Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Edinburgh

Alex Renton on where to eat chips, drink with Rebus and how to avoid a shallow grave

Alex Renton | July/August 2013

Do stay in New Town. Down-at-heel for decades, the Georgian quarter now gleams as it did when the city fathers laid it out in strict symmetry in the 1770s. Try the Howard in Great King Street, or One Royal Circus, a funky B&B tucked into the corner of a grand old house.

Don't complain about the weather. Residents will smother you with statistics to prove things are no worse than Londoneven as the rain from the west turns horizontal.

Do plan your Fringe-going. A huge and hungry audience descends on Edinburgh at festival time and most things the press rave about sell out before you can blink. Start with the most reliable venues: the Traverse, the Assembly Rooms, the Pleasance and the Stand. If you’re on Twitter, get tips by following @lyngardner, the tireless Guardian critic. But leave time for serendipity; wander down the Royal Mile watching the street acts, dodging the leafleteers and diving into venues.

Do put on stout shoes and climb at least one of Edinburgh’s seven hills. Salisbury Crags gives you the cityscape, and a balloon’s view of Holyrood Palace and the egomaniacal muddle that is the nine-year-old Scottish Parliament building.

Don't sample a deep-fried Mars bar. It is exactly as you would expect.

Don't do the ghost tours on the Royal Mile. The medieval under-city is interesting, but not worth the cackles and groans of the actors employed to give you a scare. Instead, wander through George Heriot’s School looking for the spectre of Miss Jean Brodie, and seek out the ghost of Greyfriars Bobby waiting patiently in the kirkyard next door.

Don't take your cue from the film "Trainspotting". Seventeen years on, the junkies and muggers have largely left Leith. It now has Michelin-starred restaurants (try Kitchin or Martin Wishart) and a crop of entertaining bars, new and old. But beware: in the Port o’Leith or the Volunteer, you still diss Hibs FC at your peril.

Do the art tourEdinburgh’s contemporary galleries punch above their weight. Start at Martin Creed’s marble steps under the old Scotsman building, proceed to the Fruitmarket and the Ingleby Gallery (showing the witty genre-bender Peter Liversidge this August) and on to Summerhall, the old vets’ college, now a hive of studios and installations.

Do put together a picnic at Valvona & Crolla, the glorious Italian deli on Elm Row founded in 1934, and take it to Arthur’s Seat (half an hour’s walk) or the 18th-century Royal Botanic Gardens (a little nearer).

Do a pub crawl. The smoking ban closed some classic dives, but others have reinvented themselves as camp, cool or even foodie. Slake your appetite with real beers, Scottish snails and fried pig’s ear at the Scran & Scallie in pretty Stockbridge. Or join Ian Rankin and his gang, who still prop up the Oxford Bar, Inspector Rebus’s New Town lair.

Don't get into a row about next year’s independence vote. Scots may not want itby about 60-40, on recent pollsbut they certainly don’t want to know what outsiders think they should do.

Don't call it the Athens of the North. No Athenian ever claimed to live in the Edinburgh of the South—and we still have a financial-services sector.

Readers' comments

Sign in or Create your account to join the discussion.