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City Profile: Edinburgh

The mere mention of Scotland typically elicits images of kilts, bagpipes, haggis and an impenetrable brogue.  Although easily eclipsed by Glasgow in terms of population, Edinburgh has always been the capital of Scotland and is the most popular destination for those attracted by its booming financial services industry and the vibrant culture and arts scene.

20 December 2016

Scottish people have a worldwide reputation for warmth, friendliness and a fun loving zest for life.  Whether it’s the millions of visitors who travel to Scotland every year or those who come to live permanently, so many of them talk of the genuine kindness and welcoming hospitality of the Scots. The Scottish love people and they like to make others feel at home. You’ll find an enthusiastic, “door is always open”, mentality.

One thing you will find when in Edinburgh is that your lifestyle and possibly even your mood, might become weather dependent. One element that people can struggle to adapt to is the frequent grim weather, when days are short, sunlight becomes sparse, and high winds and rainfall can make for melancholy moods.  But this can also make for perfect castle viewing weather and with several festivals though the spring and summer, including the legendary Edinburgh Art Festival to look forward to in August, paired with an impressive selection of pubs to help take the nip out of the winter air, you can embrace a high quality of life in this medium-sized metropolis year ‘round.

Scottish sights….

As a city intimately intertwined with the surrounding landscape and infinitely fond of outdoor space, life in the summer sunshine is active and inspiring. Whether residents are absorbing the creative energy that flourishes during the city’s internationally recognized festivals, or simply enjoying a classic picnic in the Princes Street Gardens or on one of the rocky outcrops of Arthur’s Seat, there is plenty of opportunity to be active and engaged.

Edinburgh is a beautiful and historic city full of exciting places to explore and no shortage of spectacular annual events to enjoy. The city is also well-connected with the rest of the UK, making day trips to other parts of scenic Scotland very accessible.

The town center remains dominated by Edinburgh Castle, situated atop Castle Rock and perched above the medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town. To the west lies the West End district, which includes the financial district.

The first must see should be Edinburgh Castle.  This old and magnificent fortress was once home to kings and queens and has been involved in numerous historic conflicts. A center point of the city, the castle, built upon volcanic rock, definitely deserves your attention for at least a full afternoon.  The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Royal Family’s official residence in Scotland. This stunning property is situated at the foot of Arthur’s Seat in the midst of Holyrood Park.  You can visit the Queen’s galleries, as well as the oldest section of the palace, Holyrood Abbey, all year except when the Royal Family is in residence.

Another thing to add to the list of things to see is the Royal Mile.  Running a mile from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace, the Royal Mile is a favorite spot for locals and visitors. Lining the streets of the Royal Mile is an eclectic mix of tourist shops, pubs and historical attractions.  The John Knox House was assumed to have been the one-time home of the famous Protestant reformer.  Explore the well-preserved home while learning about Mary Queen of Scots and the historic conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants.

After Edinburgh Castle, the city’s second focal point seen from anywhere is Arthur’s Seat, the main peak of the group of hills in Holyrood Park. The climb to the top is relatively quick and the effort is richly rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the city and beyond.  Set in the beautiful Inverleith area, are Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens.  Here you will have the chance to stroll through beautifully maintained gardens and explore contemporary art exhibits.

If you’re a fan of ghost stories, you will need to visit Mary King’s Close. These alleyways are the subject of many myths and legends about ghosts, murders and plague victims.  Any fan of the paranormal will want to put this at the top of their list.

Eating in Edinburgh….

When you think of the food, the first thing you probably think of is Haggis. Sure, there will be plenty of Haggis to try since it is the national dish, but you can also find a great deal of other local dishes to try that you might favor more than Haggis. Black Bun, for example, is actually a fruit cake made with raisins, currants, mixed peel, almonds, brown sugar and ginger. Hotch-Potch is a thick soup made from broth made by marrow and contains vegetables. Or you can try some Bannocks. These savory oatcake biscuits are made barley and oat flour and traditionally cooked on a griddle.

As there are dozens of dairies across Scotland, it’s not surprise that the Scots also can take credit for some cheeses, like Caboc. This is Scotland’s oldest cheese and is a very smooth cheese made into log shapes and rolled in oatmeal. Scots also are known for Crowdie and Arran Cheddar.

Scotland’s coastline is home to thousands of species of fish and shellfish. Scotland is now one of the largest seafood producers in Europe and the third largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon in the world. Scottish langoustines are also quite popular and account for two thirds of the world’s supply. 

The Scottish also have a couple desserts they are known for. Take for example, Scottish Tablet. This is a confection that has the look of fudge in a sense. Made from sugar, condensed milk and butter, it will surely satisfy your sweet craving. Another popular Scot dessert is Cranachan. You will find this treat typically made from a mixture of whipped cream, honey and fresh raspberries, with toasted oatmeal, soaked overnight in a little bit of whisky.

Much like Ireland, whisky is quite popular and has become increasingly so in recent years. Scotland is known for producing high quality whisky. Many distilleries exist across Scotland with the most famous of which are Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. Whisky actually accounts for 80% of the country’s food and drink export market.

Spoken like a true Scot….

The official language spoken in Scotland, is English. Though, there is also Gaelic and some do still know the language enough to speak it. Scottish Gaelic does differ from Gaelic you will hear in Ireland. Though some Scots do know Gaelic, you will get by just fine speaking English. Learning Scottish Gaelic is not necessary, however, if you do want to try a little Gaelic, below are some greetings to get you started with impressing the locals.

Hello: halo
What is your name?: dè an t-ainm a th ‘ort?
My name is: Is e seo m’ainm
Good morning: Madainn mhath
How are you?: ciamar a tha thu?
What time is it?: dè an uair a tha e?
Good evening: feasgar math
Please: mas e do thoil e
Thank you: Tapadh leat

As with most languages, it’s easier to learn audibly.  So its definitely recommended to purchase an audio program to help with the correct pronunciations.

Embracing Edinburgh…..

This is just a mere start to all the great things Edinburgh can offer.  As Boston is to New York, so is Edinburgh to London.  You might say that  Edinburgh is London’s smaller, more genteel cousin.  Most would call it quaint. No matter what you call it, you will undoubtedly find yourself submersed in nothing but friendly, smiling faces, welcoming you into their homes as if you were a Scot yourself.

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