Seven Days in Edinburgh and Two Books

Quirky guard at no 10, London Street I’ve been meaning to visit Edinburgh for ages and managed to track down a lovely flat in New Town for the week, complete with a quirky guard at the door. It took us all day to get there and when we arrived, we had the curious feeling of being somewhere at once very different and very familiar. Like my hometown, this part of the city is Georgian but built in a very different stone from our biscuit-coloured variety in Bath.

We’d certainly landed on our feet: New Town is stuffed full of shops selling delicious food, lots of tempting looking restaurants and an excellent Sunday morning market a stone’s throw away in Stockbridge where we greedily stocked up followed by a turn around the lovely Royal Botanic Gardens on the way back to the flat. Edinburgh from Blackford Hill

Monday’s planned climb up to Arthur’s Seat seemed fairly pointless given the light drizzle veiling what would have been an impressive view of the city so we wandered around the old town instead admiring medieval buildings, some quaint others beautiful. We were rewarded on Tuesday with lovely day, taking ourselves off Wildflowers - Royal Botanical Gardens to the Hermitage of Braid nature reserve on the edge of town and hiking up to the summit of Blackford Hill for some spectacular panoramic views of the city then walking back through Morningside to New Town, thinking of Miss Jean Brodie. We spent the afternoon properly exploring the glorious Botanic Gardens, one of the finest I’ve visited and I’ve been to quite a few. One of the loveliest pieces of planting was a wildflower meadow still going strong. Scattered through the gardens are some quietly striking sculptures by the likes of Barbara Hepworth and Andy Goldsworthy. Pine Cone- Ansy Goldsworthy

Our last outdoor day was spent strolling along the last section of the Water of Leith walkway which runs through the city to the sea and the attractive tiny port for which it’s named, spotting two Anthony Gormley figures planted in the water along the way.

Anthony Gormley - Walter of Leith Thanks to Edinburgh’s last blast of summer, most of our gallery-visiting plans were put on hold for a future holiday, and there will certainly be at least one of those. We did fit in a trip to the National Gallery of Modern Art which is split between two buildings. We visited Modern One which houses the permanent collection and has a lovely café in its walled garden. The collection included some Magrittes I’d not seen before, some wonderful Miros and a few Hepworths and Nicholsons reminding me of our visit to Pallant House earlier in the year. It was a great way to round off the holiday. We even got a glimpse of an otter and H spotted a crane of the ornithological variety along the Water of Leith on the way to the gallery.

Edinburgh felt like a properly European city in the way even London doesn’t. I can’t quite put my finger on why. Perhaps it was the celebration of intellectuals – statues of Hume and Smith and streets named after writers – or the wide boulevards of New Town or the dinging of trams. Whatever it was, I’d be happy to live there.

And the books? I finally got around to Taylor Jenkins Reid’s addictive Daisy Jones & the Six, the story of a ’70s rock Coiver image for Daisy Jones and the Six band made up of a patchwork of interviews in which each member has their say. Perfect holiday reading as was Tim Lott’s When We Were Rich, an absorbing, enjoyable state-of-the-nation novel which takes three lifelong friends and their partners from New Year’s Eve 2001 to the 2008 crash.

Such an brilliant holiday, all the more so for the unexpectedly gorgeous weather, and there’s so much more to see. Back to books on Friday but in the meantime I’ll leave you with Martin Creed‘s reassuring, optimistic message, emblazoned across the front of Modern One – Everything is Going to be Alright.

38 thoughts on “Seven Days in Edinburgh and Two Books”

  1. We were in Edinburgh about five years ago but the few days were not nearly enough to discover all its delights. It wasn’t bathed in sunshine but even in rain the city had a special atmosphere. The Water Of Leith walk sounds delightful

  2. I’m so pleased you enjoyed yourselves so much and managed to sample plenty of the city’s delights. We often say that living here feels as if we are permanently on holiday, and it’s always great when others love it too. Haste ye back!

  3. I last visited Edinburg over 20 years ago, and was struck by the greyness of the city, the grey stone buildings, the grey skies … can’t say I’m in a rush to return, despite my Scottish heritage.

  4. Sounds like you had a wonderful holiday. I’ve only been to Edinburgh once and that was for the day so I think a return trip is definitely needed. And funnily enough one of my recent reads, The Fair Botanists, is set in and around the Botanical Gardens, when they were moved to their current site.

  5. Sounds like a wonderful holiday. Several years ago I spent a week in Edinburgh, staying just off The Royal Mile. I fell in love with the city, since then I have spent just one weekend there. I didn’t get to the Botanical Gardens, but really wish I had.

  6. So jealous. We had planned to visit Scotland around this time, but this damned virus (along with something else) ended that dream. I’ll just have to visit my husband’s cousins another time…

  7. Of course Edinburgh isn’t nearly as good as Glasgow, but it’s not bad for a runner-up… 😉 I agree about the intellectual atmosphere. I love that even the railway station is called after a novel – Waverley. I can’t think of any other railway station that is.

  8. What a lovely post! I’ve only been to Edinburgh once, for a weekend. I’m glad to know about the Tim Lott book having come out. I’d sort of lost track of him, but still remember his being forced to sit through an apero at my flat with no back support as we had so few chairs! Under the Same Stars is the only book of his I’ve read. I should try the new one. I am banging on, be well, and thank you for sharing from your lovely trip!

  9. What a lovely break! It’s been years since I last visited Edinburgh and I’m sure much has changed since then, but I do recall it feeling very cosmopolitan. Beautiful pics as ever, Susan – I do enjoy reading about your trips on here.

  10. such a lovely post, thank you! I’ve been once but I must go again – is it because London is all about monarchy and politicians I wonder, you’ve given me something to think about!

    1. Thank you. These posts are a lovely way of fixing travel in my memory. I think you’re right about politicians and monarchy (+ the military) in London. The trams certainly helped the continental European atmosphere for me, although several English cities have those.

  11. A lovely post Susan. It took me back to my visit to Edinburgh a few years ago. Right now I am on holiday in Dunedin – our Edinburgh of the south as it is known here. Not quite as picturesque or historic as the real Edinburgh, but a very interesting city all the same and from here it is a shot trip to visit the Royal Albatross colony and watch these magnificent birds.

    1. Thank you. Hope they were happy memories. Dunedin does, indeed, look as if it’s been transplanted, or at least the bits Google’s chosen to show me. Enjoy your holiday! Ours was the last blast of summer but presumably you’re at the end of winter.

  12. When we stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Edinburgh in September 2018, I definitely felt that it was somewhere I could live. So much to do! You chose mostly off-the-beaten-track places I hadn’t even heard of. The only thing we also did was the botanic gardens. In the years since, my husband has occasionally said, “let’s just move to Scotland,” and I’ve said sure! — Edinburgh or Wigtown, I’d be there in a second. (Although I think the tourists might well drive one mad in Edinburgh at certain times of year. You may be used to that from Bath, though.)

    1. Oh, I am! The glorious weather meant we had a very different holiday from the one I was expecting which means we have lots of culture to explore on a return visit. Maybe you’ll go back sometime, too.

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