Going Local in Edinburgh

by Keith Savage · 9 comments

Edinburgh's Farmer's Market

I’m pleased to present this first guest post on Traveling Savage by the Grantourismo duo of Lara Dunston and Terence Carter. Believe me, they love Edinburgh as much as I do. It was the final stop on their year-long grand tour, a travel experiment in living like locals and traveling more slowly, more sustainably, and more experientially. Lara and Terence believe the key to doing this is to stay in holiday rentals rather than hotels – they stayed in a whopping 36 rentals over 12 months and admit that they’re now finding it hard to stay in hotels.

Like myself, Lara and Terence spent their time in Edinburgh in an apartment, also provided by HomeAway Holiday Rentals. When the couple found out I was heading to Edinburgh for a few weeks, they offered some tips for “going local” that they had learned from their chilly two-week stay there in late January. Take it away Lara!

1.Stay in a local neighbourhood – get out of the tourist zone and choose a holiday rental in a regular neighbourhood, such as Stockbridge, rather than a hotel in the city centre. The accommodation will not only be cheaper but you’ll have more opportunities to meet locals in your building, in the local pubs, cafés, and shops, and even on the street.

Down Middle Meadows Walk

2. Buy the Local’s Guide to Edinburgh – this brilliant, locally produced guidebook published by Owen O’Leary introduces you to Edinburgh through the eyes of its locals and their favourite spots, many of them hidden gems that you won’t find in mainstream guidebooks.

3. Pick up a copy of The List – this is Edinburgh’s home grown version of Time Out magazine, which lists things to do in the city, the best places to eat and drink, gigs and events, where to shop, etc. They also produce a dedicated eating and drinking guide to the city, edited by local foodie Donald Reid, a font of knowledge when it comes to Scottish cuisine.

4. Hit Edinburgh’s Farmer’s Market – visit this compact albeit excellent farmer’s market (Scotland’s largest), held beneath Edinburgh Castle, on Saturday morning. Before doing your shopping, stop at Stoats van for some scrumptious porridge (and buy some to take home), then, after you’ve filled your shopping bag with local organic produce, venison, and cheeses, devour a delicious pork roll.

Edinburgh's Farmer's Market

5. Make Porridge for Breakfast – this is Scotland’s quintessential breakfast, so after you’ve tried Stoats delicious porridge, try your hand at making your own oats at home. We share our secrets here.

6. Graze on Local Specialties – one of the beauties of staying in a vacation rental is that you don’t have to sneak food into your hotel room and devour it in one sitting because the mini-bar is too small to store it. You can drop into local stores, pick up some tasty treats, and take them home with pride. We bought haggis from butcher George Bower, seafood from fishmonger George Armstrong, and Scottish cheeses from I.J.Mellis. Just as fun as trying the food was chatting to the shopkeepers who were excited to see us enjoying their produce.

7. Slip into the Scotch Malt Whisky Society – while the Scotch Whisky Experience is excellent – we found it informative, fun, and engaging – it’s aimed squarely at tourists. Try to befriend a local who can sign you into the member’s only Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Donald Reid from The List (see 3. above) took us! Another way to get access is by booking a meal at the ground-floor restaurant. (TS: You can also get a day pass for £10 – see more here)

Browsing Edinburgh's Charity Shops

8. Shop the Charity Stores – Edinburgh appears to have the highest concentration of charity shops of any city we’ve visited in the world and shopping them is no longer something to be embarrassed about. On the contrary, this new breed of second-hand store is sleek and chic, with locked cases carrying collectible first edition books, shelves crammed with rare vinyl records, and racks of hip vintage clothes. They’re all over Edinburgh, but Stockland’s high street is lined with them; see our favourites here.

9. Walk the Water of Leith – visitors to Edinburgh spend most of their time hiking up and down the Royal Mile and moseying around the city centre, but we loved to wander the Water of Leith, a quiet leafy waterside path where locals jog, take romantic strolls, and walk their dogs. Our favourite stretch is from the Botanic Gardens to the quaint Dean Village.

10. Soak up Some Storytelling – Edinburgh has a rich history of literature and poetry, evidenced by the monuments to authors and poets around the city, the popularity of the annual Burns Night Suppers, and the full programme of activities, including storytelling, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Get along to an event, lecture or course while you’re in the city for a wonderful insight into local culture.

Owen O'LearyNo Gravatar September 10, 2013 at 3:50 PM

Hi Keith,

Thanks a million for including The Locals’ Guide in your recommendations. I only just spotted it now. We’re launching The Locals’ Guide to Glasgow in November so do let me know your address and I’ll pop one in the post.

All the best


Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 10, 2013 at 11:29 PM

Hi Owen,

Glad you noticed this mention of your guide, though I should point out that this was a guest post written by Lara Dunston. As much as I would love to see your guide, I think she’s the one who deserves it.

Roy | cruisesurfingzNo Gravatar April 25, 2011 at 4:40 PM

Great post. Am a big believer in supporting local.

AnthonyNo Gravatar April 25, 2011 at 4:30 PM

I want to hit that farmers market as well. I go weak in the knees if I know there is a farmers market in town. It has been to long between markets for me. All the food tasting and talking to the farmers direct. Gotta Love it! 😉

Keith SavageNo Gravatar April 26, 2011 at 2:56 AM

Edinburgh’s was cool because they had some chefs showing folks how to cook the vegetables and proteins available at the market.

KatherinaNo Gravatar April 25, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Anywhere I go, I try to hit the local farmer’s market – it’s a great excuse to start chatting with locals and vendors and soak up some of their knowledge. Noted this list for the next time I’m around!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar April 26, 2011 at 2:55 AM

You’re right, Katherina, and Edinburgh’s farmer’s market was pleasantly compact compared to what I’m used to in my home city of Madison. I enjoyed some warm porridge with jam one cold Saturday morning in March at the Edinburgh farmer’s market.

lara dunstonNo Gravatar April 25, 2011 at 9:11 AM

Thanks, Keith! Loved your posts from your last trip and can’t wait to read your stories from your next trip!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar April 26, 2011 at 2:54 AM

My pleasure – thanks for the great tips!

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