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1 City 5 Ways: Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Scotland has a reputation that goes something like this: haggis, Scotch and castles. However, it’s recently warranted a fresh look—and we’re not just saying that because of Outlander’s ripped heartthrob Jamie Fraser. Edinburgh, the capital city, retains the cobblestone-street charm of a town that dates back to the Middle Ages, but with the contemporary touches of a community half a million strong. Old Town and its winding streets meets New Town, punctuated by designer shops, art galleries and stunning gardens. And while you can still visit delicious Scotch distilleries and stately castles in the countryside, we can’t make any promises that you’ll run into Fraser.

 

OUTDOORS ENTHUSIAST

 Holyrood Park        
Holyrood Park.        
 

Where to Stay: The Scotsman Hotel Housed in a 114-year-old former newspaper office, this five-star hotel features 14 suites—including the two-story penthouse, once home to carrier pigeons that flew messages across the country—and a 20,000-square-foot fitness center and spa. 

Morning: Holyrood Park
Ramble through this grassy, 640-acre open space and hike up 823 feet to the highest peak in the area, Arthur’s Seat, for sweeping city views.

Midday: John Muir Way
Stretching from east to west across the country, this 134-mile running and mountain biking route cuts through Edinburgh and shoulders the coast, providing cyclists the chance to ride almost traffic-free in either direction. 

Afternoon: Glasgow to Edinburgh Canoe Trail
Prefer to sightsee by water? Urban kayakers can plunk into the Union Canal and paddle as far as Glasgow (54 miles!) via connecting canals. 

Dinner: The Honours
Known for his highbrow cooking, chef Martin Wishart takes a more informal approach at this brasserie, which focuses on regional comfort foods such as grilled dry-aged beef. 

 

HISTORY BUFF

 Rosslyn Chapel        
Rosslyn Chapel.         

Where to Stay: The Balmoral
Sitting at the crossroads between Old Town and New Town, this baronial property has views of the real Edinburgh Castle. Notable guests have included Paul McCartney, Elizabeth Taylor and the late Queen Mother, who was a regular for lunch. 

Morning: Rosslyn Chapel
Take the public bus about half an hour south to Roslin to reach this church best known for being a key setting in The Da Vinci Code. Legend has it that the treasured Holy Grail is buried beneath the chapel. True? Possibly. Fun to consider? Yep. 

Midday: Edinburgh Castle
In a land of castles, this one is king. The massive stone fortress, which houses Scotland’s crown jewels, dates back to the 12th century and looks especially imposing because it rests on a dormant volcano. 

Afternoon: Tower Restaurant
Perched atop the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh’s very first rooftop restaurant indulges patrons in the ritual of afternoon tea complete with all the proper trimmings. 

Dinner: The Kitchin
No, it’s not a typo—this restaurant’s chef is Tom Kitchin, who worked for Guy Savoy and Alain Ducasse prior to becoming Scotland’s youngest Michelin-starred chef at age 29. It’s known for its refined Scottish fare. 

 

TARTAN LOYALIST

 21st Century Kilts.        
21st Century Kilts.         

Where to stay: The Caledonian
Awakened by a $35 million-plus makeover, this 113-year-old Waldorf Astoria property with chandeliers, marble floors and bronze metalwork feels like an elegant mansion. Bonus: Many rooms overlook Prince Street Gardens. 


Morning: Palace of Holyroodhouse
Queen Elizabeth’s official residence in Scotland is celebrating her 90th birthday with the exhibition Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe, which you can see through October 16. 

Afternoon: 21st Century Kilts
Those in the market for a bespoke kilt need to visit tailor Howie Nicholsby, who has been in business for 20 years and counts Vin Diesel and Lenny Kravitz as clients. 

Afternoon: ScotlandsPeople Centre
Many of the 50 million people worldwide who claim Scottish heritage can trace their heritage back to the 1500s at this fascinating research facility. 

Dinner: The Timberyard
Housed in, yes, a former timber yard, this chic spot has fitting touches such as an in-house smoker and a menu full of dishes that include at least one local ingredient you’ve never tried before, whether it be sea buckthorn, knotroot or elderberry. 

 

FOODIE

 21212        
21212.         

Where to Stay: Malmaison Edinburgh
Overlooking the North Sea on the city’s edge, this one-time brothel has been converted into a sleek boutique hotel in the newly hip Leith neighborhood. Its waterfront terrace is a summer must. 

Lunch: 21212
This Michelin-starred restaurant, located inside a townhouse, features an open kitchen and Scottish cuisine cooked using French techniques. Not to mention the two-course, $30 lunch deal. 

Afternoon: Gin Edinburgh
While Scotland is known for its namesake spirit, its gin scene is undergoing a revival led by small-batch producers, including this downtown distiller offering $14 tours. edinburghgin 

Dinner: The Gardener’s Cottage
A perfect stop for those who love surprises: The ambitious prix fixe menu changes daily and might include roe deer tacos or tempura-fried oysters (if you’re lucky). 

Nightcap: Bramble
For those who love a good speakeasy, this dimly lit, low-key bar is the place to go. Bartenders throw seemingly everything—butter-washed whisky, a coconut water reduction—into the libations. 

 

COUNTRYSIDE SCOTCH TOUR

 Glenmorangie House        
Glenmorangie House.         

Where to Stay: Glenmorangie House
Head to the Highlands north of Edinburgh and bunk at this nine-bedroom country home just a stone’s throw from the distillery with a private beach leading into the North Sea. Communal, four-course dinners with Scotch pairings are served nightly. 

Late Morning: The Macallan Estate
Drive to Speyside, where more than half of Scotland’s whisky comes from, and stop at the Macallan Estate to learn about its Scotch bottles without age statements, such as the Macallan Rare Cask. 

Midday: Fish the River Spey
Flowing some 105 miles, this waterway is ideal for catching salmon, Scotland’s most famous fish. Hire a guide to help navigate the particulars of obtaining a required permit. 

Afternoon: The Glenlivet Distillery
Upon arrival, explore the area’s trails where whisky smugglers and licensed distillers once fought in an earlier era. Afterward, hydrate with a dram at the distillery. 

Evening: The Station Hotel
After a day of tasting, shuffle into this establishment’s café for bar snacks and, if you feel the need, a pour of the hotel’s own sherry-infused, 24-year-old cask whisky. 

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