I love Edinburgh because it is a small city, so very manageable. You can walk almost everywhere. It has all the amenities of a capital city, a fascinating history, gorgeous vistas and landscapes. It has wonderful pubs and places to eat, and much of it is off the beaten track, turning visitor and local alike into an explorer.
When I’m away, I miss the plethora of small traditional bars, places like The Oxford Bar. I miss those regular views of the Castle. I miss the wide-open spaces – there are no skyscrapers in Edinburgh.
If you have just 48 hours in Edinburgh, climb Calton Hill for 360-degree views of the city and the surrounding countryside. Or, for further exertion, walk around Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat. You’re still in the city, but you’ll feel as though you are alone in the Highlands. Another gem of a walk is the Water of Leith, from Bell’s Brae and Dean Village to trendy Stockbridge. I love the Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street. You could spend a whole (rainy) day there. The walk from the Castle to Holyrood is very busy with tourists, but step off the main drag down one of the countless lanes and you will step back in time a couple of hundred years.
My favourite neighbourhood is New Town. It’s great to walk around, filled with elegant terraces and plenty of nooks, crannies, eateries and bars to explore. Don’t miss Ann Street and nearby Circus Lane – both are stunning.
My favourite restaurant very much depends on the location. For a slap-up meal there are so many choices: Mark Greenaway; The Kitchin; Ondine; Wedgwood… But every neighbourhood has a good local place, many bars serve delicious meals, and the fish n chip shops are worth trying, too.
I like traditional bars where the focus is on great beer and convivial chat. Inspector Rebus (from Rankin’s series of detective novels) drinks at The Oxford Bar, but I can also be found in the likes of the Bow Bar, Abbotsford, Blue Blazer and Bennets – to name just a few! We’re not short of curry houses either. Rebus can be found at Pataka (it’s close to where he lives). Khushi’s, Mother India and Kebab Mahal are other favourites.
A great local band right now is Blue Rose Code. The best description of their music may be ‘Caledonian soul’. The Jazz Bar is a great all-year-round venue. But drop into bars such as Sandy Bell’s and the Royal Oak and you may find folk musicians having a jam. There’s a free gig guide published regularly which you can pick up around the city. For records, I often visit Coda (new vinyl), but we have some great secondhand shops, too. Try Unknown Pleasures, Vox Box or Elvis Shakespeare.
If you want to escape Edinburgh (although, who would) – I do like walking through The Hermitage, a woodland path just south of the Morningside neighbourhood. It changes with the seasons and is a perfect place to unwind. If I’m taking visitors for a bit of an explore, we may head to South Queensferry, just to the north of the city. You can take a boat from there to historic Inchcolm Island. That’s a very special place.
Only a long-term resident would know that there’s a car park behind St Giles Cathedral, and one of the parking spaces marks the burial spot of the theologian John Knox. It used to be completely anonymous but I think they added a small sign recently.