Paid partnership with Visit Scotland as part of their #HameTownTourist campaign.
As most of you will know, exploring Edinburgh has long been one of my favourite ways to spend time. There is always more to see, discover, and learn about this beautiful city and it’s a real joy to see it waking up again after a long lockdown hibernation. When Visit Scotland asked if I’d like to showcase Edinburgh as part of their #HameTownTourist campaign, I jumped at the chance to get back out into the city and explore with fresh eyes. I was particularly keen to visit some of my favourite independent bookshops now they’re open again (nothing beats the feeling of walking into a bookshop!) and explore some of Edinburgh’s hidden gems. While it’s lovely to be able to enjoy adventuring again, responsible tourism has never been so important. Heading off the beaten track and exploring quieter spots is a really lovely way to avoid the crowds and discover a different side to a city you thought you knew!
Day One: Off the Beaten Track
Edinburgh is famous for many things (the castle, Royal Mile, and Arthur’s Seat spring to mind!) but there is so much more to this city than the headline hotspots. Step off the beaten track, sneak away from the busier streets and you might be surprised at what often gets overlooked… With that in mind, I’ve put together a little itinerary of some of my favourite lesser-known locations. They’re no less beautiful than their more famous counterparts but still have that magical undiscovered feeling!
Swap Circus Lane for Ann Street
It wouldn’t be a trip to Edinburgh without a visit to Stockbridge and Circus Lane has become something of an Edinburgh icon. It’s one of the city’s most photographed locations and is often lined with people hoping to get the perfect Instagram shot. It’s a beautiful example of Edinburgh’s picturesque architecture (complete with cobblestones, quirky mews houses, and flowers everywhere you look!) and has certainly earned its reputation as one of the city’s prettiest streets. Just five minutes up the road, however, is the much quieter Ann Street, probably the most beautiful Georgian street you’re likely to find! If cobbled streets, elegant townhouses, and beautiful gardens are your thing, head to Ann Street and admire elegant Edinburgh at its finest.
Views for Days: Blackford Hill
Edinburgh’s is not short of impressive viewpoints. Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill are two of the most popular and have incredible views across the city. The lesser known Blackford Hill is a lovely alternative if you’re looking for a quieter spot to gaze across the city. The views of Edinburgh Castle are second to none and it’s a lovely, calm, open space to enjoy.
Leith & The Shore
Edinburgh is full of incredible neighbourhoods to explore. The Old Town, New Town, and Stockbridge are some of the most popular and tend to be very busy in peak seasons. The joy of Edinburgh though is that there’s always a hidden gem waiting to be explored! The Shore area, situated on Leith’s waterfront, offers a completely different experience – I like to think of it as Edinburgh’s cooler, edgier sister. Home to the city’s historic port, the waterfront is lined with cafes and coffee shops, independent shops (I love popping into Flux for gifts and cards!), restaurants, and bars. It’s quiet and idyllic and has a real atmosphere on a summer’s evening. Don’t miss Williams and Johnson for the best specialty coffee!
I also love the Leith Community Croft‘s weekly “Market on the Croft“. Held every Sunday (10 am-5 pm) on the Leith Links, it’s such a lovely farmers’ market and has a fantastic atmosphere, very family-friendly, and hosts some incredible local vendors, including my favourite Pizza Geeks. The stalls change each week so it’s always worth going along to see who’s there!
Staycationing is all the rage this year and I was delighted to finally try out Eden Locke, a leafy, tranquil apartment hotel on George Street. I’ve visited their in-house coffee shop several times (it’s fantastic, order a coffee and watch the baristas make magic!) and love its vibe. The hotel is just as lovely – I had my own apartment with a kitchen, ideal if you’d rather eat in – and it was so calm and peaceful. I loved having my own living space to relax in after a busy day of exploring.
When I look back over lockdown, one of the things I missed most was being able to pop into my favourite independent bookshops. While most of them were offering online ordering and contactless delivery to keep them going, it just wasn’t the same as going in and browsing the shelves! Edinburgh really is a book worm’s paradise (it was the first UNESCO City of Literature don’t you know!) and there are so many gorgeous shops that you really can spend a whole day doing a bookshop crawl! Below are just a few of my favourites.
Topping & Company
I have fallen head over heels for Topping & Company. Still a relative newcomer, Toppings is a gorgeous, bookshelf-lined shop, complete with library ladders (Belle would approve!), tea and coffee, and a bit of New Town Edinburgh grandeur!
McNaughtan’s Bookshop & Typewronger Books
McNaughtan’s is the oldest second-hand bookshop in Scotland and, as you can imagine, it’s a book lover’s dream world. Perfect if you’re on the hunt for old and rare books and shelves full of literary treasures! Right next door is the charmingly eclectic Typewronger books – their booksellers are so passionate and always give the warmest welcome!
Armchair Books is an Edinburgh institution. Located in West Port (near the Grassmarket), it’s the closest thing you’ll find to Flourish & Blotts this side of Diagon Alley. It feels more like a warren than a bookshop and has an incomparable selection of secondhand and antiquarian books!
Golden Hare Books
Golden Hare Books is an award-winning independent bookshop with an incredible selection, a wood-burning stove, and hands down the best window displays in the city! I’ve never been able to go in without buying a book – be warned!
And that’s a wrap! I know that for many people visiting cities will feel a little different this year, and stepping away from the hustle and bustle is a wonderful way to discover a side of the city you might never have experienced otherwise. There’s so much more to Edinburgh than the headline acts and I hope this guide helps and inspires you to step off the beaten path and explore some of the city’s quieter spots and hidden gems.
A huge thank you to Visit Scotland for working with me on this guide. Their website is a goldmine of inspiration for visiting Scotland and they have lots of tips and advice on how to travel responsibly during the pandemic too.