Beautiful Edinburgh

Have you ever met someone who was so stunningly beautiful you couldn’t tear your gaze away — and yet you felt almost zero attraction? That’s a little how I feel about Edinburgh. It’s without doubt one of the most gorgeous cities I have ever been in, and yet I don’t feel a strong personal connection. Maybe it’s the cultural difference, maybe it’s the abundance of tourists, maybe I just miss Toronto — I don’t know. I do know it doesn’t mean anything, because this was also my first reaction to Chicago, and I love Chicago now.

Anyway, it’s undeniable: Edinburgh is a beautiful, beautiful city.

Royal Mile, Edinburgh

{As always, click to enlarge, or mouse over for location and commentary.}

The city is only half the area of San Francisco (sorry, I got that completely mixed up!) twice the area of San Francisco, though it has only half the population. And while most stores and museums close at 5, the sun doesn’t set until 10. I’ve spent evenings just walking around, no destination and few stops, looking.

View of the National Gallery and Assembly from the Mound

Near the city centre: Ross Fountain, West Princes St Gardens, with view of Edinburgh Castle.

Working clock landscaped with flowers at the West Princes St Gardens

The city is magnificent enough in bad weather, but when the sun is out, it is splendid beyond words. Nowhere is this more obvious than along the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s tourist central and the heart of the Old Town.

Intersection of Cockburn and High St (Royal Mile)

Royal Mile: St Giles Cathedral, with a guitarist underneath one of the statues.

Tourists on the Royal Mile.

Stone arches of the City Chambers, Royal Mile, Edinburgh.

Royal Mile where High St becomes Lawnmarket.

Grassy yard off George IV Bridge, next to the National Library.

Family in one of the courtyards of the Palace of Holyrood.

One of the features that gives Edinburgh its fairy-tale atmosphere is the prevalence of narrow, curving, tucked-away little passageways and staircases. These can be really useful shortcuts, especially when so many of the streets aren’t level with each other (as I found out the day I got lost!). They’re often well-traveled, but even so, every time I use one I feel like I found a secret passage that is mine alone.

Stevenlaw's Close, one of the many little passageways and stairs that lead off the Royal Mile to courtyards or even streets above and below.

Passage between two buildings on the Royal Mile

I try to avoid the Royal Mile when possible, because of the tourists (it reminds me of dodging slow-moving out-of-towners on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, or Hollywood Boulevard in LA), but since it’s the main street of that part of the city, I end up walking it every other day or so.

Lately, though, as I’ve gotten more familiar with navigating the city, I’ve started venturing further afield. Outside the city center, the landscape gets far more residential, but not necessarily less picturesque.

View of buildings along a curved street, from the Dean Bridge

Dean Bridge

Imposing stone building that I think is a residence.

On the southwest of town is our neighborhood, Merchiston. It’s mostly residential, but within walking distance (in several directions) there are lively streets of shops and restaurants — and quite a few bus lines that will take us the two miles into the city center.

Street in our neighborhood

Sometimes I think it would be more convenient if we were staying closer to the city center, but mostly, I’m very grateful that we’re just outside of it. I suspect neighborhoods like ours give more of a sense of the “real” Edinburgh — in that many locals live here, rather than in the center amidst the tourists and youth hostels. (I don’t know for sure that this is true, but it would definitely be true of us if we lived here!) And in a city of such cozy proportions as Edinburgh, there’s really no problem being “outside” the city when it’s such a short walk to get into the thick of things.

I’ll leave you with a video I took a few days ago, from the top deck of one of the double-decker buses. This is pretty much the same route we take from our place to our favorite grocery store, Waitrose. It’s a short walk and an even shorter bus ride, and there’s always plenty to see along the way. Enjoy!