THINGS TO DO
The 6th Social Marketing Conference will take place in Edinburgh next month. Below are some tips to make the most of your time in Scotland's beautiful capital, including some fabulous food suggestions, idyllic walks and a bit of information to orient yourself. Courtesy of the Union Agency.
"There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter" - Billy Connolly
Scottish dialect can be tricky to understand, in case you’re stuck – try the following phrases:
Aye: Yes, as in “Aye I want another dram of whisky.”
Naw: No, as in “Naw, I don’t think I’ve had too much to drink.”
Wee: Little/small, as in “This dram is awfully wee.”
Baltic: Cold, as in “Scotland is Baltic, I wish I’d taken more clothes with me.”
Eijit: Idiot, as in “Who is this eijit?!”
Bevvy: Alcoholic drink, as in “The hangover has lifted, let’s go for another bevvy!”
ONE CITY, TWO TOWNS
The city’s name was originally Dunedin (Din Eidyn), which in Scots Gaelic translates as the ‘fort on the rock’. A fortification (probably wooden) was established on the Castle Rock around the start of the 7th Century AD.
Today this part of the city is called the Old Town - the medieval buildings stretching from the Castle down the hill to the Palace of Holyrood (the Queen’s residence) - called the ‘Royal Mile’. It’s narrow alleys and higglety-pigglety houses and shops were the location of plagues, executions, battles and much more.
Edinburgh also has a New Town, the best example of Georgian style architecture in the world (also a World Heritage site). From 1767 – 1850 the rich folk, fed up with the crowded and smelly medieval town, built the New Town with wide streets, squares and solid buildings.
The two parts of Edinburgh are 100% different - and it is well worth taking each in separately, our ‘two towns in one city’. Edinburgh is a great walking city; so you are encouraged to take a couple of hours to walk the length and breadth of the central area; you will not be disappointed.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN AULD REEKIE
It is hard to miss this large rocky hill rising out of an eastern section of the city. Arthur’s Seat is the summit of the hill that rises out of Holyrood Park. (Both Arthur’s Seat and Castle Rock are the remains of volcano cores, left after a huge glacier swept across the land millions of years ago.) If you have sturdy footwear with you not much can beat hiking up to Arthur’s Seat on a nice day and looking out across the city. On a nice day Arthur’s Seat is very popular.
Climbing Arthur’s Seat can takes about an hour up and down - and is a stiff walk. A quicker alternative is Calton Hill at the east of Princes Street. The summit is home to the iconic Dugald Stewart Monument, the Nelson Monument, and the National Monument. The National Monument is sometimes known as ‘Edinburgh’s Folly’ because it was modeled upon the Parthenon in Athens but was never finished due to lack of funds. (It was started to celebrate the victory at Waterloo.) Calton Hill offers excellent views of the city, and it’s a less demanding climb.
If you are looking for a stroll round the city we recommend Old Town, to the south of the Castle. Here you can wonder up the Royal Mile past boutique shops to the Castle Esplanade. Just down the hill the Grassmarket is bustling with cafes and bars. Don’t miss a gelato from Mary’s Milk Bar! From there head up to the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby, which immortalises the story of a loyal terrier dog who guarded his former owner’s grave for 14 years. Make sure to touch Bobby’s nose for luck! Edinburgh’s Old Town sprawls down the hill from the Castle.
Dean Village is an oasis of tranquillity within Edinburgh, only five minutes from Princes Street. We recommend talking a stroll up the Water of Leith from Stockbridge (perhaps after visiting the Sunday market?) through Dean Gardens. This former milling village fell in to disrepair before being recognised for its tranquillity and is now restored. It is full of picturesque buildings and is only a short walk from the Dean Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art.
The Castle is the visitor attraction in Edinburgh and seems even bigger from the inside than it does from the outside. Take the tour round the historical displays and re-enactments. St Margaret’s Chapel within the castle is also noteworthy as the oldest surviving building in the city. Even if you don't have time for the whole tour, head up to the Esplanade on a clear day for panoramic views of the city. The Castle dominates Edinburgh’s skyline.
The Botanics in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town is the second oldest botanic garden in Britain, with 70 acres of diverse plant life. Visit the Botanics for a relaxing couple of hours wondering through a very tranquil part of Edinburgh and for great views of the Edinburgh skyline. An oasis of calm in the city, the Royal Botanical Gardens.
SHH! IT'S A SECRET...
"My theory is that all of Scottish cuisine is based on a dare." - Mike Myers
FOR A WEE BITE
A firm favourite for high quality, fresh and traditional food. If you get the right seats near the back windows you will have unrivalled views of the castle. A wee bit on the higher price range but worth it for a special evening.
A hidden gem tucked down Fishmarket close, just off the Royal Mile. The restaurant is owned by Michael Neave, a young Scottish chef. The surroundings are modern and the food and cocktails excellent.
A down to earth restaurant that has the feeling of dining in someone’s living room! Fantastic food that will often use unusual cuts of meat (ox cheek, crispy pigs ears), but also includes firm favourites (steak, fish and chips etc). Based centrally on Hanover Street.
One of award-winning chef Tom Kitchin’s places. Down on the Leith waterfront (Edinburgh’s port), it is popular with those looking for fine dining. His style is traditional Scottish produce using French techniques.
It sounds Italian, but it’s Edinburgh’s best ‘chippie’ founded in 1975. You ask for a ‘fish supper’ and make sure to ask for ‘salt n’ sauce’ (pronounced ‘salt n’ soz’) with your chips.
FOR A DRAM
This great bar and restaurant is housed in an old Victorian pump house, tucked down Advocates Close just off the Royal Mile. It holds an impressive collection of Scottish and world whiskies. A variety of seasonal cocktails, wine and craft beers are also on offer.
The home of Edinburgh Gin, this bar features two stills, one column and one pot within the bar giving guests the opportunity to see gin distilling up close and personal. Edinburgh Gin distillery tours are also available as well as guided tasting experiences. Note: this place is often booked out; so check before you visit.
An Edinburgh institution, situated in the heart of Edinburgh on George Street. Surrounded by chandeliers and Corinthian columns, guests can sip back a cocktail in this grand and truly impressive setting. (It used to be a bank.)
This shop, bar and restaurant offers over 300 malts and blended whiskies - and anything you sample in the bar should be available to take home from their shop. If you feel like you need a bit more expert advice or guidance when it comes to whisky then why not try one of their tasting options.
The Irish are famous for their folk music, but Scotland also has a rich heritage of folk music, which has greatly influenced music in the USA. At Sandy Bell’s there is often live music. It’s usually a real crush and all rather shambolic, but the music excellent.
OOT AND ABOOT
If you have made the decision to stay in Edinburgh for a little bit longer, you may consider exploring outside Edinburgh, there is so much to see.
Escape the city in the beauty of the Pentland Hills, a great place for walking whatever your fitness level. For a gentler ramble try walking round Threipmuir and Harlaw reservoirs. Suggested routes and how to get there can be found clicking on the title.
The Pentland Hills are ideal for walking; weather permitting, and only a short bus ride from the centre of Edinburgh!
45 miles west of Edinburgh is our central belt neighbour, the cosmopolitan city of Glasgow. Known for its music, nightlife and varied shopping offering it’s well worth a day trip or overnight stay. It’s only 50 minutes on the train from Waverley Station; and the trains run every 15 minutes on weekdays.
If you get time, this historical city (about an hour from Edinburgh) is home to Stirling Castle, one of the grandest castles in Scotland. The architecture, history and beautiful scenery are really impressive. You can also visit The Wallace Monument, an imposing tower perched on a hill above the city; which celebrates a national hero; better known by Mel GIbson’s portrayal in Braveheart. Follow the story of Sir William Wallace, patriot, martyr and Guardian of Scotland. If you’re feeling fit you can climb the 246 steps to the top for stunning panoramic views. Also worth a visit is The Battle of Bannockburn Experience, which puts you in the heart of the historical action. Take your place on the battlefield. Stand face-to-face with fearless medieval warriors. Witness two opposing kings – Robert the Bruce and Edward II – whose tactics in 1314 changed the path of Scotland’s history, forever. With cutting edge 3D technology, you can experience medieval combat like never before and learn about this crucial event in Scottish history. Outdoors, the landscaping and parkland around the centre allows visitors to appreciate the battleground and restored commemorative monuments.
Situated between Falkirk and Edinburgh, this royal town is famous for its Palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. Explore the ruins, learn about the domestic life of Scottish royalty and admire the elegant architecture. You can also take a boat trip on the Union Canal.
A short train ride from Edinburgh going north brings you to the historic town of South Queensferry. The town has some nice pubs and cafes, and boasts stunning views of the three bridges which cross the Firth of Forth. The Victorian Forth Bridge (the first bridge, built in 1890 and carrying the rail line) is the most iconic, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Forth Road Bridge was completed in 1967, and the newest bridge, the Queensferry Crossing, is due to open in 2017.
Photos by: @jimgaffney