No matter how long you live somewhere, it can take some time for you to explore it and discover all of its secrets and wonders. I’ve lived in Edinburgh for seven years now, and there are many places I’ve yet to see. Usually in August I spend a few days doing the Festival and taking in a few shows, until I feel like I’ve had enough of the leaflets and the shouting. I become more and more frustrated at the tourists blocking my way, assembling like herds of goats as I desperately try to get to work.
Eventually, I jump on a plane and depart for somewhere a bit quieter. Festivity can only last so long. This August, it’ll be as if my city exists in some kind of parallel universe: the Edinburgh it would have been, had it not been selected some 70 years ago to host the Festival. I’m re-exploring all the places I usually steer clear of in the August summer haze and challenging myself to do all the things I’ve always meant to do.
I’m hoping for sunshine and planning for showers, and in my plant-based plundering you may spot me with a pot of hummus and a pitta at some of the city’s best viewing spots.
(NOT THE) FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS
Head to the Meadows for a quiet, sunny picnic, or grab the barbecue and socially distance with some friends. Bonus points for spreading out where the great big tent usually lies. For added festivity, challenge your mates to bring along their best jokes, funniest tales, and cabaret inspired party tricks – you’ll hardly know it’s any different. For added joy, order an afternoon tea from Black Rabbit on Brougham. And if your day creeps into the evening, head to Sora Lella a few doors down for some vegan Italian food.
Take a run down the Royal Mile: in a standard Edinburgh August you’d never make it down here unscathed. Grab a massive baked tattie from The Baked Potato Shop at the top of Cockburn Street and march up the castle esplanade, enjoying the view uninhibited by steel seating. With all those fortifying carbs you’ll then be set to walk up Arthur’s Seat, usually avoided in the 8th month by anyone local.
GEORGE SQUARE GARDENS
The perfect location for a thought-provoking discussion. Last year I saw Akala give a talk at a nearby venue, and afterwards I’d have loved a peaceful garden to sit and reflect in. This year you can have just that.
Exchange your most challenging books with a friend and head here for a debate over a can of something chilled.
Although I’ve lived in Edinburgh for seven years, I’d never made it up even one of its peaks – which is awful, considering I regularly sip my coffee while looking out at them. To prepare for this article, I took a walk ten miles from home, uphill for two of them on Allermuir and Castlelaw Hill. And I can tell you, this city is breathtaking. I’m kicking myself for not doing it before. There are lots of different walks to try, so I’ll definitely be up there again soon.
CAMMO ESTATE AND RIVER ALMOND WALK – CRAMOND BRIG
Until recently, I had never heard of the River Almond Walk, and I had no idea that Cammo Estate, with its glamorous ruins and muddy pools, existed.
It’s next on my list for an adventure, and I will be marking it off this August for sure.
STOCKBRIDGE DUCK POND AND NEIGHBOURGOOD MARKET
I have been to the duck pond before, but I’ve never taken the time to come here with a good book. On my way, I’ll be sure to stop by Neighbourgood, Edinburgh’s first socially distanced and contactless market. Featuring many of our favourite food stalls and businesses, Neighbourgood can be found near The Grande Club in Stockbridge until the end of August. I’ve yet to visit and see what vegan delights I might find.
INNOCENT RAILWAY PATH
On a late summer day, take a stroll or a cycle along the Innocent Railway, a former horse-drawn railway line.
The path begins in Newington, passes Holyrood Park via Duddingston and Craigmillar, and ends in Brunstane in the east. Have a go and see if you can make it to Portobello for ice cream. And if it’s near the end of the month, look out for blackberries to forage.
This year, my considerably less festive city feels as if it’s been set aside just for the locals. So make it your time to walk, run, cycle, and enjoy it. It could be the most peaceful August you’ll ever experience. For myself, I’m going to lay in the grass and be grateful for the break, whilst also looking forward to next year and the return of Edinburgh’s unique brand of ‘normal’.