Guest Post: The Ultimate UK Short Break – Part 1

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This summer Superbreak’s Content Marketing Manager, Louise Millard, embarked on the Ultimate UK Break, covering 10 destinations in 4 countries over the space of 9 days. Find out about her whirlwind adventure in the first of three posts about her break…

When a family friend from Canada mentioned he’d never seen any of the UK other than West Yorkshire, the two Lee’s (my boyfriend & Canadian) and I set off on an adventure to discover the best of what the UK & Ireland has to offer. Many friends said it couldn’t be done…those people clearly underestimated my planning and organisational skills!

The Edinburgh Skyline
The stunning Edinburgh skyline

Day 1: Edinburgh City

Date: Sun 22 Jul 13

After deciding to bail on the boozy evening in Newcastle with the two Lee’s, I took the first East Coast train from York up to Edinburgh on Sunday and arrived into Edinburgh Waverley at lunch time. Although I’ve visited Edinburgh before, I never fail to fall in love with this ever-changing city – whatever the time of year I visit.

This time, I was determined to visit the Castle and we were lucky enough to enjoy the sights and sounds of the annual Jazz festival whilst up there (beating the crowds down below)! If you’re visiting the castle, you’ll need a good couple of hours to appreciate the history, venture around the inside of the castle and to take in the incredible views (as well as a trip to the onsite Whisky Store for a couple of souvenirs!). We also picked up a few prints from an artist just outside of the castle, which worked out much cheaper than in the castle shop.

From here, we stopped off at a little cafe at the top of the Lawnmarket for a different take on “afternoon tea”, with warm Jam scones and a whisky! On the way down the Royal Mile, we stopped off at the unmissable St Giles’ Cathedral, or High Kirk of Edinburgh, to appreciate the interior architecture. Entry is free (although donations of £3.00 are encouraged) and if you’re a budding photographer then you can buy a permit from the information desk for just £2.00. If, like me, you’re more into fine art than contemporary, make sure you visit the Scottish National Gallery where I lost an entire 3 hours mesmerised by the incredible masterpieces on display and, the best thing of all, it’s free!

In the evening, we called at the WHISKI Bar on the Royal Mile which offers a whisky taster tray, live music and a rustic setting complete with twinkling fairy lights. We also stumbled upon the Whistlebinkies Live Music bar (4-6 South Bridge) – perfect if you just want to relax, enjoy some live indie music and meet the locals. We discovered Garibaldi’s on the walk home – be warned, if you blink, you will miss it! It’s located on Hanover Street down, tucked away down a flight of stairs which transports you into a lively Mexican themed atmosphere with pounding salsa beats and colourful tequila based cocktails!

As we’re a group of three, we chose to stay at the Walton Guest House on Dundas Street, which offered 3 single beds with en suite and a cooked breakfast all just a 10-15 minute walk from George Street. It’s located in a quieter part of town and is quite small so has a real homely atmosphere.

Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle

Day 2: Stirling, Glasgow & Ayr

Date: Mon 23 Jul 13

Stirling by far was the hidden gem on the trip and has definitely left me with the travel bug of wanting to explore more of central Scotland. We took a walk up through the town centre towards the castle, stopping off at the Stirling Old Town Jail. Whilst it was closed when we visited, we did walk around the building and then ventured into the tourist information centre, whose staff helped us to establish our bearings and gave us some fantastic walking routes (maybe we can use them on our next visit!).

Once at the castle, we stopped for a well-earned rest, an ice cream and took a moment to appreciate the stunning views across to the Wallace monument and beyond. We did pay the entry fee and whilst at first it did seem slightly expensive, it was definitely worth it! To our pleasant surprise, the entry fee included a 45 minute guided tour around the main parts of the castle, where you can learn about the castles’ long bloody history. After the tour, we were left to our own devices to discover more about Scottish history over the ages in the rest of the castle

After a quick bite to eat, we jumped back on the train and headed for Glasgow and then onto our final stopping point for the evening. In hindsight, we’d have loved to discover more of Glasgow, however after a full day with a backpack trekking around Stirling, we regrettably ditched our plans and headed out to our final stopping point on the Ayrshire coast.

Views from Stirling Castle
Views from Stirling Castle

We stayed at the Kilkerran Guest House in Newton-on-Ayr, which is two houses converted into cosy student-like accommodation and was ideal for the airport just a couple of stops from Glasgow Prestwick International Airport. We dined at the Rupee Room Indian Restaurant, which overlooked the James George Smith Neill Monument, war memorial and out to sea.

Alternatives: If you don’t want the hassle of organising the rail and itinerary yourself, there’s an abundance of pre-bookable bus tour trips that will take you on the famous whisky or history trails.

Top Travel Tip: If you’re planning on staying on longer to explore more of central Scotland, be sure to invest in a Central Scotland Rover Pass, which offers you 3 days unlimited travel for £36.30.

Keep your eyes peeled for Part 2 of Louise’s Ultimate UK Break coming soon…

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