Calton Hill – the best place to watch the sunset in Edinburgh

Why Calton Hill is the place to be to watch the sunset over Edinburgh

Watching the sunset over Edinburgh from Calton Hill

I'm ashamed to say it took us nine months before we actually got up Calton Hill at all, let alone to see the sunset

When we first moved to Edinburgh we came up with my Mum and one of Daz's best friends, who had lived in Edinburgh for years. Daz and I were talking about all of the things we were excited to see and do, and mentioned wanting to watch the sunset from Arthur's Seat. His friend told us that while it's pretty good, the party is at Calton Hill because it's closer to the city. (He didn't say "the party is at" because no one says that, apart from me...on the internet.)

And he was right. And it seems everyone else in Edinburgh, nay, the world, knows about Calton Hill and how incredible the views are at sunset because the place was packed. The nice thing was that it seemed to be full of both locals and tourists. While it might be a tourist attraction, it seems the locals love it too. 

For me, the best thing about seeing the sunset from Calton Hill is that you can walk the whole way around it. So you get a 360 view of the sun setting over the city. If you've ever been to Edinburgh, you'll know that the skyline is so diverse. You look one way and you can see the beautiful, old city, the castle, and the Balmoral Hotel dominating your view. And then you can turn around and see hills and mountains lurking on the edge of Edinburgh. If you turn around some more, you can see the Firth of Forth and the North Sea. 

I go on about Canada and Vancouver a lot but it's recently occurred to me that Edinburgh and Vancouver have a fair bit in common when it comes to the city and their surroundings. 

I'm going to leave you in the capable hands of Google Maps, Lothian Buses, and some more of my photos to convince you that you need to come to Edinburgh and watch the sunset from Calton Hill. And maybe you should come this summer and take a picnic. I feel like a picnic on Calton Hill, with the sky painted like fire would be incredible. 

How to get to Calton Hill

*Announcer voice* On your right you will see a walking route to Calton Hill from Waverley Station. The train station is pretty central to Edinburgh, and after Avengers Infinity War, I feel like everyone's gonna be checking out the train station anyway so...y'know. It's a short walk, though I would give yourself double the time because you'll probably want to keep stopping on the way to take photos. It definitely takes me double the time to get most places in Edinburgh because I'm constantly whipping my camera out and saying to Daz "LOOK AT THE CHERRY BLOSSOM" "LOOK AT THAT DOOR" "IT LOOKS LIKE HOGSMEDE!" 

The bus service in Edinburgh is astonishingly good and cheap. If you don't fancy the walk, head over to the Lothian Buses website where they have a nifty tool that can tell you what bus to get and where. OR you could get the Lothian Buses app for your phone, which is probably easier to use - especially when you're out and about. Buses cost £1.70 for a single journey or £4.00 for a day ticket - that will get you on as many Lothian Buses as you want all day. 

If you have a car and are visiting Edinburgh, I recommend leaving it wherever you've managed to park it. We (that's the royal we because I did not drive) have driven in Edinburgh a handful of times and it isn't worth the hassle or the extortionate parking fees. Either walk in, park and ride if you're staying out of the city, or just hop on the bus. 

Purple, pink and orange sunset from Calton Hill over Edinburgh Castle and The Balmoral

Silhouettes of cranes against the sunset in Edinburgh

Sunset over the Firth of Forth from Calton Hill

Sunset over Edinburgh and the Blackford Hills

Sunset sky behind The Balmoral, Edinburgh, taken from Calton Hill

Watching the sunset over Edinburgh from Calton Hill

Have you been up Calton Hill? Are you going to? Should we have a blogging picnic on Calton Hill? LET'S MAKE IT HAPPEN.

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15 photos to inspire you to visit Morocco

15 photos to inspire you to visit Morocco - watching the sunrise in the Sahara Desert, Zagora.

Riding camels in the Sahara desert at sunrise

Sunrise in the Sahara Desert, Zagora, Morocco.

Ait Benhaddou, Morocco

A tourist shop in Ait Ben Haddou

A village in the Imlil valley, Morocco

View across the Imlil valley towards Toubkal from Asni.

Moroccan decor at Dar Imlil

Red door in Marrakech

Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech

Bahia Palace, Marrakech

Le Jardin Secret Marrakech

Le Jardin Secret, Marrakech

View over Essaouira from the rampartsA street in the Essaouira market

My trip to Morocco is a perfect example of why it's good to be pushed out of your comfort zone. It isn't a place Daz or I would have considered visiting (primarily because it's not Canada, duh), and I'm so glad we had the chance to go there. 

Whenever anyone asks us how our trip to Morocco was, the first thing we say is "different" or "an experience" because it was. Never before have I had to try not to get run over by scooters, tuk-tuks, horse and carriages, donkeys with carts, or hundreds of people all at the same time - but it's a new skill we acquired in Morocco, and I think I'm going to put that on my LinkedIn profile. It was exciting to explore a completely different culture and the architecture was stunning. There is a good reason you keep seeing pretty doors from Morocco popping up on Pinterest and Instagram.  

I spent two weeks in Morocco in total. The first was part of a field trip with my university, where we spent our time in the beautiful mountains and valleys of Imlil, which is about an hour and a half outside Marrakech. (And well worth visiting if you have the time.) We got to play in rivers, play with soil, wander around, do some science, and spot mountain goats. After that, I spent a couple of days with my friends, where we endured the sweatiest ride to the desert ever. They then went on to explore Fez and Chefchouan, while Daz and I chilled in Marrakech, and took a day trip to Essaouira/Game of Thrones. And, to our surprise, we did not get lost inside Marrakech's medina - which is impressive given I can get lost five minutes from home. 

Morocco is a huge country and I think you could easily spend a month exploring the country, and you still might not get to see everything in that time. I would have loved to have seen Chefchouan (it's that beautiful blue city you keep seeing on Instagram) but given the short amount of time I didn't fancy a such a long bus ride there for such a short visit. It is doable to visit Chefchouan from Marrakech in three days if you really want to - I just needed time to unwind a little and not be rushed. 

It is really cheap to stay and eat in Marrakech, and the flights from the UK are quite decently priced as well. We couldn't fly from Edinburgh and had to go out of Manchester - you can get flights from Edinburgh but it looks like they are all indirect. 

Have you ever been to Morocco before? Is it on your list?

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A quick guide to hiking Johnston Canyon & the Inkpots (you really should go to the Inkpots)

The Inkpots, Johnston Canyon, Banff

By far, the hardest hike of our Canadian adventure was from Upper Johnston Canyon to the Inkpots. It was a punishingly steep hike, but the beauty of the inkpots and the alpine meadow they're in more than made up for it.

Johnston Canyon is one of the busiest places in Banff, and it's evident by how quickly the carpark fills up in the morning. The first time we visited Banff, we thought we'd rock up to Johnston Canyon about 1 pm - ha, no. While we did find parking spaces at an overflow carpark, the place was so busy there'd have been no point trying. 

This time, we turned up nice and early and enjoyed the lower and upper falls while it was relatively quiet. If you want to avoid the crowds, arrive for 9 am - especially during the summer. Very few people actually go further to the Inkpots, so that trail being busy isn't really an issue.

Johnston Canyon, Banff

Rainbow at Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon, Banff

It quickly becomes apparent why Johnston Canyon is so popular. The falls and the canyon are stunning, and walkways allow the whole family to get up close to them, and a little soggy. It's impressive walking through a canyon and trying to comprehend how water created something so incredible. I mean, we all get how erosion works but standing in somewhere like that and trying to comprehend it frazzles my brain.

 

Most visitors don't bother hiking the extra 3km/1.9 miles to the Inkpots, which is simultaneously ridiculous (it's so beautiful) and understandable (it's steeeeep). While Johnston Canyon is definitely something special, the Inkpots are even better.

 

That said, I can understand why so many people don't go; it's not a particularly family friendly trail (though we did see a couple of kids on the trail). We both found it the hardest hike of our trip; it was bloody steep, it was definitely leg day, and there isn't a huge amount to look at because the forest is so thick you only get the occasional glimpse of the mountains around you.

Alpine meadow, Johnston canyon and the inkpots

The inkpots, Banff

The inkpots, Johnston Canyon

It took us just over an hour to reach the inkpots , and my complaining and leg burn went away as soon as I saw the alpine meadow coming into view. (Don't let my complaining put you off, plenty of people seemed to storm past us so perhaps I'm just unfit?)

 

When you reach the meadow, you're rewarded with a stunning view of a few vibrant-coloured ponds you associate with Canada nestled inside an awe-inspiring alpine meadow. A couple of trails take you around the inkpots and there are a few benches too, making it the perfect place for a picnic.

Alpine meadow - Johnston Canyon and the Inkpots

The inkpots, Banff

Alpine meadow at the inkpots

The inkpots

Alpine meadow, johnston canyon and the inkpots

I don't think I'd ever been in an alpine meadow before this hike, and it was everything I wanted it to be - it reminded me of Heidi. It was so serene and neither of us wanted to leave and head back down the trail.

If you do fancy further hiking in this area, there are a couple of overnight trails into the backcountry along Mystic Pass, and Johnston Creek. If you're thinking about doing any backcountry trails, make sure you know your safety stuff; we read plenty of information saying bears use both of those trails regularly to get to drinking spots.

Tips for hiking Johnston Canyon & the Inkpots

• Give yourself at least four hours to enjoy the trip there and back
• Return distance: 10.8km/6.7miles
• Be there at 9 am if you want to see Johnston Canyon in relative silence
• Wear good, supportive footwear
• Take layers - you might be hot hiking but it'll be cool when you stop 
• Take plenty of water and snacks
• There are no toilets after the car park
• Enjoy a picnic when you reach the Inkpots
• Know how to behave responsibly in an area that's home to wild animals; make noise, keep dogs on a leash, never leave any food or food packaging, and keep your distance.

The inkpots, Banff, Johnston Canyon.

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The stories behind my Instagram Top 9 2017

rosie_baillie Instagram top 9

I don’t know about you but I love finding out about the stories behind people’s Instagram Top 9; I kinda feel like they’re nice, heartwarming, fuzzy, reads. So, I bring you the stories behind my Instagram top 9. 

It’s also interesting to note that not one of these photos was posted to my account (@rosie_baillie if you’re not already following) in the past three months, showing how damn stupid the latest algorithm updates are. 

From first glance, we can definitely see my top 9 are all about blues, greens, water, and mountains. Oh, and Canada, duh. Because do I talk about anything else? No. At least it’s nice that I know I’m a broken record.

 

The first photo was taken when I saw the northern lights (obviously) in Iceland with my Mum. It was a dream come true, ticking it off the bucketlist, moment, and I seriously recommend it. If you want to know more, I did write a blog post about seeing the northern lights and the company I went with. 

 

This next photo is actually at least two years old, maybe three now. It was taken the first time I visited Edinburgh, and had a trip out to Loch Awe. Early last year, my sister planned a trip to Scotland and started asking me questions about it, so I started fangirling to her and just had to repost this. 

The third photo is one of my favourite photos of all time; Daz and I at Moraine Lake, our happy place. I love it because it shows off how darn stunning Moraine Lake is, how grand the peaks are, the shade of blue of the lake, the reflection, and it makes me feel something. We’ve got a print of it in our living room, which I can see right now, and every time I look at it I feel fuzzy inside and have to fight off the urge to head over to SkyScanner and book a flight for tomorrow. 

 

As I said in the caption, it just isn’t possible to have too many photos of Moraine Lake in an Instagram feed. Moraine Lake is a funny ol’ place because the weather is very changeable. On the same day this photo was taken, we also had blazing sunshine and snow (at the same time). 

 

Every time I see a photo of Peyto Lake looking beautifully clear and sunny I wonder if those people visited a Peyto Lake in a parallel universe, because this is what I saw. And it’s what happened each of the four times Daz and I tried to visit the lake. Nevertheless, it’s still beautiful, and moodier than me circa 2007. 

 

This is a quaint looking hostel just off the main road through Glen Coe in Scotland. It was one of the first outings Daz and I had since moving up here. I’ve loved Glen Coe since the moment I first set my eyes on it and it was SO nice to be able to show Daz it. 

This is another solid fave of mine from 2017, and it also features Moraine Lake in the background, so it has all the qualities of the best photo ever. I don’t even know what to say about this photo other than it was a perfect day, one of my favourite moments of my life, and there better be a photo appearing in a future ‘Instagram top 9’ of our wedding at the edge of that lake. 

 

I’m actually surprised this photo appeared in my top 9 because I really feel like I’ve taken photos that are a lot better. But, it was posted at the start of 2017, again, the algorithm. This was taken back in September 2016 when we attempted to kayak on a very windy Maligne Lake. I do not recommend it to kayaking noobs, and you can read more about that horror story here

 

I’m so happy that Vancouver made an appearance in my top 9, because that beautiful city worked hard to make us fall in love with it. And we really did. This was taken at the edge of Stanley Park and is a shot looking across the Lionsgate Bridge towards North Vancouver with the mountains in the background. I think it’s a pretty great summary of why we fell in love with Vancouver; all of those things in one view, perfect. 

And, to make it even better we saw our first raccoon a few minutes before we took this photo. Now, that might seem like a bizarre thing to get excited over but we don’t have racoons in the UK! They look so adorable and remind us of the kids cartoon, The Raccoons. 

If you shared the stories behind your Instagram top 9, link me because I wanna see them! 

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2017 in travel & my 2018 travel plans

Camping at Williamson Lake campground in Revelstoke, British Columbia

Ok, I know everyone is doing these posts right now and I'm jumping right on that bandwagon because I love reading about where people have been and their plans for the year ahead.

 

I seriously love organising trips; it is taking everything I have in me to stop opening SkyScanner right now. I literally cannot afford to book a flight anywhere but I just love seeing what I could do. It's sad I know. If a career in research doesn't work out, I'm going to be an adventure planner. Is that a thing? Can I get paid to do that?

 

2017 in travel

I think this year was the first year in a long time that I've only done a couple of trips. There were a couple of reasons; our trip to Canada was a big one that used up most of our holiday and moving to Edinburgh was expensive. Plus, between finishing my undergrad in May and starting a masters in September, there hasn't been much spare time.

 

Iceland

The northern lights over Reykjanes, Iceland

My Mum and I rang in the New Year in Reykjavik and arrived back in the UK on the 2nd January. We spent a few days exploring Iceland's capital, saw the northern lights twice, and took a wonderful day trip around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

 

Roundup of Iceland posts:

Winter sun over a barn, Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Snow on the Reykjavik sea wall in December

Canada

Canoes at Moraine Lake, Alberta

Ah, the big one. The one you're sick of me talking about 😉 I'm not even sorry.

 

After our first trip to Canada in September 2016, Daz and I booked a trip back for as soon as I'd finished my undergrad degree. We did a wonderful road trip covering Golden, Victoria, Tofino, Vancouver, Revelstoke, Banff and Canmore. The trip truly cemented our love for the country, and it's also where we got engaged!

 

Since returning we've felt a bit out of sorts, and like we left part of ourselves somewhere between Vancouver Island and the Rocky Mountains.

 

Unfortunately for you guys, there are more Canada posts coming in 2018. But we haven't got a trip back planned for 2018, so it's got to end at some point, right? 😉

 

Roundup of Canada posts:

The view over Canmore from the Grassi Lakes trail

Sunset at the harbour in Victoria, BC

View from Cox Bay lookout, Tofino, BC

2018 travel plans

The only concrete plan I have at the moment is a trip to Morocco in April. I'm going on a study trip for my course and some of us are gonna hang around for a few extra days to explore. It's definitely not a place I would have chosen to visit myself. Mainly because I'm all about forests, lakes, snow-capped mountains, and cold places. 

 

I went to Tunisia twice when I was younger so I have been somewhere a little like Morocco but it feels a bit different now I'm all grown up and have no plans of spending my days bored around a swimming pool. If you have any recommendations about what to do in Morocco, let me know!

 

It would be nice to do a couple of short breaks exploring Scotland but I've no idea how heavy my workload will be. I think my classes finish at the start of April and then I have until the middle of August to do my dissertation. But, I need to get a big chunk of it done before April because of what my project is. So, who knows if I'll even have the luxury of a spare couple of days before August. Maybe we'll manage something next September to celebrate me finishing my MSc.

 

I want to hear where you visited in 2017 and any travel plans for 2018 🙂

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12 photos to inspire you to visit Iceland’s Snaefellsnes Peninsula right now

A red house/barn in Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula in December

Midday sunrise at the Snaefellsnes Peninsula during December
 

It's been almost a year since my Mum and I went to Iceland and by far one of the highlights was our trip to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula with Gateway to Iceland.

 

Since we were visiting in December, neither of us really fancied braving driving in the snow in a foreign country. I mean, it takes about 4mm to bring the UK to a halt - what do we know about winter driving? Aside from "argh, a snowflake, let's drive at 2 miles an hour."

 

We knew we wanted to see more than just Reykjavik and we were absolutely spoilt for choice, because it's Iceland and the whole country is so darn stunning, moody, and photogenic. In the end, we settled on a day trip to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula with Gateway to Iceland. I promise, this is not a sponsored post; there is just going to be a lot of fangirling about Gateway to Iceland because they are probably the best trip provider I've ever been with.

A house in front of Snaefellsjokull, Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Snaefellsjokull in Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula during December

Snaefellsjokull viewed across a frozen lake in December

Our driver and tour guide for the day, Stefan, picked us up nice and early and we escaped from the nippy December morning onto a cosy, heated bus and headed out of the city. If you end up on a day trip with Stefan you are in for a treat. The guy has a voice that could melt butter and is so knowledgeable. Seriously, his voice is on par with Morgan Freeman or David Attenborough's.

 

He spent the day telling us about the history of Iceland and Snaefellsnes. I could have listened to him speak for days - he's a fantastic storyteller and seemed to know pretty much anything there is to know about Iceland.

 

I can't remember exactly how many people were on the trip with us - Gateway To Iceland's website says no more than 19 people on this trip, and I think there might have been just shy of that.

Iceland's golden glow morning sunrise in Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Snowy Icelandic mountains

The place we stopped for lunch on Gateway to Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula tour

Rock formations on a beach in Snaefellsnes Peninsula

 

As well as visiting the Gerðuberg basalt columns (the winter morning light was so dreamy and Instagram-worthy there), Arnarstapi, Snaefellsjokull, and the famous Kirkjufell mountain, Stefan squished in a couple of extra stops too. He even went the extra mile to drop us off somewhere different on the way back into Reykjavik so we could make our evening northern lights trip, which was rescheduled last minute. (It was a tight squeeze, which we definitely did not plan on - but that's a risk you take with Icelandic weather.)

Golden sunlight in Iceland during December

A black sand beach in Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula in December

A few tips if you're headed to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

  • Don't be an idiot like me and forget your camera battery charger - you're gonna take loads of photos
  • Don't forget a spare memory card, either 
  • Take a tripod - because of the short daylight hours we arrived at Kirkjufell in darkness, and know you're gonna want to capture somewhere White Walkers and Jon Snow have been, right?
  • Take a spare snuggly jumper/jacket to wear on the bus in case it’s raining/snowing and you don't want to be sitting in a wet coat (the bus was nice and toasty, don't worry about that, but you still don't want to be sitting in a soggy coat)
  • Wear waterproof shoes/boots
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before because you are not going to want to fall asleep at any point during the day

Kirkjufell, Snaefellsnes Peninsula

If you're heading to Iceland, I cannot recommend Gateway to Iceland and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula tour enough. We did use another trip provider while we were in Iceland and they were shocking in comparison to Gateway To Iceland. (If you're going to Iceland and want to know who to avoid, I will tell you via email or social media. I refuse to give them any kind of SEO benefit.)

The 'problem' with Iceland is that the winter and summer produce such contrasting landscapes - so if you visit in one season, you have to go back and see what it looks like in the other. December provides some truly beautiful insta-worthy golden light whenever it is actually light. When I do find my way back to Iceland, I'll use Gateway To Iceland in an instant. If you're visiting before May 2018, Gateway to Iceland do have a discount on this trip - it's not sponsored (pinky promise), I just really want you to use them and have a fab time. 

Have you ever been to Iceland or the Snaefellsnes Peninsula?

Save me for your adventure planning or bucketlist Pin-boards!

12 photos to inspire you to visit Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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Tyninghame Beach | Where East Lothian meets Tofino

Tyninghame Beach, East Lothian

Daz at Tyninghame Beach looking towards Bass Rock

Since we've moved to Scotland people seem to be obsessed with asking how awful the weather is "all the way up there"; let this blog post where I fangirl about Tyninghame Beach serve as proof that the weather is glorious in November. And no, we have not had snow, and I haven't seen any White Walkers yet. 

East Lothian is an absolute gem. I think there's so much going on in Edinburgh and with the draw of the Highlands that East Lothian gets overlooked so often. To be honest, I'm guilty of that myself. I remember being like, "what's in East Lothian?" Beautiful beaches that's what, past me, beautiful beaches. If you're visiting Edinburgh and can get around, I definitely recommend paying a visit to some of the wonderful beaches (and golf courses right next to them if that's your jam) dotted around East Lothian's coast. 

We discovered Tyninghame a few weeks ago when I spotted the St. Baldred's Cradle & Ravensheugh Sands hike on Walk Highlands (awesome website, btw). If my photos are not enough to convince you that this place is stunning, click that little link there. Go on, I'll wait...

...Doesn't it just look divine and a little exotic? As soon as I saw it, it reminded me of Tofino, so I showed Daz and we headed off. 

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Tyninghame woodland

The trail starts off in woodland and all of a sudden you find yourself on the beach. It's a strange feeling to pop out of a wood onto a windswept beach - and I think that's why it reminded me of Tofino so much. From there, you follow the trail through trees and some bizarre-looking anti-tank concrete blocks that have just been left there.

You keep going over headlands, watching the waves swell and crash into the shoreline (and inevitably watch the occasional fool risk serious injury to get a 'good photo'), and then you end up on this huge, stretch of golden sand, rocks, and pebbles overlooking Bass Rock.

It's the kind of beach you could probably spend all day playing on as a kid and never get bored. Keep an eye out for the tide times though; at high tide, you can't walk the entire beach and the fun rockpools are covered up. But even if you do end up there at high tide, it's stunning. 

We haven't actually managed to follow the trail from Walk Highlands exactly as it is yet because we keep getting distracted, and wondering "what's over there". I think that's wonderful though. We've been three times in the past few weeks and each trip has been different, whether it's the tide being low or high, or us taking a different route through the woodland, or climbing up hills.

Both of our parents have been up recently and we had to take them to show them how amazing it was. You see, being so close to the beach is something a little mind-blowing to us. Where we used to live, it was a good two and a half - three hours to the nearest beach. And it wasn't a beach like Tyninghame beach. It was Barmouth; a pretty standard beach running along a town. 

Before we moved up to Scotland, we kept talking about all the places we'd be able to visit and we're so excited to be this close to the beach. The only thing is, we love it so much we keep going back to Tyninghame Beach and haven't done much exploring elsewhere. I feel like we might have shot ourselves in the foot there because now the nights are pulling in, it limits how far we can go exploring.

Tyninghame Beach

Shadows on Tyninghame beach

Sure, we could get up earlier but I am the definition of being bad at getting in up early.

I am 100% a night owl; can't sleep early on (unless we're talking a cheeky mid-afternoon nap); will sleep through seven alarms that have woken the entire town up; and when I do wake up, I will happily stare at the ceiling for a while pondering the fact I need to get out of bed, and just not get out of bed. Just me?

The last time we visited Tyninghame beach we came across a big log cabin (it's called Ravensburgh log cabin, and you can hire it out for weddings, parties, or asking your friends to bring all their dogs so you can lie on the floor and be trampled on by puppies - that, by the way, is the best reason to hire a place out.) It really took us back to Canada. Can you imagine coming across somewhere like that after a long day hiking, going inside and lighting a nice fire, putting your feet up, and chilling with a nice hot chocolate? Doesn't that just sound like the dream? 

Ravensburgh log cabin

View over Tyninghame Beach

If you ever visit Edinburgh and you have a car (I don't think this would be the easiest place to reach from the city using public transport) make sure you pay Tyninghame beach a visit, you won't regret or forget it. 

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