Edinburgh, Auld Reekie, a multicultural metropolis
Edinburgh, Auld Reekie, a multicultural metropolis (a small one at that compared to other major cities in Britain), a city with sole that oozes wisdom and self-assurance combined with a chic and student-like playfulness and carefree attitude. A city that provides an ever-emerging underground scene, in both senses of the word. Half of the goings on in the city seems to be underground; a good thing when you’re trying to escape the cold weather, discover a new band or immerse yourself in a good book in a historic pub; a bad thing when you’re desperate to make a phone call or check your emails.
Edinburgh is a city that’s big and happening enough to hold it’s own with the tourist trail – Hogmanay, Fringe Festival, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo to mention but a few. Yet small enough to retain it’s individuality and charm and is home to friendly, chatty and helpful people who on the whole seem to enjoy life and are proud of the city they call home. Here is a maps showing the hostels around Edinburgh that are in the Independent Hostel Guide.
Haggis Hostels in Edinburgh
HAGGIS HOSTELS (plural by name, single by nature) is a newborn to the world of budget accommodation. Located just off Princes Street in Ediniburgh and a stone’s throw from the prestigious Balmoral Hotel, Haggis is wedged in-between a ground floor pub, first floor social club and a top floor ‘other’ backpackers. Upon my arrival I admit, I had apprehensions that the noise coming from the floor above and floor below was going to rock the bunks at Haggis all night long. But alas, these buildings are built like Fort Knox and I didn’t hear a single sound other than my own breath.
The first obvious appeal of Haggis Hostels is that it’s bright, sparking clean, fresh (I should mention that the bathrooms give off a lovely aroma of apple) and a proper family run establishment. Allan and Chris, the two head honchos have had the talented hands of close family and friends to make the place what it is. From hand-made bunk beds to the spiffy privacy curtains featured in one of the cosier four-bed rooms, the hostel has a range of rooms on offer out of a total of six – you really get the feeling that this place is a carefully considered venture.
Guests are asked to recycle and respect the environment and to respect each other at that. There’s free Wi-Fi and computer facilities plus a good range of information about the city, tours, days out, nightlife etc. Yet the real source of knowledge comes directly from the hairy coos’ mouths; Chris and Allan. With proper Scottish accents they know Edinburgh inside out and it’s refreshing to be informed about the city’s abundance of up and coming restaurants for example, instead of just the booziest and cheapest pub-crawls on which to embark.
Other facilities worth mentioning and perhaps which set this place apart, are all the little extra features that are so simple yet make life ten times easier when travelling. Each bed comes with its own power point; a proper savior when you need to keep your mobile phone plugged in and close to you. There is a hairdryer available for hire, all women will be with me on this one, as even though we’re happy to assume backpacker status, we’re also still female! A full operating kitchen with ‘with two of everything’ so to avoid any frustrating delays at the toaster/kettle/microwave in the mornings. And speaking of mornings, the breakfast spread is a bit of alright at that. Porridge in a range of flavours (obviously a national dish of Scotland), pastries, breads and spreads are provided as well as all the tea and coffee you need for your day of exploration of Edinburgh ahead.
Must do in Edinburgh (Auld Reekie)
Grab a copy of Skinny Magazine (popular with the student crowd and available online and in hostels/cafes/pubs etc). Students and backpackers have one thing in common, which is being short of money. Therefore this publication makes for good reading for finding out inventive ways to survive on a budget, places to eat and drink, music gigs, and cultural events etc in Edinburgh and other Scottish cities.
Drink tea and stock up on ‘extra cushioning for one’s bottom half’ at one of the hip and utterly adorable Edinburgh (if not somewhat girly) teahouses. Eteaket (do try the chili rooibos brew), Loopy Lornas, The Chocolate Tree to name but a few.
Have a day off from the Royal Mile. There’s no denying that the Royal Mile is a must see in the city but Edinburgh has much more to offer than what the usual tourist trail provides. There’s a new flavour of IRN-BRU in town (the national drink second to whisky), and it’s called Leith. A district in it’s own right north of the city, Leith is an eclectic arrangement of historic waterfront, council estates, new-build apartments and typical high street stores and supermarkets. Harmoniously mixed with independent business, cafes, charity shops, fishmongers, barbers, pubs and a string of warehouse-come-award winning restaurants and swanky bars. Over recent years there’s been a lot of regeneration in the area and you”ll even see signs dotted along Leith Walk saying “I love Leith’s”. Or take a stroll through the district of Morningside, south west of the city centre and browse the handful of boutiques, lovely delis and cafes.
If you still want something a little closer to the Royal Mile, you could eat your way along the GrassMarket which, although is in the old town of Edinburgh, has a much more local feel to it. When you’re all haggis and whiskied out I recommend Petit Paris for some classic French dining complete with French staff and one of the most spoon-licking brulees I’ve ever had. Big enough for two people to share but well worth the tummy ache afterwards if you’re not the sharing-is-caring type.
Give it a miss
A visit to Ocean Terminal shopping centre in Leith. Despite being the largest shopping centre in Edinburgh it lacks shops, character and customers. Although, if you’re in need of a good massage while visiting the area, I recommend the Herbal Inn on one of the upper levels. I was left in lovely drooling state of sleep afterwards; it was that satisfying after a day on my feet.