Exciting Edinburgh – Bookshops, Botanics, and Beer

When I visited Scotland in May of this year I started my visit in my favorite city in the UK and Ireland; Edinburgh. Edinburgh is cultural and architecture lover’s delight. From the old town’s medieval buildings to the new town’s Georgian splendor and the art galleries and museums there is something for every cultural taste. It also happens to be the only city I would want to live in the inner-city due to the abundance of parks, rivers, and the Botanic gardens on your doorstep.

I arrived in Edinburgh on a sunny Sunday afternoon and made my way straight away to the Scottish National Gallery on the Mound to look at the beautiful artworks on display. One of my favorite ever paintings, The Ladies Waldegrave by Sir Joshua Reynolds is in the Scottish National Gallery and I have fond memories of experiencing the painting for the first time whilst on a trip to Edinburgh as a teenager.

I am always hungry and thirsty after a museum visit so to the museum café I went; a delicious cheese scone and lemonade later I was ready to continue my visit to Edinburgh. I had a quick walk around Prince’s St. Gardens before going to my B&B in Newington. I chose to stay outside of the city centre mainly due to budget reasons; it was the first weekend of the British bank holidays for the Queen’s jubilee and city centre hotel prices were extortionate. On my first full day I visited the Dovecot Studios to visit their William Morris wallpaper exhibition which I have written about previously followed by a visit to the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers St before a lunch of fishcakes and local beer (in my opinion a lunch of champions). I also visited Armstrong’s Vintage on the Grassmarket which organizes vintage by decade. As a vintage addict this is dangerous and indeed it was as I spent a clean fortune on clothes I probably didn’t need.

After this I decided to indulge in my great love of books; I visited Armchair Books, Edinburgh Books, and Main Point Books.  All three book shops are within a fifteen minute walking distance of the Grassmarket. I headed back to my hotel in Newington by the number eight bus (this bus route would become my friend when in Edinburgh) and was amazed how easy and cheap it was to get from end of the city to the other. For someone who comes from a country where public transport is not great this was fantastic!

On my second day I decided to walk through the New Town to Dean Village and some of the most photographed sites in Edinburgh. Fun fact: bring good walking shoes for Edinburgh as it’s a city of steep hills, closes, and steps! From Dean Village I made my way to the Royal Botanic Gardens and to say I was gobsmacked was an understatement – they are literally breathtaking and beautiful! So much so that I had already planned to go back the next day to spend the majority of my final full day in Edinburgh at the Botanics as Edinburgh locals call it.

After my first fleeting visit to the Botanics I made my way to Leith via Inverleith (the houses here are mind boggingly beautiful and I would live here in a heartbeat!) to have my lunch at ‘The Fishmarket.‘  This was housed as the name says in Leith’s old fish market and served traditional fish and chips as well as other seafood. I had heard rave reviews of this place on TV and from people who had visited. I was sadly underwhelmed and was charged £17 for a sub standard fish and chips of which £4.00 was for condiments including tartare sauce.

By this stage of my visit I had started to feel unwell which would eventually become full blown covid the week after. However, I did manage to get to Typewronger Books and Topping Books aka my new favorite book store; free tea of choice whilst you peruse their books? dog friendly? ladders that you are encouraged to swing around the shelves on? Check! absolute heaven for book nerds.  This is where I also learnt that the Italian deli that is featured in the 44 Scotland Street books by Alexander McCall Smith is an actual place – Valvona & Crolla!

After this I once again headed back to my hotel and had a lovely dinner in a local pub followed by lots of lovely Edinburgh beer. On my last full day in Edinburgh I spent the majority of my time in the Botanic gardens including having a guided tour of all the gardens, a delicious lunch of produce mainly grown at the Botanics, and a look around their beautiful gift shop. I made my way back to the B&B alas to pack up my case for my trip to Oban the next day but I took one last walk around Arthur’s Seat before having one last beer overlooking Edinburgh Castle. To say that this was one of my favorite trips was an understatement – I enjoyed myself thoroughly and can’t wait to go back!

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