Scotland has been on the top of my to-visit-list for as long as I can remember. Mainly for two reasons: panda’s and ticking off a nice little box of visiting England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – I’m a sucker for ticking off a box where-ever I can.

So, when the opportunity came to head up North for New Year’s [Hogmanny] I couldn’t say no. We decided to do a few days in Edinburgh and a few in Glasgow – spending the time split exploring the different cities and attending to prior personal commitments that sparked the booking of the trip in the first place.

Edinburgh; the start, was the more cultural, explore and tourist part of the trip, with Glasgow being left for relaxation, food and ultimately preparing to ring in the new year in one of the infamous New Year Eve Street Parties, with a zombie [VodkaWodka] in one hand, and potentially an umbrella (it is Scotland after all) in the other.

Still very much in its Christmas festive spirit, the streets of Edinburgh were lined with lights and trees and the Christmas market took its pride place along the river donning chic huts selling mulled wine and cider, kitsch ornaments and seasonal delicacies. Dinner the first night overlooked the Christmas Market in all its entirety with its display of lights reflecting on the walls of the castle letting it glow against the cold winter’s night and creating a beautiful contrary ambience inside the glass conservatory of the rooftop bar and restaurant – Chaophraya. Hidden inside a corporate building, this creative and innovative restaurant have mastered the art of Thai cuisine and hospitality, although the choices for gluten-free were limited, the dishes were incredible moorish and flavourful, paired perfectly with an extensive wine list and an attentive staff.

Passing along the streets of the market the next day to walk up to the castle saw a stop of trips along the way. The first – Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. Known as one of the most visited attractions in the Old Town of Edinburgh the five floored attraction boasts a selection of weird and wonderful exhibitions highlighting the creative use of digital photography, light manipulation and magic, with the most magical view of all at the top – the view across Edinburgh, the castle in situ. Further down the street, you have the aptly named scariest attraction of the city – Edinburgh Dungeons – a 70-minute experience taking you deep within the depths of the city both metaphorically and literally as you wander around the incredibly designed rooms, corridors and rivers experiencing life in the past and the horrid realities citizens went through. From interactive displays, rides and more, it truly is a must visit and of course, the castle, which takes pride place overlooking the city is always a cultural must-visit for archaeological design and history-steeped within every crevice.

Speaking of must-visits, Dishoom is one of these. If you have never been lucky to grab a table at their London venues, then it’s definitely worth the trek up to Edinburgh. No queue, no pre-book, just a walk-in, sit, stuff and leave. But perhaps we were just lucky so please do your research before booking the next flight to Scotland.

Dishoom has been one of those places I have been dying to eat at since it first hit the culinary scene, but could never be bothered to queue for, a hangry Amanda needs feeding ASAP. A selection of dishes, both meat and veg all with their own unique USP’s ordered and a Raspberry Bellini to cheers upon, Dishoom has already hit a few top marks. Their unique décor and extensive gluten-free menu left a lot of hard decisions to be made. Oven cracked potatoes with tzatziki dip, chicken kebabs lovingly flame grilled with chili and lime, buttered spice vegetables and pomegranate pepper coleslaw are just among a few of the dishes that really made me lick my plate clean and hit one of the top restaurants of 2018 I had had the pleasure of dining at.

And finally, no trip to Scotland is complete without a visit to Edinburgh Zoo, home to the UK’s only pandas: Tian Tian and Yang Guang amongst a wide variety of birds and other animals with multiple walk-through inclusions including pelicans, penguins, lemurs, monkeys and more. With over 80 acres of hillside, incredible views across the city and multiple restaurants and cafés the zoo really is a day in itself and one that I have ranked highly as a favourite moment of the year – panda’s being one of my favourite animals since childhood and seeing one in real life was almost tear-inducing, mostly because we had to go back to the enclosure three times as they were not in the viewing point.

Travelling to Edinburgh in December, of course, meant one thing – cold, but luckily there was no rain or snow and the temperature was a comfortable cosy after layering up with multiple garments. It was easy to navigate around, but of course, very steep and hilly in certain areas, and the trek to the castle was a workout on its own. Flat footwear, scarves and hats donned, and Edinburgh is your oyster, now it’s off to Glasgow.


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