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Victoria Street, Edinburgh

Victoria Street, Edinburgh © Robin McKelvie

When I’ve not been travelling around the globe as a writer I’ve been lucky enough to spend the best part of four decades living in or around Edinburgh. I say lucky as Edinburgh is one of the world’s truly great cities. This UNESCO World Heritage listed gem is a deeply historic oasis that boasts stunning architecture and swirls in rich cultural and artistic heritage. It is also a city that has managed to keep up with the times and a flurry of new hotels, restaurants and attractions have opened in recent years.

Edinburgh – A Great Place to Stay

The Caledonian, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel

The Caledonian, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel © Robin McKelvie

Edinburgh these days, as one of Europe’s most popular city break destinations, boasts superb accommodation at all levels. We’ve got a comprehensive accommodation section on Edinburgh. My favourite ‘new’ hotel is the grand old Caledonian, which re-opened last year after a seriously impressive Waldorf Astoria makeover. I love the cocktails at their swish new bars, the spot on spa and the eating options. There is the Brasserie with something on the menu for everyone and the reborn dame of the Pompadour. I’d put money on the latter becoming Edinburgh’s next Michelin star restaurant.

The Chester Residence

The Chester Residence © Robin McKelvie

If you prefer a bit more independence late last year I discovered the Chester Residence, which is a big hit with TripAdvisor users. The apartments are every bit as luxurious as most of Edinburgh’s better hotels, but you get a sense of independence with your own kitchen too. A butler service is still on hand if you need anything in your very own Georgian townhouse apartment. At the other end of the scale this month also sees the official opening of the budget Tune Hotel opposite Haymarket, with double rooms from £25!

Edinburgh – A Culinary Capital

I researched and wrote a book on eating and drinking in Edinburgh in 1999 for Thomas Cook and to be honest I struggled to find places to put in. How my city has changed! These days I’d struggle who to leave out with five Michelin star restaurants (Number One, The Kitchin, 21212, Castle Terrace and Martin Wishart). There are myriad other choices including one of my favourite seafood restaurants in the UK, Ondine, and one of Scotland’s finest steak restaurants, Kyloe.

I love what Neil Forbes is doing with local produce at Café St Honoré and his former charges at the new Gardener’s Cottage are local food devotes and foragers extraordinaire. Paul Wedgwood is also a keen forager and his eponymous Wedgwood may just be the best place to eat on the Royal Mile.

Beyond the explosion of Modern Scottish restaurants welcome new additions in 2012 included Chaophraya and Passepartout. Chaophraya brings a bit of Thai bling to the old Oloroso venue, which it has reinvented with a new covered terrace that affords stunning views of the castle. Passepartout is a budget diners’ dream, a cosy candlelit oasis with an eclectic menu made for sharing with lobster or T-Bone steak for two for under £20!

Edinburgh’s World Class Attractions

You could spend a week of hard sightseeing in Edinburgh these days and still not cover half of what there is to do. I am a big fan of the £50m revamp of the Museum of Scotland, which has brilliantly both brought out the best of the charming old Victorian museum, but also seamlessly married it with the more modern wing. The kids play area is brilliant for families and the café is worth popping into for lunch in its own right.

Calton Hill

Calton Hill © Robin McKelvie

One aspect of Edinburgh I’ve been thinking about more recently in this Year of Natural Scotland are its natural charms. This is a city of volcanoes, hills, rivers and sea, where green space bursts out between the medieval and neoclassical architectural grandeur. Hike up rugged  Arthur’s Seat (take care as you go!) or just pop up Calton Hill at the east end of Princes Street and you can appreciate the city’s remarkable natural charms. Take it all in before descending back into a city that these days is alive with hotels, restaurants and attractions that back up its world famous historical charms.

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