Scotland’s capital city is something to be admired with its incredible synergy of old history and culture and new age ideas. Young or old, tourist or local, there is something for everyone in the small, yet unique, city of Edinburgh.
THINGS TO DO
Edinburgh is home to one of the world’s largest art and culture festivals – the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Ask any local and they will tell you something magical happens through the month of August as artists, dramatics, comedians, writers and their audience descend upon the city. Boasting a calendar filled with over 50,000 shows, I’d recommend you find yourself a programme, sit down with your family and friends and plan your schedule to a T. While many of the shows will require advanced booking (get in there quick for the big ones!) money need not be an issue – take a walk down the Royal Mile and you’ll see something special on every corner. Fringe Fever well and truly takes over the city, and no matter what your vibe you’ll find something intriguing for sure.
Though small in size, Edinburgh packs quite a punch when it comes to its landmarks and sights.
First and foremost – Edinburgh Castle. Step inside and learn more about its architectural history and get a bird’s eye view of the city, or alternatively simply marvel at its grandeur from Princes Street Gardens (the BEST place for a picnic or coffee break). Running up to the castle is the Royal Mile. With its quirky old-timely atmosphere and cobbled streets that pave the way from Hollyrood Palace to the Castle itself, the Mile is adorned with cafes and shops that have the heart of Scotland running through them. Indulge in some traditional Scottish fudge (or whisky!), admire a variety of tartan kilts and listen to the sounds of a local bagpipe player as you walk.
For something a bit more active, take a day trip to Arthur’s seat – the hill peak that sits next to Holyrood Park. Suitable for all ages, you can enjoy a lovely lunch at the base with space to picnic and play however you wish, or you can embark on the journey to the summit. It can take over an hour to get the top and back but the views are something to be admired. Top tip: If you’re around for the opening/closing of the fringe, bonfire night or Hogmanay, Arthur’s Seat is the place to be for an incredible view of the fireworks display from the castle.
If you find yourself looking to escape the hustle and bustle, you’re only a short bus ride away from the coast. Head east to North Berwick, Longniddry, Dunbar and Gullane for some local culture, fish and chips and a beach walk.
Last but not least, fans of Harry Potter can bask in the delights that Edinburgh has to offer in regard to the tales of the boy wizard. I’d suggest jumping on the free walking tour where you will be given your own wand and guided around all of the places that inspired JK Rownling’s novels, including the Riddle grave, Diagon alley (aka Victoria street) and Hogwarts itself! If you get a chance to pop in to the bathrooms at the Elephant House Café, you’ll be welcomed by walls and mirrors painted with messages and quotes from the books written by fans – take a sharpie and add yours too.
FOOD & DRINK
There is more to Scotland’s food scene than haggis, neeps and tatties (though you should definitely give this three-pronged traditional plate a try – there are even some great veggie and vegan alternatives). Edinburgh has also come on leaps and bounds in the last few years with regards to its sustainability credentials in the dining field.
Coffee connoisseurs will find their home in Artisan Roast – the leading independent coffee roaster in Edinburgh which boasts three cafés, a lab and a roastery in the city itself. Cairgnorm Coffee roasts its coffee in the heart of Kingussie in the Cairngorm mountains – its feeling of heritage and community make for a delicious cop o’ Joe!
Seeds for the Soul is nestled in the beautiful area of Bruntsfield serving brunch, lunch, sweet treats and drinks – all vegan! They welcome you to bring in your own reusable cups and straws and make use of old bottles of Karma Cola to decorate tables. If tradition is what you’re looking for in a breakfast spot, then look no further than Loudons – with a full brekkie that lives up to its name, fourteen different Eggs Bennys (yes, you read that right!) and some of the most delicious vegan pancakes I’ve ever tasted. Its brunch and lunch menus exhibit the best of Scottish cuisine amongst some unique collaborations with British and Asian culture.
The best eateries in Edinburgh are often found off the beaten track. The Gardner’s Cottage has an ethos of slow, seasonal and sustainable dining. All of its dishes are artfully crafted from seasonally-sourced produce (vegetables and herbs are grown on site) by a team of top chefs, butchers and bakers. It can be risky as there is no menu, you turn up and are presented with what has been put together that day – but that’s all part of the fun.
A new addition to Edinburgh in the past few years is Six by Nico – a series of carefully curated and constantly evolving restaurant concepts. Every six weeks Nico and his team serve a brand new menu themed upon a different place or memory e.g. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, childhood favourites and cereal. Crazy but cool.
Image: Stockbridge market
Edinburgh has a number of hidden gems when it comes to shopping, especially if you are looking to buy groceries on bulk or shop for a killer vintage look.
The Eco Larder is a social enterprise on a mission to create a plastic-free Edinburgh. Along with their dog Murphey, the Eco Larder Family provides groceries, lifestyle and baby items for people to shop for without pesky plastic.
No Edinburgh trip would be complete without a trip to Stockbridge – arguably one of the most beautiful Edinburgh locations with its village-like atmosphere, beautiful greenery and scenery and quirky shops and cafes. Stockbridge hosts a weekly Sunday Market in Jubilee Gardens filled with farmer’s veg and delicious street food and treats. You’ll also find the streets lined with an array of second-hand clothes stores, vintage boutiques and natural beauty spots.
Go forth and enjoy!
Not booked your trip yet? See our list of the best eco-resorts in the world for inspiration.