Secrets of the Old Town

For any visitor to Scotland’s capital, particularly a first-time visitor, it is more than likely that the opening port of call is going to be Edinburgh’s historic Old Town. 

The oldest part of the city, and undoubtedly the most popular spot amongst tourists, this is the heart and soul of the city.

You’ll no doubt have heard of some of its highlights. Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, the Grassmarket…All attractions gushed over by whoever visits them, and rightly so. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a labyrinth of historical marvels, all worthy of discussion and all, quite guaranteed, with a spooky tale to tell.

For the Old Town is a haunted town. Perhaps the most haunted town of them all… Well, if you believe in that sort of thing. 

But what are you to do once you are here? If you have a limited time window and really want to get to know the area, how should you spend your time?

The obvious spots are obvious for a reason. They are world renowned historical treasures, so it would be a mistake not to visit them, at least briefly.

But, for those of you more intrepid and experience thirsty guys and girls out there, we’ve compiled a short list of things to see and do that we think will give you an extra flavour of what the Old Town is all about.

Are you ready?

Then pack up your holy water and slap on that tartan hat. 

We’re off to discover the secrets of the Old Town!

Mary King’s Close: Okay. So, this one isn’t really much of a secret. In fact, full disclosure; it’s one of the most well-known and in demand tourist attractions in the entire city. BUT it is an absolute treat for everyone and the sort of experience you can go through again and again without getting even the tiniest bit bored. As we said above, Edinburgh is a haunted city (allegedly). And, so, unsurprisingly, there are quite a lot of ghost tours going about. However, if you really want to get spooked out and learn about some of Edinburgh’s darkest past, then this is what it’s all about. Walk on a guided tour through Edinburgh’s underground streets and feel the past raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Fascinating, unique, entertaining and, yes, just a little bit creepy, you’ll learn all about the people who used to live there…And, perhaps, roam there still…Mwahahahaha!!!

Dunbar’s Close: For something a little quieter (and a lot less terrifying), Dunbar Close is an unexpected escape just off the Royal Mile that is sure to give you the sense of calm and peace that you’ve been searching for. A recreation of a 17th Century garden, its design will make you feel like you’re walking through a blissful corner of Eden. With benches to sit and relax, this hidden space is easily missed and very rarely busy. Free to enter and good for the soul, what’s not to like? We highly recommend it. A great alternative if Princes St Gardens is a little too hectic.

The Writers’ Museum: There are numerous museums dotted about the Old Town, perhaps most notably The National Museum Of Scotland up on Chambers Street. However, for us, a special shout out has to go to The Writers’ Museum at the Lawnmarket on the Royal Mile. Edinburgh is very much a place rich in its history of the written word, becoming the World’s first UNESCO City Of Literature back in 2004. This charming and completely free museum is a must for anyone who has any interest in Scottish writing. Celebrating the lives and works of Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Walter Scott, the building (known as Lady Stair’s House) is beyond the descriptive abilities, perhaps, even for these great men. All we can say is pay it a visit. It’ll put you right in the mood to pull out your quill and create your own masterpiece. An inspiration.

Deacon’s House Cafe: Ah, coffee. What would we do without it? Here in Edinburgh, there are tons of coffee houses. You’ll find the usual suspects (you know who they are) and some more locally grown establishments. However, for us, Deacon’s House Cafe is an especially special little number that we think you should definitely consider a visit if you happen to be in the area. Just on the Royal Mile on the way up to the castle (you can’t miss the dapper gentleman standing outside), this quaint cafe has an unbelievable menu and home made goods to make your mouth water. If eating outside is your thing, they have a beautiful terrace to enjoy a scone in the sunshine. But, worry not. There’s plenty of room inside too if the weather is a trifle drizzly…Our tip: go for some breakfast. Wow!

The Witchery: Edinburgh is, quite possibly, the most romantic city in the world…In fact, let’s just say it: Edinburgh IS the most romantic city in the world. But, if you’re looking to be the ultimate romantic ninja and dazzle your partner (or potential partner) with a hurricane of heart melting master moves, then The Witchery is the magic you’ve been looking for. It may sound terrifying, but the only thing scary about this place is just how freakin’ good it is. Situated right at the top of the Royal Mile and bathed in candles and glorious decor, we promise you this will be a dining experience you will never forget. Utterly enchanting.

Edinburgh’s Old Town is iconic. It is one of the most revered and admired locations, not just in Scotland, but across the globe. Its history is deep and its beauty everlasting. Anyone who lives there considers themselves to be very fortunate indeed.

So come and take a look. Let it cast its spell on you. You’ll never want to leave.