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.
The property market in Scotland has been weak since 2009, but Edinburgh has
been the most resilient in the country. “The economy here is more robust than
people think,” Macnab said. “And 2012 has seen a significant uplift in the rate
of sales.” Buyers should be aware that the procedure to purchase property is
different than in England, and it is recommended that you have a Scottish
solicitor represent you. Most sellers ask for offers over a certain price, a
number they think will make the property attractive to buyers, but the final
agreed-on price is often around 20% higher. The process is very transparent.
“If there is competition, sellers will set a closing date for bids,” explained
A two-bedroom flat in a good quality Georgian “tenement” or townhouse
goes for around £350,000 to £400,000 and will rent for £1,000 a month.
The List: listings, restaurant reviews,
events and cultural guide to goings on around town
Lothian Life: features, culture,
food and drink in the city and surrounding countryside
Edinburgh Whisky Blog: reviews,
tastings and where to imbibe