It has been a few years since I last visited Edinburgh during the festive season and this year I was excited to see how much it has grown. More rides, more market stalls, a bigger ice-rink, themed zones and the Street of Light project have turned Edinburgh into a competitive European destination for a Xmas break.
With a full day to get into the Xmas spirit this is what I got up to on my Edinburgh Christmas adventure...
I took the short train journey from Glasgow and exited Waverley train station to a welcome of blue skies and a burst of colour. I immediately realised I had put on far too many layers in my anticipation of a typically cold winter's day. Scottish weather problems!
I decided to start my day with a bit of ice-skating and despite not having skated for 15 years, I had romantic images of myself and Mr Adventures Around Scotland gliding effortlessly around St Andrew Square. Blame all those Xmas films set in Central Park featuring glamourous couples ice-skating hand in hand for putting this daft notion in my head! If you watched my Instagram story you would have seen the reality of me wobbling unsteadily across the ice although I did manage to remain upright so that's a win in my book! There were lots of people shuffling along precariously and desperately grabbing on to the side who no doubt had their romantic notions shattered too but at least everyone looked like they were still having fun!
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Next on my list was a shot on the Star Flyer which is nearly 60 metres high so not ideal for those scared of heights. Personally I loved it and the 360 degree views as you soar over the city were incredible. As soon as I got off I wanted to go up again but my long list for the day meant time wasn't on my side. I'd really love to see the views over the city at night so hopefully I can fit it in on my next trip to Edinburgh.
The main part of the market is made up of stalls selling trinkets, gifts, food and drink. I'm not sure how many stalls there are but it's safe to say there are a lot! The market has a continental theme so don't expect to find many Scottish goods as most of the products I saw were from other European and sometimes Asian countries. I spent quite a bit of time browsing as the stalls are on various levels and the crowds of people meant progress was slow going! It was hard not to feel festive with all the colours and smells.
If the Star Flyer isn't your cup of tea but you still want to enjoy the views over Edinburgh then the Big Wheel is a good alternative. The slow pace gives you plenty time to take in the scenery and a recorded commentary explains more about the sites of the city as you travel round. The enclosed pods also mean you are kept warm and dry whatever the weather.
Families are well catered for in 'Santa Land' at the bottom level of Princes Street Gardens. Lots of rides including a Santa train ride, Xmas tree maze and Santa's Grotto will keep young children entertained.
DINNER - CHECKPOINT EDINBURGH
Apart from a coffee break and a bratwurst (essential Xmas Market snack!) we had hardly stopped for hours and as the evening approached, a break for some proper sustenance was well overdue.
I had been invited to try out the new autumn/winter menu at Checkpoint and as it is only a 15 minute walk from the Xmas Market it seemed like the ideal time to see what it had to offer.
The restaurant has a chilled out feel with a minimalist wood and metal interior featuring some unique design touches like a cut out shipping container. The dim lighting and candles soften the industrial vibe and I was comfortable in our cosy seat by the window.
The menu featured some unusual choices and every dish sounded intriguing. I opted for Chickpea & Potato Tagine with Panella & Yoghurt and Mr Adventures Around Scotland opted for Pork Striploin, Bacon, Black Pudding, Carrot & Pave Potato with Liver Sauce.
Both dishes were well presented with good portion sizes. My tagine was really fresh and delicious with bursts of tangy sweetness. I would definitely order it again and the fact there wasn't even one chickpea left on my plate says it all!
Mr Adventures Around Scotland really enjoyed his food too which was well presented although he was a little unsure of the wafer on top which seemed to have been added more for design than taste. He gave his main course 8.5 out of 10 and also cleaned his plate which I took to be a good sign.
For dessert I had a hard time deciding between the Avocado and Lime Cheesecake or the Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Rum Ice-cream. In the end the Pineapple Cake won and it was deliciously sweet with the ice-cream making it taste like an edible Pina Colada, a big thumbs up from me although I would have personally liked a little more ice-cream (only because it was so yummy).
Mr Adventures Around Scotland decided on the Espresso Chocolate Tart and Salted Caramel Ice-cream which also met with his approval. We finished off with tea and coffee and were ready for a final Xmas fix.
Overall we found the food to be very good with many vegetarian and gluten free options on the menu. It was nice to have so many healthy options and decent sized portions. There is also a wide choice of craft ales and cocktails if you just fancy stopping in for a drink.
My only criticism would be that I found the music choice didn't really fit the setting and was quite loud at times. Personally I would have preferred some quiet background music which would have added to the chilled out vibe.
With a little time to kill before the Street of Light show at 8pm we returned to the Xmas Market and the hypnotic lights of the Double Carousel drew us in. I was glad to see I wasn't the only adult who couldn't resist a shot on the magical merry go round which is great fun for kids of all ages!
STREET OF LIGHT
The Street of Light is a recent addition to the Edinburgh Xmas activities, having only started last year. Situated on the west end of George Street over 60,000 colourful bulbs light up to synchronised music from a variety of local choirs and bands. On the evening we visited it was the turn of the The Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus to provide the festive tunes. We stood in the busy crowd in anticipation of the lights being switched on and everyone was suitably excited when the choir began to sing 'Walking in The Air' and the illuminations burst in to life. All that was missing was some snow to complete the enchantment.
Despite being in Edinburgh all day, we spent the majority of our time wandering around the Xmas attractions as there was so much to see and do. There's no denying that Edinburgh is already a beautiful city to visit at any time of year but the ever expanding Xmas activities with their pretty twinkling lights not only enhance a winter break in Scotland's Capital but complete the festive magic, a bit like the icing on a Xmas cake or the fairy on a Xmas tree.
I was invited to review the autumn/winter menu at Checkpoint, however as always all opinions are based on my personal experience.
Many thanks to Edinburgh Christmas for providing tickets to experience some of the attractions available.
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