Auld Reekie, Edina, Embra – call it what you will, Edinburgh has been known by many a moniker over the last few centuries. An established city steeped in history, Scotland’s capital is recognised for its stunning architecture, world famous festivals and hospitable locals. It is a vibrant city with a blend of iconic landmarks, art & culture and lends itself to an exciting weekend away for any visitor.
I don’t need any excuse to sojourn in Scotland. I have visited Edinburgh annually since working there 12 years ago. It’s a city I could never tire of – the sound of the bagpipes still brings a tear to my eye as does the biting wind and a double Hendricks Gin. I love a man in a kilt, ginger hair, tablet, tweed & all things Tunnocks. Now when I visit, I am warmly nestled around the firesides of dear friends so perhaps don’t spend as much time wandering around the Old or the New Town streets as a tourist might. However, this is what I would recommend to the first time visitor.
Despite being Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh isn’t a sprawling city, it feels like a large town and easily explorable on foot. To get your bearings anywhere, climb to the highest point -Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh’s case, the main peak of the group of hills which form most of Holyrood Park. It’s no mean feat yet a clamber to the top earns you a stunning panoramic view across the city, out to the Firth of Forth, over the bridges and beyond. Granted if it’s a typical Scottish day weatherwise and traipsing hills in the wind & rain isn’t quite what you had in mind for your weekend break then meander up the Royal Mile towards the castle for another stunning viewpoint. I say meander as a thorough delve into this warren of wynds & closes takes you back to 17th century Edinburgh hopefully minus the plague. Take your pick from a plethora of ghost tours to add an extra eerie element. Wrap up this stretch of the Old Town with a warming snifter at The Scotch Whisky Experience before a tour of the draughty Edinburgh Castle. One of my favourite views of Edinburgh is that first glimpse of the castle sitting monumental atop a jutting crag of volcanic rock. Allow a few moments to take it all in. If it’s raining, great – all the better in fact; the contours of the castle & the Old Town form an imposing outline against the grey sky so have your cameras at the ready to snap some really moody photos.
From the castle, it is a mere hop skip & a jump through the peaceful Princes Street Gardens into the New Town. If shopping is your mission then both Princes & George Streets have it all. From Jenners - holding it’s same position on Princes Street since 1838 – to the other House of Fraser at the west end of the city, all the usual high street names are present as are many souvenir shops selling more tartan tat then you can shake your sporran at. Sandwiched between George & Queen Streets, narrow Thistle Street is perfect for the more discerning shopper. Home to many independent boutiques, Thistle Street offers jewelry, fine art, exclusive designer wear, shoes, bags and handmade kilts – just take care in your fancy new high heels traversing those cobbles! Evenly-paved Multrees Walk east of St. Andrew’s Square on the other hand is a little easier to navigate as you exclaim ‘jings, crivvens & help me baob’ at the luxury items with the luxury prices creatively displayed in the windows of Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss & Harvey Nichols. Whatever your budget, you’ll be more tempted than the proverbial Scotsman to part with some of your hard earned cash in this city.
For me, however, traveling and visiting somewhere new is all about the food. I always enjoy tucking in to the local fayre wherever I may be, eased down with a drop of regional brew. Edinburgh is a congenial place and this is nae more prevalent than in the various hostelries spread across the city. Contrary to popular belief, the Scots do not survive on deep fried Mars Bars and Irn Bru alone - I have only ever seen one establishment advertising the Mars Bar delicacy to which I gave a wide berth, however I can and will vouch for Irn Bru’s powers to cure the most raging of hangovers after a night out with the Celts. Scotland’s production of venison, beef, smoked fish, salmon and shellfish – much of it organic - creates an enticing array to satisfy the most hearty of appetites achieved by all that walking! Personally, I avoid the chains (you can find them everywhere) and frequent the independents, my choice including The Dogs, Urban Angel & The Outsider. For a truly great night out, head to Leith, Edinburgh’s harbour since the 14th century. As with most ports, Leith has overcome a shaky reputation and transformed itself into a lively destination. Visit Scotland describes Leith as ‘a vivacious area jam-packed with top restaurants boasting the best chefs, delicious delis and chic drinking spots. The district asserts a jovial attitude and hosts an eclectic mix of people and cultures ensuring exploring Leith is an unrivalled experience’ and they are not wrong. It’s all here - between the Michelin starred Tom Kitchin, and the cosy Roseleaf pub, you can’t possibly go astray if looking for a convivial atmosphere and a top notch feed.
Well, I suppose that’s it for me and Edinburgh for another visit. How fortunate that Burns Night fell on a weekend this year! I’ve had my fill of friends fireplaces, haggis & haddock (smoked of course), the gin was free flowing as was the conversation and laughter. It is with a full heart that I bid the city a fond cheerio safe in the knowledge that I’ll be back again before the year is out, kicking up some ceilidh chaos surrounded by muckle a man in a kilt.