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?:
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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?