Top Things to do in Edinburgh

IMG_1844.JPG

Edinburgh is the second most visited city in the UK (behind London), and it's not hard to see why. Scotland's capital is a visually stunning compact city, made up of the medieval Old Town and elegant Georgian New Town. The city is blessed with stunning views, fascinating architecture and enthralling stories. There is so much to see and do, so here is our guide to the ultimate Edinburgh experience.

10. Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions provides a fun environment where you can enjoy fantastic views of Edinburgh's skyline and optical illusion attractions - a great day out for all the family. Tickets between £8 and £15.

9. The Royal Yacht

One of Edinburgh's top tourist attractions, The Royal Yacht Britannia was home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family for over 40 years, sailing over 1,000,000 miles around the world. Now berthed in Edinburgh, you can follow in the footsteps of Royalty to discover the heart and soul of this most special of Royal residences. Tickets between £8 and £15.

8. A Taste of Scotland

There are two tastes you must experience on any trip to Scotland: haggis and whisky - unless of course you are vegetarian (try Lucky Pig at Paradise Palms) or tea-total (afternoon tea at The Balmoral). Edinburgh has an abundance of great restaurants and bars. For great food check out Timberyard, Wedgwood and Cafe St Honoré. For value eats, see Oink (get the pulled pork bap with haggis stuffing and apple sauce), Wings and Dough Pizzeria. For brunch, hit up Urban Angel, Papii Cafe or Breakfast, Brunch & Lunch (vegan options). And for the ultimate whisky experience, check out Whiski Rooms, The Scotch Whisky Experience or The Canny Man's. If whisky isn't to your taste, you can try some gin at Edinburgh Gin and Pickering's Gin, or explore local craft beers at Brewdog or The Hanging Bat.

7. Harry Potter

Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter. JK Rowling spent much of her time in cafes around the city, including The Elephant House, where she sat in the back room with a stunning view of Edinburgh Castle. Without giving too much away, it is believed she found inspiration for Hogwarts and many character's names nearby. For all Potter fans, The Potter Trail is a must.

6. A Different View

IMG_1830.JPG

Calton Hill hosts a number of notable buildings, including Holyrood Palace and St Andrew's House, headquarters of the Scottish Government, which sits on the steep southern slope of the hill. The hill is also the location of several iconic monuments and buildings: the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, the Dugald Stewart Monument, the old Royal High School, the Robert Burns Monument, the Political Martyrs' Monument and the City Observatory. You can also get a great view over the city.

Arthur's Seat is the main peak of the group of hills in Edinburgh, and at 251 metres, it is a great setting to enjoy a sunset/sunrise, whilst enjoying panoramic views over the city and surrounding landscape. It's an easy climb, so pack a picnic and enjoy.

5. Museums & Galleries

Immerse yourself in Scottish culture on a budget, with access to fantastic museums and galleries in Edinburgh. The National Museum is a fantastic collection featuring pieces on Alexander Graham Bell and Dolly the Sheep. It has something for every one with extensive features on fashion, engineering and wildlife.

If you have any interest in literature, The Writers' Museum is a must, featuring the lives of three of the foremost Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

4. Festival Season

Edinburgh is one of the leading cities for festivals, with many fantastic events happening right throughout the year. August is an amazing month with the world famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival as well as The Royal Edinburgh Tattoo, Edinburgh Art Festival and Edinburgh International Festival. Other festivals include Edinburgh's Hogmanay, Edinburgh Film FestivalEdinburgh International Book Festival and the magical Edinburgh's Christmas. More info: Edinburgh Festival City.

3. Going Underground

The Edinburgh Dungeon is a frightfully entertaining journey below the city's surface to a dark world. It is an entertaining and sometimes scary experience with fantastic actors, props and special effects. One tip: book your tickets online, even if you have to pop into a nearby bar or cafe - you will save money! 

You can also explore Edinburgh's dungeons with a walking tour. There are many dark and twisted stories, and the setting couldn't be any better! 

2. Explore Old Town

David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist and essayist.   It is said to be good luck to rub his shiny big toe, which is strange, as Hume despised superstition.

David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist and essayist. It is said to be good luck to rub his shiny big toe, which is strange, as Hume despised superstition.

Edinburgh has such a storied past, that a walking tour is the ideal way to explore the landmarks, hear the stories and learn some history. Most of the tours will incorporate Edinburgh Castle, St Giles' Cathedral, The Stone of Destiny, Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde, Greyfriars Bobby, The Royal Mile and Harry Potter. SANDEMANs NEW Europe are one of the many excellent walking tour providers, but rest assured, there is no such thing as a free tour - you will be reminded of the 'optional donation' many times. 

1. Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress which dominates Edinburgh's skyline from its position on the Castle Rock - an extinct volcano. Archaeologists have established human occupation of the rock since at least the Iron Age (2nd century AD), although the nature of the early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until 1633. It is one of the most attacked places in the world. Take a few hours to explore the castle and The National War Museum. Tickets from £9 to £17.

TopThings2Do makes it easy to find and book great experiences, with expert providers, at the best price. We will be relaunching with our new platform in January 2017. Sign-up to our mailing list below to be the first to know. If you are interested in listing your activity, email: sean@topthings2do.com

Donegal is the Coolest Place on the Planet

Donegal is the coolest place to visit in 2017, according to National Geographic Traveller. The northwest county topped 'The Cool List', which also featured destinations such as Peru, Helsinki and New Zealand (see the full list at the bottom).

"With a weather-nibbled coast spotted with sea stacks, Blue Flag beaches and offshore islands, Donegal is a land that feels undiscovered. Last summer, scenes for Star Wars: Episode VIII were filmed on the Inishowen Peninsula. But this area of Ireland is also expecting 2017 to be a big year; there’s an array of reasons to visit, from surfing beaches in Magheroarty and Ballyhiernan Bay to Horn Head — a driving, walking or cycling loop that squeezes the 1,600-mile Wild Atlantic Way into a 4.5-mile nutshell." - Nat Geo Traveller.

As the number one destination to visit next year, here are some of the top things to do in Donegal.

Sea Stack Climbing

Photo:  Bren Whelan .

Photo: Bren Whelan.

Donegal is the most mountainous in Ulster consisting chiefly of two ranges of low mountains; the Derryveagh Mountains in the north and the Blue Stack Mountains in the south, with Mount Errigal at 749 metres (2,457 ft) the highest peak. It has a deeply indented coastline forming natural sea loughs, of which both Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle are the most notable. There are lots of amazing climbs to be had.

Walk, Hike or Bike

Photo: Cycle Inishowen.

Photo: Cycle Inishowen.

Donegal is blessed with interesting and dramatic landscape, which makes for a very enjoyable walk, hike or bike trip

Surf the Wild Atlantic Waves

Donegal has some of the best surf in Europe and there's lots of opportunity to get into the water, with some great surf schools dotted around the county; from Bundoran and Rossnowlagh in the south, right around to Rathmullan in the north.

The Northern Lights at Malin Head

Photo:  Michael Gill .

Photo: Michael Gill.

The Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights) is a stunningly colourful light show in the sky caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun that enter the earth's atmosphere and collide with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen. The lights are seen around the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres, and if you want to see for yourself, North Donegal is the place to go.

Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh is the second largest national park in Ireland, covering 170 square kilometres of hillside above Glenveagh Castle on the shore of Lough Veagh. 
The park hosts a multitude of exotic and delicate plants from as far afield as Chile, Madeira and Tasmania, all sheltered by windbreaks of pine trees and ornamental rhododendrons. It is also home to the largest herd of red deer in Ireland and the formerly extinct golden eagle were reintroduced into the park in 2000.
Admission to the park is free, where you can enjoy the beautiful wilderness of rugged mountains, pristine lakes, tumbling waterfalls and enchanted native oak woodland. Or you can rent a bike, do a castle tour or enjoy afternoon tea at the Glenveagh Restaurant. Click here for more information.

Sliabh Liag Boat Cruise

Photo: Sinead McCarthy.

Photo: Sinead McCarthy.

Sliabh Liag (or Slieve League) are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe at 601 metres (1,972 feet), almost three times higher that the Cliffs of Moher in Clare. You can enjoy a hike up to the top of the cliffs and enjoy the stunning views and fresh Atlantic winds, or better still, do the Sliabh Liag Boat Trip, where you'll get a fantastic view of the cliffs and you may be joined by some wildlife such as dolphins, seals, whales and basking sharks.

The Cool List: 17 for 2017

 1. Donegal, Ireland
 2. Santiago, Chile
 3. Helsinki, Finland
 4. Greenland
 5. Peru
 6. Aarhus, Denmark
 7. Canada
 8. Portland, USA
 9. India
10. South Africa
11. Iran
12. New Zealand
13. Seoul, South Korea
14. Sudan
15. Düsseldorf, Germany
16. Sicily
17. USA

TopThings2Do makes it easy to find and book great experiences, with expert providers, at the best price. We will be relaunching with our new platform in January 2017. Sign-up to our mailing list below to be the first to know. If you are interested in listing your activity, email: sean@topthings2do.com

A Nice Trip to France

In the coming months, we'll be putting together guides to some of Europe's top destinations. First up, we'll start with a dream trip to the French Riviera.

Apollo statue in Fontaine du Soleil

Apollo statue in Fontaine du Soleil

For those of you who don't know, we are undergoing a raft of changes - rebranding from Escape Goats to TopThings2Do and also building out our new platform, which we are excited to launch in the near future.

Located on the Côte d'Azur in the south east of France on the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is the fifth largest city in France with a population of around 1 million. The city was founded by the Greeks (of Massilia) in around 350 BC, who called it Nikaia, after Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. For several centuries, ownership of Nice swung between France and Italy. It was only in 1861 that Nice finally became part of France. 

Take in the sights, sounds and flavours of Nice's Old Town.

Take in the sights, sounds and flavours of Nice's Old Town.

This city has three main areas of interest - the seven kilometre promenade, Vieille Ville (Vieux Nice/Old Town) and Port de Nice (Port of Nice). 

Map of Nice

Getting there

Both Ryanair and Aer Lingus fly direct to Nice and you can pick up return flights in mid-September for as little as €100 return. From the airport, you can hop on the number 98 or 99 bus which take you into the city and main train/bus station (Gare de Nice Vile - great to make yourself aware of if you plan on a train/bus trip to Monaco or Cannes) in about 20 minutes.

Accommodation

You really can't go wrong by staying close to Gare de Nice, Vieille Ville (Vieux Nice/Old Town) or anywhere in-between. If you're looking for something new and super-clean, check out: IBIS Styles Nice Centre Gare. For something with a spectacular view, check out: Hotel la Perouse or Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée. But with 5 million visitors each year, there are lots of great hotels to choose from and the main bus/train station is only a 15 minute walk to the beach, so it's all very walkable.

Things-To-Do

The first thing you should do (on any holiday) is a walking tour of the city - to get your bearings, see the landmarks, a little bit of history and often some insider knowledge from the guide. You  can avail of a Free Walking Tour, Bicycle Tour or Segway Tour. Enjoy a journey through the charismatic old town, the street-food stalls, ancient buildings and the stunning views over the promenade and port from Castle Hill.

Getting out onto the water gives you a whole new perspective on Nice, and there are lots of ways, including Parasailing, Stand-up Paddle Boarding and a Scenic Boat Cruise

Food

There are so many fantastic food options, from local cuisine and street pop-up to seafood and oversea-influences. There is an exciting and bustling food market in Old Town six days a week (replaced by an antiques market on Mondays) which begins early in the morning and finishes at around 2pm six days a week - try the Nice speciality Socca, a chickpea pancake and some ice-cream from one of the many 'les glaceurs'.

Top Local - Le Sejour Cafe
Seafood - Cafe de Turin
Fresh Pasta - Illia Pasta
Delicious Pizza - Les Amoureux

Cathedrale Sainte-Reparate, one of nine churches to be found in the one square mile of Old Nice.

I'd certainly recommend a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais and dedicating at least one day (weather-permitting) to the beach. You can secure a sunbed for the day for around €20 (umbrella, towel, food and drinks are extra) and even pop up to the market for some lunch before settling down to relax again. Check out Castel Plage - splash out on the food and drink there, or sneak off up Castle Hill for a picnic.

While you're there, why not spend a day in the luxurious Monaco? It's only a short train journey from Gare de Nice Vile (will cost about €8 return) and there's so much to see in the 2km-squared state. Walk along the coast and I'd certainly recommend checking out Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Prince's Palace and Musée Océanographique. The Little Train Tour is well worth the €9 too, especially if you want to check out the other landmarks you'd like to see, such as the Monte Carlo Casino or some of the many Formula 1 points of interest. You can take the scenic route to Cannes or Monaco by boat too.

You'll hear plenty about Francois Grimaldi.

You'll hear plenty about Francois Grimaldi.

Tips: The sea is great for a swim, but the beaches are mainly stone, so pick up a pair of swim shoes as getting in and out of the sea is quite sore on the feet - you'll pick up a pair for about €10 (it also gets deep very quickly, you won't be able to touch the seabed standing after about five paces).
If you're on a budget or would just like to make use of the many lovely picnic settings (like atop Castle Hill), pick up a baguette and some fabulous (and cheap) wine from the local Marché U (supermarket).
The Apollo statue is a great meeting point - it's at the bottom of the main shopping street (Avenue Jean Médecin), just north of Old Town and a short walk from the beach.
If you need to catch a GAA game or a Premier League match (and a pint), Ma Nolan's is a great place to cool down and enjoy the game with like-minded individuals.

There is also lots of great shopping, from the street markets to pickup handmade soaps, chocolates and souvenirs in Old Town, to high-street where you'll find well-known and designer brands.

 

If you have any great tips or recommendations for Nice and the surrounding area, please do so in the comments below

Jumping Through the 32 Counties of Ireland

"After living abroad for 2 years in Canada, with my fiancée, we returned home to Ireland to realise that we had never really explored our own country and all of the great things it has to offer.

One day I randomly did a heel click jump while testing out the slow motion on my iPhone.I thought it looked great, so we decided to embark on an adventure to see all of the top attractions that each county in Ireland has to offer, and film a heel click at each location. " - Brian Cashin

 

(check out more of his work here - http://bit.ly/2a7xQMY)

10 Alternative Valentine's Dates in Dublin

1. Escape Game

Here's a novel idea for a Valentine's date... Why not get locked in a room for an hour? Solve the clues to escape. Worst case scenario, you'll discover that you couldn't possibly live with this person.    More:  Escape Dublin ,  XIT ,  Adventure Rooms .

Here's a novel idea for a Valentine's date... Why not get locked in a room together for an hour? Solve the clues to escape à la Crystal Maze. Worst case scenario, you'll discover that you couldn't possibly live with this person.  
More: Escape Dublin, XIT, Adventure Rooms.

2. Footgolf

If you're both into sport, unleash your competitive streak with a game of footgolf. One of the fastest growing sports in the world, footgolf is like golf, except you kick a football around the course instead.
More: Footee.

3. Climbing Walls

How about unveiling your inner Spiderman with an evening maneuvering your way up Ireland's largest indoor climbing walls? 
More: Awesome Walls

4. Whiskey Tasting

Embark on a journey through time in a historic setting, as the intriguing tale of Irish whiskey is revealed. Learn about its rise to glory, its dramatic fall, and of course, its current revival. Hipsters are all about whiskey right now!
More: Irish Whiskey Museum.

5. Photo Walk

This is a great way to see Dublin differently. Show off your eye for aesthetics with a walking tour of the capital and capturing the moments as you go.  More:  Panoramic Ireland  ,   Dawn2Dusk  .

This is a great way to see Dublin differently. Show off your eye for aesthetics with a walking tour of the capital, capturing the moments as you go.
More: Panoramic Ireland, Dawn2Dusk.

6. life drawing

Release your inner Van Gogh... Life drawing is a fun way to get creative and improve on your artistic skills. It's also a good way of breaking the ice.
More: Dublin Drawing.

7. Sunset Kayaking

A wonderful way to view the city, as you enjoy the stunning coastline full of wildlife and watch the sunset from the comfort of your kayak. How romantic!
More: Kayaking.

8. Skiing/Snowboarding

For the more adventurous, this is something with a bit more adrenaline that is guaranteed to bring your relationship downhill, fast! 
More: Ski Centre, Ski Club.

9. Viking Splash

Viking Splash is a unique way to take in the sight and sounds of Dublin, on land and water. The tour is informative and engaging aboard the World War II amphibious vehicle.
More: Viking Splash.

10. Food Trail

Attention foodies: Fab Food Trails is an award winning tasting trail around Dublin city. Enjoy great food and a leisurely walk around the capital with an informative and fun guide.
More: Fab Food Trails.

A Guide to the Perfect Valentine's

Valentine's Day can be tricky - do you buy them a gift? Go for dinner? Or have a romantic evening in? It varies greatly depending on the stage that you're at, so we've put together a quick guide to help you out.

From a secret admirer
Ok, so you've identified a potential interest, so what next? Do something! What's the worst that can happen? This is a crucial period as first impressions last. This is where you can learn more about them, and they can learn more about you. 
Suggestions: Footgolf, Life Drawing, Craft Beer Trip, Indoor Wall Climbing.

Tinder Match
Congratulations on the mutual attraction, an excellent start! Now comes the opportunity to impress. Here are a few fun ideas.
Suggestions: Food Trail, Cable & Wake, Snorkelling, Whiskey Tour.

Meet the parents status
A crucial test awaits. Why not add one more? This is an opportunity to see what they're really made of. 
Suggestions: City Jogging Tour, Shooting School, Viking Splash, Cookery Class.

The one!
Lucky you, you have found your lobster! Valentine's Day is a time to celebrate with your significant other. Make it memorable.
Suggestions: Pottery Workshop, Day Trip, Sea Stack Climbing, Connemara Cycle.

Forever Alone...
If you're enjoying some time by yourself, make it great by trying something new.
Suggestions: Flying Lessons, Surf Academy, Painting Class, Photo Walk.

New Year, New You...

Happy New Year! We hope it's a great one, filled with happiness and memorable experiences.

Have you set yourself the same New Year's resolution as last year? Cutting down on sweets, alcohol or exercising more? What about a more positive resolution? Science says you should seek out new experiences and not waste your money on temporary happiness with 'things'.

"One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation," says Dr Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. "We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them... We are the sum total of our experiences."
Full article - fastcoexist.com

How about some more adventure in your life?

More enjoyable ways to get active?

Maybe you'd like to work on your creative side?

Explore more of your beautiful surroundings?

Maybe you'd like some new ways to relax?

Or perhaps you'd just like to try something new?

Whatever you decide, we hope 2016 is fantastic for you.

Looking for inspiration? Get recommendations on new things-to-do straight to your inbox.

Mo or Move for Movember

It's that time of year again, when men around the world dawn a variety of mustaches to raise awareness and funds for men's health. This year is bigger than ever, with more ways to get involved, including a campaign to challenge yourself to 'Move for Movember' and be physically active for the 30 days of November.

In Ireland, Movember partners with the Irish Cancer Society, who aim to improve the lives of those affected by prostate and testicular cancer. Since 2003, the Foundation has funded over 1,000 men's health programmes and raised €485 million.

FactsProstate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide, and rates of testicular cancer have doubled over the last 50 years. More than half a million men die from suicide each year. One in four adults are not active enough, despite the fact that moving on a regular basis can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer by up to 50%.

This is my (Sean) eighth year signing up for the cause, and I would urge you to get involved too, as a Mo Bro, Mo Sista or a Mover. See below for more information or to kindly donate to my sponsorship page.

Mo Love!
Sean :{)