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I enjoyed this article from the Guardian in December, researched by Claire Lloyd. Have added the images to help inspire…

Get your bearings

The heart of Edinburgh is split between the Old Town and the (actually quite old) New Town, with Princes Street Gardens and the National Gallery taking up the space left between the two.

The Old Town is dominated by the Royal Mile, which runs from the castle down to the new Scottish parliament building and Holyrood Palace.

Sightseeing apart, much of the city’s real action goes on elsewhere – in the shops and bars of the New Town, in the city’s tightest constellation of Michelin-starred restaurants in Leith, Edinburgh’s regenerated docklands area, and in the chichi, but also rather studenty, “south side”. The main tourist information office is at 3 Princes Street (0845 2255 121)

Take a view

It doesn’t take long to clamber up Calton Hill, on the eastern edge of the city centre, and you’ll be rewarded with almost 360-degree views of the city, the sea, and across to Fife. It’s a great place to take in the lie of the land before you start exploring the rest of the city.

For an even better view, pay £3 to climb the 143 steps to the top of the Nelson Monument, built, of course, to commemorate Nelson’s victory, and death, at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. It’s open from 10am to 3pm, daily except Sunday (and between April and September 10am-6pm Tuesday-Saturday, 1-6pm Monday; www.cac.org.uk).


Take a hike

The Water of Leith Walkway (0131 455 7367; www.waterofleith.org.uk) is much-loved among Edinburgh’s residents, but relatively few tourists find their way here. This 12-mile, wildlife-rich riverside path slips quietly around the western edge of the city centre. The prettiest section runs from Stockbridge, south through fairy dell-like Dean Village where, from the 12th to the 19th centuries, water mills ground grain for the area.

The stretch ends at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. This elegant collection (0131 624 6200; www.nationalgalleries.org) is well worth discovering; it opens 10am-4pm daily, admission free.

Lunch on the run

For healthy, tasty food in a cosy neighbourhood setting, look no further than Café Renroc, at 91 Montgomery Street (0131 556 0432; www.renroc.co.uk). A café and alternative-therapy centre during the day and a bistro in the evening, it’s actually more glamorous than it sounds, and the menu is very good value, with soups from £2.50 and sandwiches from £2.95.

Window shopping

These days, Princes Street has lost its crown as Edinburgh’s prime shopping street, with everything from Harvey Nichols to Space NK setting up shop on George Street and Multrees Walk. For quirkier bargain-hunting grounds and one-off boutiques, try Victoria Street, William Street and Broughton Street; at Concrete Wardrobe, 50a Broughton Street (0131 558 7130), you can find contemporary Scottish crafts and fashion. Alternatively, head straight to MoletaMunro, at 4 Jeffrey Street (0131 557 4800; www.moletamunro.com) for interior decorations and gifts.
Cultural afternoon

The must-see in Edinburgh in January is the display of Turner watercolours at the National Gallery, on The Mound (0131 624 6200; www.nationalgalleries.org). This extraordinary collection spans the artist’s career. It was bequeathed on the condition that the paintings would be shown only in January, when the daylight is weak. The gallery opens 10am-5pm daily, until 7pm Thursday; admission is free.

An aperitif

George Street is the place for serious bar-hopping, with an endless choice of stylish bars to stagger your way along. For something a little more “shabby chic”, head down the hill to Joseph Pearce’s, at 23 Elm Row (0131 556 4140).

This is the latest opening from the Swedish team behind the cult Edinburgh favourites Bar Boda, Sofi’s and Victoria’s. Decked out in “Swedish Granny” style (with upholstered armchairs, flickering candles and proper dining-room tables for bar food), this pub serves an unusually good range of drinks, as well as coffees and a small Swedish-influenced menu. Between 11am and 5pm, there’s also a children’s corner set up, complete with wooden toys.
Dining with the locals

The Kitchin, at 78 Commercial Quay in Leith (0131 555 1755; www.thekitchin.com) is the star of the show in Edinburgh. Housed in a converted warehouse, this Michelin-starred restaurant serves up local, seasonal produce and big flavours. Count on paying around £45 per head for dinner, without wine.

Also inventive but much less pricey is Roseleaf, a new Australian-owned café-pub just around the corner at 23-24 Sandport Place (0131 476 5268; www.roseleaf.co.uk). Freshly made burgers (£6.50) and pastas are dished out on pretty china plates. Fruit juices, leaf teas and homemade ginger beer are served alongside the stronger stuff. It’s also great for breakfasts.

Sunday morning: go to church

Greyfriars Kirk was the first to be built in Edinburgh after the Reformation; its minister organised the National Covenant in 1638, sparking violent conflict.

Another of the kirk’s claims to fame is its connection with Greyfriars Bobby, a legendary Skye terrier who, in 1858, followed the remains of his master to the church graveyard and then stayed loyally there for the next 14 years. A plaque also marks the burial site of William McGonagall, who was given the dubious honour of being dubbed the world’s worst poet.

Morning service is at 11am on Sundays (0131 226 5429; www.greyfriarskirk.com). At other times, the church can be visited on Thursdays from 1.30-3.30pm. From April to October, it is open on Saturdays 10.30am-2.30pm, and on weekdays 10.30am-4.30pm.

A walk in the park

No visit to Edinburgh would be complete without a bracing walk around Holyrood Park and a wind-blown clamber up Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano to the south-east of the city centre. From St Margaret’s Well, the climb to the top is less arduous than it initially looks, taking around 40 minutes. Once at the top, you will be rewarded with some jaw-dropping views across the whole of the Scottish capital.

Out to brunch

For a real blowout, head to Channings, at 12-16 South Learmonth Gardens (0131 315 2225; ). Every Saturday and Sunday, the restaurant at this luxurious hotel offers a “Boozy Snoozy” lunch deal, whereby £65 buys you a three-course meal for four, with two bottles of wine. It is served from 12.30pm-3pm on Sundays (midday-2.30pm on Saturdays).

For brunch on the go, fuel up for the day the Scottish way with a fresh fruit juice (£2.10) and a bowl of delicious Stoats Cranachan porridge (raspberries, toasted oats and cream, £1.95) at Juice Almighty (24), which is at 7a Castle Street (0131 220 6879; www.juicealmighty.co.uk). It is open from 10am on Sundays.

Take a ride

For a different take on Edinburgh, try a trip on a recumbent bike. A company called Laid Back Bikes (07981 430159; www.laid-back-bikes.co.uk) offers tours for £22 per person, including bike hire, guide and coffee. One of its most scenic tours is an 18-mile (three-hour) ride out past the Gallery of Modern Art to the pretty coastal village of Cramond, north-west of the city.

Icing on the cake

Two of the best hunting grounds for patisserie are Falko Konditorei, at 7 Bruntsfield Place (0131 656 0763; www.falko.co.uk), which whips up the best cakes in town, German-style; and The Manna House, an elegant patisserie and café at 22-24 Easter Road (0131 652 2349; www.manna-house-edinburgh.co.uk).

I find the history of Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh a fascinating one. 

Holyrood Abbey was founded on the site in 1128 by David I, King of Scotland, and the palace was built in various stages right beside. 

Holyrood is now an imposing ruin next to the palace which is the official royal residence in Edinburgh.

Standing at the opposite end of the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace was built with an inner quadrangle, in the French style, and contains a chapel, gallery, royal apartments and a great hall.

Its history is wonderfully rich, one of its most notable residents being Mary Queen of Scots.  Married at just 15 and widowed at 19, Mary returned to Scotland and was crowned at Holyrood Palace. 

Among the many interesting things to see are the wooden ceilings in Mary’s quarters which date back to when she lived there.  The walls on this, the northern side, were initially built with a view to defense and are very thick, while on the opposite side, despite the external symmetry and similarity, they are much thinner and were built at a later stage.

Members of the public can  visit the infamous north turret, where on 9 March 1565, Mary’s Italian secretary David Rizzio was murdered by her jealous second husband Lord Darnley. 

It was reported at the time that the poor Rizzio was stabbed an astounding 57 times, in Mary’s presence….a tragic and gruesome tale.  Visitors to the palace since that time have claimed to see blood stains on the floor where it happened.

Another interesting occupant was Bonnie Prince Charlie – the palace served as his Head Quarters during the 1745 uprising.

The palace is open for most of the year, but is closed when the Queen and members of the Royal family are visiting. 

If you are planning a stay in Edinburgh it is well worth a visit.  For accommodation in Edinburgh visit www.edinburghselfcatering.org.

Leeks are still at their seasonal best in February and March, so should be locally available and full of flavour.  Try this yummy recipe and enjoy some warm, nutritious comfort food to keep those winter blues away. 

Ingredients

4 medium leeks
3 large floury potatoes
olive oil
75 cL vegetable stock
25 cL milk
Salt and pepper

Please remember to cook leeks before eating!

Method

  1. Peel the leeks and potatoes and chop
  2. Fry the leeks in a dash of olive oil until soft
  3. Add in the potatoes, plus a pinch of salt and pepper and mix well
  4. Heat through gently for a few minutes
  5. Add the stock and milk, turn up the heat and simmer for around 25 minutes until the potatoes are cooked
  6. Allow the soup to cool a little
  7. Blend until smooth
  8. Add a little more water if required for your desired consistency
  9. Serve with a teaspoon of cream drizzled on the top along with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds

 

There is lots to do in Edinburgh during March.  A brief selection of ideas are listed here and more information is available in our calendar which you can access here.

Edinburgh Playhouse – The Russian State Ballet of Siberia

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia are performing at the Edinburgh Playhouse from 2nd until 6th March.  Performances include Giselle, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

Formed in 1981, the Russian State Ballet of Siberia has quickly established itself as one of Russia’s leading ballet companies and has built an international reputation for producing performances of outstanding quality and unusual depth. The performers delight audiences with their breathtaking physical ability and dazzling costumes.

Edinburgh Playhouse – Whistle Down the Wind

From 15th to 20th March the playhouse will be host to Bill Kenwright’s critically acclaimed production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman’s Whistle Down the Wind.  Inspiring and uplifting in equal measure be prepared to be captivated and moved by this lovely tale.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is performing on 20 March 2010 at 19:30 in the Queen’s Hall.   They will perform Prokofiev Symphony No 1 ‘Classical’ (15′), Mozart Piano Concerto in Bflat, K595 (32′) and Haydn Symphony No 92 ‘Oxford’ (28′).  Okko Kamu is the Conductor, Steven Osborne will play Piano.

Laurel and Hardy

Laurel and Hardy by Tom McGrath is on at Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh on 26th and 27th March at 7.30 pm.  A treat for fans of this comic duo, the play includes slapstick, music and some of their best comedy routines.

The Secret of Sherlock Holmes

From Tuesday 30th March until Sat 3rd April the Kings Theatre presents the Secret of Sherlock Holmes.  Starring Peter Egan and Philip Franks, prepare yourselves for a journey into the mind of the greatest detective of all time!  Evening performances are at 7.30pm with matinees on Wednesday & Saturday at 2.30 pm

Bird Watching at Roslin Glen
For anyone interested in birds, there is a group visit  to Roslin Glen on 31st March
Meet in the main car park at 10 am.  The trip is free.
 
Roslin Glen is a native oakwood in a steep-sided glen that has remained fairly untouched. The mixed deciduous woodland has over 200 species of flowering plants, 60 species of breeding birds and a rich lichen flora. The reserve is part of the Roslin Glen SSSI designated for its broad-leaved woodland.
 
For more information telephone 0131 652 0308 or e-mail: alan_gracie@hotmail.com
 
For accommodation in Edinburgh visit www.edinburghselfcatering.org
 

 

Cycling or walking over the Forth Road Bridge is a great thrill. Between the two bridges (road and rail) is the pretty coastal village of Queensferry which is worth a visit in itself for it’s sea front, habour areas, sailing school, museum and various galleries,shops, cafe’s and restaurants.

From Queensferry you can take boat trips –  for example to the Isle of May  which has a large colony of seals and is a popular destination for  bird spotting. Hopetoun and Dalmeny Houses  are nearby – both are open to the public.  Incholm island lies close to the rail bridge – interesting for its fortifications built for protecting Rosythe during the world wars.

In Edinburgh there are excellent cycling routes, often on disused railway routes, and you can get from the centre of the city out to the Forth Bridges avoiding most of the busy roads. Here are some photos from a ride I did recently. I took the roads for the sake of speed, only having 2 hours to spare. 

My route took me along London Rd on to Leith Walk and then on to Queen Street; through Ainslie Place and Randolph Crescent on to Queensferry St/ A90. I stopped on Dean Bridge, crossing the Water of Leith (which has an excellent walkway with access to the Modern Art Museum, Stockbridge and the Botanic Gardens). Here I took the first few photos shown below. I continued on the Queensferry Rd (A 90) as far as Burnshot Wood, where a cycle route takes you along the B924, past Dalmeny House and down into South Queensferry beneath the Rail Bridge. To get onto the road bridge I continued along the Hopetoun Rd until it runs beneath the bridge and there is a foot/bicycle access up to the bridge from this point. Distance of the round trip is about 25 miles.

Cycle routes and links to other information about possible activities can be found on the activities page of  the apartment website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pancakes are made the world over, with every culture adding their own regional flavour.  Try our delicious Scottish recipe, and for a real highland twist, why not substitute a third of the flour for rolled oats. ..And for a fruity alternative throw in a handful of raisens before cooking the batter.

Lovely for breakfast, dessert or afternoon tea, eat with your favourite accompaniment.  I find them totally yummy served with a drizzle of maple syrup.  ….Alternatively you could try a handful of red berries and some Greek yoghurt, or vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients

125g flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 egg
300ml milk
butter
1 tbsp golden caster sugar

 

 

Method

  1. Put the flour, baking powder, egg, milk and sugar in a large bowl and whisk together
  2. Heat a non-stick frying pan, add a little butter and pour in a small amount of batter
  3. Once the top of the pancake has bubbled and set, turn over with a palette knife and cook on the other side
  4. Repeat until you have enough pancakes 
  5. Stack the pancakes in a pile, serve and devour!

“We are what we think.  All that we are arises with our thoughts.  With our thoughts we make the world….”  The Buddha

 

 

“Buddha”  means “one who is awake” . Many people find  Buddhism to be a pathway through spiritual practice and development towards greater awareness. 

Buddhist teaching and practices such as meditation help to develop one’s capacity for mindfulness, non-judgemental awareness, loving kindness …. and ultimately wisdom. 

 Buddhism in Edinburgh

There are a number of Buddhist groups meeting in Edinburgh. Here are just a few ideas of what’s on. 

Edinburgh Buddhist Centre

Located in Melville Terrace, the centre runs a range of activities from lunch time meditation classes to introductory Buddhism courses and mindfulness workshops.  It also has its own bookshop and a lovely shrine room. 

The centre welcomes beginners as well as more experienced practitioners.  …from those searching for some hints on stress and relaxation to others who are perhaps undertaking a more personal search. 

Scottish Wild Geese Sangha

This group is part of the UK Community of Interbeing and they follow the teachings of Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Master, Thich Nhat Hanh.  Author of The Miracle of Mindfulness and Peace is Every Step to mention just two of his books, he is inspirational for many westerners in their discovery of Buddhism.

The group meet at St Mark’s Unitarian Church, 7 Castle Terrace.  They hold guided sitting meditations, walking meditations and readings.  There are meditations in the early morning, at lunchtime and also in the evenings.  Times and places do vary. Check their website for details. 

Kagyu Samye Dzong

The centre is rooted in Tibetan Buddhism, with its focus placed on peace and health.  People from all backgrounds are welcome and the programme of weekly activities range from beginner’s meditation classes to prayer meetings, study groups and  Healthy Body – Peaceful Mind Qigong classes.

“As the shadow follows the body, …As we think so we become …”