Its residents describe themselves as somewhat grouchy with their neighbours but always attentive to visitors. Whether this is true or not, the capital of Scotland is one of those places where everything seems easy. At least as a tourist. The equation works: the locals are charming, the city is manageable in size, and there is fine architecture. Edinburgh is divided into three areas: New Town (which in spite of its name is 200 years old), the Old Town (the Medieval part) and Leith Harbour, called The Shore. The first two offer the greatest number of well-known tourist attractions, but it’s worthwhile visiting Leith. While stigmatised for decades as a problem area –the lads from the film Trainspotting were from here– today it has been gentrified and is the perfect place to down a pint and get away from the bustle of tourists in the city centre. Cheers!
Jamie Swift, 27. Bartender
Five years ago he left Brighton and moved to Edinburgh. He was coming from a small, comfortable city with an ethnic mix and when he got here he found the same thing, “exactly the same vibes,” he says leaning on the bar where he now works. We’re two minutes from the Royal Mile, the most famous street in Edinburgh. He recognises that’s he’s lucky to be able to reach any place just walking and to be able to enjoy some unique architecture. “And besides, the nightlife is great. There are dozens of places to drink a whisky or half a pint listening to live music.” Jamie is an expert in whisky, especially the single malts, the purest kind. “It’s part of Scottish culture,” he says. “I tried it when I was very young and it still excites me. But above all I like to tell customers about the special history behind each distillery. It’s a fascinating art.”
Howie Nicholsby, 39. Designer of kilts
From his shop in New Town, Howie gives shape to the kilts of the 21st century with designs that are closer to what’s contemporary. He admits it’s not easy to make men accept kilts as normal, but he’s nevertheless passionately trying to do so: “In life it’s necessary to experiment and, above all, evolve. It should be the same with clothes.” He’s very serious, almost as serious as when he says that he loves his city and expects to die here. “I’ve travelled all over the world but I can’t imagine living anywhere else.” He calls our attention to the areas of Stockbridge, Grassmarket and Leith, then takes a long pause before revealing the reasons he loves Edinburgh: “We have the biggest arts festival in the world, a variety of restaurants with Michelin stars, unique ethnic and traditional food… and that castle! How many cities have a castle right in the middle, with just one entrance and built atop a volcano?” If you’re looking for a guide, Howie is your man.
Gerry Wightman, 60. Chauffer
He was born in Leith, Edinburgh’s historic port. Gery remembers how busy it was in the 1960s, although he stresses the difference between activity and prosperity: “The port worked but in the neighbourhood the houses were half finished, and in general everything in Leith was half done.” Until recently, Leith’s bad reputation has hounded it, no doubt amplified by the novel Trainspotting and the later eponymous film. “Suddenly people showed up looking for the bar that appears in the movie. They still ask me today,” says Gery. “Of course there were drugs, but that wasn’t a problem just here. It’s existed in every city.” This good-natured driver is pleased with the recovery work of the past 20 years. “Money has been invested and now we have restaurants, bars, new housing.” Leith has finally thrown off its grey past.