Day 1. Edinburgh at Christmas

It had been exactly three years since my last visit to Edinburgh and as it’s one of my favourite cities, that was far too long. So, to remedy the situation, we managed to squeeze in a short break to the Scottish capital just before Christmas.  We travelled on a Cross-Country train that was over-crowded all the way from York for almost three hours of the journey. Thankfully we did have seats but many of the passengers weren’t so fortunate as they had made reservations for the previous service one hour earlier which had been cancelled. These things happen and those affected will be entitled to some delay repay compensation but nonetheless, standing on a train for almost three hours isn’t something anyone wants to do.

Heritage sign, Edinburgh Waverley Station
I just love this sign in Edinburgh Waverley Station

Getting back to the positives about our journey, our train was on time and we enjoyed some lovely views of the rugged coastline from just south of Berwick-upon-Tweed into Edinburgh. If you ever plan to travel up to Scotland on the east coast main line, I suggest reserving seats on the right hand side of the train so that you can also appreciate the dramatic scenery.  As can be expected just before Christmas, Edinburgh Waverley Station was teeming with crowds of people arriving into the city centre around midday like us. Despite it being so busy, I had a spring in my step as I took the escalators up to Princes Street as I was so happy to be standing on this famous thoroughfare with its magnificent ancient buildings and views of the castle.  The sounds of a Scots piper greeted us as we crossed the road up to St. Andrew Square where we called in to a familiar cafe for some much needed cups of coffee before dropping our luggage off at our hotel which was nearby.

Georgian crescent in Edinburgh's New Town
Georgian crescent in Edinburgh’s New Town

It was still only 1.30 p.m. as we strolled along George Street in Edinburgh’s ‘New Town’. This broad avenue is lined with high-end stores, hotels and restaurants and runs parallel with its more famous neighbour, Princes Street below.

Georgian House, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh
Georgian House, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s New Town is far from new, in fact it dates from the mid 18th century and was created in response to overcrowding in what is now known as the Old Town. The ‘new town’ was designed with a square at each end. St Andrew Square near to Edinburgh Waverley Station that we had passed through earlier, and Charlotte Square that we had now just reached. The original character of the Georgian era remains today with its cobblestone roads and neo-classical architecture. Many of its buildings feature grandiose pillars and ornate fanlights over the front doors.

Georgian House, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh
Formal Dining Room, Georgian House, Edinburgh

We had come to visit Georgian House, a magnificently restored Edinburgh New Town house now owned by the Scottish National Trust. Standard adult admission is £8 but free for National Trust members (even those from south of the border!). It was pleasing to find that the rooms had been decorated in readiness for the festive season just as they would have been in Georgian times.

Georgian House, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh
The gift shop decked out for Christmas

We toured each floor including the kitchens and servants quarters below stairs. A helpful volunteer was on hand in each of the rooms to answer our questions and to give us a feeling of what life would have been like for the family living there. He told us that the Drawing Room and Dining Room were designed not only to entertain guests but also to impress them and it was all very interesting and definitely worth a visit.

Bute House, Charlotte Square, The Official Residence of the First Minister of Scotland
Bute House, Charlotte Square, The Official Residence of the First Minister of Scotland

On leaving the building we noticed the brass sign on the gate post next door which read Bute House, the official residence of the first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.

Sunday Market, Stockbridge, Edinburgh
Sunday Market, Stockbridge, Edinburgh

Moving on, we wandered down the steep hills of the new town to the charming village of Stockbridge. I don’t know if any of you have ever visited there whilst staying in Edinburgh, but it’s one of my favourite haunts, especially on a Sunday when the Saunders Street farmers market is taking place.

Dog treats at Sunday Market, Stockbridge, Edinburgh
Festive dog treats and tartan collars on offer in the market

This market is always a hive of activity with its yellow and white canopied stalls crammed close together offering the best of local Scottish fare, street food and handicrafts. There were even two stalls dedicated to dogs with an array of festive treats and accessories for our four legged friends.

Mellis Cheesemonger Stockbridge Edinburgh
Independent small shops abound in Stockbridge

Continuing along Raeburn Place, it’s a shopper’s paradise with its thriving high street lined with small independent retailers from fishmongers and greengrocers to vintage clothes and bookshops. We spent a couple of hours enjoying a wander around the shops picking up a few bits and pieces along the way. Although a branch of Starbucks and Costa Coffee have put in an appearance, Stockbridge still has lots of independent cafes which I consider to be so much more welcoming than the big chains.

The Water of Leith, Stockbridge
The Water of Leith, Stockbridge

Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to add Stockbridge to your Edinburgh itinerary. It’s so easy to find, as pretty much all roads from Princes Street lead down there, just head south across Queen Street and you can’t miss it. The most direct route is down Frederick Street until you reach St. Stephen’s church at the bottom of the road and then you’ve arrived! If you do prefer to take the bus then the 24, 29 and 42 all head down to Stockbridge from the city centre. It might be a good idea to take the bus back if you want to avoid walking up the steep hill. (Single fares on Lothian Buses £1.70 or £4 for a day ticket). We actually walked back up to our hotel for a couple of hours rest, then feeling reenergised, were ready for action again.

The Dome, George Street, Edinburgh
The Dome, George Street, Edinburgh

Our first stop was to The Dome on George Street which is an Edinburgh institution trimmed up to the hilt with its thousands of fairy lights, baubles and elaborate Christmas tree. The exterior features a Graeco-Roman facade and Corinthian Portico which are also adorned with festive cheer. It’s always crowded but a great place to get into the festive spirit on a night out in the city centre.

The Dome, George Street, Edinburgh
Elaborate festive decorations inside The Dome, Edinburgh

For dinner, we headed to the Booking Office at Waverley station and as it was a Sunday we felt like a roast so we opted for the roast turkey festive dinner which was very tasty and filled us up nicely. To walk off our large meal we spent the next hour or so wandering through the enchanting Christmas market which covers an extensive area in the Princes Street Gardens between the railway station and the Scottish National Gallery.

Edinburgh Christmas Market
One of the may inviting wooden stalls in the Edinburgh Christmas Market

It felt a magical experience sauntering along the rows of traditional wooden huts festooned with twinkling lights offering festive gifts to the tunes of seasonal favourites including ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’. A brightly illuminated ferris wheel and a traditional carousel were proving popular with all ages as was the beautifully lit Christmas Tree Maze down below. With our hands wrapped around mugs of mulled wine we couldn’t have been more content enjoying our much overdue return visit to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Christmas Market
The twinkling lights of the Edinburgh Christmas Market

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Other posts in this series:

A Christmas break in Edinburgh

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Edinburgh’s Royal Mile

National Portrait Gallery, Stockbridge and Edinburgh’s Christmas Market


71 thoughts on “Day 1. Edinburgh at Christmas

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  8. sylfarblog

    Thank you for reading and liking my blog. Your site looks lovely- I visited Edinburgh last August and had a great time it was lovely to read about it again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Day 2. Exploring historic York – Love Travelling

  10. jasonlikestotravel

    Wonderful read! Brings back a lot of good memories from my festive visit in 2017. I’ll have to seek out Stockbridge next time I’m up there.
    Also good shout on The Booking Office and a good reminder for me too! I was quite disappointed when ‘spoons dropped the Sunday Roast from their menus but I’d forgotten that they do a festive menu so I’ll have to remember that for later in the year as a cheap option on any UK travels 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jason, Edinburgh is always lovely to visit and Stockbridge a hidden gem. I wish they’d bring back the Sunday roast too, I liked that when out and about. In my home town, I crafted out many a blog post over a bacon roll there! Hope you have a good weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Little Miss,

    Thanks for reading Esme’s interview. I loved your piece on Edinburgh – one place I’m sorry I missed out on seeing…when we lived in England. We saw a lot of our own country, plus beautiful Wales, but ‘life’ has a habit of ‘arranging’ things a little differently at times…Certainly not complaining, as we visited many other countries, and as you know, now live in super Spain! Happy travelling. Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sounds like a fantastic trip to Edinburgh! I can’t believe I never knew where the First Minister’s official residence is hahahaha. So glad you caught the Sunday market at Stockbridge, that’s one of my favourite things about living here! That said, it’s been a while since I’ve been, so may need to pop down in a couple of days. 🙂 The Dome is great too, I’d never been inside before until this season! What a great Christmas tree.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. ThingsHelenLoves

    Edinburgh does the festive season so well. The décor in the Dome is quite something! Hope you had a lovely Christmas and all the best for the coming year. Looking forward to seeing where you get to!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The Christmas market looks fabulous, heard so many times how good the Edinburgh one is but never been. May have to remedy that now. Love the train ride up via Berwick too, so picturesque. Shame the train was packed. What a lovely way to start your Christmas celebrations.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. So nice to stumble upon your post! I lived in Edinburgh as well for a year for my Masters. It’s a fantastic place to experience, and those shots of Stockbridge bring back so many good memories of food! Cheesemongers was my favourite, but my roommates might disagree with me (I bought cheese that really stunk up the fridge). I miss it, and I think someday I will go back to visit. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They will indeed! This year the festivities began on 16th November and continue until 4th January. So next year’s dates will be similar, covering a six week period. I hope you get an opportunity to visit Edinburgh as it is an absolutely beautiful city. Thank you for your welcome comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was indeed a good place to live. I got to do a lot of skiing, but I also got to hit the Edinburgh Festival good and hard, attending something pretty much every single day, with a record of five shows in one day. I was shattered by the end of it it, because I was also at work five days a week while it was on. Great memories though!

        Liked by 1 person

          1. The only downside was that Lynne was living in London so there was a lot of train/coach travel and the occasional flight from Edinburgh to London (and vice versa) involved! Luckily, she was self-employed at the time so she could at least choose the best timings to travel.

            Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow Edinburg looks like an amazing Christmas city. I’d love to see the Dome in person, I’m such a sucker for Christmas lights. It’s great how museums dress up for Christmas too. I wanted to visit the Charles Dickens museum in London as they had done just that but we didn’t have time (and Aaro wasn’t keen). Well, there’s always a next time for London. Happy New Year dear Marion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Suvi for your kind words about my recent visit to Edinburgh. It’s one of my favourite cities along with Helsinki and I’m sure you would love visiting there too. I think we were there the same time you were in London ! Happy New Year to you as well xx

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Jepsy Babu

    Georgian crescent, the dome and the water Leith are so beautiful. The Big Christmas tree is amazing. Waffle shop make my day…… Love it. Edinburgh is truly festive.

    Liked by 1 person

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