One of my closest friends got married a couple of months ago, and I had the honour of being his best man. Slightly unconventional, I know, but I am all for breaking gender stereotypes and am honoured to have been asked.
As best man, I was of course tasked with planning a stag weekend. My only instructions were ‘I want it low key and keep the destination a surprise’.
I quickly fell in love with the idea of going to Edinburgh. Flights for the dates we wanted to go were over £200 per person, which is insane, and the train wasn’t much cheaper either. I figured that it takes at least an hour to get to an airport, 2 hours between check-in and departures, an hour’s flight plus however long it takes to get your luggage and make your way to the hotel. That’s at least 5 hours – and Edinburgh is a 6 hour drive from Leicester (where the groom lives).
I have family in Leicester too, so it made sense for us to drive up from there, the night before. As much a I take any opportunity to get on a flight, it was too risky at the time for multiple reasons thanks to covid, staff shortages so flights being cancelled and melting runways thanks to insane heatwaves, so driving was our only option.
We hired a big car for comfort and so that we could split the driving between the 3 of us and set off at around 6pm on Thursday, after work.
I had a rough itinerary with some bookings in place and lots of free time in between to drink, recuperate from drinking or just do whatever we fancied.
Knowing we’d arrive in the early hours of the morning, I’d booked brunch for 11.30am at Hula Juice Bar, Fountainbridge. This was hands down the best meal we had in Edinburgh – not just your typical instagrammable eatery, the food was healthy, delicious and we all devoured it!
I ordered the veggie brekkie sans poached eggs, which they swapped for fries for me. As delicious as mine was, I had serious brunch envy eyeing up Jass’s açai bowl. I can confirm it was divine – one of the best we’ve ever had!
Every stag party needs an activity (and a ridiculous fancy dress costume, of course), and so I had booked a session of axe throwing at Black Axe Throwing for 1.30pm. I’ve done axe throwing a couple of times in the past and this venue had a great vibe. The session was just over an hour long and they showed us 3 or 4 different techniques of throwing an axe – something I’ve never been shown before.
It was a lot of fun and we all thoroughly enjoyed it!
There must have been about 50 of us in there – all stag parties, and I was the only female which was quite amusing! That didn’t put me off at all though. We had group competitions at the end and I came out 3rd in of our group of 25 – and we beat the other team in the end which was brilliant! Looks like I may have found a new hobby.
We then headed to Portobello Beach. It was on the itinerary as a maybe – weather dependant of course, and remarkably, it had turned out to be an incredibly warm day. The others weren’t really fussed, but I was excited to visit a beach. I mean, how often can you say you’ve done that on a warm day in Scotland!
It was only a 20 minute drive away from the axe throwing venue, but I have to say it didn’t blow me away. Gloomy skies, broken glass and litter strewn across the beach meant that we didn’t dip our toes in the water or hang around for very long. Instead we walked along the promenade and enjoyed some ice cream before heading back to our Airbnb.
We had a table booked for dinner at Dishoom for 9pm, so the plan was to drop the car back, freshen up and head to some bars in the city centre before then. Our Airbnb was one of the nicest I have ever stayed in; a cute 2 bedroom house with a lovely garden about 25 minutes outside of the city. As it was such a lovely day, we ended up sitting in the garden with cocktails for hours, before heading out for dinner and more drinks.
We’d planned a day trip to Glasgow for Saturday as it’s only an hour away and a city that none of us had visited before. We’d had such a late night the night before, that we didn’t arrive in Glasgow until around 3pm!
We had brunch en route in Edinburgh at Beetroot Sauvage; a no frills, rustic vegan cafe and wellness centre with a certain charm. The menu looked promising, but sadly fell flat. The vegan haggis was to die for, but the scrambled tofu was watery and bland, as was the avocado (on toast). It was so bad, I had to scrape it all off an essentially just eat soggy toast.
I must admit, the shabby atmosphere did make me question their food hygiene rating somewhat, but I’d still go back for that vegan haggis next time I’m in Edinburgh – it was delicious!
In Glasgow, we met up with my friend Gerry who I’d met on a press trip to Cyprus a couple of weeks ago and we headed straight to Merchant Square for dinner and drinks.
We eased ourselves in to a long night of drinking with dinner at Bar Soba; a super vibrant Southeast Asian street food restaurant. The food and cocktails were right up my street, particularly the chocolate orange espresso martini, which was exactly like drinking an alcoholic Terry’s chocolate orange with a shot of coffee – heavenly!
I ordered a trio of small plates and sides; Korean cauliflower, super vegan Thai fries and asian greens. I couldn’t fault any of it, it was all insanely good.
The restaurant turns into a bar later and the upbeat vibe was fab, thanks to the live DJ. We spent so long in there, partly because the service was very slow, but mainly because the cocktails were so great!
Glasgow has so many great bars with live music; I’d had recommendations for the Horseshoe Bar and McChuills Bar but we ended up at Maggie May’s; an American style sports bar with a live indie band.
Our night ended at Platinum Lace gentleman’s club, supposedly the best strip club in Glasgow. Interestingly, I’d discovered that strip clubs had been banned in Edinburgh just a few months ago when I was planning this stag, so it worked out well that we already had a day trip to Glasgow factored in!
I shall spare you the details of the rest of the night, but let’s just say we didn’t get back to Edinburgh until 4am!
Sunday was our last full day before leaving the following morning and we had nothing major planned. Just as well because we were all feeling extremely delicate from the night before.
We went to Stockbridge market; a farmer’s market that has lots of street food and various independent traders selling their wares. I was impressed by the amount of vegan options available at every stall but many of them had run out of food by the time we arrived. We didn’t have a lot of choice and based on what we had, the food was quite hit and miss. Great Japanese noodles, but the vegan paella was vile; undercooked rice, bland and tasted like a mildly spiced Indian dish which ultimately ended up in the bin.
We wandered around the pretty streets for while, coffee in hand and from there, went to the Royal Botanic Garden which was stunning.
It was lovely to walk around in the fresh air after a couple of days of drinking. The rock garden was my favourite part of the gardens as there was so much to see and explore. I walked up to the highest part of the garden and was rewarded with a spectacular view of the skyline and all the plants, behind the waterfall.
We spent so long at the Botanic Garden, that we almost got locked in! They’d locked the entrance we had entered from and so we had to walk all the way round the park and back round the outside to the car.. in the rain! We’d been blessed with the ideal weather for our trip up until this point, and then it typically started raining at the most inconvenient time!
I had wanted to visit The Dome; one of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks that has an award winning bar and restaurant. The menu didn’t look particularly great for vegetarians and I also figured it’s probably not the best place to go with a hungover stag party.
We ended up at a questionable Lebanese restaurant for dinner, after walking around Edinburgh Old Town and the Royal Mile to soak up the touristy atmosphere.
In true stag weekend style, we ended the night with some late night drinks back at the Airbnb.
Checkout was at 10am, and we had planned to have breakfast nearby at The Paper Mill before leaving Scotland, knowing that we had a 6 hour drive back to Leicester.
Unfortunately, as we arrived, they were turning people away due to there not being a chef available for the day. They gave us some other local recommendations and it transpired that everyone had the same problem. Apparently, during the pandemic, a lot of chef’s changed careers and so there is a huge shortage of them in the area. Huge shame as the location was so picturesque, the staff were incredibly friendly and most importantly, the menu looked amazing – it was the vegan haggis (again) that sold it to me.
On their recommendation, we ended up at Restoration Yard in Dalkeith Country Park. Beautiful setting, lovely food, but don’t expect service with a smile in there.
Breakfast was okay, nothing special, so I wouldn’t make a special trip here unless you’re spending the day at the park. I have to say that the vegan haggis was awful – soggy and tasted like an uncooked sausage patty. Gross. Nothing like the one at Beetroot Sauvage which was delicious and crunchy, full of flavour and texture.
We didn’t have time to hang around after breakfast as it was fast approaching lunchtime, so we set off back to Leicester, stopping off at the Scotland-England border to stretch our legs.
The drive on the return journey took us around 8 hours, including a few stops which wasn’t too bad considering we hit rush hour traffic mid way too.
Would I drive to Edinburgh again? Probably not!
This wasn’t my first trip to Edinburgh, but I’d definitely visit again. Whether you’re looking for a culture fix, buzzing nightlife, stunning architecture, rolling hills or delicious food, this charming city has it all.
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