Edinburgh Eats!

After learning all about Scotch Whisky, we headed off to search for a late lunch. Being the indecisive people that we are, we figured we would be best off just picking the first place we were both interested in. Or else, we would probably be wandering Edinburgh until dinner time!

As we walked down the Royal Mile, we passed by the Real Mary King’s Close – where we had taken the tour a couple days ago. By the time we had finished our early evening tour, the attached Royal Exchange Coffee House – which had an enticing menu, was already closed. It was open for lunch now, so this was our chance to sample their menu! Decision making made simple 😅

The Royal Exchange Coffee House shares its space with the Real Mary King’s Close gift shop. The space is bright and airy, with plenty of tables to enjoy a cuppa or a meal.

Reading the menu, I was happy to see that they were supporters of the local and Scottish food movement.

Of course, at the counter there was a display case with tempting treats and cakes! But we already had plans for dessert (more on that later!), so we stuck to their food menu. There was a good selection of food choices at this little café. There was even an option to have vegetarian haggis in the “Tower of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties.” I wasn’t feeling like a heavy lunch today so I decided to save my vegetarian haggis experience for another time!

Finally, I settled on their special of the day – a cheese quiche with a side salad and coleslaw. And Ioana had the soup and bread for her lunch.

The food took a little while to come but it was well worth the wait. The quiche was lovely and the drizzle of (what I think was) balsamic reduction was a nice touch. I might have to try that the next time I make a quiche! The salad and coleslaw were fresh and it was so nice to get some fresh veggies in! It was also a pretty generous portion and perfect for refueling after a morning and afternoon of rambling around!

After our late lunch, we headed back out onto the Royal Mile and took in the sights and sounds of this iconic street. There was always something to see along this street!

And… there is usually always something to listen to as well!

After walking off our lunch, next up was dessert! 🍦

Even before we booked our trip to Scotland, there was a little place in Edinburgh that I wanted to try. A place called Mary’s Milk Bar had been making its rounds on social media, after being featured on Buzzfeed (more than once!). Mary’s Milk Bar is famous for its indulgent hot chocolate ice cream floats and its made-fresh-daily gelato in ever-changing and unique flavours! How could we not try it while we were in Edinburgh?!

Mary’s Milk Bar is tucked away in the Grassmarket. Despite it being well-known internationally, there are no neon signs or billboards outside. This milk bar is delightfully humble, has a vintage feel and evokes a comfortable and cozy atmosphere of decades past.

We picked a good time to come, as there were only a couple of people in line ahead of us. We hear during the summer and Festival season, there are lineups down the street and they often sell out of gelato before the end of the day!

We wanted to try their famous hot chocolate ice cream floats but we also wanted the gelato and… we also wanted to walk around Edinburgh some more… So in the end, we ended up going for the gelato – purely for portability reasons… We’ll come back another time for the hot chocolate ice cream floats!

We had the pleasure of meeting Mary, as she interacted with customers and scooped out their chosen flavours!

Mary makes all of the gelato in the morning before opening up shop. We were lucky to have visited in the early afternoon – as there were still plenty of flavours to choose from. I imagine if you came near closing time, you might be quite limited on the flavours that remained!

Speaking of flavours, these aren’t your typical vanila, chocolate and strawberry flavours! Not even gourmet vanilla, chocolate and strawberry! These flavours are very unique and make use of a variety of ingredients. They also change daily and according to the seasons. Where else can you get flavours like Tea and Biscuits or Saffon and Honey or Rose and Ginger?! We follow Mary’s Milk Bar on Instagram and sometimes I feel like asking if they would ship some of their goodies over to Vancouver for us! (Would you, pretty please???!)

Here’s today’s gelato selection! 😍

Ioana went for a scoop of Drunk Prunes in Amaretto and a scoop of Fresh Fig Sorbet. I went with my favourite – Peanut Butter and a scoop of something different – White Chocolate and Thyme. I had always associated thyme with savoury dishes, but it paired really nicely with the sweetness of white chocolate in this gelato. I almost think I liked the White Chocolate and Thyme better than the PB… But they were both delicious and hit the spot!

It doesn’t get any better than this – delicious gelato and Edinburgh Castle on a beautiful autumn day! 😋

With our Edinburgh food goal achieved and our gelato in hand, we walked around the Grassmarket. Besides discovering more views of Edinburgh Castle, we also came upon a cat café – Maison de Moggy! Yup, that’s right! A cat café – where you can have something to eat or drink in the company of cats! We didn’t go in but had a good long look through the window at all the shenanigans that the cats (and humans…) were getting up to! 😼

After some more walking and a spot of dinner, it was time to head back to our hostel. We had lots of packing to do before leaving on our Haggis Adventures 10-day tour the next day! Castle Rock Hostel has a long term luggage storage room and since we would be returning in 10 days, they were kind enough to let us store some of our stuff there. That means we didn’t have to haul our Guinness Glasses and our Glencairn glass all over Scotland! (Although we would then have very well-traveled glassware!)

Before falling asleep, I managed to poke my head out the sky light above my bunk and was mesmerized by this night scene…

George Heriot’s School – inspiration for Hogwarts!

Good night Edinburgh and hello to our Scotland adventures! Stay tuned for more!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


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When in Scotland – The Scotch Whisky Experience

After a lovely little getaway to Dalhousie Castle, we were back in Edinburgh. We dropped our bags off at our hostel, and were off on our next adventure. And this would be an “educational” one 😉!

We walked the short distance from our hostel to the Royal Mile and then turned up towards Edinburgh Castle.

Our destination? The Scotch Whisky Experience!

When in Scotland, right?

Plus, after trying Jameson Irish Whiskey in Ireland, how could we not try Scotch Whisky in Scotland for a comparison?

At the Scotch Whisky Experience, there are a variety of tour experiences that you can choose from. We booked our tickets for the Silver Tour ahead of time. The Silver Tour included: an introduction to whisky, a dram of Scotch whisky, a viewing of the World’s largest collection of Scotch whisky and a souvenir of crystal whisky tasting glass.

We checked in at the ticket office and waited for the tour to start. The first part of the tour was an interesting one… A barrel ride!

You sit in a faux whisky barrel and this “ride” takes you through a history of whisky making. It was a little cheesy but there was some good information about the history and process of making whisky by our guide… a holographic guide! After going through the centuries, you arrive back in present day and a knowledgeable (real human) guide takes over.

We headed into the tasting room, where we learned more about the different whisky regions of Scotland. It was interesting to hear about the unique characteristics of each region and what makes each of them special. We each got a sniff card of each region’s special scent. (Happy to report, the sniff card still works even a year later!) Our guide led us through each of the regions and we got to test our noses! We could catch some of the flavours (that peaty smell!) but some of the subtle ones… not so much!

Next came the fun part – the tasting!

From our smell test, we each got to pick the whisky region that we wanted to sample from. Our guide came around and poured us a wee dram of whisky from that region. Ioana went with the Lowland region and I went with the Highland region (Aberfeldy 12-year).

Then we got a lesson in how to properly do a tasting – what to look for, what to smell and what to taste. We won’t give away too much of the lesson 😉

After that, with our whisky in hand, we headed off to see “The Collection.” The Scotch Whisky Experience is also known for the incredible collection of whisky housed there – to be specific, the 3,384 bottles of whisky in the collection. And we were about to see it!

In a dim room filled with shelves and glass cases, bottle after bottle of whisky is on display here. The warm amber glow of the bottles reminds me of the liquid gold that we were sipping on.

This collection was previously the personal collection of Claive Vidiz – a whisky enthusiast and founding member of the Brazilian Association of Whisky Collectors. Over some 35 years, he collected the almost 3400 unopened bottles. In 2006, the collection was returned home to Scotland after the Scottish distiller Diageo purchased it in its entirety. Now it is known as the Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection.

It was really cool to see whiskies from various years and from various distilleries – some that we had heard of and some that we hadn’t. I also liked looking at the bottles! Some were your standard bottles but others were really unique!

Two of my favourites! 🐶

After finishing our whisky, we got to take our Glencairn whisky glasses home as a souvenir, which is great because now we have proper whisky glasses! (which have gotten a fair bit of use since!)

What did we think of this experience?

We enjoyed it – sure it is catered to tourists and the barrel ride was a little iffy, but the rest of it was interesting and we felt it was worthwhile. We knew going into it that they were not going to give us their high-end whiskies to sample – and frankly it would probably be a waste since we probably wouldn’t know how to appreciate it at that stage. Another reason we went with this tour was that we were not heading out to an actual distillery while we were in Scotland. So we thought this was a good way to learn more about whisky while we were here.

We would say… if you have never had whisky before, the Silver Tour might be a good introduction. If you are a whisky fan, perhaps one of the other Tour Experiences or touring your favourite distillery might be a better fit.

Or better yet, turn it into a road trip and visit Speyside’s Malt Whisky Trail. As we learned at the Scotch Whisky Experience, Speyside has a large concentration of whisky distilleries and I think it would be a really cool adventure to drive around and visit some (all!?) of the distilleries for a tour! (Just make sure you take turns driving – no drinking and driving!) And while you’re in Speyside, drop by Aberlour and check out the Walkers Shortbread shop! (The factory is also there but they don’t offer any tours. They do have a shop on site, I believe.) I haven’t been before but I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to stop by for some buttery shortbread! Perfect roadtrip snack! 😍 It’s  definitely on my list to visit!

Who else has been to the Scotch Whisky Experience? How did you find it? Has anyone been to the Walkers Shortbread Factory or store?

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Exploring Dalhousie Castle

After a wonderful dinner at the Dungeon Restaurant, Ioana and I couldn’t resist taking some fun pictures before calling it a night.

How many Ioana’s can fit on the bed?!

This was the view from our window the next morning 😍

Waking up in a castle does have its perks 😉

Eventually we managed to pull ourselves out of bed and headed down for breakfast.

Breakfast is served in the Orangery. For breakfast, I had the scrambled eggs with Scottish smoked salmon. Delicious way to wake up! In addition to a cooked breakfast selection, there was also a selection of tasty pastries, muffins, juices, fruits and yogurts to help you start your day off right!

After breakfast, we packed up and left our bags with reception so we could explore Dalhousie Castle and its grounds a little bit more before heading back to Edinburgh.

It was another gorgeous day – perfect for exploring the castle grounds! (and having some fun…)

There were some trails around the castle grounds and we went for a wee ramble – walking past the neighbouring fields, ducking under tree branches, stepping over roots… It’s always nice to be outside, enjoying nature and the scenery.

There is a falconry on site at the castle. And you can book one of several experiences to learn more about these birds of prey and to hold and fly one! If you’re getting married at Dalhousie Castle, you can even get an owl to fly in during your ceremony and deliver your rings!

We didn’t sign up for a falconry experience. We just happened to be out on the grounds when this bird had a practice session with its trainer. (We won’t go into the ethics, animal rights or morals of this here. We are just stating what we saw.)

Back inside, there was more to admire…

Eventually, it was inevitable – we had to say goodbye to Dalhousie Castle. (We contemplated hiding in the room, or even in the woods behind the castle… But figured we would be found and booted out pretty quickly!)

We had such a lovely stay here – from the wonderful welcome we received, our conversation with the Castle Steward, our Afternoon Tea, our relaxing and rejuvenating spa treatments, our three course dinner at the Dungeon Restaurant to the friendly and hospitable staff! We can’t wait to come back for another visit!

But for now, it was back to Edinburgh for us, where another adventure awaited us. This adventure would involve our noses, our palates and… perhaps a wee dram!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!