Edinburgh deftly walks the line between charming town and moderately-sized city. It’s the second largest city in Scotland behind Glasgow, with just under 500,000 inhabitants. Known for it’s incredible medieval layout and Reformation-era architecture (it’s telling that the part of the city called the “New Town” was built in the 18th century), as well as Fringe, the world’s largest annual arts fair, this is a city with a lot to offer and an ever-evolving profile that remains grounded in their visible history.
The Scottish and Scandinavian styles have a lot in common, though I would say that the Scottish tend to embrace darkness in a more profound way, both physically and spiritually. While Scandinavian design is often about finding ways to enhance what little light we have, the Scottish seem to revel in the lack of light – there’s a more haunted quality to Edinburgh than you would find in Copenhagen or Stockholm.
It’s possible to enjoy both traditions, which is why we’re bringing you “Scandi in…Edinburgh,” your short guide to the places with a bit of crossover:
The crossover between Nordic and Scots finds its apex with Timberyard. Minimalist warehouse space, wood-and-light interior, varied use of both dill and sea buckthorn in recipes – these are all recognizable Scandi elements. It is also, however, very much a place with its own vision that fits well into the Edinburgh landscape. The crackling hearth in the centre of the main room and the tartan blanket draped over the couch add a touch of Scottish cosiness. There’s a backroom larder with homemade preserves and courtyard garden that supplies herbs, very much in line with the New Nordic tradition.
The food itself is mindblowingly good while staying fairly simple. Yes, the dishes look gourmet, but at its core this is hearty food. The trout, in particular, was a knock-out.
…And let’s not even get in to the cocktails. Okay, we can get in to the cocktails (and to be frank, I DID get in to the cocktails). Unexpected flavors, excellent and local liquors, an experimental mixologist…there’s no shortage of reasons to try one from the menu. Even if you can’t get a dinner reservation, I highly recommend you stop in for a mixed drink.
Shortbread is beloved throughout the UK, so it was only a matter of time before someone turned Walker’s on its head and elevated the dessert to something extra-special. Jennifer, who moved to Scotland from the USA, is the owner and only employee of the small business doing just that. When she began baking in 2010, she was working in a fudge shop and only took her goods to weekend markets around the city. In 2013, she opened her shop just off the Royal Mile. Stepping inside is like sticking your head through a slice of shortbread; the smell is divine. And there’s Jennifer, baking the hundreds of cookies she sells daily, with fresh updates like lemon poppyseed sandwiches with lemon cream filling, chai latte and chocolate almond. She also sells other treats like chocolate bark and homemade peanut butter cups, both of which are delicious.
Affordable at 1 GBP per cookie (they’re big), this is a real Scottish treat made with a modern twist.
But what about the scotch?! You’re probably asking, shaking your head. Well, sure, we could have gone that route. But gin is having a real moment, with distilleries seemingly popping up every other day, so we thought we’d give this one a try. As our tour guide pointed out, “with whiskey or rum, you need to wait years to see if you’ve got a good product. With gin, it’s nearly immediate.” And having tasted Edinburgh Gin, I can tell you immediately that it is delicious.
Edinburgh Gin is housed within Spencerfield Spirits, which also makes Sheep Dip, Pig’s Nose and The Feathery whiskies. They produce a few kinds of gin as well as a range of gin liqueurs. Their tour includes a history of gin in Scotland and around the world, as well as a tasting. The tasting is serious business: two large shots of their speciality gins, a normal-sized G&T with their basic gin, three small shots of their liqueurs and a small bottle of gin to take away. In essence: you get to learn a lot, then instantly forget it all.
There are an almost endless number of places to look out over Edinburgh. In most cases, you can just go, “hey look over there!” and you’ll have an eyeful of something beautiful. Some of the best viewing spots are:
- Colton Hill
- Arthur’s Seat
- Edinburgh Castle
- Scott’s Monument
Do you have a favorite spot in Edinburgh? Tell us about it in the comments!