View of the castle from Princes Street
Edinburgh is the most beautiful place in Europe. Apart from Salzburg. And maybe Prague and Budapest. Anyways, the HPL is currently home in Auld Reekie and I thought I’d share with you some new places I’ve recently tried, and some favourite old haunts, if you decide to come here for a weekend (4 1/2 hours by train, 1 hour by plane from London). As a caveat, I haven’t lived in the ‘Burg for years so there may be some other cool places I’ve overlooked – Edinburgh friends please leave suggestions!
Best time to come is during the festival (mid August to start September) for good weather, a great holiday vibe and late-night openings, fantastic comedy, street theatre and music, or just hang out and drink at festival venues the Spiegeltent (returning in 2010 after a no-show in 2009), the Pear Tree or the Pleasance.
The Royal Mile (St Giles on the right)
1. Monteiths, 61 High Street
Down a little cobbled alleyway off the High Street, Monteiths has a fireplace, bookcases and large tartan comfy chairs as well as a great cocktail bar and outside seating area. Friendly service, great cocktails (glass of prosecco is £6) and decent food including lots of traditional Scottish grub make this a great place for dinner with family and friends especially those new to Edinburgh, or just drinks. There also always seems to be a man in a kilt there every time I go.
2. The Sheep Heid Inn, 43-45 The Causeway, Duddingston, EH15 3QA
A place very close to my heart. This is the oldest pub in Scotland (est. 1360) and in Duddingston village – the other side of Arthur’s Seat so a great stop after you’ve climbed the hill. Has a beer garden, upstairs dining room and downstairs pub; serves real ales, pub grub and traditional Scottish food like haggis neeps and tatties; has a separate skittles alley from the 50s which you can hire out. Coincidentally, both my father and uncle were barred from here in the 60s for god knows what.
3. The Canny Man’s, 237 Morningside Rd, EH10 4QU
An Edinburgh institution. Looks like a normal old man’s pub from the outside but inside its, well, mental (see piccie below) – walls covered in all sorts, a female mannequin and pram hanging from the ceiling. Came here at lunchtime with el madre for a choice of 89 smorrebrod (open sandwiches) and glass of white wine, and joined a large number of other Morningside ladies who lunch doing the same. Have vague memories of spending misspent youth propping up the bar here – would be a great place to come for a pint.
Stockbridge is a nice little “village” near the town centre, with the water of Leith running through it and lots of nice little cafes, pubs and delis (I saw it being compared to Notting Hill in an online review, so you get what I mean). I especially like Hectors which always seems to have a nice mixed crowd and is great for drinks or dinner, and Bell’s Diner which is a bit of an Edinburgh institution – a small cosy venue serving delicious burgers and slaws, oh and I saw John Hedgley there last time I went during the festival.
5. The Cellar Door, 44-46 George the IV Bridge, EH1 1EJ
This is a great area at night – just off the Royal Mile and above the Grassmarket, its near the University and filled with good bars like Bar Kohl, The Villager and Negotiants, and to a lesser extent Oddfellows (venue for much of my schooldays). Its also near another great and popular restaurant, The Outsider. The Cellar Door is pretty new – service wasn’t amazing but the food was good (esp the puds and the steaks looked great) and with the toptable deal you get 20% off the bill. It was £15 each for a decent main, small glass of wine and pud. If you do pass by George IV Bridge – go past the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby and pop into the pub of the same name – read the story here if you don’t know it already. Woof.
6. Tony’s Table, 58a North Castle Street, EH2 3LU
Quirky place covered with signs like “God gave us fingers before he gave us forks and knives” but with a terrible 70s carpet, we booked through toptable for 3 courses for £18. With a £12 bottle of chardy it came to £25 each so great value. Started with a yummy salmon and prawn mousse, followed by tasty cod and then a great cheese plate. Great value and decent food.
One of the best things about Edinburgh is that there are 7 hills all lying slap bang in the town centre – I don’t know any other capital cities that have the same. All give great views over the spikes and steeples of the city, and on a clear day you can see across the Firth of Forth to Fife.
View from the top of Arthur’s Seat
A nice walk is to start on the High Street at the castle and walk down the length of the Royal Mile (taking time to spit on the Heart of Midlothian if you so wish) to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament. Then you can walk up and over Arthur’s Seat taking in the views of Edinburgh and over to Fife, and then end up feeding the ducks at Duddingston Loch and a pint at the Sheep’s Heid Inn.
8. Other stuff to do if you have time:
- For a posh meal, try The Witchery (by the castle), The Tower (above the Scottish Museum), Harvey Nichols (great view) or Centotre (on George Street – run by the same guys as Valvona & Crolla). The new town/George Street area is a nice place to grab a cocktail beforehand – try the Dome, Grand Cru or Oloroso. UPDATE: I am reminded of a couple of other fantastic restaurants where you get wonderful food (thanks to El G’s foodie sister!) – try Michelin-starred Martin Wishart or 21212, and also Daniel’s Bistro in Leith.
- Have an Edinburgh chippy. Honestly you Londoners don’t know what you’re missing. Have anything deep fried accompanied with chips soaked in brown sauce. Nom nom nom.
- Buy food from Edinburgh’s best deli, Valvona & Crolla (also recommended by Rosie of Rosie’s Deli fame).
- Get scared shitless on a witchery tour of Edinburgh’s alleyways, ghost stories and plague-ridden past.
- For a bit of Scottish culture, visit the Camera Obscura, National Gallery, National Gallery of Modern Art and Dean Gallery and National Museum of Scotland.
National Gallery on the Mound
- Go to Murrayfield to watch the rugby and finish up with beers and a chippy in the Grassmarket (try The Last Drop, scene of Edinburgh’s last public hangings – you can also buy the t-shirt…)
- For after-beers and cheesy dancing try Tiger Lily, Opal Lounge, Po Na Na, Garibaldi’s (I dare you not to pole dance!) and Espionage on Victoria Street. Alternatively head to Darios on Lothian Road where you can get late night pizza and carafes of wine til the wee hours. It’s been embarrassingly long since I’ve been clubbing so here’s a list from The List – I used to like City Cafe and Honeycomb (now Cabaret Voltaire) but that was when handbag house was still flavour of the day. Ahem.
- Go to South Queensferry to see the beautiful Forth Road and Rail bridges and if you’re brave, try eating ice cream or swimming on one of Edinburgh’s beaches like Cramond, Gullane or Portobello (we have them honestly, they’re quite nice!).
View from outside Harvey Nicks across to Fife
My friend who writes for The List in Edinburgh also sent me this link to their hitlisted restos for 2010. Apparently, lunch at Wedgewoods is £10 for 2 courses and the food is amaazing. Not forgetting Scots like their booze, he also recommends the best cheap take-away at Kebab Mehals for huge quantities and good quality, and suggested you check out The Picture House as a venue where you get consistently good gigs.