When I found out we were going to be leaving Edinburgh, I made a mental note that I should try and do some kind of personal guide to the place. An Edinburgh Alphabet. After ten years there, I’ve seen some of the best and the worst of the city, without ever making much effort to document it in a coherent way. I scribbled a few notes down, but never really found the time to do it properly. Now that we’ve left, it has actually become easier to think about. A bit of distance is making me reflect on the things I miss, the most important memories, and what it is for me that really characterise Edinburgh. This is very much a personal thing rather than a comprehensive guide, and I can’t guarantee the factual accuracy of anything I write, but here’s the first installation: A through to C.
Arthur’s Seat. It’s an obvious one, I know, but how can you write about living in Edinburgh without mentioning the big old volcano in the middle of the city? I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t climbed up there since DorkySon was born, but prior to that it was one of my regular weekend walks when I needed a glimpse of the sea and a wee hooley blowing in my face. As a student I walked to the top in high heels and a mini-skirt, at 3am, after a night out. Amazingly, I didn’t injure myself or anyone else.
Beltane. Fires! Nakedness! Another of Edinburgh’s lovely hills. What could possibly be bad about that?
Bennets. The best pub in Edinburgh. Bar, erm, none. Bennets is absolutely beautiful inside, and still has lots of original, ornate features. More importantly though; it has a great selection of whisky and beer, friendly staff, an open fire, and steak pies at lunchtime. The occasional stand-offs – between the grizzly old-man-regulars and the heavily perfumed luvvies on their way to a performance at the Kings Theatre next door – have provided some of my top comedy moments in Edinburgh ever.
Butterflies. This is the first place I ever went on my own with DorkySon, when he was just a couple of weeks old. Butterflies has cornered the market for tired, terrified new mums, and it’s always heaving with NCT group reunions. They provide cheap tea and cakes, acres of space for parking prams, and there’s always someone sympathetic there to jiggle your wailing wean while you nip off for a pee.
Blackford Hill. Arthur’s wee brother. With a duckpond and swings at the bottom. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
Charlotte Square. For eleven months of the year, Charlotte Square is just another Edinburgh park. Green, pleasant enough, usually pretty quiet. And then there’s August… when thousands of people stream through the gates every day. I’ve been to the Book Festival as an employee, a paying punter, and a reviewer. On sunny days, you sit on a bench with a friend and drink white wine. On wet days, you put on your wellies, and laugh at the yellow rubber ducks that the ever-cheerful staff members have left floating in the puddles. Even at its busiest, Charlotte Square provides a welcome little bit of quiet, away from the hustly bustly craziness of the Fringe. And it’s the only Festival in the city with yurts. Yurts. What’s not to love?
Cherry Blossom. If there’s anything prettier than the Meadows in full bloom, I’m yet to find it.
City Farm. DorkySon’s favourite place in the whole city. He’s pretty ambivalent about the pigs, the horse, and the rabbits. He doesn’t care much about the cow. But the tractor? The old, red tractor? He is ALL about that. (Especially when he gets to go and visit it with DorkyGranny…)
Cloisters. Another good bar with an open fire, good pub grub, and some lovely guest ales. This is the first place DorkyDad and I ever went on a date… although we didn’t really know it was a date at the time. We were just meeting for a wee chat about poetry. I’m getting all smiley and warm just thinking about it. See what you started, Cloisters? You see?!
My D-Z of Edinburgh will follow in three, possibly four more posts over the next few days. Meantime, I’d love to know what your favourite things are to do in Edinburgh. Where do you like to go? Who do you like to see? Where do you shop, eat, and sleep in the city? Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.