Fàilte to the capital of my native Scotland, a city mainly draped across a series of rocky rises, overlooking a wind ravaged sea.
This place is not only beautiful but it’s almost purpose built for tourists in that you can easily get around by foot. In less than 15 minutes you can walk from the Old Town’s picturesque muddle of medieval dwellings to the Georgian respectability of the New Town via Princes Street Gardens, a former boggy depression known as Nor’ Loch.
Explore the wynds that stretch out from the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood House, or immerse yourself in the high culture of a city famed for its art, literature and science – there’s evidence of all three all over the city. The best? Well, it depends who you talk to but I love all the wizardry of Dynamic Earth. This modern white marquee pitched beneath Salisbury Crags offers an impressive journey through Earth’s history from the Big Bang to the present day. Whatever your passion, you’ll find it here in Edinburgh, and like a classic book, you’ll want to dip into it again and again.
My Favourite Place: It would be easy to cite the tourist sights of Edinburgh Castle or Holyrood House, the royal family’s formal Scottish residence – but they’re a little obvious for a local like me. That’s why I like The Sheeps Heid, a traditional pub in a village setting, close to the old kirk. If you are ready for a brisk walk around Queens Park and Arthur’s Seat, this welcoming restaurant pleases the family on all fronts – you can even book a game of skittles (all the rage before ten pin bowling.) Another ‘foodie’ stop is The Secret Garden. Hidden down an old close, it really is one of Edinburgh’s most divine refuges and can be found a short distance from the castle esplanade.
Highlights: August is the time to stay in Ediburgh. Why? Well, this is the month when the city really comes alive with events such as The Fringe, The Book Festival and Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo. My personal favourite is the latter because of all the military pomp and ceremony. Seated high in the esplanade with Edinburgh Castle as a backdrop – its spectacular. Here’s a canny Scottish tip though – if you’re on a budget, book for the dress rehearsal when tickets are up to 50 per cent less. It’s only a day before the main programme and you can still see everything worth seeing. Which is just as well, because Edinburgh in summer can be expensive. Expect to be hit with hefty prices as the city heaves with visitors.
Lowlights: There aren’t any. Okay, maybe the weather. It can get a wee bit nippy during the colder months, so remember to dress in plenty of warm layers.
Souvenirs: Clarksons on Victoria Bow is great for local, contemporary jewellery and most supermarkets and tourist shops sell haggis – a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck. But your must stop shop should be The Scottish National Gallery, located next to Princes Street Gardens. You’ll find a fabulous array of classy Scottish artifacts in the gallery shop. Visit there after seeing the impressive collection of European art, including works by Tintoretto, Titian, Monet and Cézanne. What’s more, every January the gallery exhibits its collection of Turner watercolours bequeathed by Henry Vaughan in 1900.
Where to stay: I was told in no uncertain terms by the editor of Y that I couldn’t mention any of the hotels from my own company, even though they’re great and strategically placed throughout the city. So under pressure, here are a few alternative options – The Balmoral for city dwellers, Prestonfield House if you like boutique, and for unique go for one of the suites at The Witchery – they’re fabulous.