Top things to see in old and new Scotland
Scotland. A place where the landscapes are as wild as the weather. A muse for musicians, filmmakers and novelists, and home to eclectic cities embellished with cultural gems and boutique hotels. Edinburgh is crammed full of historic wonders just begging to be discovered. Yet it still has that down-to-earth charm that’ll keep you coming back. With a touch more grit, it’s no surprise Glasgow is one of the most cutting-edge cultural cities in Europe. Yet one thing they have in common is that they’ve remained rooted in their heritage while still adapting to the times and trends. Here’s how to strike a perfect balance for your city break.
Local living, Scot style
You’ve walked the Royal Mile and explored the castle. But elsewhere in Edinburgh, there’s more to explore in the tangle of Georgian streets. North of the centre and just a 15-minute walk from Princes Street, Stockbridge is a destination in its own right. It has a vibrant food and drink scene, with a Sunday market championing the best of the capital’s local produce. You’ll also be able to hunt for treasures in vintage shops, splash out in boutique jewellers, and pick up lunch goodies from artisan cheesemongers.
Glasgow wears its industrial heritage like a badge of honour. A revamped riverside and stately Victorian buildings stand testament to its past wealth, with Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s stunning designs cropping up in between. For city style on a smaller scale, head over to De Courcy’s Arcade. Here, you’ll find rows of bijou boutiques selling jewellery, homeware and vintage clothing. When you’re done, the arcade has a delightful tearoom made for weary shoppers.
Top Tip: For a sweeping Scottish skyline with fewer steps than Arthur’s Seat, climb up Calton Hill. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers stunning city views.
Old dram vs new gin
As you might expect, there’s more than a few places in Edinburgh to enjoy a traditional dram of whisky. For one of the finest, make for Queen Street, where The Scotch Malt Whisky Society recently opened its doors to non-members. Contemplate the complex tones of limited edition single malt, while watching the sun set over the Firth of Forth estuary.
While whisky is what Scotland is known for, its gins are fast gaining popularity. Despite being new to the scene, the Scots have proved they really know their angelica from their juniper, with Glasgow-brewed Makar sweeping up awards. Look out for it at the Virginia Gin Bar, the place to go for premium cocktails.
Modern art in its historical homes
Glasgow may be Victorian – but it’s anything but stuffy. At the heart of the city sits The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture. As Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s first public commission, it’s the perfect starting point for a tour of the architect’s works. Don’t let the Gallery of Modern Art’s historic exterior fool you. Inside, you’ll find current political statements and thought-provoking pieces created by local artists and communities.
Edinburgh’s also got more than its fair share of galleries. As well as being a welcome contrast to the bustling city centre just five minutes away, quaint Dean Village boasts art exhibitions, including the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art.
Music & theatre
It’s 25 years since Glasgow was named European Capital of Culture. But it’s gathered new titles, having been crowned ‘Europe’s secret capital of rock music’ by Time Magazine. David Bowie, Coldplay and Fleetwood Mac are just three of the many big names to have graced this city’s stages. But to see stars on the rise, drop into King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, which NME described as “Quite possibly the finest small venue in the world”.
As home to Edinburgh Festival, Scotland’s capital is another music and culture feast. The main venue, Summerhall, was the University’s old veterinary college before being transformed into an arts centre. Every August, the streets, pubs and halls around Summerhall draw people seeking comedy, drama and the avant-garde for the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Fest.