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Get to Edinburgh, Before Everyone Else

Congrats to Auld Reekie, UK’s favourite city 13 years in a row and recently voted one of the top 5 ‘must see’ cities in the world. No doubt Scotland’s capital will be more unbearable than ever this summer – or the Season of the Mime Artiste as we like to think of it. So we decided to get in early and bring you our own tribute to the charms of Edinburgh best enjoyed in the company of some low lying mist, light drizzle and a wind chill factor.

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Harrison Park. By chatirygirl.

We probably don’t need to tell you about Edinburgh’s slightly unsavoury reputation. You can’t throw a glance in this town without hitting a ghost. And Edinburgh has enough ‘Tours of Terror’ to keep your average ghoul in gainful employment till the next millennium – unsurprisingly every one of them is an ‘authentic experience’. Personally we think if you’re brave enough to walk around in public with a cackling ‘resting actor’ in the full witch gear there’s nothing on any tour that’s going to raise your heart rate.

Ghost Tour Guide

Ghost Tour Guide. By malyousif.

So, if you’re in search of gloom and the creeping chill of your own vivid imagination is companion enough, might we suggest …….

Greyfriars Kirkyard, born in 1561, is a mere stripling in this ancient city. Designed to take the stink (literally) away from St. Giles on the Royal Mile, Greyfriars is famous for the lovable and loyal ‘Greyfriars Bobby’. But on a winter’s day with the bare trees, dripping damp and a knife sharp wind round the tombs, nothing cute this way comes.

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Greyfriars Bobby. By mr lynch.

If treading in the footsteps of Greyfriar’s infamous Resurrectionists (grave robbers) isn’t chilling enough, then step lightly through Mary King’s Close. When the Black Death struck in 1645 Edinburgh answered the cries of this Close’s victims by bricking them up – alive. We won’t go all guided tour cheesy on you and suggest you can still hear their shrieks. Just watch where you put your feet and hands, the post-plague clear up crew were none too careful when they cut the corpses up for disposal.

Mary King’s Close might be notorious but it’s not alone. The Wynds and Closes off the Royal Mile seem very picturesque  today but in their time they were home to almost every ne’er do weel that Edinburgh ever spawned. So avoid the tartan and tat and take to the slippery cobbles and high tenement walls. The street lights are always a bit mist blurred at dusk but don’t be nervous. That glimpse of something out of the corner of your eye, it was probably nothing.

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Bakehouse Close. By curlsdiva.

Like all Scotland’s great cities, Edinburgh was originally a port. And while Leith docks today are haunted by more ad executives and bankers than spirits of a disgraceful past they’re still atmospheric enough to warrant inclusion on your winter list. Plus, Leith’s where locals go when they want seafood.

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Old Pier. By RK Smith.

For ghosts of summers past head for Portobello; sandy beach, wild sea, fish suppers, real Italian ice cream and not a sun-broiled Scot in sight. Pick a day with a good stiff wind – not an issue in Edinburgh – and you can walk from one end of the beach to the other barely moving a muscle. Just remember to wrap up warm.

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Portobello. By byronv2.

In our opinion Afternoon Tea is the ideal accompaniment to winter weather and ghosts. And nowhere else on earth does justice to this perfectly balanced meal like Edinburgh. To appreciate the art form at its finest (three tier cake stand, triangular sandwiches, real tea, china cups and saucers) visit the city’s Georgian New Town. Originally built to let Edinburgh’s elite escape the grime of the Old Town, the New Town is still where the city’s grand and glamorous live. But it’s also home to any number of elegant hotels serving Afternoon Tea, every day, from 4pm sharp.

Old Town, New Town and the mighty thoroughfare of Princes Street apart, Edinburgh’s also a city of villages. Technically the same could be said of most cities, but in Edinburgh the villages are still villages and they wear winter well. Visit Stockbridge for cute streets, vintage shops and the magnificent Royal Botanic Gardens. Dean Village is woods, waterfalls, quaint houses and the Scottish National Museum of Modern Art (in parkland). Lovingly conserved Colinton has ‘Colinton Dell’, enough said. And for Arthur’s Seat, Cafés, pubs and general student liveliness it’s got to be Newington.

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Colinton Dell. By Ninian Reid.

By all means visit Edinburgh in the summer, everyone else will this year. Join one of the tours, they’re probably fine and you’re on holiday so who’s going to recognise you anyway? Or you could take our advice and go now while the weather holds true to its northern roots, the mist lies low across cobbled streets and you aren’t distracted by the sound of one of the world’s most beautiful cities having its soul sucked out by hordes of ravening tourists.

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Atop Arthur’s Seat. By Marius Brede.

Featured image: St Giles Cathedral. By vgm8383.