Edinburgh a city that combines both old and new in a swell of architectural beauty. The organic medieval old town and planned Georgian New Town provide a city full of architectural wonders, streets to explore and a very distinct townscape. This is a city made for wandering, with its narrow old town streets, alleyways and steps running both up and down linking you to hidden streets or short cuts, to its logically planned New Town.
The Old Town is best explored by starting on the Royal Mile, from Holyrood Place and walking up to Edinburgh Castle. As you walk up the mile you are surrounded by a mix of architecture, the dark stones changing shades in the light as the sun pokes out from behind its cloud. The buildings loom above you in their high-rise nature, but looking down at street level you can see old windows and doors, once perhaps servant or workman’s entrances bricked up but still offers a glimpse of the past.
As you walk up hill you see the distinct crown steeple of St. Giles Cathedral.
Further up sits Tron Kirk the former principal church of Scotland, it now sits empty but its rear has become a popular gathering place for teenagers looking for a touch of the gothic! The Royal mile continues uphill until you begin to see the end of the road, Edinburgh castle, perched on the top Castle Rock.
From atop the rock you have almost panoramic views of Edinburgh, you can see Arthur’s seat looking back at you, from whose base you started the mile.
The Old Town is also home to some of the City’s main museums, the Museum of Scotland being the one we visited. The National Museum of Scotland mixes modern architecture with the best of the Old Town. Its exhibitions are clean and simple and are very child focused offering loads of things to keep them occupied. As museums go, it’s certainly has a mix of exhibitions from life in Victorian Scotland, a room full of stuffed animals and an Egyptian room. I would have expected the National museum to offer more in the form of the General History of Scotland, but with so many small museums dotted throughout the city perhaps it leaves them to give you more information. It’s certainly worth a visit, especially if the weather is against you.
Crossing Waverley Bridge it takes you on Princes Street, the main shopping hub for thecity, but also into the heart of the New Town.
Meandering off Princes street you can turn onto the slightly quieter shopping streets of Georges Street and then heading down hill you can make your way through the stunning Georgian house lined streets for Dean Village which is the other side of the Leith.
If you cross at Deanhaugh Street, you cross into the village and come across a lovely chilled out Scandinavian bakery/ cafe called Peter’s Yard – http://www.petersyard.com/ . It was filled with delicious cakes and bakes, Scandinavian breads and sandwiches. It was definitely worth ducking inside to avoid the cold for a hot chocolate and cake!
From the Dean Village you can walk along the Leith either left or right and explore the quieter side of the city.
Now whenever I head to a new city I like to explore not only its culture but its food! And we certainly explored the food! We started off in the City Cafe, a place I found courtesy of Conde Naste Traveller. http://www.thecitycafe.co.uk/ . We booked a table as I thought it may be busy on a friday night, but getting their at 7.30 there was plenty of room, but when we left a few hours later it was definitely filling up. This is a place that likes to mix the casual with the cool. Decked out like a 1950’s American diner, it has a bar and down stairs a mini club. A range of music plays in the Cafe never staying on one genre for too long, and the clients completely varied which lent itself to the relaxed atmosphere. We decided to stay with the traditional and ordered the burger, and oh were they good! Not being able to quite fit in desert after the task of finishing the tasty burgers we ordered a milkshake from the menu ( made with ice cream and a range of chocolates and flavourings) – we got the Ferraro Roche shake – Amazing! As somewhere that stayed open late, you could easily spend many an hour there eating, drinking and catching up with friends.
Having spent the Saturday at the Rugby, sat in the very cold stadium for the whole afternoon we decided that we needed something very warming for dinner, and went with a friends recommendation of Mother India. Not the most traditional of Scottish food, but beautiful Indian food! http://www.motherindiaglasgow.co.uk/index.php?action=cms.edin. Tucked off the main street you could easily miss it but clearly everyone knows about it. We booked a table again in advance and so glad we did. When we walked in to the aromatic restaurant at 7.30 the place was packed, throughout our dinner there were people constantly queuing for a table. The food, was one of the best Indian meals I have ever had, and its take on tapas is winning. The menu is set out in a tapas style where you order 2 or 3 dishes each and that way get to try lots of different flavours. It was great as it allowed us to try lots of new dishes and things I probably wouldnt order ( the dishes themselves are much more varied than your traditional indian take-away!). Money wise it was completely reasonable, a couple of beers, 5 dishes and a couple of naan between two came to about £35… bargain!
We decided it was a no for desert until we started walking back to the hotel and were drawn into an Italian restaurant that we passed 3 to 4 times a day as it was on the way to the hotel. From the outside it looks like any other Italian restaurant, inside its like being in Italy, the staff are chatty with that Italian flare that only Italian waiters can get away with, they are rushing about, the tables are packed and the food looked good. We stopped however for something sweet, the award-winning ice cream that sat in the window tempting us in ( and we were not the only ones making late night stops for sweet treats!). Ordering just ice cream it came in an elaborate glass and was delicious. The restaurant was Ciao Roma http://www.ciaoroma.co.uk/ .
We sat there for quite some while watching them put together elaborate deserts and the general organised chaos that is a good Italian restaurant, I could have stayed there quite happily all night.
Edinburgh for me is definitely somewhere that warrants more than one visit, like London it has some many hidden secrets and streets to explore. There is plenty to do whatever the weather and many gastronomic treats to try!