Travel: Austere and calm Scottish majesty in Edinburgh

The sweeping Georgian streets of Edinburgh's old town

The sweeping Georgian streets of Edinburgh's old town - Credit: Archant

A city apartment in Edinburgh offers a relaxing and attractive alternative to London’s hectic urban sprawl

The front room of our Edinburgh flat was airy, yet cosy

The front room of our Edinburgh flat was airy, yet cosy - Credit: Archant

While London sometimes seems a dizzying and bewildering maelstrom of humanity, its Scottish counterpart always seems to have a slightly more austere and reserved feel.

The difference in population partly accounts for that, but in the terrace littered old and new towns of the Scottish capital at least, where wide streets sweep through neighbourhoods lined by attractive townhouse and parks, it has a sense of calm and grandeur often missing from London.

Certainly, it’s a great place to take the in laws for a crisp, winter weekend away, to sup festive ales in wood panelled pubs and stroll through brittle sunshine.

Flights are one way to get up, but the trains are often cheaper and always more relaxed – about five hours from King’s Cross which soon flies by once you’ve had a snooze, read a book and admired the amazing costal scenery between Alnmouth and Edinburgh.

Scallops served Bijou style

Scallops served Bijou style - Credit: Archant


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As soon as you disembark, the scale and majesty of this ancient city is apparent. On one side, the ancient castle sits proudly perched on its mount, with its tattooing arena standing proud beside it

In front of you Princes Street looks a picture now the tram works have finally gone, and to your right the new town begins its stately descent towards our accommodation for the weekend.

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A spacious two bedroom flat in a gorgeous 17th century terrace, our Greatbase apartment was had just the right mix of period features and conveniences, and managed to provide luxury with the freedom of self-catering, as well as commanded lovely views over the terraced roofs of this charming part of town.

With the in-laws in tow there were four of us staying there, with four more guests, and we were very comfortable in the spacious front room

Pilig Park in the crips winter sunshine

Pilig Park in the crips winter sunshine - Credit: Archant

Being the festive season there was plenty to see and do – we took in a carol service at St John’s Episcopal Church in Princes Street, which was an agreeable riot of seasonal magic and goodwill.

With one of those ubiquitous funfares on Princes Street Green, carol singing by the bucket load and Dickensian architecture left right and centre, as a winter wonderland Edinburgh takes some beating.

With relatives in the city we’ve been fairly regular visitors over the years, whether to the festival which doubles the city’s population every August, the impressive castle, Arthur’s Seat and so on.

So on this trip we concentrated on some of the subtler attractions; on a cold yet bright day we took a lovely stroll down the hill to Leith.

No longer the grimy environs of the Irvine Welsh novel, today Leith has been gentrified just like much of east London, and trendy beards, yummy mummies and small dogs wee in abundance on the Links.

We enjoyed a long, luxurious lunch in Bijou Bistro – as its moniker suggests a lovely little restaurant offering four courses and basically unlimited drink, of which we took full advantage, for a very reasonable price.

Thus libated, and full as the proverbial egg, we retired back to the flat for an evening of dancing and musical bingo in the amenity of our accommodation.

The next day, taking full advantage of the flat’s brilliant city centre locations, we headed out for another walk amid the beautiful, medieval, UNESCO protected surroundings of the Old Town, taking in the Royal Mile, Holyrood and the reformation era environs.

What with the walking and the winter weather, by the time dusk fell we were ready for nothing more than a pint or two in the cosy Cumberland Bar, before retiring round the corner to our flat for a restorative takeaway curry.

As ever, these short breaks you leave wanting more, but that’s the way it should be.

I’ve long been keen summer visitor to Scotland’s second biggest city, but I can now heartily recommend its attractions during the less clement seasons – especially with a luxury city centre pad to call your own for the duration of the trip.

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