Edinburgh. I’ve only ever heard good words thrown about in relation to this far north capital, and I have a slight confession to make; my visitation here was slightly overdue thanks to a wee fear of that accent I’m sure you adore (apologies Scots, I do love you). I had a distinct picture in my mind how Edinburgh would look, a vibe of how it would feel. I was completely wrong. In a not uncommon way I’d romanticised what this place would be, medieval beauty and that dreamy UK light. Edinburgh is not romantic, at least now in the way European cities are, or maybe just not to my bitter self. There is something darker, gothic in nature here. It is of course stunning and the longer I spend here the more I fall in love (ironically) with what this city offers (and the accents). With an old town dating back 3000 years, and a castle built imposingly atop rugged cliff, surrounded by rocky mountains it’s imposing in many ways.
There is a dark and gruesome history to this city and you can feel it; the deep sandstone stained with black, the way the ancient buildings seem to trap, and hold the light rather than reflect it, the surrounding mountains with harsh and unwelcoming beauty. Aside from that be assured that most of the city is a graveyard so you are constantly pounding pavement with a morbid underlying, affectionately doted as a human lasagne..
The charm in Edinburgh comes from this. It feels real, unpretentious. It’s also a particularly easy city to be in, thanks to its compact and ordered layout, and the general ‘castle atop a hill’, as a good directional reference..
The city is comprised of the ‘old town ‘ and the ‘new town’ (which is sill 200 years old..). The old town is perfectly poised below the castle and heads off along the Royal Mile, dotted with stunning historical sculptures, perfectly preserved architecture and a maze of closes, streets and underground vaults to be explored via ghost tour. Its beauty is in how compact it is, narrow lanes dating off into hidden courtyards or curving streets (one the inspiration behind Diagon Alley!). Streetscapes formed of the unbeatable Scottish pubs, cafes and unexpectedly on point vintage and boutique stores.
The new town spans the other side of Princess Street, the main shopping strip. It’s composed of wide, open streets, lush squares and back alleys. It’s the more contemporary, local Edinburgh, so expect to find great boutique shopping and whittle away hours in cafes, (Artisan Roast is my pick, the coffee is decent, the soup amazing and the atmosphere the best I’ve experienced).
When you tire of pavement Carlton Hill is an easy walk for outstanding views and picnic vibes. Arthurs Seat provides amazing views and a slightly more uptempo climb to work off slightly too much whisky and beer which is far too easy to indulge in here.
Another half day adventure can be had at Crammond Island, a dreamy 30 minute bus ride, and accessible via low tide only. It’s a perfect escape from the city if only ever so briefly.
I won’t lie, I saw Edinburgh through rose tinted glasses, 5 days of clear, blue skies and not the slightest show of rain. I can only imagine that the city takes on another form of beauty with the misty haze of drizzle and menacing skies. At least I hope so, because that is what it’ll likely be.