City Guide

Four hours in Edinburgh 2017

1 Jun 2017 by Marisa Cannon

1 - Greyfriars Kirkyard

Greyfriars Kirkyard, Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Begin at Greyfriars Kirkyard, an eerie, often mist-shrouded cemetery where a number of famous Scots are interred, including James Craig, architect of Edinburgh’s New Town, and Robert Adam, who designed the first minister’s residence, Bute House, and London member’s club Home House.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the cemetery was regularly plundered by Edinburgh’s notorious “resurrectionists”, who, under the cover of night, would pry open coffins and hijack their contents to sell to surgeons and medical students for dissection. More ghastly still is the tale of George Mackenzie, a ruthless 17th-century judge who persecuted hundreds of Protestant Covenanters, imprisoned them in the Kirkyard’s grounds and then sentenced them to public hanging at nearby Grassmarket Square.

When he eventually died, “Bluidy Mackenzie”, as he is more commonly known, was buried in the same cemetery in his very own mausoleum. Following an incident where the tomb was broken into, Mackenzie’s ghost is said to have “woken”, provoking reports of violent, paranormal attacks on the cemetery’s visitors. The chamber has since been sealed by the city council, but guides will tell you not to get too close…

2 - G&V Royal Mile hotel

G&V Royal Mile Hotel Edinburgh, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Leaving the Kirkyard via Candlemaker Row, take a left on to Cowgatehead and climb Victoria Street until you reach George IV Bridge. Turn left and you’ll see the G&V Royal Mile. Formerly a Missoni hotel, the 136-room property is home to the Epicurean bar, one of Edinburgh’s most fashionable watering holes.

Opened last November, the bar has already won a prestigious regional title of Best Bar at the Scottish Hotel Awards, and offers an inventive drinks menu inspired by the Scottish Colourists, a group of post-Impressionist painters. It’s a sleek, atmospheric space featuring fuchsia leather booths, monochrome floor tiling and Scandi furniture. Try Le Manteau Chinois (£9), inspired by the works of JD Fergusson and made with Dewar’s 12-year-old Scotch, Amer Picon (an orange-flavoured liqueur), beetroot, rhubarb, orange blossom oolong and orange and ginger marmalade.

Upstairs on the mezzanine level, Italian restaurant Cucina was refurbished in July last year and features beautiful wall murals, colourful throw pillows and flamboyant crockery. On the menu is a range of rustic pastas and risottos alongside heavier meat and fish dishes that champion Scottish produce. G&V Royal Mile, 1 George IV Bridge; tel +44 (0)131 220 6666;

3 - Princes Street

Princes Street, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

The city’s main shopping thoroughfare stretches past Waverley train station, extending a mile westward toward the district of Haymarket and Edinburgh’s imperious Castle. The street itself is flanked with statues of historic Scottish figures, from 19th-century explorer David Livingstone to Adam Black, an early publisher of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, while the world’s largest monument to a writer (at 61 metres) stands beside the boulevard – the imposing, soot-stained Scott Monument, commemorating Sir Walter Scott.

A raft of high-street shops line the road, but the quirky cafés and independent retailers nearby are also worth peeking into. Check out 21st Century Kilts on Thistle Street nearby for current tweed and tartan fashion, or Social Bite on Rose Street, a lively sandwich shop that donates all of its profits to good causes.

4 - Water of Leith

Water of Leith, United Kingdom

From the end of Princes Street, walk westward for ten minutes to Dean Gardens – the closest point from the city centre to the Water of Leith. This is Edinburgh’s main river, which bends and curls through the city’s outskirts until it reaches the coastal town of Leith, before pouring into the North Sea.

Follow the river upstream along the overgrown pathway, passing under the stone arches of Dean Bridge and the stately Rhema Church on the hillside above. Away from the city’s bustle, wander through the lush woodland, where geese probe the riverbank for morsels and rabbits dart under wild, unkempt bushes.

5 - Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Belford Road, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Carry on alongside the river until you reach Belford Road, taking a right on to Belford Terrace. Further along, you’ll find the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, the main collection of which is housed in a grand neoclassical building with the words “Everything is going to be alright” installed in blue neon across the façade’s frieze.

For contemporary art lovers, the museum has an impressive programme of temporary exhibits, as well as a wide-ranging permanent display ranging from post-war European figure painting to pop art and abstract pieces. Dotted across the museum’s grounds you’ll also find a number of installations, and a stroll around will reveal works by the likes of Tony Cragg, Damien Hurst, Henry Moore and Rachel Whiteread. Open daily 10am-5pm; free entry (there is a charge for some exhibitions).

Virgin Trains East Coast operates 24 weekday services between London and Edinburgh.

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