Forget the tourist bit. Okay, if you’ve never been or you’ve got kids, then there is lots to do and see, especially if it’s a nice day. But Edinburgh has much more to offer than pipers, tartan and fudge. It really is a Dickensian tale of two cities. A National city with the countryside almost at it’s heart, two halves, in more ways than one, but especially so for the non partisan visitor. The old town clinging to the rock on which the castle stands. Aping the castle with it’s very Scottish sort of castle style architecture. Massive stone walls, small infrequent openings, more wall than windows – private castles. The other half has enough Georgian terracing to make Bath look like a model village. Crescents, Circuses, Squares, Long straight avenues with vistas for as far as the eye could see. The old and the new separated by Waverley railway station. As you get further into it there are more divisions, as an outsider I struggled to distinguish the difference between down at heel and upmarket, maybe there isn’t one?
Pubs and beer? More pubs than you can shake a hairy stick at, nearly as many beers and even more Whiskies. As a guide I followed the excellent Guardian top ten craft beer pubs in Edinburgh. They are usually fairly accurate, give or take a few pubs, and this was the case here, although we didn’t manage them all, walked out of a couple and added a few new ones of our own. Walking past Holyrood 9a, saving it for later, first port of call had to be Brew dog. Friendly, and this was a key theme throughout the entire stay – Friendly, with a big F. All the Edinburghers were lovely people, they almost sound not Scottish (but they proper are) with a very soft lilting, well spoken, almost Irish accent. They actually have a football club called Hibernian, maybe that’s a clue to something I don’t know? Over the three days we made several pilgrimages to Brewdog. First time was a steady 5am Saint with a few students and their parents on Thursday afternoon. There really are a lot of students and Edinburgh is a big University town, with both being almost in the heart of the city, or at least the south side of the heart. Punk IPA is a must but the highlight was the Friday, six pm release of Punk is Dead 2015 (7.2%). All alcohol, grapefruit and marzipan. I would have stayed for another but, like a lot of places in Edinburgh centre it started to get a bit leery after half past nine on Friday night, mostly with mixed age groups of male drinkers.
We went back to Holyrood 9a a couple of times. It’s a decent place, half boozer, half eating house, modern trying to look old at the same time, sanded floors, stout, dark coloured wooden panelled walls and baronial fittings. The food looked pretty decent, local customers praised the substantial looking beef burgers . One half of the Edinburgh story is about who was in the pubs. I’l get onto this later but Holyrood 9a was definitely your smarter, not entirely young, local professional types and a few students. The beers? Cracking choice, I counted twenty plus, a lot of keg but a decent selection of cask ales too. Scottish and from further afield. We sat drinking Huddersfield’s finest, Magic rock Ringmaster on Saturday afternoon with an enormous Alsatian (dog, not a tourist). Which is another good thing, all the pubs, even the foodie ones, welcomed dogs, I like that and there was a ‘Dogmark’ type scheme with Dugs welcome stickers. It fooled us at first because we left our terrier at home and we don’t know anyone called Doug?
Fyne Jarl on hand pump was awesome, another Edinburgh theme, wherever they had it the bar staff were queuing to get on the pump. Presumably everyone else likes it’s light, refreshing, sort of sophisticated citrus and toffee taste. One interesting item on offer was the box of Tunnock’s tea cakes on the bar. I haven’t seen these Glaswegian delicacies in a shop for years let alone on the bar in a boozer. My Nan used to buy them and they were really nice. It made me sort of start looking round for the Irn bru tap, but I was disappointed until I started to think about the possibilities of an Irn bru ale. Any takers on this one? We did get close a few days later down Leith way, but that’s another story.
To be continued (more top boozers to come) ……