For the remainder of our Scotland visit, we considered popular tourist activities like day trips to the Highlands (to sneak a peek at the Loch Ness monster), but settled on exploring the town by foot. We started the day with a delicious Scottish breakfast cooked fresh by Doris & Eddie of Doris Crook B&B;. When traveling, we love trying a mix of hotels and cozy B&B;’s.
For lunch, we went 3.5 miles north to Leith (Edinburgh’s waterfront) for a Michelin star restaurant featured by Anthony Bourdain. I rather trust the man’s recommendations, as we share similar passions for crispy-skinned lechon or a hot bowl of pho noodles.
The Kitchin in Leith serves “modern British cuisine” with a big focus on using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. After being seated, we each got little maps showing the birthplaces of ingredients used in the current menu. I felt like a kid with a connect-the-dots placemat at Applebees, matching pieces of each course to the map.
After some veggie crudite, an amuse bouche (pre-appetizer), and warm rolls, these appetizers arrived and stole the show. The ox tripe tasted like a beloved dim sum dish, and the tongue (which I’m normally fearful of) was reminiscent of seared Spam – a guilty pleasure. I couldn’t get enough of the flavorful braised squid, which had a meaty, stew-like consistency. It was especially yummy paired with the tender grilled pieces, dabbed in ink.
We had the set lunch for 26.5 GPB (~$43 USD) per person, which comes with a choice of a starter and a main, plus the pre-appetizer bites. The entire meal took almost two hours, so be sure to plan a long stroll afterwards to walk it off.
On the walk between Leith and the B&B;, I couldn’t believe how many secondhand shops lined the main streets. A quick online search landed me to this awesome map & guide on where to buy secondhand, where to sell/donate/recycle used items (we passed by several bulk garment buyback stores), and where to get your used items repaired or mended for a second life. It was unusual seeing such a thorough approach to sustainable fashion in the city.
Most thrift stores or “charity shops” were clearly labeled with the organization that they support (ie. Pets in Need of Vets – how can you not stop in?), and staffed with volunteers. There were also antiques stores, consignment shops, and vintage clothing stores aplenty. This area sounds like a thrifter’s dream, but I didn’t have luck finding anything below a ~US 4-6. One shop owner joked that locals “are bred bigger to stay warm.”
After miles of daily walking, we treated ourselves to a couples massage at Castle Thai Spa. The masseuses were sweet and accommodating, but my extremely non-flexible body was in for a surprise upon discovering the nature of a Thai massage. Each time Nick started to drift off peacefully, he was jolted awake by my yelps and “oh my gosh, I don’t think it bends that way!!”
We couldn’t leave town without a tasting of Scotch whiskey. Nick was much more into this, whereas I just took obligatory sips of each followed by face scrunching and throat clutching.
Dinner tip: many of the restaurants offer a late lunch/early dinner (or “pre-theatre”) menu up until 6-6:30pm, where you can order off a prix fixe menu for a sizeable discount. Dining out in general was pricey compared to the States, so I kept my eyes peeled for this option.
Scottish specialty “cullen skink” was high on my list to try, but gotta say New England clam chowder reigns far supreme! Mussels were plentiful everywhere and so big and juicy, we got them at least 4 times at various places.
Another common offering around town was kebabs, and the winning plate for me was over at Hanedan. We saw neighboring patrons scarfing down a mixed grill platter with a side of cacik (cucumber & yogurt sauce), and asked for the exact same thing. The seared meat, rice, and yogurt plus a scoop of chilli sauce were the perfect complements, and our plates were wiped clean.
Next up – Travel packing post & London