No trip to Scotland is complete without a visit to my hometown: Edinburgh.
The capital city of Scotland is a mixture of various architectural influences: the New Town with its neatly laid out grid of streets has a strong Georgian influence (a triumph of modern town planning at the time and a model for many modern cities) while the Old Town –spreading its roots from the Castle, is a delightful maze and treasure trove of hidden alleyways and cobbled streets- a travellers dream.
Here are my top 5 travel tips for things to do in Edinburgh and beyond.
Edinburgh Castle- The Castle in the Sky
Highly recommended is a visit to Edinburgh Castle.
A must see amongst the castle’s many jewels is the fabled and very symbolic Stone of Destiny. (the legend is that whoever owns or possesses the stone, rules Scotland) The castle also offers a fantastic insight into Scotland’s bloody history including the war for independence and then the tragic union with England. On a clear day, the castle offers amazing panoramic views of the Forth River and beyond.
Top tip: Try and time your trip before the ear drum splitting 1pm gun salute.
Water of Leith Walkway- Hidden Gem of Edinburgh
Best time to visit Edinburgh is the festivals- from film, books to art and culture, the Edinburgh festival season is jam packed with shows and people from all over the world. If the chaos and confusion does start withering you, you can escape the beaten track very quickly by going for a stroll down the little known but enchanting Water of Leith walkway. The walkway, constructed along the side of the Union Canal (stretches as far as Falkirk) offers a fascinating insight into the history of the city. You can join the pathway at Dean Village just a 5 minute stroll off the west end of Princes Street.
Known also as the “Water of Leith Village” Dean Village was a successful grain milling hamlet for more than 800 years. At one time there were no fewer than eleven working mills here. Highlights further up the walkway include the beautiful four arched Dean Bridge designed by Thomas Telford. You can part the walkway at the Modern Gallery of Art which has a stunning collection of modern painters like Picasso, Miro, Kandinsky.
Need a coffee Break? Visit Peters Yard
Peters Yard is the perfect refuelling point, situated in the peaceful halcyon of the lush, green Meadows. This Swedish Coffee House is a very popular stop off point at all times of the year.
So if it’s a lovely sunny day (itself a rare precious occurrence in the Burgh) , go early and grab one of the precious outdoor tables, sink in and enjoy the world go by snacking on their deelish range of award winning artisan bread , homemade granola, yoghurt, danish pastries, Birkes, scones. Or dine al fresco and have a picnic on the Meadows with one of their amazing , freshly squeezed orange juices or delicious soups and bread.
For a bite to eat : The Dogs
The Dogs is a gastropub that serves high quality food in a very unfussy, informal relaxed environment. The wooden tables are squeezed together so it does feel a wee claustrophobic, at the same time with the odd choice of décor ( Dogs pictures and old church pews) it creates an intimate, quirky vibe.
The food are classic gastropub favourites like fish & chips but with mushy peas-the limited but excellent choice of mains are all excellent value with lunch prices around the £5 mark for mains and £4 for desserts-The Dogs is a great value choice for lunch or the evening.
The Dogs is now part of a bigger family of restaurants- Amore Dogs next door-aimed at Italian Foodies plus the new Seadogs, on Rose Street- all seem to share the parent diners excellent thoughtful choice of gastronomic treats and value added promise.
Day trip from Edinburgh: Visit the East Neuk of Fife and St Andrews
East Neuk of Fife and St Andrews is a great day trip outside of Edinburgh.
Just north of Edinburgh (crossing the magical Forth Road Bridge) past the broad expanse of the Firth of Forth lies the Kingdom of Fife and the East Neuk- a collection of picture postcard ancient fishing villages and hidden harbours.
The star attraction of these villages is the clearly Dutch looking buildings with red roofs: a strong reminder of their trading ancient maritime links with the Dutch and Belgians.
Heading along the coast, a recommended stopover point is the village of Anstruther.
Besides being a point of departure to the lovely Isle of May (where you can see seals basking and spot minke whales) Anstruther is the official home of Britain’s most loved national dish: fish and chips.
At the upper end of the East Neuk lies the beautiful seaside resort of St Andrews. As the home of golf, St Andrews is a mecca for golf lovers from all over the world. Plus it is home to one of Britain’s oldest universities: The University of St Andrews. Briefly it was also home to Prince William who studied art history here. Royalty and golfing connections aside, the town is packed with history and a range of stunning beaches ( FYI: iconic scene from Chariots of Fire was filmed on the West Sands Beach north of the town)