Edinburgh: blending old and new

Edinburgh, with its castle high on the rock, is a mecca for those heading to Scotland, but if you can find the local hotspots rather than the tourist traps, you’ll experience a side of the city never to be forgotten.

Split into the Old Town and the New Town, the sights of Edinburgh are easily accessible on foot, although a comfortable pair of shoes is required to manage the challenge presented by the many cobbled streets. The New Town, despite its name, actually dates back to 1767, when wealthy natives relocated from the crowded Old Town to escape the stench.

Wandering around the New Town is made all the easier by the neat grid order to the streets – you’ll never get lost. So choc-full of historic sites, such as the beautiful Queen Charlotte Square, which was once home to the inventor of the telephone Alexander Graham Bell, and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, this area is now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Designer shops, chic boutiques and cool bars are in abundance along upmarket George Street. However, if these are a little too rich for your budget, head to A Room In The West End, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street. It not only offers exceptional Scottish food at affordable prices, you can even take your own wine and get plenty of Teuchter (common name for someone from the highlands but frequently used by lowlanders to describe anyone north of Glasgow) banter thrown in.

A Room in the West End

For a taste of Edinburgh’s underworld, head to the Old Town, home to Ian Rankin’s popular anti-hero Inspector Rebus and William Brodie, the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde. In the 18th century, this highly respected Old Town Councillor and Deacon of the Guilds of Wrights and Masons fraternised with the great and good of Edinburgh, then robbed them blind at night. Eventually Brodie was captured, unmasked and hanged, but today he is considered a local hero. Deacon’s House Café, located in Brodie’s old house on the Royal Mile, is as good a place as any to take a refreshment, but wander from the popular path and try some of the pubs in the lanes of the famous Mile.

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Of course, the Royal Mile is best known for leading up to Edinburgh Castle and no trip to the country’s capital would be complete without a walk along the castle walls. And if you’re there around one o’clock, be prepared to cover your ears as Mons Meg, the six tonne cannon situated beside St Margaret’s Chapel in the castle grounds, is fired at this time every day. The castle also houses the Royal Regimental Museum, which depicts the history of The Royal Scots which, until 2004 when it was amalgamated into the Royal Regiment of Scotland, was the oldest regiment in the British Army. Entry is free but a voluntary donation would be much appreciated and well worth it!  And why not spend the night like a Royal Scots Guard? Ok, so it’s a lot more comfortable than a bunk in a barrack and a tad more expensive. The Royal Scots Club offers bed and breakfast accommodation in one of 25 individually and traditionally designed rooms from £190 per night.

The Royal Scots Club

If you’re a dog lover and feeling a little sentimental, then don’t forget to take a stroll to Greyfriars Kirkyard and pay homage to the little terrier named Bobby, who so loved his master Auld Jock, he refused to leave his grave until the day he died, some 14 years later in 1872. So taken by the dog’s vigil were the patrons of the local tavern, the Last Drop, that they took to feeding him. And as you’re nearby, it would be rude not to pop in for a wee dram or the other favoured drink, the Executioners Cocktail! So close in proximity is the tavern to the gallows at the Grassmarket, patrons could finish their drinks while watching their fellow citizens hang for their crimes.

Greyfriar’s Bobby

The Last Drop

Edinburgh is a perfect blend of old and new, although the ‘new’ isn’t necessarily that recent. And while few homes in the city rely on open fires to heat them, that doesn’t stop the locals offering the greeting, “Lang may your lum reek.” Don’t be alarmed, translated it means “May your chimney smoke for a long time” or, simply put, “May you live a long time in good health.”

More:

Visit Scotland

Edinburgh Castle

Scottish words of the week: Edinburgh Dialect 

Written by Debbie McTaggart



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