Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland is perhaps the most beautiful city in the UK. The winding streets in the old town take visitors hundreds of years back into the past, while its younger sister, the New Town, follows a modern grid pattern. However, this shouldn’t stop you from visiting the New Town, as, rather confusingly, it is also hundreds of years old. When people could no longer cope with the filth of the Old Town in Edinburgh, they built the New Town.
Edinburgh was one of the first cities in the country to have a well-planned layout with parks and wide pavements. Construction of Edinburgh’s New Town began in 1767 to accommodate the new rich of this prosperous city. Lawyers, doctors, politicians and landowners flocked here to enjoy the wide streets and parks. I spent nearly six years in Edinburgh as a student, some of it in the New Town.
Read on to find out what I would recommend visiting and to learn how to get the most out of your visit to this stunning city.
Things to Do in Stockbridge in Edinburgh
I am a great cider fan and there is no better variety of beers and ciders than in Hector’s of Stockbridge on the corner of St Bernard’s Row and Dean Street. My personal favourites are the Belgian craft ciders or Kopparberg, a Swedish cider. If you have a sweet tooth then start with Fruli and finish up with a bottle of Kopparberg. But beware they are both quite strong and can make you tipsy in no time.
After Hector’s, go for a short walk along the Water of Leith Walkway. It is normally a very quiet path during much of the day. You can easily access it off St Bernard Row, just behind Hector’s. The walk will take you to the Dean Gallery and the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. Next door to the galleries is an ancient cemetery, well worth a visit (see photos). From there you can either take a bus downtown or simply walk another twenty minutes through Newtown to Rutland Square.
Dinner at Marcella’s
The best and cheapest place to have lunch or dinner is Marcella’s Italian sit in and take away by the Meadows. The regular clientale tends to be students as it is right next to the University. You can find the restaurant in Brougham Place, a ten minute walk up Lothian Road from Rutland Square.
The native Italian owner will serve you the best fast food in town at low-low prices. For example a spaghetti bolognese for two costs under £5. A can of Irn Bru, the national brew of Scotland is only a quid.
There is also pizza, lasagne, bread rolls and several different home-made cakes on offer.
Visiting The Meadows of Edinburgh
From Marcella’s you can go to the Meadows of Edinburgh to sit on one of the many benches. If you are lucky the sun will be out so you can lie down and have a little snooze after lunch. If the weather does not permit the park then go to the cinema. There are a number of options within walking distance from Marcella’s. The local, non-chain establishments are the Cameo on Home Street or the Filmhouse on Lothian Road. There is also the Odeon nearby.
An alternative stop to eat is the Kebab Mahal, another local favourite. Hop on bus number 2 by the Odeon cinema and it will take you right there. The bus stop is just outside the restaurant which is between two grocery stores.
The food on offer is all freshly made in the kitchen and served in an atmosphere similar to a Middle Eastern restaurant. A dinner for two will come in under £20 with drinks, but do not expect alcoholic drinks. They close for prayers on Friday and they cater for the nearby Mosque so everything is halal.
Staying At The Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh
I used to work at the Holiday Inn Express Picardy Place, so I will not recommend anything else. Some of the same staff are still employed there and everyone is very helpful. It can get expensive in August and December but every other month it value for money. The hotel is bang in the city centre in an old Georgian style building with a nice bar. Breakfast is also included in the price.
Cycling around Edinburgh is easy even if you are only a tourist without your own bike. That’s because you can rent one in many places! After your complimentary breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express make your way to the Leith Cycle Shop to rent a bike. It is a 10 minute walk downhill to the left of the hotel, halfway down the walk. They rent bikes for half a day or a full day.
Cycling Around Edinburgh
From the bike shop cycle down Pilrig street. Carry on riding until you reach the sea shore where you need to turn left. It is here that you can join one of the most scenic cycling routes in Edinburgh. Follow the road until you get to Granton Harbour and there continue on the promenade to Cramond Island.
You can walk over to Cramond Island if you catch the low tide. It is easy to spend an hour walking around it while taking pictures of the Forth Road and Railway Bridge.
Cramond has a lovely cafe and a traditional pub next to the island where lunch is finger licking good! The traditional Scottish fish and chips with peas is what most people pick or the Haggis. For desert why not walk over to the Cramond cafe just round the corner? They sell Di Rollo ice-cream and home-made cakes. My personal favourite is their apple pie with cinnamon on top.
The Northern Cycle Path
Edinburgh’s cycle tracks are disused railway lines. The government took the rails up in the 1960’s but the council renovated the pathways. Using them you can reach any part of town easily without stopping at red lights or being run over by a truck.
The Water of Leith Walk will take you to Balerno Lakes if you carry on until the end which is about 7 miles away. I fully recommend it because this way you will see half of Edinburgh without the traffic. You will also be able to take short breaks after each mile you ride.
Cycling Back Into Town
The ride back to town is easy as you will just roll downhill until you reach Roseburn Cemetery. From here it is another five minutes ride to the cycle shop on the right.
Not far from the bicycle shop on the corner of Leith Walk and Iona street is a cosy cafe. Here you can have your tea after cycling all day and warm up. They serve absolutely everything from fruit juices squeezed right in front of you to fresh sandwiches and Scottish all day breakfast.