Hidden Gems: Edinburgh

Welcome back readers, for the next in our Hidden Gems series – the series where we bring you our recommendations and readers’ recommendations of  places which are unique and very AOW…, be that a café where you can while away the hours people watching, a bookstore  you can browse for hours, a quirky shop, a hotel that just gets what you’re about.  Somewhere different, but different in a good way.  Somewhere with a story.

We kicked off with London which got a huge response in the comments…and plans for various meet-ups and places to go.  Now we’re tackling Edinburgh.  I’ve only visited Edinburgh once but we know we have a huge Scottish reader contingent, and we’ve recruited the gorgeous Harriet, Clare’s friend in KL, to tell us about their places, delving into the depths of Edinburgh, the places you know through long years of living in and loving a city.  Reading this you can smell Edinburgh, taste it, you will want to go there, today.  A huge thanks to you, Harriet.

In no particular order, I give you her recommendations.  Do you live in Edinburgh, readers?  Have you visited and got anywhere to tell us about?:

 

Fringe Festival

Many of you will know Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival – which takes place for the whole month of August. The streets, bars and venues are filled with theatrical, musical and artistic folk, groups and troops from all over the world. This month is an amazing time to visit August – the city is alive from dawn ‘til dusk – but only if you don’t mind lots of people enjoying this spectacle alongside you….?! Top tip if you’re keen is to visit, is to head up for the ‘warm-up’ week, often the last week in July, where shows are usually half price…..! Get booking early though – the good shows sell out, especially during half-price week!  Oh, and bring your open-minded head if you’re visiting for the festival. Anything goes. Quite literally.

TOP WALKS and BEACHY WONDERS:

It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at just how many folk visit Edinburgh and do not blast up this huge green extinct volcano. You must walk up to the top of Arthurs Seat and along the top of Salisbury Crag. If you don’t you haven’t visited Edinburgh. The views, on a good day (remembering this is Scotland!) are incredible. Besides, it will blow away the cobwebs from the night before (see the bars and restaurant section!) and will justify the ice-cream/beer/cocktail when you reach the bottom again.

Image from Visit Scotland

The coastline surrounding Edinburgh and Lothian is wonderful. Take a drive or catch a bus out to Gullane Beach (about 20 miles east of Edinburgh). It’s great for a sandy walk, a dip (if you’re brave enough) and a top spot for eating Fish n Chips! A great golf course here should you wish for a windy game.

Other beaches worthy of a mention, and great for walks and wildlife below:

Belhaven (award-winning, but a little further down the coast) – great beach for a surf! If you need equipment contact Sam at Coast2Coast surf school. He’s a gem.

North Berwick from Visit Scotland

North Berwick  – a stretch of sandy beach alongside the old fashioned seaside town. A less dramatic and exposed beach but a good place for a day visit, with the benefit of a few quirky wee shops along the high street.

Seacliff -  A quiet, less well known gem of a beach, not far from North Berwick! Great views of the old Tantallion castle and Bass Rock.

Portobello – the urban beach, a few miles from the town centre. This beach is a winner for those wanting some sea air without venturing too far. There are masses of buses here from the city centre.

Cramond beach – a wonderful escape and popular haunt for Edinburgh residents walking dogs, children and generally escaping the city in search of a fishing village and a coastal tea shop!

 

WHERE TO EAT, DRINK and BE MERRY!

PUBS

My local pub has to be up there on the list of places to visit. It is a pub with a difference! Run by hilarious Swedish folk with comedy facial hair and wacky ideas. Joseph Pearce’s  pub, on Elm Row, at the top of Leith Walk, is no ordinary pub. They have a book club and a running club – they host crayfish evenings, Mad Hatter tea parties (to mention only a couple) and serve all sorts of wonderful worldly drinks and fantastic Swedish food…..! You have to visit to believe me. It’s the coolest local pub, ever.

The Brass Monkey on Drummond Street, is a great wee pub. They have a cinema screen set up inside, and enjoy all sorts of worldly films. The seating arrangement is a huge cushioned floor where folk are encouraged to sit, enjoy a beer and a flick – and encouraged to wear pj’s or comfies! What bliss!

I also love to visit Stockbridge – a popular area of Edinburgh and home to some equally lovely public houses and lovely local shops (including cheesemongers and delis) run by local people. Stockbridge sits over the Water of Leith (incidentally a nice walk along this river….after Arthurs Seat and your beach hit!). Pubs to mention are Hamilton’s  who do a good line in live music, the usual [although tastier] bar food with a fantastic atmosphere and Hectors, the place to go for a cosy drinks or a hangover breakfast, or when that fishfinger-sandwich-in-a-pub moment grabs you. You could almost turn up here in your pyjamas and nobody would bat an eyelid.  We like.

For your ‘local olde man pub’ try The Cumberland or The Bailie, both found in Stockbridge.

COCKTAILS:

For a classy cocktail swilling bar before your night inevitably finishes on the sticky floors of Fingers Piano Bar (not to be mocked), you should visit Hawke and Hunter, Oloroso (better known as has a great rooftop bar overlooking the castle)  or Monteiths, a relatively new and award-winning bar located on the Royal Mile, set behind some of the tourist traps and not well known…what we would describe as a hidden gem.

Happy hour in Rick’s boutique hotel bar  on Frederick Street is a good, central place for a drink and nibble, off the main George Street drag.

 

NOTABLE EATERIES

OK, so, a broad range of five….some of my top spots:

My FAVOURITE non-local pub (with incredible grub), but ABSOLUTELY worth the trip out to Haddington to visit, is The Waterside Bistro. It just so happens to be run by friends of mine – but don’t let that trick you into thinking I am biased. This pub is AMAZING. It is on the river, the food is unbelievably good (and locally sourced) and I wish it had been on my doorstep. Please please visit. Oh, and tell them Hugh and Vix you heard about it from Harriet, all the way from KL….you may swing a free pud??!

Urban Angel –  A must! Good wholesome, locally sourced, organic, fair-trade meals, cakes and goodies! PLEASE FIND AND ENJOY. Have a slice of double baked cheesecake for me….!

Café Marlayne  on Thistle Street . Winner. Closed on Sundays, if I remember correctly. Strangely always the day I tried to book it.

Loch Fyne seafood restaurant is always a winner! We heart sustainable fishing.

There’s nothing like an evening down The Dogs on Hanover Street for some easy dining, cheap and cheerful, wholesome and quirky food. They also run Seadogs (seafood, unsurprisingly) and Amore Dogs  (Italian – did you guess?)

Looking for a treat? Head to Tom Kitchin’s Kitchen! YUMMY.

 

COFFEE HOUSES

Urban Angel should also top this list.

Image from Prestonfield House website

Prestonfield House lays on the most divine and treaty afternoon tea if you’re keen for a wee indulge. Also home to Rhubard restaurant – to die for!

The Elephant House on George IV Bridge. A wonderful spot for a cuppa and a good people gaze into the lives of Edinburgh residents! Plenty of artists, writers and actors frequent this place.

 

WHERE TO SPEND YOUR HARD EARNED CASH

Am I allowed three areas/streets??  (ed, er…yes)

Thistle Street – some fancy pants shops. In particular Kakao by K, run by the gorgeous Karina, who brings a taste of all thing Scandinavian to the streets of Edinburgh. Mention Harriet in KL and you might get a big hug and glass of bubbles (she loves sharing bubbles with customers as they peruse her collection!).  I love this shop.

Opposite Karina is Howie, who epitomises Scotland. He runs 21st Century Kilts   and has dressed Robbie Williams, Vin Diesel, the guy who dreamt up Movember (the jacket was orange based tweed with orange and blue polka dot lining) and my husband, amongst others. Even if you are not interested in a kilt, or tweed jacket, you should visit for the banter. He is a character and his shop is great. He serves beers (from the next door pub) whilst chaps have their fitting. I kid you not.

South Queensferry is a lovely place for a get-out too, especially if you’re a magpie like me – one of my FAVOURITE wee shops (it gives me shivers just thinking about it), run by a phenomenal lady by the name of Joyce Paton.  She won Accessories Designer of the Year at the Scottish Fashion Awards last year and her shop is a treasure trove with the most divine accessories, to ensure you are the most fashionable guest at the next wedding (also good for brides to make sure you’re not outshined by the guest who visited this shop without you…….)! Chaps can always busy themselves in South Queensferry with a beer as they look out onto the Firth of Forth, sitting between the two bridges. Everybody’s happy. I have whiled away many hours with Joyce, and know she would give you a hugely warm welcome.

William Street has an array of small boutiques and can easily fill a good afternoon of window shopping, finding that something you don’t-need-but-absolutely-need.  I could get lost there.

Armstrong & Son  is vintage heaven. Whether looking for fancy dress costumes or clothes to actually fill your wardrobe – this has it all! What a treasure trove! The main shop is down in the Grassmarket, if you walk down Victoria Street you’ll find it at the bottom.

Broughton Street has some local quirky boutiquey shops and always worth a stroll. That way you can visit Urban Angel for a coffee and cake when you’re ready to rest those feet.

Every Saturday there is a street market held at the top of Broughton Street, opposite St Mary’s cathedral. You can buy fresh bread and veg amongst other more random stands! These change regularly but it’s always worth a nosey.

So readers….any more to add? 

Categories: Hidden Gems, Travel
15 interesting thoughts on this

15 Comments

  1. Steff
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Oh oh oh LOADS!!

    First is (sorry for the plug but if it’s good enough for America Ferrera…) my friend’s wee eatery called Peppers. It’s on Lady Lawson Street, just a stones throw away from the Castle and the Grassmarket. Buy a brownie, you won’t regret it.

    Drinky wise I second Joseph Pearces, and Fingers. Bond No. 9 in the leith do possibly the best Mojito I’ve ever tasted and I’m a bit of an expert don’t you know. It takes them about 15 mins to make it because they freeze the glasses but it’s worth the wait on a sunny day down by the shore.

    If you’re a veggie (which I most categorically am not however I acknowledge that they exist) there’s Black Bo’s which is just off the Royal Mile.

    Petit Paris in the Grassmarket is my all time favourite eatery in Edinburgh though, the best Crème Brulee this side of France. A bit on the pricey side but very authentic.

    William Street is fab for shops, there’s an awesome wee boutique called Odyssey if you’re wanting a bit of pampering (owned by a lovely lady called Sarah).

    I have to stop otherwise you will actually have another fully fledged post just in the comments section…!

    I love my city! xx

    Um… apparently I like food.

  2. Roz
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Wow Harriet what a cracking write up! It makes me want to jump on the train to Edinburgh and check out some of the places I never even knew existed :D (being a weegie at heart that’s some compliment!)

    I have never walked up Arthurs Seat but it is something I would really like to do so is firmly on the list for this summer. A fab thing to do afterwards would be to visit The Sheeps Heid a great pub I only discovered on a hen do a few weekends ago. They have a skittle alley you can hire for peanuts and it’s so much fun I never realised how big skittles are up close, cue some hilarious photos, and the Sauvingnon Blanc is pretty good too!

    http://www.sheepheid.co.uk/index.html

    Harriet mentions Thistle Street for a number of things above, there is also a fab Thai restuarant called The Dusit here that is well worth a visit.

    I also can’t not mention Tempus on George Street (a bar attached to The George Hotel) because they have a drink on their cocktail list called….The Rozmopolitan!

    Big Scottish Love,
    Roz x

  3. Posted April 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Sadly nothing to add, but I do bloody love Edinburgh. I might have to check out flight prices right now in fact…

    Seriously girls you are just making me want to go away somewhere today – first France now Scotland!

    xx

    p.s. we ate at Wedewoods and loved it http://www.wedgwoodtherestaurant.co.uk/

  4. Posted April 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never been to Edinburgh. I am now resolved to go (this afternoon, if possible). Excellent write-up!

    K x

  5. Posted April 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Right, trip to Edinburgh is now on my things to do this year list.

  6. Kate
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I went to university in Edinburgh and still frequently visit and have made a lot of new memories there as now I can go to all the places my student budget wouldn’t allow. I could see Arthur’s seat from my bedroom window and we trudged up there many times, with picnics, with a hangover, with wine!

    A great place for coffee is Wellington Coffee on George Street and it’s sister cafe Kilamanjaro on Newington Street, they are lovely versions of antipodean style cafes that are springing up everywhere. I always loved the few little boutiquey shops on Victoria Street, there’s only a couple but they are full of lovely brooches and random gifts and stationery items.

    It is such a beautiful city though, even when it’s raining and windy (and it’s almost always windy!)

  7. Sara
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I’ve lived in Edinburgh nearly all my life and agree with so many of Harriet’s suggestionns, especially climbing Arthurs Seat. It’s one of the first places I take visitors to Edinburgh and I still love it up there. If you want a less energetic climb then Calton hill is a close second (or Blackford Hill, or Corstorphine Hill…it isn’t known as the Rome of the north for nothing.)

    For drinking you can beat my local J Pearces. I also love Roseleaf on the shore (think quirky mis matching tea cups), Bon Vivant on Thistle street ( French and dingy…fab for girls drinks), Under dogs (big squishy sofas and great chips) and so many other places suggested.

    There’s a new Cafe Marlayne at the top of Leith Walk which is great too (and staggering distance from JPs). I also love time for Thai on castle street, cafe India on infirmary street and la favourita for fantastic pizza. Unfortunately Sea dogs has closed down, but the mussel inn is a pretty good substitute on Rose Street.

    Sorry, I get super excited at showing Edinburgh off to people and want people to love it as much as I do xx

  8. Clare
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I watched One Day with Hatti and her husband and when the opening scene was in Edinburgh you could actually feel the room light up with her glow of love and nostalgia for this beautiful city, so I’m so glad she wrote this piece so you can all feel the absolute passion that she has for the place. Thanks Hats! Also, you all need to keep an eye out fir next week’s AOP where you get to meet the beautiful lady herself.

  9. Posted April 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE Edinburgh. We went on our honeymoon there!

    Wish this was written before that!

    Used to love going to the Fringe Festival as
    a kid- my Granddad lived there so we’d time
    Our visit with that. You’ve included LOADS of good stuff!

  10. Posted April 19, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    We went to an amazing bar in a basement near the castle? No idea what it was called but think its an AOW kind of place!!

    • Posted April 20, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Might have been Under the Stairs (http://www.underthestairs.org/) which is another a fab little basement bar near the Castle.

      I’d also add: Bramble for Cocktails, Hanedans for Turkish food, Illegal Jacks for Mexican, walking the Water of Leith and visiting Dean Village for an escape from the city.

  11. Sara
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Anna- was it Monteiths by any chance? You go down an alley of fairy lights and it’s downstairs off there? Fab cocktails! Always forget about it, but love it when we do go x

    • Posted April 19, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      Oh, if that’s what it’s called then yes! and you already listed it so sorry about that. It was so good, the bartenders were hilarious and cocktails amazing.

  12. Harriet Lang
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    Oh.my.word. I am overwhelmed by the reactions of all you lovelies! I was delighted to put this together but really struggled to stop myself where I did (in reality it was my flight to Australia that forced the full stop). I have just arrived back in Asia (Singers-KL this arvo) and have loved seeing this posted in real – I have been out in Aussie whoop whoop with no phone or wifi. I agree with so many of the added comments-most of which made my first draft-oooooh I miss the ‘burgh! Xx

  13. Laura
    Posted July 28, 2014 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much fo this beautifully written article. I am going to Edinburgh with my best friend tomorrow for the first time and after reading your text I really cannot wait to get on the plane! I will take your tips with me :)

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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