Edinburgh is pretty, and it knows it.
Like those infuriating teenagers bestowed with the best looks, Edinburgh preens and lies in the occasional sunshine smiling at everyone who cares to pass.
It is truly a wonderful city, and a city for both the jaded traveller and the excited novice. It is a city of spires, crags, castles, museums, pubs and music. It is a city to wander or explore, a city that can be taken passively or aggressively, and a city that will inevitably enchant.
Edinburgh, a City of SpiresIt is old. And its spiny monuments a testament to Victorian taste and the detritus of the industrial age. Like so many Edinburgh buildings, The Scott Monument is grubby; however, a few years ago when it was decided to clean it up, they discovered that its sandstone was basically held together with soot particles, and to clean it would risk disintegration.
So, they left it alone, along with many other wonderful towers and spires.
It is a city that echoes the past in almost every step. Even in the short, wet days of winter, the buildings reflect in the shiny puddles, and one can hear the deliberation of centuries. Its history comes alive as you explore the Real Mary Kings Close, a subterranean warren of streets dating from the 17th century, and as you walk the Royal Mile.
The castle, dating back some 1,000 years, is still an active garrison. Tours that highlight its long and bloody history are enchanting and perhaps a little touristy, but do offer the important historical perspective that draws Edinburgh together.
For those with a more esoteric taste in learning, the Devil’s Porridge Museum (celebrating the largest munitions factory on earth, [Devil’s Porridge being the affectionate term for the explosive cordite]), the Museum of Childhood and the macabre and fascinating Surgeons’ Hall Museum all offer captivating diversions.
And then there are the evenings; Edinburgh quietly comes alive in the evenings.
Edinburgh is blessed with some of the finest pubs in Britain. Delightful Victorian pubs, like the Blue Blazer offer an unvarnished experience; sitting by the coal fire under the century-old decor, one is transported immediately back 150 years.
Small pubs, like the Captain’s Bar and the Royal Oak, fixtures of the Old Town, are cosy and offer music until late; very late at The Captain’s Bar, as it is the place that musicians and the bar staff community head after the others all close.
Leith, an ancient seaport some ten miles from Edinburgh, and an easy bus ride, is a great historical and contemporary port. Its cobble streets, still lined with the old storehouses and markets from Georgian times, now host coffee shops and galleries, but the atmosphere lingers.
And, of course, Glasgow, Edinburgh’s yang to its yin, lies only 39 miles to the west, and is an easy day out. It is everything that Edinburgh is not: commercial, solid, outward looking and a little harder. It is a city of magnificent buildings, extraordinary galleries and museums, and a is wonderful balance to Scotland’s capital.
Wandering Glasgow’s central city is to relive its vibrant commercial past. It was one of the British Empire’s foremost trading ports and major ship-building and industrial centres, and the past has left an indelible mark on the city.
There are so many diversions close at hand, and a week based in Edinburgh is a privilege. Surely, time well spent in perhaps Britain’s most enigmatic, and pretty, city.