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7 unique experiences to enjoy in Edinburgh
- Scott Henderson
- 15 August 2017
From art deco moviegoing to artisan macarons, special experiences are always just around the corner in Auld Reekie
Culture, food & drink, theatre, comedy, adventure: Edinburgh is a city bursting at the seams with experiences for residents and visitors alike. Come August, when the circus literally comes to town in the form of the Edinburgh Festival with its 3500 shows and an urban population that doubles in size, you can't walk down a street without something special catching your eye.
Everywhere you turn there's a festival venue, an historic attraction, an artisanal shop, a Michelin-starred restaurant (seriously, we have four), and don't even get us started on the bars. Navigating this embarrassment of riches takes a mix of time, knowledge, skill and luck. Alternatively a carefully curated list of experiences should help you cut through the clutter and find something truly unique. Luckily for you we've team up with our friends at Glenfiddich to create just such a list...
Go climbing at an alien-inspired climbing centre
Sure, recommending Edinburgh International Climbing Centre Ratho, with its vertiginous climbing walls, the tallest in the world, seems the obvious choice. But we reckon for a real sense of the climbing community along with a hefty serving of creativity, you should head to the brand new Alien Bloc bouldering centre, just a five minute bus ride from Princes Street and equally walkable. Its design is inspired by the classic video game Asteroids and it's a playground for your mind as much as your body, where the only boundary is your imagination. And because no rope is required, anyone can rock up and give it a go.
Wood-cooked meat with whisky aperitif at OX184
Tucked away on the subterranean Cowgate, sits a bar and restaurant that's become a bit of a late-night dining destination. With its industrial-themed interior, oak-fired oven forged by Rosewell blacksmith G Fitzsimmons & Son, and menu that is an unapologetic meat feast, OX184 is one of the city's most buzzing eateries. Not to be outdone, the bar features a bona fide whisky library (85 whiskies strong, including 21 and 15-year-old Glenfiddich single malts, just sayin') and tasting area created in collaboration with Royal Mile Whiskies, plus craft beers from Scotland's Tempest Brewing Co. Truly a meat and whisky lovers paradise.
Art deco movie-going with sofas
Mark Ashmore (@future_artists) on Instagram: "The #best #cinema I've ever been too, and I've been to the alamo draft house in #austin #texas…"
While nearly every other city in the world has seen their independent cinemas close as the multiplexes rose, Edinburgh remarkably still plays host to three classic venues. The Filmhouse's specialist projectors can show 70mm prints from The Sound of Music to Dunkirk and the Cameo dates back to 1914 when it was the King Cinema, but The Dominion is a slice of old Hollywood. Built in 1938, this Streamline Moderne cinema is art deco movie-going at its finest, with staff wearing tartan ties and waistcoats to maintain a classy atmosphere. Owned by the same family since its inception, four screens furnished with sofas, demanding you kick your feet up and snuggle, keep locals coming time and again. Who needs IMAX when you've got a sofa and a hotdog?
Learn how to make macarons with Mademoiselle Macaron
Laura Crawford (@thelikelylady) on Instagram: "Catch up with @littlethings_lb and @elevatormusik_ (we miss you @laurenella1990!) ☕️ . .…"
From chocolatiers like Edward & Irwyn in Morningside to specialist tweed tailors like Walker Slater on Victoria Street, Edinburgh's artisans run the gamut. We're going to single out a recommendation that's more Le Trocadéro than Tollcross, Mademoiselle Macaron. Trained at the Alain Ducasse cookery school in Paris, owner Rachel Hanretty has cornered the local market in macarons; no need for imports, she's supplying the local Harvey Nics. Sample a range that includes everything from the Scottish Whammy to Innis & Gunn and Hendricks Gin flavours, or learn how to make them with a lesson from the pâtissier herself.
36 holes of golf in the city
Barney Stevens (@barney.stevens) on Instagram: "Mornings in Edinburgh are the most beautiful thing"
When we say a 36-hole golf course in the city, we mean it. The Bruntsfield links is believed to be one of the oldest courses in Scotland, which basically means it's one of the oldest in the world, and this short hole course is just a 10-minute stroll from Edinburgh Castle. In fact, you could probably hit the 17th hole from the ramparts. It's free to play if you bring your own pitcher and putter, and 37th hole The Golf Tavern (est. 1456) is something of an institution itself. If you prefer an al fresco beverage, Drinkmonger across the road boasts one of the best selections of craft beer in Edinburgh.
Enjoy the best Mexican street food this side of the Atlantic
EL CARTEL (@elcartelmexicana) on Instagram: "Open in 5 mins! 📸❤️ @talorgilchrist_ . . #repost #mondaymotivation #feast #dontholdback #bombers…"
It's easy to recommend fine dining experiences in Edinburgh, heck the city has more Michelin starred restaurants than any UK city outside of London, and there's no shortage of excellent chefs whose menus won't break the bank and boast strong sustainable practices. But for something completely different, bursting at the seams with atmosphere, look no further El Cartel Casera Mexicana. This is authentic street food of the highest order, with dishes served tapas-style where sharing isn't just caring, it's the smartest way to work through as many dishes as possible. Wash it down with a frozen cocktail and homemade sorbet. There's quite literally no other venue like it in Scotland.
A Fringe show that's also a bar
Christian Kelty (@joesnycbar) on Instagram: "Gabriel opening it up to the room. #joesnycbar #improv #immersivetheatre #edfringe"
We couldn't leave you without one Fringe recommendation, but it being the Fringe, weird, wonderful and unique experiences are par for the course. So how about some immersive theatre where not only are you part of the show, but you can even order a drink from one of the actors. Joe's NYC Bar is a 3D theatre experience without the VR goggles. The show starts in the lineup before transporting you to a Big Apple watering hole, complete with live music, where the patrons are players and the audience are not-quite-so-background extras.