The Luxury Editor Guide to Edinburgh
It’s well into the yearly madness that sets upon Edinburgh in August, which is the city’s famous Fringe Festival. Acts and tourists come from across the globe through Edinburgh Airport to turn the city into the world's largest arts festival for a few weeks.
See a show or two that’s what August is all about, but to really get the most out of Edinburgh, a little inside knowledge goes a long way.
So what better way to get to know a city than by asking a local and we asked Edinburgh resident Ross who runs travel website theluxuryeditor.com to give his tips on making the most of the city both during the festival and throughout the rest of the year.
Edinburgh is a great city for tourists as you can pack a lot into a small amount of time. If the weather is kind it is also a great city for exploring on foot. Here are my favourite things to do in the city right now.
Pickering's Gin Tour
Gin has exploded in popularity in the last couple of years, and one of the city's most popular gins is Pickerings, which is distilled right here in Edinburgh at Summerhall. Pickerings offer tours of the distillery and a chance to try out their handcrafted gin and is a lot of fun to visit.
Royal Botanics Walk
A favourite for many Edinburgh residents is a walk around the Botanics in the north of the city. August is prime time to visit as the 70 acres of gardens are in full bloom and within a mile from the city centre it is easily accessible by foot. If you are still in the city in October, their evening Botanics Light festival is an absolute must.
Walk along Dean Village & Visit the Gallery of Modern Art
A five minute walk from Princes Street and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the middle of the countryside as you pass through Dean Village - a former water milling town. Follow the Water of Leith through the village and you arrive at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art which makes for a great afternoon out for all the family.
Based in Leith, Norn is probably one of the best restaurants in Edinburgh right now. Using locally produced and foraged food that is completely dictated by seasonality, Chef Scott Smith, a protege of Geoffrey Smeddle, Michelin-starred owner of The Peat Inn has created an incredible dining experience - well worth booking a table.
A firm favourite both for food and drink, this former water pump house tucked away behind the Royal Mile is great for an evening out. Our top tip would be to book a booth on the ground floor and cosy up for the night with friends.
More than just a high end shopping destination, the Forth Floor restaurant and bar is one of THE places to go for food or drinks. You don’t need to break the bank with their current Wine, DIne and Sunshine menu which is £22 for three courses and a cocktail.
Leith Chop House
Taking a fresh approach to the timeless steak and side, the Leith Chop House is as cool as it is delicious. Using the best locally sourced beef, which is aged for 35 days in their custom built dry-aging fridges, butchered on site and tenderised over Himalayan salt. It is the best place for steak in the city and with their new restaurant open on Market Street it is a short walk from most hotels in the city centre.
Edinburgh has some great options for a night out, be it a cocktail, wine bar or just a local pub, here are our pick of where you should be drinking right now.
Cocktails, Wine and Spirits
Panda and Sons
A firm favourite of ours since it first hit Edinburgh, this bar is a lot of fun fusing the classic Prohibition style Speakeasy and a nod to the vintage style barbershop. Just look out for the “barber's shop” on Queen street, head down the stairs and pull the correct book on the bookshelf to enter.
An institution rather than a cocktail bar. Bramble is small and perfectly formed. This award winning cocktail bar takes the art of mixology very seriously. Bramble have a menu of forgotten classics as well as their own imaginative inventions. Drinks are served in teacups rather than glasses, and music is hip hop. We love it.
Smith and Gertrude
Named after two junctions in Melbourne, this Stockbridge wine bar is packed out every night. Wine is top quality and the price you pay is slightly more than most places, but it is well worth the investment. Choose from small plates of meats and cheeses or opt for a larger charcuterie board. Our top tip would be to try one of their wine flights which is good value and you can sample a selection of wines.
13 is the lucky number at Lucky Liquor. 13 cocktails, 13 spirits, they know how to keep things simple and boy does it work, great cocktails in a relaxed environment. If you go make sure you play a game pool in their basement space.
Now a major beer brand with a presence across the globe, this Scottish brewer is more popular than ever. Head along to their Edinburgh bar in the Cowgate with it’s industrial feel of reclaimed furniture, exposed brickwork and plenty of stainless steel, not to mention some excellent beers, IPA’s and lagers.
Set across split levels the Hanging Bat is full of nooks and crannies. Choose from a staggering array of craft beers on draft and in cans. Not sure what to drink? The friendly staff will help you navigate through the menu and offer a beer sample or two.
One of Leith's most handsome looking pubs and the Victorian fixtures and fittings give a thoroughly old world charm to Nobles. With some great beer on draft, live music and late opening hours they have a winning formula for an evening out.
Boteco do Brazil
A slice of Rio right in the heart of Edinburgh, thoroughly Brazilian where the music is guaranteed to get you up on your feet. A great place to grab a beer, and share some food with friends.
Edinburgh has its fare share of chain-coffee shops, but sidestep them and head to one of the cities independants. Our favourites include:
I am not biased but Cairngorm Coffee has to serve some of the best coffee in the capital. Originally just one shop on Frederick Street which has a super cosy highland bothy feel to it, has now expanded, with a second much bigger premises in the West End. If you’re a cheese fan than the cheese melt is an absolute must, trust me it’s divine!
Minimal in design, Brew Lab uses the latest in brewing techniques to create coffee perfection. Choose between their South College Street cafe with it’s laid-back student customer vibe or their newer branch in the West End; you won’t be disappointed in either.
With all this city exploring you are going to need somewhere to rest up and thankfully Edinburgh has a wide range of accommodation options for you to sleep like a king (or queen!) for the night.
Old Town Chambers
A ‘hidden gem’ in the heart of the city, the Old Town Chambers offers a home from home experience in each of their apartments. Spaces range from studios through to spacious penthouses with views across Princes Street, all with fully equipped kitchens, they are luxurious and great value for money.
The George Hotel
The George Hotel, which has recently had a multimillion pound refurbishment across the entire hotel is revelling in its new found style. The hotel is perfectly situated on the New Town’s George Street ideal for shopping, dining and bars.
A landmark central hotel perfect for hitting the tourist ground running. Dramatic and modern design throughout the bedrooms and communal areas sits juxtaposition to the Royal Miles historical architecture. Nespresso Machines, iPod docks and other modern conveniences will keep all technology geeks happy and the ground floor bar does a great cocktail too.
Ross Fraser is founder of theluxuryeditor.com an Edinburgh based travel and leisure website. Scottish born Ross has made the capital his home where he has lived for the last 8 years.