111 Places in Edinburgh that you shouldn't miss - Gillian Tait - ebook

The ultimate insider's guide to Edinburgh features interesting and unusual places not found in traditional travel guides. Edinburgh is rightly celebrated for its famous historical and cultural attractions. But for the discerning visitor it has much more to offer away from the well-worn tourist trail. This book takes you to hidden corners and secret sights in this city of contrasts, exploring fascinating locations unknown even to most residents, and revealing unexpected aspects of some familiar local landmarks. Marvel at a unique underground temple hewn out of the living rock; learn how a world-famous illusionist came to be buried here – with his dog; find out why the city council once commissioned an enormous electric blanket; look out for the ordinary Edinburgh post box with an explosive history. Discover the human stories behind a wide range of places, both exceptional and commonplace, bringing to life the greatly varied cityscape where people have been leaving their mark for at least 5,000 years. Entdecken Sie versteckte Orte und Geschichten abseits der bekannten Pfade, die den wahren Charakter Edinburghs enthüllen. Edinburgh ist berühmt für seine historischen und kulturellen Sehenswürdigkeiten. Aber es hat abseits der ausgetretenen Touristenpfade noch viel mehr zu bieten. Dieses Buch führt Sie zu versteckten und geheimen Plätzen in dieser Stadt der Gegensätze, es zeigt faszinierende Orte, die selbst den meisten Edinburghern unbekannt sind, und enthüllt unerwartete Aspekte bekannter Wahrzeichen. Bestaunen Sie einen einzigartigen unterirdischen Tempel, der aus einem Felsen gehauen wurde. Erfahren Sie, wie ein weltberühmter Zauberer hier gemeinsam mit seinem Hund beerdigt wurde. Finden Sie heraus, warum der Stadtrat einst eine riesige Heizdecke in Auftrag gegeben hat. Oder halten Sie Ausschau nach einem gewöhnlichen Edinburgher Briefkasten, hinter dem eine explosive Geschichte steckt.

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111 Places in Edinburgh That You Shouldn’t Miss

Gillian Tait

emons: Verlag


© Emons Verlag GmbH // 2016 All rights reserved Text: Gillian Tait © Photographs: © Gillian Tait, except St Cecilia’s Hall (p. 198): photos copyright Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh. © Cover icon: JanKranendonk/Depositphotos.com Design: Emons Verlag Maps based on data by Openstreetmap, © Openstreet Map-participants, ODbL ISBN 978-3-96041-156-7 eBook of the original print edition published by Emons Verlag

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Table of contents


1_Abbey Strand | The privilege of sanctuary

2_Ann Street | Homes of quality

3_Ashley Terrace Boat House | Reviving the mathematical river

4_Barnton Quarry Bunker | Cold comfort in the Cold War

5_Blackford Hill | A ringside view of the Ice Age

6_The Botanic Cottage | An enlightening garden centre

7_Bruntsfield Links | Play the course as you find it

8_The Café Royal | A palace of a pub

9_The Caiystane | Strange sentinel in the suburbs

10_The Caley Station Gates | Regal relic of the war of the railways

11_The Camera Obscura | Through a glass, darkly

12_Cammo Park | Wild domain of the Black Widow

13_Castle Terrace Farmers’ Market | From the field to the fork

14_The Catherine Sinclair Memorial | A philanthropic friend to children and animals

15_Chalmers Memorial Church | For those in peril on the sea

16_Craiglockhart War Hospital | Shellshocked in Dottyville

17_Craigmillar Castle | This castle hath a pleasant seat

18_Cramond | The ferryman and the lion

19_Cramond Island | A haven and a barricade

20_Dean Bridge | A colossal masterwork

21_Dean Cemetery | A fashionable spot to rest undisturbed

22_Dean Village | Old mills by the stream

23_Debenhams’ Library Room | Victorian gentleman lurking in ladieswear

24_The Dominion Cinema | Grand old lady of the silver screen

25_Dovecot Studios | Textiles that make a splash

26_Dr Neil’s Garden | Horticultural healing

27_Dreaming Spires | Walking tall outside the multiplex

28_Dreghorn Practice Trenches | Preparing for the hell of the Somme

29_Dunbar’s Close Garden | The spirit of gardens past

30_Dundas House Banking Hall | The star-spangled vault

31_Edinburgh College of Art Sculpture Court | Casting around for classical perfection

32_Edinburgh Printmakers | The freedom of the press

33_The Elephant House | A place of wizard inspiration

34_Fettes College | OTT old school of 007

35_The Flodden Tower | Keeping the English out

36_The Forth Bridge | Made in Scotland, from girders

37_The French Institute | An old and cultured ally

38_General Register House Rotunda | A Pantheon for the nation’s archives

39_George Heriot’s School | The great soul of Jingling Geordie

40_Gilmerton Cove | A subterranean rock-cut mystery

41_Gladstone’s Land | From pigsties to painted ceilings

42_Glencorse Reservoir | Still waters and deep history

43_Glenkinchie Distillery | Tak aff yer dram

44_Gorgie City Farm | A reclaimed rural enclave

45_Greyfriars Kirkyard | Much more than a legendary dog’s home

46_The GVIR Postbox at the Inch | Defusing an explosive situation

47_I J Mellis Cheesemongers | Taste before you buy

48_Inchcolm | Ancient battleground in the Forth

49_The Innocent Railway | When trains went at a horse’s pace

50_The International Climbing Arena | Taking rock sports to new heights

51_The James Clark Maxwell Birthplace | The forgotten giant of physics

52_Lady Stair’s House | The men behind the pen

53_Lady Victoria Colliery | A mine of information

54_Lauriston Castle | Edwardian time capsule with a long history

55_The Mansfield Traquair Centre | The rainbow at the end of the world

56_The Meadows Sundial | Well-arranged time

57_The Merchant Navy Memorial | Sustaining this island fortress

58_The Millennium Clock | Towering circles of life and death

59_The Miller Mausoleum | Craigentinny’s marvellous marbles

60_The Moray Estate | A grand alternative to the monotonous grid

61_Moray House Garden Pavilion | The unspeakable act in the summerhouse

62_The Mound | The mud heap with an electric blanket

63_Mr Purves’ Lighting Emporium | Illumination without electrics

64_Mr Wood’s Fossils | When Stan met Lizzie

65_Muschat’s Cairn | The stones tell the tale

66_The Museum on the Mound | Money matters

67_The National Monument | A magnificent disgrace

68_Newhailes | Original splendour – unrestored

69_The Oily Well | Liberton’s healing balm

70_Old College | Triumphal gateway to knowledge

71_The Old Palm Stove | A venerable tree and a whiff of the tropics

72_The Old Royal High School | The parliament that never was

73_The Oxford Bar | Inspector Rebus’ no-nonsense boozer

74_Parliament Square | Historic hub of genius and learning

75_Penguin Parade | The zoo’s other black and white stars

76_Piershill Cemetery | The sensational last act of a celebrity dog lover

77_The Political Martyrs’ Monument | The cause of the people

78_The Portobello Pottery Kilns | Days of ginger beer and hot water bottles

79_Portobello Promenade | We do like to be beside the seaside

80_The Portrait Gallery Entrance Hall | Gilded heroes of the nation

81_The Prestoungrange Gothenburg | A fine house for responsible drinking

82_The Radical Road | A walk for romantics, built by revolutionaries

83_Ramsay Garden | Castles in the air

84_Real Foods | The principle of natural selection

85_The Robin Chapel | Music and praise in perpetuity

86_Rosslyn Chapel | A unique medieval puzzle

87_Sam Burns’ Yard | From a needle to an anchor

88_Sandy Bell’s | The soul of Scots music

89_Sciennes Jewish Burial Ground | A hidden cemetery for a hidden people

90_Scotland Street Station | The railway under the New Town

91_The Scott Monument | One man and his dog

92_The Sheep Heid Inn | Beer and skittles fit for a king

93_Springvalley Gardens Lane | Ghost town in Morningside

94_St Bernard’s Well | The foul waters of Hygeia

95_St Cecilia’s Hall | Listening to the 18th century

96_St Giles’ Cathedral Rooftop | Crowning glory

97_St Margaret’s Chapel | Simple shrine for a sainted queen

98_St Triduana’s Chapel | Spiritual cleansing

99_The Stockbridge Colonies | By the workers, for the workers

100_Summerhall | Artful revamp of the old vet school

101_Surgeons’ Hall Museums | Gruesome, but gripping

102_Swanston | A quaint little place in the lap of the hills

103_Thomson’s Tower | The curling club and the painting minister

104_The Treasure Trove | Homemade, fairtrade, self-aid

105_Trinity Apse | A truncated Gothic relic

106_Trinity House | A better life on the ocean wave

107_Tupiniquim Ex-Police Box | The afterlife of the bobbies’ temples

108_21st Century Kilts | Skirts for men of the new millennium

109_Victoria Swing Bridge | Keeping the docks in full swing

110_The Witches’ Fountain | Fair is foul, and foul is fair

111_World’s End | The limits of a gated community




For centuries, visitors have been fascinated by the contrasts of Edinburgh – its towering tenements and classical temples, rugged hills and gentler plains, narrow alleys and panoramic vistas – stunningly romantic one minute and darkly dour the next. High culture thrives alongside low life – and even the weather is notoriously fickle. This guide takes its cue from the city’s unpredictability. The 111 entries (and their accompanying tips) include secret corners and unexpected sights that are little known even to long-term residents. The book also looks at some famous local landmarks, telling the less familiar stories behind them – in the authentic rather than the mythologised versions. Readers will find many surprises close to the well-worn tourist trails, and others that take them into the capital’s less-visited suburbs and hinterland.

Hidden places of peace – gardens, chapels, and healing wells – are revealed, as are glimpses of the city’s turbulent medieval past, and poignant reminders of the two major conflicts of the 20th century. Then there’s the innocent-looking postbox with an explosive history, and the police boxes that would puzzle Dr Who. And there’s a lot going on underground, everything from a mysterious rock-cut meeting place to a railway tunnel beneath the New Town, not to mention the nuclear bunker with rooms for royalty.

Numerous fictional characters have haunted the city’s streets. You can see where James Bond went to school, have a pint in Inspector Rebus’ local, and visit the café that inspired the creation of Harry Potter. And you’ll meet real-life personalities who are even more intriguing, like the doctor who was the model for Sherlock Holmes, and two very different celebrity dog-lovers, each forever linked in their memorials with their favourite pet.

Gillian Tait

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1_Abbey Strand

The privilege of sanctuary


At the very end of the string of streets that make up the Royal Mile, the boundary of Abbey Strand is discreetly marked by a trio of S-shaped brass studs on the roadway. Once you cross the line, you have the right – never revoked – to claim immunity from arrest, for this is an ancient place of sanctuary. Behind the gates ahead are the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, which like other medieval churches offered protection within its grounds to fugitives from the law. In later centuries, most of the desperate men who applied for sanctuary were guilty of nothing more than being unable to pay their bills, which up until 1880 was a very serious offence, punishable by imprisonment. Holyrood Abbey’s estates originally stretched far and wide, encompassing Arthur’s Seat and Duddingston, but it was on the pocket of land by its gates that the majority of these debtors chose to stay.

Their public humiliation began at the Castle, where they were “put to the horn” with three blasts of a trumpet. To be granted sanctuary at Holyrood, they had to apply formally to the Bailie, pay a fee, and find a place to sleep within 24 hours of their arrival, but after that they were safe from prosecution, and life at Abbey Strand doesn’t seem to have been all that bad for these transgressors. A small township crowded with lodging houses and taverns grew up to accommodate their needs; a couple of these buildings, 16th century in origin, still stand. Locals referred to the debtors as “Abbey Lairds”; many of them were respectable lawyers, doctors, and clergymen, and in the 1830s residents included the deposed King Charles X of France, and the opium-addicted writer Thomas de Quincy. Since Scots law didn’t allow legal proceedings on Sundays, they even had the freedom to leave for 24 hours from midnight each Saturday – one minister used the time to return to his parish and deliver a weekly sermon.


Address Abbey Strand, EH8 8DU; at the foot of the Royal Mile | Public Transport Lothian Buses 6 or 35 to Holyrood | Tip A minute’s walk away on Abbeyhill, the street leading north-east, is the charming little building known as Queen Mary’s Bath House, thought to have been built in the 16th century as a tennis pavilion. A highly fanciful legend claims that Mary, Queen of Scots, bathed there in sparkling wine.


Dunbar’s Close Garden (0.224 mi)

The Old Royal High School (0.267 mi)

Moray House Garden Pavilion (0.292 mi)

The National Monument (0.373 mi)

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2_Ann Street

Homes of quality



The poet and conservationist Sir John Betjeman described it half a century ago as Britain’s most attractive street, and the elegant Ann Street is still regularly named as one of the most desirable places to live in the whole of the UK. This secluded enclave of grand Georgian houses with extensive front gardens was the vision of the great Scottish portrait painter, Sir Henry Raeburn, who started to develop the site, then on the outskirts of the city, in 1813. Despite beginning life as a poor orphan, Raeburn had a meteoric rise to fame, and at 22 married a wealthy young widow, Ann Edgar. She owned the large acreage that became known as the Raeburn Estate, and the first street to be built there was named in her honour.

There is a surprising connection between this exclusive address and an enduringly popular brand of confectionery. In 1936, the Yorkshireman Harold Mackintosh had the novel idea of producing boxes of individually wrapped chocolates and toffees for the mass market. He named the brand “Quality Street,” after an immensely successful, twice-filmed play by J. M. Barrie, and packaged them in a tin illustrated with two of its characters, a young lady and a soldier in Regency garb, stepping out together on the eponymous street.


Address Ann Street, EH4 1PL | Public Transport Lothian Buses 36 to Dean Park Crescent (Ann Street) | Tip Just round the corner from this highly desirable enclave is a house that was once one of the city’s most notorious addresses: 17 Danube Street, where from the late 1940s to the 1970s the infamous Dora Noyce ran a well-known and very successful brothel.

The original model for Barrie’s play was said to be none other than Ann Street, which he knew from his student days in Edinburgh. The author, who would go on to write Peter Pan, was inspired by its genteel charm to imagine the polite society who might have lived there in the early 19th century, creating an entertaining tale of restrained amorous pursuit and mistaken identities. Today’s residents of the real-life Ann Street still appreciate the privileged seclusion of their village-like community, their only collective frustration being the shortage of parking spaces for their many horseless carriages.


St Bernard’s Well (0.081 mi)

The Moray Estate (0.149 mi)

Dean Bridge (0.236 mi)

The French Institute (0.273 mi)

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3_Ashley Terrace Boat House

Reviving the mathematical river



Edinburgh may not straddle a great river, but it does have two significant waterways meandering through it – the Water of Leith, and the long-neglected Union Canal. Now regenerated for the new millennium as a leisure facility, the canal offers a refreshingly different perspective on the city, for walkers and cyclists as well as all those who enjoy messing about in boats.

The Union Canal runs for almost 32 miles from Lochrin Basin, through the west of the city and out to the town of Falkirk. It was originally designed to transport coal and lime into the capital and, crucially, to join up with the existing Forth and Clyde Canal, thereby linking Edinburgh with Glasgow and the west coast. To make it speedier, it was constructed without locks as a contour canal, following a winding course at a constant 73 metres above sea level, which led to its nickname of “the mathematical river.” It opened in 1822 after only four years’ work, though it went seriously over budget, partly due to the expense of erecting three massive navigable aqueducts. Despite initial commercial success, the canal’s heyday was short-lived – the opening in 1842 of the first railway to Glasgow greatly reduced its profitability. It gradually sank into disrepair, and was formally closed in 1965.


Address by Lockhart Bridge, Ashley Terrace, EH11 1RS | Public Transport Lothian Buses 10 or 27 to Gray’s Loan, or 38 to Ashley Terrace | Tip The boathouse is also the base of Scotland’s oldest existing canoe club, Forth Canoe Club, which offers regular sessions of paddling on the canal from April to October for all levels, including beginners; see www.forthcc.com for details.

Twenty years later, the Edinburgh Canal Society was formed to lead the campaign for its reopening. One of their first projects was the complete refurbishment of an attractive old boathouse, to serve both as their headquarters and as a base for hiring out rowing boats. Resited by the bridge at Ashley Terrace, it soon became a popular landmark for all canal enthusiasts. Work on the Union Canal restoration began in 1991, and the bold ambition of restoring the link to Glasgow was finally realised in 2002, with the opening at its western end of a unique, vast boat lift known as the Falkirk Wheel.


Gorgie City Farm (0.51 mi)

Springvalley Gardens Lane (0.665 mi)

The Dominion Cinema (0.708 mi)

Craiglockhart War Hospital (1.05 mi)

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4_Barnton Quarry Bunker

Cold comfort in the Cold War



The dark shadow of the Cold War, when the world was threatened with nuclear annihilation, loomed over people’s lives for over 40 years. Fortunately for us all, the war never actually turned hot, and most of the scars it left, like the Berlin Wall, have been erased. To see the main material evidence of its consequences, we now have to look underground.

The bunker at Barnton Quarry brings this whole frightening period of recent history back into sharp focus. Its size alone –over 2,700 square metres – shows quite clearly how real and imminent the threat of a Soviet nuclear attack once was. During the 1950s and 1960s the UK government secretly constructed hundreds of subterranean complexes, including 14 regional seats of government (RSGs) from where ministers, civil servants, and the military would have run the country, safe from nuclear fall-out. The Barnton RSG had room to accommodate more than 300 officials, as well as the queen and her household in the event of an attack occurring while she was in residence at Holyrood.


Address Clermiston Road North, EH4 7BN, www.barntonquarry.org.uk | Public Transport Lothian Buses 21 to Clermiston Road North; access to the bunker site is from the car park on the east side of the road | Hours See website for current information on visiting| Tip Corstorphine Hill, to the east and south of the quarry, is a wooded nature reserve whose attractions include a tower built as a memorial to Sir Walter Scott, and a walled garden.

The quarry site had been a command centre for the RAF during World War II. For the RSG this was extended into a mini-city on three floors, 30 metres under Corstorphine Hill, with 3-metre-thick concrete walls and a complex air filtration system. Most large-scale bunkers were in the countryside, but this one’s location on the edge of the city meant that locals got to know about it, and after it was decommissioned in the 1980s it was looted and damaged by vandalism and fire. Its key facilities are now being restored by a team led by Cold War historian and entrepreneur James Mitchell. They include a massive military operations room with huge map tables, a telephone exchange, and a BBC radio studio, as well as living accommodation, with food and water supplies, all vividly evoking the chilling “what if” scenario of the attack that never came.


Lauriston Castle (0.87 mi)

Penguin Parade (1.112 mi)

Cramond (1.56 mi)

Cammo Park (1.622 mi)

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5_Blackford Hill

A ringside view of the Ice Age



Though some weary sightseers would maintain that this city is nothing but hills, Edinburgh is traditionally said to built on just seven: Arthur’s Seat, the Castle Rock, Blackford, Calton, Corstorphine, Craiglockhart, and Braid Hills. There are splendid views from all of them, but the most spectacular has to be the 360-degree panorama from the summit of Blackford Hill, which takes in the other six and much else beyond. This wild and windswept site offers an exhilarating escape from the urban jungle into what can seem not just another place, but a different era.

Under the racing clouds of a bright and breezy day, the city’s topography is thrown into sharp relief, illustrating the ancient geological formations as if in a giant diorama. The built environment recedes into insignificance as you watch the ever-changing light reveal a landscape shaped millions of years ago by the action of ice. The most immediately striking features are the “crag and tail” formations. These are studs of very hard rock, usually the cores of ancient volcanoes like the Castle Rock and Arthur’s Seat, eroded and exposed by immense glaciers that left long tapering ridges of softer debris in their wake. The evidence of this momentous upheaval is made all the more vivid when you realise that the hill you’re standing on is itself crag-and-tail shaped, formed like the others by a vast easterly moving iceflow.


Address Blackford Hill, EH9 3HJ | Public Transport Lothian Buses 38 or 41 to West Mains Road (Royal Observatory), then walk up Observatory Road. For details of other routes, and walks around the hill, see www.fohb.org | Tip The copper-domed Royal Observatory, situated on the hill, holds regular public astronomy evenings and talks; see www.roe.ac.uk for details.

In fact Blackford played a historic role in the understanding of glaciation. On the south side, by an old quarry, is a plaque commemorating the visit in 1840 by the pioneering Swiss-American geologist Louis Agassiz, the first person to recognise the visible effects of ancient ice sheets. On examining the grooved and polished surface of the rock face, he made the revolutionary declaration, “That is the work of ice!” Agassiz went on to formulate the earliest theory of the Great Ice Age.


Springvalley Gardens Lane (0.721 mi)

The Dominion Cinema (0.758 mi)

Sciennes Jewish Burial Ground (1.143 mi)

Bruntsfield Links (1.224 mi)

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6_The Botanic Cottage

An enlightening garden centre



The newest building in the Royal Botanic Garden – known to all as the Botanics – is also the oldest. The freshly plastered, 250-year-old Botanic Cottage opened to the public in May 2016, after having been dismantled stone by stone, moved from the location where it had long lain derelict, and painstakingly reconstructed at Inverleith. The cottage was originally built at the entrance to the “Physick Garden,” just off Leith Walk, on land that is now Haddington Place. In 1763 John Hope, the Regius (Royal) Keeper – one of the most significant figures in the Botanics’ history – secured this greenfield site to bring together the collections of the city’s two existing physic gardens, which were being damaged by smoke pollution. The earliest of these had been established in 1670 in a small yard near Holyrood; within a few years this was extended to a larger site nearby, later to be covered by Waverley Station.

The original purpose of these gardens was to cultivate medicinal herbs and investigate their healing potential. John Hope trained as a physician, but his main interest was in plants and their physiology. His key aim in developing the new site was to set up a teaching institute for the emergent science of botany, so the garden cottage he commissioned included a classroom on the upper floor as well as living accommodation downstairs. Hope’s lectures there inspired a generation of doctors and naturalists, establishing him as a major figure of the Scottish Enlightenment.


Address Royal Botanic Garden, Inverleith Row, EH3 5LR, +44 (0)131 552 7171, www.rbge.org.uk | Public Transport Lothian Buses 8, 23, or 27 to Inverleith Row (Botanics) entrance also on Arboretum Place (though no buses go there); the Cottage is in the Demonstration Garden, in the western corner | Hours Garden: Mar–Sept 10am–6pm, Feb & Oct 10am–5pm, Nov–Jan 10am–5pm. For the educational programme in the Cottage, see website| Tip At the west gate on Arboretum Place is the John Hope Gateway, the Garden’s interpretation centre. It has exhibitions, book and plant sales, and a restaurant, open daily from 10am, which uses produce from the gardens in its menus.

In the 1820s the Botanic Garden underwent yet another move, to Inverleith. The cottage remained on Leith Walk, surviving many changes of use and threats of demolition. Now, reincarnated in its rightful home, and beautifully restored, it is again fulfilling its educational function, enabling people of all ages and backgrounds – a much wider public than Hope could ever have dreamt of – to learn about the wonders of botany.


The Old Palm Stove (0.13 mi)

The Stockbridge Colonies (0.398 mi)

Fettes College (0.609 mi)

Mr Purves’ Lighting Emporium (0.646 mi)

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7_Bruntsfield Links

Play the course as you find it



Golf can be an exclusive and expensive pursuit, but there’s one place in this city where it is neither. The rolling green sward of Bruntsfield Links, a public park just south-west of the Old Town, has a course that can be played by anyone, novices included, free of charge. And if you don’t have your own clubs and balls, you can rent them at the “19th hole” for a modest fee.

Not only is this a delightfully scenic place to practise your swing, it’s also an extremely historic one. The game, a Scottish invention, was already popular by the mid-15th century, and the open ground of the Links, at the eastern end of the Borough Muir, is one of the earliest documented locations where it was played. Rather inconveniently, it was also, for over two centuries, the site of stone quarries. However, such was the passion of citizens for the game that the council ruled many times that “digging for stanes” would be allowed only on condition that it didn’t interfere with “the Gowf.” The course attracted all types of enthusiasts, from the medical student Thomas Kincaird, whose 1687 diary includes the earliest known instructions for playing the game, to the 18th-century New Town publican Alexander McKellar, who spent nearly every day on the course, having his meals brought out to him, and playing at night by the light of a lantern. Nor was it exclusively the province of men: a newspaper article of 1738 gives an account of a match here between two ladies, whose husbands acted as caddies; it was won by “the charming Sally.”


Address Bruntsfield Links, EH10 4HR | Public Transport Lothian Buses 11, X15, 16, 23, 36, or 45 to Leven Street | Hours 36-hole course open daily late Apr–late Sept; 9-hole course open in winter; details posted at the “green hut” kiosk| Tip Clubs and balls can be hired from the nearby Golf Tavern, 30–31 Wright’s Houses; see www.golftavern.co.uk for details. This pub, whose origins go back to 1456, is also a comfortable place to relax with a drink after your exertions.

Many golfing societies were founded and based at Bruntsfield, and during the 19th century overcrowding became a serious issue. New courses were eventually laid out in the suburbs to accommodate these clubs, and in the 1890s the site was turned from a six-hole links into a unique 36-hole short hole course, which has been open to all ever since.


The Meadows Sundial (0.186 mi)

Real Foods (0.23 mi)

Edinburgh College of Art Sculpture Court (0.429 mi)

The Flodden Tower (0.478 mi)

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8_The Café Royal

A palace of a pub



Just behind the city’s main shopping thoroughfare, with its soulless chain store interiors, are two of the most sumptuous rooms in Edinburgh. A minute’s walk from the east end of Princes Street, up Gabriel’s Road (the tail end of what was once a long country lane) takes you to the elegant fin-de-siècle realm of the Café Royal.

Before the mid-19th century, the many taverns of the city were mostly inconspicuous places, windowless dens in cellars or down narrow alleys. With the introduction of legislation controlling the sale of liquor, the drinking scene gradually changed, and the late Victorian era saw the emergence of “palace pubs,” bright, welcoming establishments, designed for a respectable middle-class clientele and elaborately furnished with carved woodwork, etched glass, mirrors, and decorative tiles.


Address 19 West Register Street, EH2 2AA, +44 (0)131 556 1884, www.caferoyaledinburgh.co.uk | Public Transport Lothian Buses 1, 4, X15, 19, 22, 25, 30, 31, 33, 34, 104, or 113 to the east end of Princes Street; Tram to St Andrew Square | Hours Sun–Wed 11am–11pm, Thu 11am–midnight, Fri–Sat 11am–1am| Tip Bennet’s Bar at 8 Leven Street (next to the King’s Theatre) is another city centre pub with a fine late Victorian interior, as well as good beer and whiskies.

The Café Royal occupies a building dating from 1861, but owes its present appearance to major alterations made in the late 1890s. From its marble floor to its gilt plasterwork ceiling, supported by an elegant cast iron pillar with palm leaf capital, the interior of the Circle Bar is pure grandeur. In the centre is a majestic island counter – a distinctive feature of many Scottish bars of the late 19th century, designed to enable supervision of the customers. This public bar is separated by a carved walnut screen from the even more opulent Oyster Bar restaurant, where diners can still sup on these succulent bivalves – a long-standing staple of city taverns – at the marble topped counter.

The walls of both bar and restaurant are adorned with splendid figurative panels of Doulton tiles, depicting famous inventors and great ships. The Oyster Bar, which has fine stained glass windows portraying Victorian sporting heroes, featured in the 1981 Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire, the story of three British athletes at the 1924 Olympics.


General Register House Rotunda (0.056 mi)

Dundas House Banking Hall (0.075 mi)

The Scott Monument (0.143 mi)

The Portrait Gallery Entrance Hall (0.162 mi)

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9_The Caiystane

Strange sentinel in the suburbs



Though now incongruously set into a neat municipal alcove in a leafy suburban street, this colossal chunk of red sandstone has an arresting dignity that immediately casts the onlooker back to a very different era. To understand something of its significance, you have to allow your mind to clear away all the tidy gardens, houses, and pavements and imagine it standing in open moorland, commanding sweeping views to the west and north, across the thickly wooded land to the hills and sea beyond.