- Georgian-coated suites
- Serene-yet-central West End
- Technicolour dreamboat
- Regal Royal Mile
- Grand Georgian
- Behind Calton Hill
- Boutique bed and breakfast
- Edinburgh en route to Leith
- Miniature home-like hideaway
- Parkside Pilrig Street
- Neoclassical playboy mansion
- Refined New Town crescent
- Suite-only townhouse
- Genteel Georgian Crescent
- Stately stones in dove-grey tones
- Princely Princes Street
- Cobbles, crescents and castle views
- City life
- Wit, wisdom and wee drams
If Scotland’s first city had a front door, it would come with a huge ‘Welcome’ mat.
Whether you’re drawn in by the tartan heritage of the cobbled Royal Mile, the New Town’s graciously elegant Georgian façades or the ever-visible Castle, from whichever angle you look at it, Edinburgh is a knockout. But while it may have the highest concentration of listed buildings in the world, this northern capital is not just for looking at: with an international arts calendar and more booksellers per capita than any other British city, its reputation for refinement and culture is richly deserved. Whether you lose yourself in the Old Town wynds – narrow, crooked paths between houses – linger over a wee dram in the cosy pubs of Cockburn Street or tuck into the catch of the day at one of up-and-coming Leith’s waterfront restaurants, you’ll find satisfaction. Guaranteed.
Political devolution in Scotland has provided the capital with its most innovative and controversial modern landmark: Holyrood, the concrete, wood and water-featured parliament building at the foot of the Royal Mile. When the MSPs are in session, you can sit in on a debate for free. That’s open government for you (www.scottish.parliament.uk).
- You can hail a black cab from anywhere on the street, or pre-book a minicab through your hotel. Central Radio Taxis (+44 (0)131 229 2468) is the city’s largest operator.
- Tipping culture
- Tipping is not expected, but in restaurants, 12.5 per cent is considered fair. Cab drivers don’t expect a tip, but 10 per cent will get a smile.
- Packing tips
- The weather is reliably unreliable, so carry a sweater, even in the height of summer. A book of Robbie Burns poems offers good poseur value in cafés. Invest in an Edinburgh Pass, which gets you into more than 30 attractions and allows free bus rides in the city centre, as well as return transfers to the airport. A one-day pass costs £29; for details, go to www.edinburgh.org/pass. Get information on anything arty and cultural in fortnightly events guide The List (www.list.co.uk).
- Recommended reads
- Aside from the obligatory volume of Robert Burns poetry, try Glue by Irvine Welsh. Ian Rankin’s heavy-drinking Inspector Rebus tackles crime in 17 novels set mostly in Auld Reekie, and Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street is a witty chronicle of the modern life in a local boarding house. But the classic Edinburgh novel remains Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – it’s simply the ‘crème de la crème’.
- Regional specialities
- Good haggis – the sheep’s-vitals-centric Scottish culinary icon – is a delicacy that visitors simply must try once; the famous McSweens of Edinburgh even does vegetarian versions (www.macsween.co.uk). Serve with 'neeps and tatties' (turnips or parsnips and potatoes). For breakfast, graduate to a plate of Arbroath smokies, strong-flavoured haddock caught off the Angus coast and barrel-smoked; Iain R Spink’s are reckoned the finest, but find your own favourites at Edinburgh Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday till 2pm on Castle Terrace. Also look out for Aberdeen Angus steak, salmon and game.
- Pound sterling.
- Time zone
- Dialling codes
- Country code for the UK: 44. Edinburgh: 0131.
- Do go/don't go
- How do you cope among huddled masses? The city’s at its liveliest in August, when festival-goers double the population to more than a million. Anyone who doesn’t care for crowds, street performers and pushy flyer-mongers should wait till September, when it’ll be less packed and still sunny. Intermittently.
Don't go home without...
… acquiring a taste for whisky. If hanging around Old Town pubs hasn’t worked, a distillery visit may well do the trick. Check out the entire barley-to-alcohol transformation at Glenkinchie Distillery (+44 (0)1875 342004), home of the Edinburgh Malt in the rolling East Lothian countryside.