Auld Reekie: What I miss most and least about Edinburgh, my home town

Since starting my travels I have been surprised that I have not felt too homesick.  I have been fortunate enough to have lots of great friends and family visit and thank goodness for WhatsApp video call!  I also LOVE slow travel and the places I am visiting.

I do miss Edinburgh though sometimes.  I always appreciated the City and knew how lucky I was to live in such an amazing place.

Auld Reekie (meaning Old Smokey), as the City is often affectionately called, is somewhere I will always return to.  Yes, it is chock full of top tourist attractions but it is actually the lesser known parts that I miss the most; from my daily dog walks down to the Dean Village in Stockbridge, to trips to the cosy independent Dominion Cinema, to the green spaces like Inverleith Park.  

Oh, and I have to admit that I miss chippy sauce – a delightful concoction of brown sauce and vinegar! Sounds disgusting right?  Chippy sauce is only available in some chip shops in Scotland (never in England) and smothering it over some greasy, thick cut chips is something I sometimes crave.

Edinburgh City Centre Skyline

5 things I really miss about Edinburgh

1. Stockbridge, Edinburgh

When I lived in Edinburgh  I was fortunate enough to be based in the northern suburb of Stockbridge.  About a fifteen minute walk from the City Centre, the cobbled streets are lined with Georgian and Victorian Townhouses, plenty independent shops, bars and eateries and lots of green spaces right on your doorstep.  Yes, it probably does have a lot of pretensions associated with it but I can overlook that.

Circus Lane Stockbridge
Circus Lane in Stockbridge

It has a bustling village feel despite being right in the middle of the City.

Some of my favourite pit stops included:

Just Dogs. Obviously, I have to mention my old shop.  Whilst I no longer own the business it will always hold a special place in my heart and I miss my two and four-legged customers and colleagues dearly!

Caoba.  With lots of unusual artisan products and a predominantly Latin America feel they sell really unusual Mexican tiles.  It was my favourite place to pick up a cheeky birthday card!

The Dog-friendly bars.  Edinburgh in general, but particularly Stockbridge, is extremely dog-friendly.  From Hectors, to The Raeburn, to the Bon Vivant, to the dog-eared and cosy Kay’s Bar; there are lots of bars to visit with your dog.

If you are big on charity shopping, Stockbridge is regarded as a bit of a mecca.  It is a controversial point in the area as there are so many of them now that some people feel that is has taken over the area and is squeezing out the independent shopping vibe.

On a Sunday the Stockbridge Market is on.  Stalls full of fresh local produce, handmade gifts and plenty of street food too.  The Gyozas were a favourite for me!

The original entrace to the Stockbridge Market

2. The Dean Village

My regular dog walk was along the Water of Leith Walkway.  I was fortunate enough to have access to the walk directly from Stockbridge.  The Walkway is actually around 12 miles long, starting in Leith and going all the way out to Balerno out of Edinburgh.  It follows the river almost entirely along pathways off the roads and is a peaceful and beautiful walk.

I tended to just walk along to Colinton Dell or, for a shorter walk, I would just head along to the Dean Village and back.  The dogs loved it!

The Dean Village is a historic milling village on the water’s edge that is now a collection of upmarket apartments.  It is exceptionally picturesque and very peaceful as it is away from the heavy traffic noise and crowds of the City Centre.

For art lovers, if you walk a further fifteen minutes or so on from the Dean Village you will reach a fork in the path that takes you up to the renowned Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Keep an eye out for the resident Herons that live along the stretch too.

3. Inverleith Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens

On a sunny day, nothing beats heading along from Stockbridge to Inverleith Park.  This is a lovely, large green space with elevated views over this part of the City.  Inverleith Pond is home to a number of resident swans and other waterfowls. Pick a spot to enjoy a picnic or snack from one of the many cafes nearby and enjoy some people watching.  Do keep an eye on your picnic as there can sometimes be wayward off-lead dogs that have been known to pinch a sarnie!

Just over the road from the Park is the world famous Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens.  Entry is free and it is a wonderfully tranquil space with a multitude of beautiful collections.  They have a number of glass houses, including the Palm House which is the tallest in the world.

The Palm House in Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens

4. Dominion Cinema

I have to confess that, as a film buff, I do miss my trips to the cinema.  My Italian is not good enough yet for me to follow a movie and I am not keen on the dubbing that happens either.

Edinburgh has a few Independent Picture Houses and my favourite is the family-run Dominion in the Morningside area of the City.  Although it is not my thing, the building strikingly retains the Art Deco style from when it was built in the 1930s.

With super comfy sofas and recliners, a cosy bar and complimentary nibbles it is the perfect space to enjoy a good new movie!

5. Some of the great annual events: The Fringe and the Book Festival

Okay, so these are not lesser known but I do miss them.

Edinburgh is a cultural hub and the Annual Fringe Festival is the largest Arts Festival in the World.  Okay, it may mean the town becomes heaving with visitors during August and some locals hate it as a result, but I love the buzzing atmosphere and great choice of shows there are to see at this time of the year.   Over three hundred venues across the City become host to the big names in comedy, music and drama, along with the break out artists just starting out.

Don’t want to shell out for a ticket?  There are plenty of free shows (although they will be more hit or miss in terms of their performance) and the Royal Mile in the Old Town is a heaving mass of tourists and street performers.

I also love the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea. A much tamer, sedated set of events, all held in a tented village within Charlotte Square. I love the slow, relaxed atmosphere in the Square.  On a sunny day, it is nice to grab a cool drink, pick a seat on the grass and people watch.

The month-long event is jam-packed full of talks from prominent and new writers from all sorts of backgrounds.  The talks can sometimes inspire, sometimes disappoint and the differing interviewing styles are interesting too.  With the bigger writers, they usually have someone prominent doing the interviewing too. Some highlights for me were Patrick Ness and Alan Cummings; both were charming, funny and humble.

Tickets for the bigger artists at both events sell out quickly so, if you have someone you are very keen to see, be organised.

Street Performers at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

5 things I don’t miss so much, hopefully without coming across like a whinging Scotsperson!

1. The crowds

Although it can be nice to have access to lots of great places to eat and drink and all the great events, the crowds associated with such a big City can sometimes be a bit much when you live there.

We were fortunate enough to have a lovely basement flat just off the main drag in Stockbridge.  Our bedroom faced the front. In the wee small hours one night there was a lot of noise outside the house but we choose to ignore it.  The following morning, when I got up for work, someone had chosen to use our porch as a public toilet and left a “present” for me to clean up.  Luckily I hadn’t had my breakfast yet! We also had broken glass, vomit and rats in the porch at one point or another.

The crowds in Edinburgh

2. The parking

Parking in the City Centre is a challenge.  It can be tricky finding a space and, when you do, it is expensive.  Most streets in the City Centre have metered parking and there are lots of restrictions too so make sure you check the signs.  Never park on a double yellow line and single yellows are a problem too during certain times of the day.

Some parking bays are for permit holders only (this is the license you get to park as a resident in certain spaces).

There are a LOT of traffic wardens patrolling the City so do be sure to follow the rules and try not to be late back to a ticketed car, they can be brutal!

3. The wind and rain

I wouldn’t be a true Scot if I didn’t mention the weather.  Let’s be honest, the weather in Scotland is infamously bad. Lots of wind, rain and haar (fog) lots of the time.  You do get used to it and if like me, you like being outdoors, you just have to get the waterproofs on and suck it up.

Being a true Scotsperson, I was just as likely to complain about it being too hot on the one day we do get scorching weather!

Being here in the Italian Alps, it has been lovely having much more reliably distinct seasons.

Edinburgh in the rain again

4. The Tartan Tat

The plethora of “Scottish” shops, particularly in the main shopping areas can be a bit much.  Usually, there is some god awful bagpipe music being played in the background and a pile of “See You Jimmy” hats, postcards of a man lifting his kilt to show his hairy arse, lots of hairy haggis stuffed toys.  I hate tourist tat at the best of times but the Scottish stuff seems more tacky than normal!

Yuck - tartan t

5. Princes Street

Okay, okay, so I know it is controversial.  Yes, you get good views of the Castle and the Gardens are a lovely space but it is so busy and the shops are all tourist tat or big high street rulers.  Give me the quieter, independent shopping areas of Stockbridge, Morningside or Portobello any day!

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