Edinburgh might not be the sunniest city in the world (who are we kidding?) but there are some things you can do to make you feel like you’re in the Med (with a hefty amount of imagination).
If you’re still new to the city or are visiting this summer, Morgan Cranch recommends the following 10 ways to enjoy the sunshine in Edinburgh.
1. Go for a BBQ or picnic
First thing’s first, head to the Meadows, just ten minutes’ walk from the Old Town, and in close proximity to local supermarkets (handy for stocking up for a barbecue). It’s a great place to meet friends and family. Just remember to tell people the right location. “We’re between the main pathway and that other pathway,” is probably not going to be enough. Just take a look at this map first, for barbecue sites in the Meadows and the adjacent Bruntsfield Links.
If it’s a picnic you’re after, and you are shopping in town, take a rest in Princes Street Gardens, lay a blanket down on the grass and enjoy a picnic – just take notice at what time the gardens close at night. Another great spot a short walk north of the centre is the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in Inverleith.
2. Find a beer garden
When those long balmy nights arrive (take them as they come) you may want to consider having a tipple in a place with an adjoining beer garden and take full advantage of the weather. Edinburgh is home to its fair share; for a relaxed and tasty pub lunch head to the Cumberland Bar (1-3 Cumberland Street) in the New Town, which is great for a work lunch as you can book ahead. For cocktails, craft beers and wine, head to Indigo Yard in the West End (7 Charlotte Lane) and relax in their courtyard. For a more relaxed vibe head to the Old Town favourite, Pear Tree House (38 West Nicholson Street) – with a huge beer garden, you are bound to catch some rays. Or while the night is young, head to the livelier Three Sisters (139 Cowgate) or The Outhouse (12A Broughton St Ln). A new addition in Stockbridge is recently reopened Raeburn Hotel, which boasts a garden and outdoor terrace.
Find more Edinburgh beer gardens on the map in this guide.
3. Cool down with an ice cream (of course)
With the recently opened West Coast favourite Nardini’s (1 Merchiston Place) and long-standing and local institution S. Luca’s (16 Morningside Road), Southsiders are really spoilt for choice. With the former offering goliath-sized sundaes and on the latter serving the irresistible Irn-Bru sorbet, whichever you choose you’ll be on to a winner.
4. Hit the beach
Even though it’s Scotland, and you probably don’t want to swim in the freezing water, if you do get cravings to hit the beach, Portobello is the place to go, and it’s easily reachable from the city via bus. If it’s not quite Balearic temperatures, you can visit the Portobello Swim Centre: go for a swim then relax in the city’s only authentic Turkish Baths.
5. Grab a frozen yoghurt
For a healthy and light choice, pop by Meadowberry (100 Bruntsfield Place) for a delicious frozen yoghurt. There’s a choice of natural, the flavour of the day, or both (£4.50 for a medium serving with three toppings). You can have it topped with fruit (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries), gummy bears or chocolate if you’re feeling a bit naughty – there are plenty of nibbles to sprinkle over. You can then drizzle with many choices of toppings, including agave syrup. Looks pretty and it’s good for you: what more do you need?
6. Try your hand at vintage golf
Play a round of golf on the world’s oldest short-hole golf course; Bruntsfield Links (from April to September). If you didn’t bring any clubs or you don’t own any, you can hire them from The Golf Tavern – £6 can get you a pitching wedge, putter and ball hire and even a pint.
7. Dine al fresco
As soon as the sun comes out, restaurants all around Edinburgh are propping up the parasols and re-arranging outdoor seating for patrons to sit with huge sunglasses propped on their noses. There are plenty of places to dine al-fresco in the capital, starting at a New Town institution, with the Garden Café (Rose Street) at The Dome. A favourite for its intimate dining and the terrace garden overlooking Victoria Street head to Maxies Bistro (5B Johnston Terrace) for lunch or dinner. For friends in high places, head to the James Thompson owned Tower Restaurant (Chambers Street) that sits above the National Museum of Scotland for picturesque views of the Castle and a bit of fine dining.
8. Enjoy a milkshake
For a year now the Grassmarket has been home to Mary’s Milk Bar (19 Grassmarket), a gelato and milkshake spot that celebrates all things retro and creamy from a bygone era. Mary makes all the delicious flavours of gelato you can taste in store and she also runs Gelato Tasting Evenings on the first Friday of every month (£15 per person) where you can learn all there is to know about the art of making gelato (including a sneaky tasting or two).
9. Head to the hills
Walk to gather your thoughts, stretch your legs or to catch a view of Edinburgh from a height that on a ‘normal’ day would be impeded by clouds. As a city of seven hills, Edinburgh has an abundance of walks to choose from. From the most popular – Arthurs’ Seat (Holyrood Park), central to the city and easy to walk to from the Canongate, the climb up the dormant volcano gives a 251m above sea-level views of the city and coastline. A great track on the Southside of the city, for a Sunday stroll, and popular with local dog owners, Blackford Hill (Hermitage of Braid) also offers magnificent views without the heavy climb of Arthur’s Seat.
The Pentlands (Pentland Hills Regional Park) is an area of higher hills located south of the city, which afford the best views of Edinburgh, Fife and – on a clear day – far beyond. For a great walking trail, take the number 10 bus from the city to Bonaly, walk up Bonaly Road towards the hills, over the by-pass to Bonaly Country Park; the Torduff Water Walk starts here, a 3.2 km circular route that takes you up to the Victorian Engineered Torduff Reservoir.
For walking trail information take a look at www.walkhighlands.co.uk/lothian
10. Quench your thirst
Again with the token healthy inclusion, for juice bar fans, head up the road to the Hula Juice Bar (101 – 105 West Bow). Here it is tropical by name and tropical by nature, and you can order a freshly squeezed juice or smoothie from a list of fruity concoctions. You can even get an added dose of vitamins and nutrients from their list of Hula Organic Boosters (60p each). For an extra health kick from anything from an ‘energy booster’ to a ‘hangover cure and detox,’ they’ve got you covered.
Got your own tips for enjoying the sunshine in Edinburgh?
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Check out more Edinburgh guides:
• 10 of the best bars in Edinburgh
• Edinburgh Restaurants Guide – read the reviews and book tables
• A fashion lover’s guide to Edinburgh
• 5 of the best places for brunch in Edinburgh
• Coffee stops: 5 of the best places to refuel in Edinburgh
• 5 of the best cafés for cake in Edinburgh