After I had my fill of the Royal Mile, I was happy to make my way down the hill (and many, many stairs) to New Town Edinburgh. Between the new and old towns is Princes Street Gardens, running in a deep gorge below the castle. They were a delight to stroll on a sunny day, filled with families and lovers and people just finishing a day’s work and looking for a bit of a rest. It also offered a welcome haven from the bustle of the city as well as the perfect excuse to flop in the grass. The view from the opposite side of the castle, on the sidewalk along Princes Street, was quintessentially Edinburgh.
Princes Street Gardens splits old and new town Edinburgh (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck.com)
Local celebrities rising over Princes Street Gardens (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck.com)
On another day when the weather was less than ideal, I spent a good two hours inside the National Museum of Scotland (in one exhibit alone). It is located on The Mound, which transects Princes Street Gardens and links the two sides of Edinburgh together. Entrance is free, but I think it’s always nice to contribute to institutions that inspire preservation and education. The building itself is worth seeing, particularly its spacious, airy grand hall. There is something there for everyone. Their “Kingdom of the Scots” exhibit is an excellent starting point for anyone in need of some Scottish history. It tells the origins of the Scottish peoples and provides a thorough overview of its cultural history. The artefacts, from ancient coins and swords to intricately-carved wood panels, are thoughtfully presented without overwhelming you with information.
The great hall of the National Museum of Scotland (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck.com)
Edinburgh has no shortage of excellent cafes, but I developed a soft spot for Wellington Coffee on George Street, also in New Town Edinburgh. It is tucked away in the lower level of a building, simply furnished, but the coffee is perfect. Neither too acidic nor too bland, the flat white is served at an ideal temperature (not scalding) and smooth enough to drink on its own, without the addition of sugar. One day I was feeling particularly naughty and also treated myself to a scone with clotted cream. I am now considering adopting this as my daily breakfast regimen but am wondering if that is perhaps too indulgent?
Coffee and scone from Wellington Coffee, 33A George Street (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck.com)
Sunday lunch done right is a special thing, and I found it at the Queen’s Arms Pub on Frederick Street. It felt like I’d stepped back in time into the cosy pub with the wooden bar and tucked-away nooks dimly lit by lamps hanging from a low ceiling. I was seated at a table underneath a portrait of (who else?) Mary, Queen of Scots; directly opposite that was a print of an account of her beheading. The food and atmosphere were markedly cheerier.
Sunday lunch at the Queen’s Arms Pub (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck.com)
I must also mention Ting Thai Caravan, whose food I loved so much I ate there twice during the span of my trip. I was too busy enjoying the Massaman curry, with rich coconut cream and tangy tamarind paste and a blend of spices so compatible they almost made my mouth sing, to take any pictures. Their pad see euw and pad Thai noodle dishes are delicately flavoured and delicious, but the curries are exceptional. The seating is casual, communal tables that leave you elbow-to-elbow, and the atmosphere is energetic and lively. Of all the meals I had in Edinburgh, Ting Thai Caravan’s was the most remarkable. Find them at Teviot Place.