A Short Break in Auld Reekie: Things to Do in Edinburgh
By Richard Jones
Unrivalled sightseeing, Michelin-starred restaurants, a thriving café culture, vibrant nightlife, great shopping, a world-class arts scene, and history like no other place on Earth – Edinburgh has everything you need for a weekend break or midweek staycation.
Okay, the options for an overseas city adventure are extremely limited at the moment, but let’s not forget that we have one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world on our island.
Although there is huge uncertainty about what Edinburgh’s International Festival and Fringe will look like this year, there is still no better time than the summer to visit Auld Reekie.
Where to stay
If you’re looking for a city break in the Scottish capital, look no further than The Rutland Hotel (therutlandhotel.com).
In the heart of the city’s eclectic West End, the Rutland is a collection of boutique hotel rooms, apartments, eateries and bars.
Individually styled and epitomising elegant glamour, the Rutland’s nine sumptuous, one or two-bedroom self-catered apartments are ideal for families heading to the city.
With two bedrooms and bathrooms, a large kitchen and living area and an outside garden, guests can use the Edwardian apartments as a base to explore the city, or simply relax and use the variety of mod cons at their disposal.
You will feel instantly indulged as you kick back with a Nespresso coffee on one of the suite’s plush sofas, surrounded by an array of eclectic art (in our case, wildlife themed, with monkey wallpaper and parrot lamps).
At the end of the street is The Huxley (thehuxley.co.uk), which surely has the best views of any restaurant in Edinburgh.
It is open for breakfast bright and early at 8am, and from a window seat you can enjoy teas, coffees and traditional Scottish favourites while looking up at the majestic Edinburgh Castle.
Then, after a busy day exploring the city, The Huxley (thehuxley.co.uk) serves a menu of tasty nibbles, hot dogs and seafood.
With a chargrilled Angus beef patty, Monterey jack cheese and salad, complimented by a chuck of haggis, their Highlander Burger is a must-try.
For night owls, The Huxley is open until 1am every night (as soon as the curfew is lifted) so there’s plenty of time to sample their wide array of beers, wines, spirits and cocktails.
Also at The Rutland is The Kyloe Restaurant & Grill (kyloerestaurant.com) – Edinburgh’s premier original gourmet steak restaurant, where you can indulge in some of the city’s most coveted Aberdeen Angus steak, sourced from Hardiesmill Farm in the Scottish Borders.
Top five things to do during a short break in the capital:
1. Cold Town House Brewery Tour
Cold Town was named in honour of Calton Hill Brewery in Edinburgh, the first in Britain to brew lager in 1835. Today, Cold Town is housed in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, and the premises includes a taproom and roof terrace with iconic views of Edinburgh Castle. This summer, the brewery is welcoming small groups of craft lager fans, who will get the chance to go behind the scenes at the iconic city-centre microbrewery, find out how the ever popular Cold Town Beer is made, following the pipes from tank to tap, enjoy a masterclass tasting, and munch on some of the best handmade pizza in town.
2. JK Rowling’s Edinburgh tour
Once upon a time, an aspiring author called Joanne Rowling moved to Edinburgh with her daughter Jessica and a suitcase containing the first three chapters of a book series she was hoping to get published. The rest, as they say, is history. There are a few Harry Potter-themed tours around the city, but on JK Rowling’s Edinburgh Tour, fans can learn how the wizard’s creator used failure as a springboard to become inspired, stay committed and eventually conquer the world. You ca learn what enthused the writer, and stop off at The Elephant House, the now world-famous coffee house and restaurant in which she would sit and write many of her early novels. In addition, you’ll get to see the places that inspired the Dark Lord’s grave, Riddle’s Court, Surgeon’s Hall, and Victoria street, which is has many similarities with Diagon Alley.
3. Silent Disco Adventure
Join the Silent Adventures Team as they take you on a journey of song and dance through the famous streets of Edinburgh. This musically instructed adventure encourages you to have your funky moves on display while your pop star voices serenade the people of the capital. Hi-tech headsets fill your body with beats, theme songs and your favourite hits across the decades. Ganging up with your super-stylish leader, you’ll depart from at McEwan Hall, Teviot Place, and groove down the historic streets, passing famous landmarks, performers and the public, many of who will be looking on in awe and jealousy. Just remember to wear comfy shoes, and bring some drinking water and an open mind.
4. Edinburgh Darkside Walking Tour
Feel the hair on the back of your neck stand on end as you journey through Edinburgh’s grisliest tales and experience the ghastly histories of monsters, madness, and murder that cast a dark shadow on the capital. Discover the stories and sites of witch trials, pagan rituals, and executions, and hear about local monsters that live in urban myth down Auld Reekie’s narrow alleyways. Then visit the chilling Old Calton Burial Ground or Canongate Kirkyard cemetery to learn more about body snatching and some of the infamous interred.
5. Edinburgh Castle Tour
As well as Arthur’s Seat and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, no trip the capital would be complete without a visit to Edinburgh Castle. Those lucky enough to have a ticket will pass beneath the spikes of the raised Portcullis Gate fortified gateway, stand on the six-gun Argyle Battery to admire the sweeping views over the city and towards Fife, count all 70 of the Lang Stairs steps en route to the summit of the Castle Rock, and hear the story of the Fight for the Castle during the Wars of Independence at Argyle Tower. There’s also the Prisons of War Exhibition, the National War Museum, the Royal Scots and Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museums, and the elegant Governor’s House – the Georgian lodgings built in 1742 for the castle’s governor.
For more information on short breaks in Edinburgh and other Scottish cities, please go to: visitscotland.com