Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 1 December 2020

An ode to Edinburgh: a local's insight to Scotland's 'gift to the world'

News editor Rory Reynolds shares the delights of the city he chooses to call 'home'

Edinburgh Castle looks out over the Scottish city. Getty Images
Edinburgh Castle looks out over the Scottish city. Getty Images

The first time I trudged out of Edinburgh Waverley, climbed the steep ascent and took in that world-famous vista, I knew that, aged 18, I had found home. The Athens of The North sobriquet doesn’t oversell Edinburgh. It was the furnace of The Enlightenment, which bred some of the great philosophical breakthroughs of the last millennium, much as the Greek capital had spawned in another. It’s got beauty and brains, never more so than when coated in snow and when the “low winter sun” shines.

A timeless place

Edinburgh is famously genteel and well-to-do. Some of the cute shops in the Georgian streets of the New Town are still pickled in the polite manners of Jane Austen.

The coffee shops and quaint tea rooms of the Old Town famously offered a single mum named Joanne Rowling shelter from the rain outside. Her baby asleep beside her, she penned the first of what would become the best-selling book series in history.

Glasgow, which is bigger, 50 miles west and where I grew up, is more brutish and edgy, producing such legendary bands as Primal Scream and Simple Minds to current chart-toppers Lewis Capaldi and Chvrches. But Edinburgh is of an earlier moment, and wears it well.

Rife with opportunity

The chugging chimneys of tenements in the Old Town gave the city the nickname of Old Smoky.

As the seat of government, and the hub of commerce, it has its own microclimate of expensiveness, seldom seen outside of London. The scramble for property at eye-watering prices continues unabated.

A measure of autonomy, slumps elsewhere in the UK and even the clamping uncertainties of Brexit seem to pass the capital by. I will surely be paying the mortgage on my terraced one-bed-plus-study home for decades to come.

Top stays and eats

The city has become a case study for the Airbnb boom. It has given travellers the chance to stay in the Victorian terraced homes of Marchmont, the penthouses of Quartermile or 14-storey dwellings of the Cowgate. Even if this does drive locals mad because of the “overtourism”.

Pub kitchens in the Old Town dish out delicious Scottish fayre, while homesick travellers from this part of the world can eat in ever-popular Syrian, Jordanian and Indian eateries in the university district. Mother India’s Cafe is surely the best of them.

My favourite spot

I stand on the esplanade of the 1,000-year-old Castle, with the city below, pretty with sun on snow or sun on sandstone. A keen wind coming off the North Sea and a veritable babel of voices of foreign tourists making their memory from the battlements before running the cobbled gauntlet of pipers, hawkers, bike taxis, kilt shops and a dizzying choice of world cuisine. Here, you could forgive yourself for thinking this a unique place. Not so much a home town, more gift to the world. From Bonnie Scotland, with love.

Updated: March 12, 2020 05:17 PM

Editor's Picks
THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
Sign up to our daily email