I’ve lived in Edinburgh for a couple of years now, and I truly believe it’s one of the best places to live on Earth. Every summer the city turns into a mad house as thousands upon thousands of tourists and performers descend on the city for the Festival. Hotels are full and long lines are seen at all of the big attractions. The festival is an amazing experience, but at times overwhelming.
Even in the craziness of the festival it only takes a short walk to escape the crowds, and there’s some great places to check out that aren’t on the Royal Mile or Princes St. Here’s my take on the best.
1. The Royal Botanical Gardens
I could be a little biased, as until recently I lived almost next door to the gardens, and got married there last year. The Botanic Gardens are a wonderful peaceful place to walk, enjoy a coffee or a meal and to sit out in the sun (if it happens to be around). There’s loads of things to see here during the summer plus it’s free entry.
Get there: From Princes St: Take a 27, 23 or 8 bus to Inverleith Terrace, or walk down Hanover St, Dundas St, Brandon Terrace and Inverleith Row
2. Enjoy a flat white at Artisan Roast
Edinburgh must have one of the most abundant supplies of good coffee shops in the world. Almost every corner you turn there’s an independent cafe selling carefully crafted coffees, teas and cakes. Many of these get their coffee beans from the same place, the infamous and tiny Artisan Roast. It’s situated on Broughton Street a short walk from St Andrew’s square. If you can catch it at a quiet time it’s a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the best coffee in town from the best baristas in town.These people know their coffee and you won’t be disappointed. The flat white with a slice of carrot cake is a particular weakness for me.
Get There: At the Waverley Station end of Princes Street, walk down to the left until you reach Broughton Street, Artisan Roast is about 100 m down on the right
3. An sunset hike to Arthur’s Seat
If Arthur’s seat was in another other major tourist city in the world it would be surrounded by trinket shops and tourist traps, but somehow this mini extinct volcano in the middle of the city has maintained its identity. A short walk away from the road and you’ve forgotten that you’re in a capital city, until you turn around and see the city down below. It’s a fairly easy hike if you’re moderately fit, and takes anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to reach the top.
Most of the time in the summer the trail is quite crowded, though not unpleasantly so. In the middle of the summer try climbing after 8:30 or 9pm, you’ll be rewarded with amazing vistas, and fewer people to share it with. If you do happen to reach the summit on at a crowded time, if you continue walking straight over to the end of the rocky peak and descend some 10 -15 feet there’s a hidden grass ledge with the best view in town.
4. Experience a real whisky tasting
There is no shortage of Whisky shops, experiences, tastings in Edinburgh, but they all have one thing in common – they’re aimed at visitors and tourists. There’s a fantastic member’s only club in town, the Scotch Malt Whisky society, and throughout the festival period they offer visitor passes for the day. You can pick up tickets here
The society has its own bottling facility, and buys only select barrels from select distilleries. As a result the range of tastes and smells that their whiskies have to offer is far more complex and interesting than a regular whisky tour. All of the whiskys are neatly stacked in green society bottles behind the counter, each with intricate and quirky tasting notes. Right now I’m enjoying ‘Custard in an old Jag’, and bizarrely all the tasting notes ring absolutely true. Expect to pay £5 upwards for a dram, good beers, wines and spirits too. The bar food is excellent, haggis highly recommended.
Get there: Queen street runs parallel to Princes Street but 2 blocks further away from the castle. It’s a short walk from town and the society is between Hanover and Frederick Streets.
5. Take a seaside walk to Cramond
The sea inlet to the north of Edinburgh is known as the Firth of Forth. Even around Edinburgh it’s still over a mile wide, and contains a number of small islands. One of these is Cramond, about 5 miles to the North West of the city not too far from the airport. From town there’s a delightful walk along an old railway line converted into a forested footpath to Granton Harbour. After a short walk through an industrial area you reach a paved sea promenade, surrounded by grass and forest. Keep your eye on the water, you may see a seal or two!
When you finally reach Cramond, you can walk out to the island at low tide, but check the tidal times on the sign by the beach. Many people get stranded on the island every day, and the tide comes in very quickly. The island is home to a few old gun posts fromt he second world war and commands some incredible views over the Forth. There’s also a nice cafe on the waterfront plus some the ruins of a roman fort
I hope you enjoy all of these. What are your favourite places in Edinburgh? Are you visiting Edinburgh this summer?