and its Gin tradition. Grab a cup of tea (or a glass of G&T) and dive into this million-photo-post, then press play and watch the vlog of my trip which is at the end of this page.
Let’s get started!
After a 4 hour train trip (and I love trains, I find them so relaxing and the best expression of having some ‘me-time’: I can do whatever I want for four hours AND I am also travelling) me and the 2 other bloggers I was travelling with arrived at the amazing Sheraton. My room was just perfect: spacious, bright, cosy and so beautiful. The king size bed was one of the best I’ve ever slept on.
I just spent a few minutes in the room as I was eager to go out and have a ,walk around the city. The hotel is just a ten minutes walk from the centre, so the location was perfect. I had a walk along Princess Road, blessed by the enchanting glow of the afternoon sun in the foggy air.
I came back to the Sheraton just in time for the Afternoon Tea. Evertime I think of the words ‘afternoon tea’, Marie-Antoinette-esque pictures pop into my mind. You know: luscious cakes, scrumptious sandwiches, freshly baked scones (my favourites) and usually some amazing cocktails. Afternoon tea is a table full of every yumminess you can imagine, presented in the most beautiful way. It is definitely something you taste with all your senses.
Yes: everything I could imagine was on the candid table of the One Square restaurant for the Orchard Afternoon Tea. We started with a beautifully tasting Secret Garden cocktail and
made ate our way up to the stand where sandwiches, pastries and cakes were waiting for us. Meanwhile we started chatting with each other. Little did we know that the three of us – me, Ellie and Lela – would getting along so well, being one of the best bloggers group I’ve ever travelled with :).
Happy and satisfied after our tea, we decided to have another walk, this time to the Old Town and the Royal Mile. At that point the fog had merged with the sunset and the city lights and the effect was absolutely magical. It seemed like being in some fantasy world, I was expecting to see a knight or a magician any time.
The Royal Mile is the high street of the Old Town. It’s the heart of Edinburgh and it’s one of the top destination when visiting the city. Walking down the Royal Mile is like a walk in the past. You can really tell this city is embedded with so much history and so many secrets…
By the time we got back to the hotel.. it was One Spa o’clock! I spent the most amazing hour in an outdoor heated Jacuzzi, under Edinburgh’s sky. You can see that in the vlog. We then met at the One Square bar to have a Gin tasting. I have to admit I drank countless G&Ts in my 20s but I can’t consider myself a Gin expert AT ALL. For example I did’t know that Gin is made using as many as 15 botanicals from all over the world. Cinnamon, anise, juniper, lemon, lime, fennel and coriander just to name a few. The Sheraton partnered with Pickering’s Gin to create his own signature gin: the One Square Gin.
The cocktails we drank were so refreshing and easy to drink. Maybe too easy 🙂 I admit my ignorance: I honestly thought that every Gin tasted more or less the same (*Gin fans fainting*). Instead, every one had its own peculiar taste depending on the botanical mix it is infused with. We tasted a few Gins – and a few Tonics as well – and I was amazed by the differences in terms of flavour AND smell.
To complete the experience, we had the pleasure to taste the Paired menu – amazing food carefully chosen to perfectly match our drinks. Forget chips and other nibbles: this is proper food, and the size of the portions are just perfect. If you’ll visit the Edinburgh Sheraton just try it – I’m still dreaming of the amazing curried roasted cauliflower with raisins.
After a long day, four hours of train, two walks, an afternoon tea and a Gin tasting.. we were ready to go out! We enjoyed Edinburgh nightlife having a few more drinks at a couple of nice bars. I especially liked the first one, The Devil’s Advocate.
Day 2 starts with a visit at the Pickering’s Gin distillery, called Summerhall Distillery. I could never imagine a gin distillery in the centre of Edinburgh and here it is! As small and as pretty as you could imagine. This means that.. yes. We started our day with a G&T for breakfast.
Here I discovered everything more about Gin making. Basically, it all starts with alcohol at 96% infused with botanicals. It is then boiled, and the evaporated condense rests in metallic tanks for 2 days. No flavouring is added afterwards. Your Gin is ready! Yes: it takes just 2 days to make Gin from scratch. I was surprised as I am used to wine and aged spirits and the fact that Gin doesn’t need to rest for months – or years – in a barrel it’s crazy. And fascinating. Here a few of the botanical used by Pickering’s, that makes the One Square Gin too:
Done with the Gin – just for a few hours, don’t worry – it was time to hit the city centre. We had a fun ride on a rickshaw – one should seriously consider replacing squats with rickshaw driving – and reached one of the most charming restaurants I’ve ever been to: The Witchery.
Too much charme and atmosphere for a single venue. I was overwhelmed by its beauty. We sat at a small table and enjoyed a delicious meal, served with an equally delicious Riesling. In case you’re wondering: yes, this was by far the most alcoholic press trip I’ve ever been. No, not complaining at all!
The lunch was so delicious. The duck, guys: order the duck. Look at this beauty. It was as perfect as it looks.
After a lunch that made me feel like a princess it was time to go to the Castle. Visiting Edinburgh Castle is like stepping right into a fairytale world. It’s like a small village, so take your time to visit it properly and don’t forget to have a look at the Crown Jewels! If you can, buy an ASVA pass like the ones we had, that will allow you entry to the main attractions of the city – including the castle.
Now breathe in and out. Are you a fan of Harry Potter, like I am? Then this part of the post will make you so, so happy. I’ve decided to save some time to visit the birthplace of Harry Potter, The Elephant House, the café where J.K.Rowling wrote the books from.
It was almost overwhelming to actually see the tables where she sat every morning and wrote from. She didn’t sat at the same table every day, although she sat in the back room. Single mum on benefits, here she brought to life one of the masterpieces of our Century, creating an unforgettable world of magic and adventures.
This is the counter she ordered her coffee from.
And how about the graffiti in the toilets? Look at them. So proud of all the fans <3
I wrote my name too 🙂
We came back to the Sheraton, this time to dine at The Pass, the most spectacular dinner experience I’ve ever had. You basically sit at the chef’s kitchen table.
I can’t put in words how delicious but above all how creative this dinner has been. Colours, shapes, flavours, everything was so amazingly and uniquely combined. The best part was seeing the dishes prepared literally in front of our eyes, while chatting with the chef. A one of a kind experience that I highly recommend to any food lover.
This beetroot mousse. Look at the color!
Foams were protagonist of the dinner too. This is a Champagne foam. It is as delicious and light and wow as you can imagine.
Let me spend a word for this venison roast. The word is: perfection.
And just when we thought our dinner had ended with an utterly delicious chocolate brownie… the chef said there was a surprise for us.
A surprise. Better call it a food firework. A food masterpiece. The chefs cleaned the table and came in with some small cups filled with different things: chocolate crumble, candies, sugar, syrups, meringues, foams, jams.
Then they started literally painting the table.
Little by little, colour by colour, food by food, they transformed a simple marble surface into an edible abstract painting.
That alone was worth a standing ovation. Imagine when they came with a chocolate egg and cracked in on top of it, revealing its delicious filling of creams, ice creams and fruit. Yes: this is food porn remastered. The ultimate foodie fantasy.
Oh, and.. yes: we hit the town again. This time we came back by 3, had club sandwiches in the lounge at 4.30 and were finally in bed at 5. Or maybe later. The last time I was in bed by that time it was probably.. hum… well, it was A WHILE ago. ‘A while’ with capital letters. Sigh.
The day after, looking as pretty as Star Wars’ Jabba – in the video you can spot massive eye bags under my shades – I hit the town again, this time the Grassmarket area.
It is probably the most colourful area of the whole city, known for its many pubs ad restaurant and for being crowded at night by students and young people. There are some pretty independent shops, vintage boutiques and bookshops as well.
Our very last stop was Mary King’s Close. It is a small alley underneath the Royal Mile showing what it was like to live in Edinburgh during the 16th-17th Century, including the dark time of the plague, killings, mysteries and more. If you’re into history and ghost stories, you don’t want to miss it.
Our three days in Edinburgh ended with a lunch in a lovely place called The Beer Kitchen before catching the train back to London. It has been such an amazing experience from many different point of views: I love Edinburgh and its atmosphere, it’s such an enchanting city definitely worth a visit or two (I am actually hoping in a third!). I also enjoyed discovering everything about Gin making and tasting: it’s always fascinating to meet the crafters, to know what products, experiences and philosophy are hidden behind a glass. Last but not least, I had the best travel buddies ever, and we’re already planning another night out here in London.
Great experience + new friends = can’t ask for more! And now, if you really want to experience the mood of the trip, watch the video:
I was a guest of Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa. Opinions are my own.