On High Ground

The heart of the global theatrical, artistic and comic community every August, Edinburgh is a city of soaring volcanic hills, ghost-guarded closes and culinary daring.

The biggest attraction is the Edinburgh International Festival, which runs alongside the somewhat adventurous yet thoroughly captivating Fringe Festival – a month-long celebration of all things creative and laughter-inducing. But the city exists apart from these festivals. Scotland’s cultural and traditional capital, a UNESCO city of literature, and hugged by the North Sea, this is a place of history, national pride and rocky hills that are well worth a climb.

Robert Louis Stevenson, a native son of Edinburgh, always claimed that the best view of the city was gained from Carlon Hill. A weathered, monument-covered hilltop, this was Edinburgh’s first public park and was formed by volcanic activity 340 million years ago. Once used for bleaching, it’s now frequented by those keen to snap a cloudy, atmospheric shot of the moody city. Found at the far east of Princess Street, from here you can spy the port town of Leith (where the Britannia now resides), Arthur’s Seat, Salisbury Craigs and the surrounding countryside.

On the subject of Arthur’s Seat, that’s another Scottish treasure worth tackling. Found in Holyrood Park, this climb is short but steep. From the summit, if it’s not too blustery, you can spy the entire city below you with the Royal Mile – stretching from Holyrood House, once the home of the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots, to the Edinburgh Castle – appearing particularly alluring. Overlooking the sea and adorned by a ruin or two, you’re unlikely to hear the call of a bagpipe up here. Moving and dramatic as they are, they do get a bit much after a few days in the city.

Naturally, this sort of climbing brings on peckishness. But fear not, Edinburgh is a town where foraged foods and local produce are utilized and adored. At Wedgwood the vivacious character that is Head Chef Paul Wedgwood creates dishes inspired by his global travels and filled with ingredients he foraged himself. If you’re going to brave haggis, brave it here. Then there’s the Larder Bistro, where the team works with local farmers, fishmongers, fruit, vegetable and drink suppliers to create a tempting seasonable menu. With a range of characterful suppliers and a love of all things local, this is where you head for a contemporary taste of Scotland. If it’s a view you’re after, accompanied by pickled vegetables or salmon prepared three ways, then venture to the Tower, attached to the National Museum of Scotland. Here you’ll feast on a rustic menu while watching the Edinburgh skyline transform beneath a seemingly endless sunset. Hills, panoramas, food and festivities, there’s a lot in this city to love.

Liz Schaffer