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Edinburgh’s New St. James Centre: What We’re Most Excited For!

Things To Do Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s new St. James Quarter has been a long time in the making! It’s now ready to open on June 24th, with a variety of 80 different brands and 30 restaurants waiting to introduce us all to some new experiences after lockdown.

Here’s which new stores and places to eat we’re most excited about.

1. Bross Bagels

“Bross brings Montreal style bagels packed with NYC deli inspired fillings so the good people of Edinburgh & beyond can FILL YOUR HOLE.”

It’s brilliant to see a local Edinburgh business thrive. Bross Bagels has been a hit since opening their first store in Edinburgh in 2017 with delicious and unique twists on bagel fillings. With lots of flavours to choose from and even giant party bagels for sharing, it’s no wonder they’re so popular. You’ll often find a queue of people waiting outside their Morningside branch. Check out their full menu here.

Cheese and pickle party bagel from Bross Bagels in Edinburgh.
©Bross Bagels

2. Everyman Cinema

Everyman are aiming to redefine cinema with some boujee twists on the traditional cinema experience. You can enjoy your movie with a glass of wine and even get pizza and burgers delivered to your seat. We look forward to visiting to see just how much it differs from the regular cinema experience.

3. Sushi Samba

The five-star rated SushiSamba will have a prime position as the St. James Centre’s rooftop restaurant, providing great food and stunning views across Edinburgh. The cuisine will be a unique blend of Japanese, Brazillian and Peruvian styles and flavours.

©SushiSamba

4. Lane 7

Find yourself regularly heading to Fountainpark’s Tenpin? Lane 7 is providing us with another option. They are the UK’s largest independent bowling and gaming operator and also offer ping-pong, urban golf, 80s style arcade games and karaoke, as well as cocktails and beer pong. You’ll find them on floor 4 of the new St James Centre with 19,000 sq. ft of space.

“So much room for activities!”

5. Bonnie & Wild

Scottish restaurant brand Mac & Wild will be bringing their new concept food hall titled “Bonnie & Wild” to the St. James Quarter right by Lane 7 on the fourth floor. It will consist of restaurant operators as well as fresh and packaged food and drink from artisan butchers, fishmongers, grocers, cheesemongers, chocolatiers, bakeries. It will also host THREE unique bar concepts.

It sounds like the 4th floor will be an interesting place to be.

© Mac & Wild

6. W Luxury Hotel & Roomzzz Apart Hotels

Edinburgh’s new St. James Quarter will host not just one but two luxury hotels! However, they are much more than simply tourist accommodation. SushiSamba’s rooftop restaurant will be a part of W Hotel. The hotels will likely also include leisure activities such as spas for all of your pampering needs.

©Roomzzz Apart Hotel, Leeds Reception Area

That’s all that’s on our list for now! What are you most looking forward to? Check out our other articles to discover more things you can get up to in the Scottish capital.

The vortex at Camera Obscura Edinburgh

Camera Obscura World of Illusions – Edinburgh 🌀

Things To Do Edinburgh

If you’re looking for a fun-filled day out in Edinburgh, then Camera Obscura World of Illusions located just by Edinburgh Castle is a great place to go. Camera Obscura is brilliant for children but also has activities enjoyable for all ages. As a group of 20-somethings we also had a great time!

Here are a few of the things that you can see at Camera Obscura:

  1. The Vortex

Looking rather innocent at first with its pretty colours and lights, the vortex will have your head spinning! It really messes with your senses and it’s so much fun trying to get to the other end.

2. Mirrors & The Mirror Maze

You’ll find lots of mirrors at Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, both inside and out! Great if you want to take some unique selfies. There’s also a mirror maze where you’ll have to try very hard to use your senses and get to the other end.

3. Become A Salad

Yep! There’s an illusion where you can actually have your friend/partner’s head on a plate.

4. Thermal Cameras

You’ll also get the rare opportunity to see yourself on a thermal camera. Apparently it once helped save a life!

5. The Rooftop

From Camera Obscura’s rooftop you’ll get beautiful views across the city including Princes Street, The Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle. We went on a dark October evening and the city was so pretty all lit up.

Camera Obscura Tickets and Discounts

Overall, there’s a lot to see and do and this list doesn’t even cover all of it! There are 3 floors of illusions to see in total and to keep the element of surprise we haven’t included all of them here.

Tickets are affordably priced and the added discounts for other attractions make it easy to make a day out of it. You can get 10% off at some local restaurants and 25% off the Edinburgh Dungeon if you visit on the same day.

Looking for more fun things to do on a day out in Edinburgh? Why not resurrect The Dark Lord at The Department of Magic.

Mercat Tours – Edinburgh Ghost & History Tours 🚶‍♂️

Things To Do Edinburgh

Mercat Tours have been showing people Edinburgh’s most interesting sites for 35 years. Their award-winning, 5-star rated walking tours are a great way to get to know the city. They also have exclusive access to the Blair Street Underground Vaults!

For transparency reasons, I must mention that I do work here. However, I’m not obligated to write this blog and genuinely think the tours are great. As part of my induction training I got to go on almost all of them. So with that said here are my favourites!

A visit to Edinburgh’s Blair Street Underground Vaults

Doomed, Dead & Buried – Ghost Tour

Why is Doomed, Dead, & Buried my favourite Mercat ghost tour? Because of the Canongate Kirkyard of course! Several notable figures with intriguing stories buried here including Adam Smith, David Riccio (assistant and friend of Mary Queen of Scots), and an ex-lover of Robert Burns. However, aside from the incredible history there are also some much darker tales to be told and when better to hear them than in the dead of night, with only a cloaked figure and torch light to guide you?

Edinburgh’s Canongate Kirkyard

Evening of Ghosts & Ghouls – Ghost Tour

Unfortunately, due to CV-19 this tour isn’t running at the moment but it’s definitely one of my favourites. After a visit to the dark and mysterious 18th-century Blair Street Underground Vaults, you’ll join your storyteller and the rest of the tour group in Mercat’s Megget’s Cellar. There you’ll have a dram of whisky (or a soft-drink if you’d prefer) and hear some more gruesome stories, including that of the notorious serial killers Burke and Hare. Mercat Tours even have a death mask of Burke’s face taken after his death, creepy but fascinating!

William Burke Death Mask in Mercat Tours’ Meggets Cellar

Secrets of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile – History Tour

There’s so much to see on this tour and you’ll learn a lot. As an Outlander fan, I especially enjoyed hearing about Bonnie Prince Charlie, it seems he was just as obnoxious in real life as he was in the series. There was also a lot of focus on the life of Mary Queen of Scots. I finished the tour not only with a lot more appreciation for all that Mary Queen of Scots went through, but also for Edinburgh as a whole.

Even if you’re already from Scotland the tour is very eye-opening and entertaining.

Edinburgh Castle

Historic Underground – History Tour

The Historic Underground tour is brilliant. There is so much history to be discovered in the centuries old Blair Street Underground Vaults – from an abandoned tavern and illegal whisky distilling, to people living there. The stories will truly fascinate you and you can even see some of the artefacts that continue to be uncovered to this day! Some of my favourites are the old shoes which you can see in the discovery room and oyster shells, which were a common bar snack back in the “Auld Reekie” days.

Sin In The City – History Tour

This is a seasonal tour and oh my goodness, I love it! The tour, which usually runs in February, is an anti-valentines tour. Telling hilarious stories from Edinburgh’s past, including that of a local tree-lover, it’s a brilliant gals day out. This tour also finishes in Mercat’s Megget’s Cellar with some champagne and chocolate hearts, perfect.

Sin In The City Tour

Overall, there’s a lot of tours to choose from. If you live in Edinburgh I’d recommend trying a tour at least once, you can view all Mercat has to offer here. The team have taken a lot of care to have CV-19 procedures in place and to make sure everyone is safe on tour. 😊

The Department of Magic – Edinburgh Escape Room 🧙🏼‍♂️

Things To Do Edinburgh

With trick-or-treating and partying off the menu this Halloween – we opted to celebrate a little differently, by trying one of Edinburgh’s many escape rooms. With strong Harry Potter vibes, The Department of Magic Escape Room felt like the perfect place!

At this escape room, you get to decide which side you’re on. If you consider yourself a Gryffindor, for example, then you may want to play the Prophecies Quest. In this game, you aim to defeat the Dark Lord. But if you’re more Slytherin, then you may want to play the Dark Lord Resurrection Quest. After all, where’s the fun in being good all the time?

We opted for Dark Lord Resurrection as what better year to summon a dark overlord than 2020?! 🧛🏻‍♂️

Here’s How It Went

After waiting at the meeting point, we were soon greeted by a wizard who helped us navigate our way past some muggles (his words not ours) and onto the escape room. We stopped briefly in a waiting area while our wizard sanitised the room, which was reassuring. We were then surprised when he re-appeared in a mask and cloak and asked in a very deep voice if we were “ready to resurrect the Dark Lord”? To which of course we both said yes!

The Waiting Area

Upon entering there were several different stations where puzzles needed to be solved to win the game. Unfortunately, I have no photos for this part as that would give too much away! Clues were hidden throughout the room, and we had to solve various riddles. A timer placed on the wall counts down so you know exactly how much time you have. For Dark Lord Resurrection it’s 50 minutes.

Normally, your witch or wizard would be in the room with you but on this occasion we were given occasional prompts over a speaker. We managed to solve three of the several puzzles, unfortunately not enough to win. However, this was our first ever escape room and we still had a great time! Would I do it again? Definitely!

The Department of Magic Escape Room Prices

I believe if we had a larger group we likely could have beaten it. Pricing is as follows:

3 for £55

4 for £60

5 for £70

Essentially, the bigger your group the better the price per person and it’s easier to win. There are a lot of escape rooms in Edinburgh and after this experience, I’ll definitely be trying more!

If you’re looking for another fun-filled activity, check out our review of Camera Obscura and World of Illusions.

Things To Do In The Scottish Borders – Abbotsford House

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Nature, scenery, and history often come hand-in-hand in Scotland. If these are things you enjoy, then Abbotsford is the perfect place to visit. Tucked away in the Scottish Borders, Abbotsford House was once home to one of Scotland’s greatest writers – Sir Walter Scott. If you’ve been to Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, then you’ve likely seen the massive Scots monument dedicated to him.

When was Abbotsford House built?

The site was originally a small farm named Cartleyhole. Walter Scott bought the location in 1811 and gave it the name Abbotsford. Modest, as farmhouses typically are, Walter enlarged the building between 1811-1812 and made further expansions from 1816-1824, resulting in the mansion we see today.

Things to see & do at Abbotsford House

Having previously been farmland the mansion is surrounded by nature. Not only does it have a stunning garden that visitors can walk through, but it also meets with the River Tweed and has benches where visitors can stop for a rest or a quick lunch.

While we didn’t go inside on this visit, you can also enter the mansion. Adult tickets are priced at £5.70. Inside you’ll find an incredible vintage library where Walter Scott himself used to read and write. There’s also a cafe which I’m determined to go back and visit as it supposedly does some amazing scones!

Photographed by Elman

Things near Abbotsford House

Assuming you’ve traveled by car then it’s easy to stop at the nearby Tweedbank Park. As a Scottish girl from Fife that’s seen a lot of lochs, and lived in the country for 24 of my 26 years – I was amazed to see so many swans! It’s probably the first time I’ve seen them almost outnumber the ducks.

At the edge of the park you’ll find the 4-star restaurant, Herges On The Loch. If you go, definitely try the fish and chips! While the fish is a little on the small side, It’s incredibly fresh and the batter just melts in your mouth. If you sit outdoors, you can enjoy your lovely fresh meal with a beautiful view of the park, loch, and fountain.

Overall, the Scottish Borders make the perfect getaway, day-trip or staycation! Only an hours drive from Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, the area is a peaceful contrast from the city.