Living in: Edinburgh
Edinburgh, Scotland (Jeff Overs/BBC)
The capital city of Scotland is the second-most visited location in the UK (after London), thanks to a beautiful medieval castle, Georgian streets, green parkland and summer festivals that give the town an energetic buzz. These same attributes make the city -- one of the most cultural and historic spots in the country -- a unique place to live.
What is it known for?
Arriving by train is the best way to enter Edinburgh, not for the station itself, but for the view when you come out of it, with the city’s beautiful and dramatic skyline high above you. Edinburgh is home to two Unesco World Heritage Sites separated by the steep-sided greenery of the Princes Street Gardens: the Old Town with its imposing Castle Rock and Royal Mile, and the New Town, just a bit younger than Old Town, with a posh Georgian grid laid out in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Edinburgh’s grey sandstone architecture can seem austere, but the city is organized on a very human scale. It is a small metropolis, easily navigated and explored from landmarks such as the much-maligned Scottish Parliament building and Arthur’s Seat, an 800-foot high lump of eroded volcano in Holyrood Park overlooking the Castle and palace, down Leith Walk to the steel blue waters of the Firth of Forth, where the River Forth meets the North Sea.
The city’s population swells every summer when the Edinburgh Festival season takes place, from the original Fringe Festival (the largest arts festival in the world) to the Military Tattoo (celebrating martial music and bands) to the International Book Festival, drawing actors, comedians, authors, military drum bands and performers of all stripes to town. The days are long in the summer, and the sun does not set until after 10 pm. A number of residents rent out their houses or flats during festival season to make extra cash.
“The literary festival means my favourite authors show up on my doorstep,” said Gemma Elwin Harris, a former London resident and editor of the forthcoming Big Questions from Little People (Ecco HarperCollins). “And the International Science Festival in March is brilliant for kids. There is always something happening, but you can nearly always get a seat at the top restaurants.” You can indulge in the cuisine of Michelin-starred chefs like Martin Wishart and Tom Kitchin at The Honours and The Kitchin, but Edinburgh has humbler delights, like some of the best fish and chips around.
Where do you want to live?
The gracious Georgian townhouses and squares of New Town are expensive sought-after properties. On the city’s Southside, residential areas include Marchmont near the University of Edinburgh campus, Bruntsfield and the Grange. These are a draw for families looking to be close to the centre while still affording a reasonably-sized home. “Bruntsfield is a little bit posher, with a high street filled with French bakeries and lovely little shops,” said Elwin Harris. “You are right on the Meadows [a large public park] and Arthur’s Seat is nearby.”
Near Bruntsfield, Polwarth is attracting families who want to stretch their pound. In the West End, Murrayfield is popular, and while the district of Leith has definitely come into its own down by the waterfront, the area around Leith Links is getting more attention. “For commuters, coastal villages like Aberlady and North Berwick in East Lothian are very sought after,” said Jamie Macnab, director, Residential at Savills Edinburgh estate agents.
It is very easy to get out of town and many Edinburgh residents do, especially in summer. The beaches are only a 45-minute drive away in picturesque villages such as Gullane on the Firth of Forth and Elie in Fife, which are pleasantly uncrowded. Golf lovers also have their pick of the links and Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, is less than an hour away by car or train. The Highlands and lochs like Ness and Lomond can be reached in two or three hours, while the Scottish Border counties, heaven for walkers, are roughly an hour away by car.
There are frequent trains to London, the fastest of which takes around four and a half hours, but you can also fly, which takes about an hour. The Edinburgh Airport has numerous flights to many regional UK and European airports, as well as to New York.