What can be said of Edinburgh that hasn’t been already? Taking its place firmly in the 1990s pantheon after Ewan McGregor’s infamous Princes Street chase in the opening scene of Trainspotting, it’s become an icon in its own right and a city with many an arrow in its quiver. Known just as much for its staid whisky establishments as it is for its frenetic student-driven nightlife; celebrated for its festivals and art scene inasmuch as it is for its proximity to nature; for its fine dining as much as its fried Mars bars; there’s a bit of something for everyone in Auld Reekie.

However, despite its Old Scots moniker, it’s Auld Reekie no longer: there’s not a puff of smoke to be seen in Edinburgh. Being a forward-thinking type of place, it’s also one that has taken its sustainability initiatives seriously and is among the top green cities on the planet and the greenest in Scotland, due mainly to its clean air, accessible green spaces (which cover almost half of the city), and commitment to being net zero by 2030. So, if you’re looking for an easy, environmentally-conscious weekend away in a storybook setting, why not consider visiting what many call the Athens of the North?

The exterior of The Waldorf-Astoria Edinburgh: The Caledonian


Waldorf-Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian

The skyline in Edinburgh is something to behold, and The Waldorf-Astoria Edinburgh, more often known as The Caley, has been one of the best places to take it all in since it launched in 1903. From an upstairs room, you’ll see the splendid steeple of The Parish Church of St Cuthbert immediately in the foreground, bucolic Princes Street Gardens splayed out below, the Edinburgh Castle towering to the right, and the volcanic plug of Arthur’s Seat hulking in the distance. It’s perfectly situated for staging forays into the city, with convenient access to Princes Street and the shopping districts of the New Town and an excellent walk along the jutting eastern face of the castle cliffs into the Grassmarket and Old Town.

The Caley is the type of place that sweats the small details. Walking past a bagpiper and doormen in full tartan finery, we arrived to find a special gift box with a storybook on Hamish the Highland Cow, complete with a stuffed animal and chocolates, for our daughter. This well-researched approach can be found throughout the property, from its eponymous cocktail bar, which mixes up some of the best serves in the city; to its classy lounge Peacock Alley, where you can catch live jazz over chilled flutes of champagne; to its fine dining restaurant, Dean Banks at the Pompadour, headed up by the Masterchef: The Professionals finalist; and its cosy but comprehensive spa.

The hotel has 241 rooms, and ours boasted lofty ceilings and broad windows that let in some of the best views in Scotland. Over two action-packed days, we found a nice rhythm between enjoying the hotel’s offerings, including a belly-busting breakfast buffet, with venturing out to explore the rest of the city.

Rooms from £300 per night. Princes St, Edinburgh EH1 2AB; hilton.com


Take a hike

Edinburgh is one of the world’s best walking cities and a long weekend will afford you more than enough time to explore every nook and cranny. Whether you’re wandering the Waters of Leith, promenading the Royal Mile or window shopping New Town, make sure to bring a decent pair of creps. However, you’d be missing a trick if you didn’t get up high on one of the hills and mountains that dot the Scottish capital. Arthur’s Seat, a short shuffle away from central Edinburgh in Holyrood Park, is an excellent day’s outing, and celebrating bagging its peak with a trip to the pub is par for the course. We recommend The Sheep Heid in Duddingston, which has its own skittles alley and traces its origins back to the halcyon days of 1360. For anyone looking to get even higher, the Pentland Hills can be reached by bus and wrap in over 60 miles of trails. Get to steppin’.

The interiors at Eleanore



While its sibling The Little Chartroom may slightly overshadow Eleanore in popularity, Roberta Hall-McCarron’s second venture, which took over its sister’s former digs in a jewel-box small room on Leith Walk, is heartbreakingly charming. Grab a high top at one of its handful of tables, rock out to a freewheeling soundtrack that runs the gamut from Lou Reed to ABBA, and gird your loins for one of the most deliciously laid-back tasting menus in the land, which sees dishes like oyster veronique; spenwood croquettes with walnut and honey; sirloin with smoked eel and celeriac; and the ever-famous tirami-choux paired up with a well-considered wine list that leans low intervention. By the time you roll out of there, you can be sure to have had an enchanting experience that will stick with you for years to come.

30-31 Albert Pl, Edinburgh EH7 5HN; eleanore.uk

Grazing by Mark Greenaway

Mark Greenaway is a powerful spokesperson for Scottish fare and produce, and his ground-floor restaurant at The Caley is the perfect medium for it. Greenaway’s 100-Mile Menu puts to use the best of the Caledonian larder, drawing from local farms, hunters and providers to create a love letter to his native country. However, it’s also a great place to enjoy some classic, cracking suppers. If you’re looking to do so, look no further than the beef wellington, a masterclass in golden shortcrust and tender beef fillet. Just make sure to pack an appetite.

Princes St, Edinburgh EH1 2AB; markgreenaway.com


If you’ve had a good meal in Edinburgh, there’s a high chance Stuart Ralston was behind it. From fine dining Aizle which has found its home in the grand Kimpton Charlotte Square to the slightly more experimental Noto, Ralston is responsible for some of the city’s best restaurants. His newest opening, Lyla, is very likely to be the jewel in that crown. Having curiously evaded deserved Michelin attention with Aizle, it seems that this is his serious attempt at earning a star, and the food, wine, and experience are all deserving of one and then some. This is world-class cooking and dining; meat and fish are aged in-house, the meal takes you on a journey throughout the beautiful Georgian townhouse and wines are a fascinating partnership to the food Ralston is whipping up in the kitchen – exploring both classic and more obscure options to keep the sipping exciting. Each course serves as an education on modern Scottish ingredients and their connection to the country’s cuisine, deftly marrying the classic with the contemporary.

63 Cockburn St, Edinburgh EH1 1BS; lylaedinburgh.co.uk


Kay's Bar

This is what every pub should be. It’s the kind of watering hole that feels timeless. It seems unimaginable that any part of it has changed at any point over the last century and ridiculous to even glance at your phone, because how can a piece of modern technology exist in 1908? The crowd is jovial and friendly, a mix of regulars, students and tourists smart enough to dig this wonderful bar out. The selection on tap is solid and the back bar is equally well-stocked with both whiskeys and more. Unfussy and perfectly formed, you’ll leave immensely jealous of anyone who gets to call this their local.

39 Jamaica St, Edinburgh EH3 6HF; kaysbar.uk


Sip on mixological history at Bramble in New Town, the institution that trained the UK’s leading bartender: Ryan Chetiyawardana. A native to the city, Chetiyawardana’s time at Bramble placed the bar on the international stage, which is a tad ironic considering that the only sign that advertises the venue is a small plaque on Queen Street. Be prepared to stumble out to bright (grey) skies and realise that you’re absolutely blootered at 4pm.

16A Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JE; bramblebar.co.uk

Gleneagles Townhouse 

The trendsetting, younger sibling to The Gleneagles Hotel in Auchtarader, Gleneagles Townhouse represents Edinburgh as the city at its most contemporary. Beautiful, grandly opulent, and yet surprisingly comfortable, The Spence bar will make you feel right at home whilst you delve into locally sourced Scottish delicacies and sample some of the finest cocktails north of the border. You’ll be safe in the hands of the staff, too, because Gleneagles recently won accolades at the Art of Hospitality award from the World’s 50 Best Hotels.

39 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh EH2 2AD; gleneagles.com/townhouse