New Town, Stockbridge Market & secret gardens // Edinburgh walks

25 March 2014

 Last Sunday we took another walk around Edinburgh. The weather was too good to sit at home. Close to where we live we spotted another little car, just as last week.
 We walked through New Town, admiring the architecture again. Edinburgh New Town has such an interesting history. You can read more about it on the Internet, for example here.

In short: Edinburgh used to be no more than a single street with high rise buildings on both sides which extended along the Royal Mile, with a castle propped on a rock which used to be a volcano. 35 000 of both rich and poor lived in the same tenement buildings and the city suffered from poor sanitation, overcrowding, crime and bad smell, hence it was named The Auld Reekie.  In the second half of the 18th century it was decided that the city needed a new start and a boost of its economy and New Town was commissioned. At the time it was the biggest urban development of this scale in the world, carefully planned to attract the higher social classes and offer exclusivity and a respite from the overcrowded and non-glamorous Old Town. Auld Reekie was reborn as Athens of the North.

Today New Town remains quite exclusive too and is a host to many art galleries, but it also has a few pockets of family friendly neighbourhoods (such as Stockbridge and Cannonmills)  with one of the best cafes and cupcake shops in the city. The Eastern part is more bohemian, with independent art studios, hipster cafes and galleries in Broughton street (including my favourite Edinburgh Printmakers). If you're interested, Alexander McCall Smith writes an episodic novel set in Scotland Street in Edinburgh, which is a grotesque portrayal of Edinburgh stereotypes: a middle class mother from Stockbridge who sends her child to Italian lessons, yoga, saxophone classes and psychotherapy; a painter from Drummond Place who marries an anthropologist and an art student from Marchmont  who falls in love with a narcissistic estate agent. I'm a fan of his writing, it's both charming and very funny. Highly recommended if you're looking for some light reading. Anyway, we continued our walk towards Moray Place.
 J spotted this plate on one of the houses. Yep, Sherlock was born in Edinburgh too. See that piece of metal, almost like a hook bound to the floor of the stairs? It was used to tie horses at the entrance to town houses.
 I just love those types of buildings. Note how clean the sandstone is.
 A toucan in the window.

 Note the difference between the clean and soot-covered sandstones. That's how polluted Edinburgh was a long time ago.
 Most of the buildings in New Town extend two floors below the street level. People living on level -1 (or garden level as it is described by estate agents) have patios and access to wine cellars under the streets. Naturally.
 Moray place is one of the grandest addresses in Edinburgh, built on a plan of a circle with a massive private garden in the middle, accessible only to the flat owners and tenants living there. Note that some of the windows are blocked off - this was due to a window tax. People were willing to sacrifice the daylight to avoid paying taxes as blocking off a window would save a few shillings per year. The term "daylight robbery" is often linked to the window tax although now it's debatable as to whether it was really true [source].

 A peek into the secret garden.

 We then walked downwards towards Stockbridge.

 and passed the allotments on the left hand side. I wish I could have one of those. Apparently the waiting list is 10 years long..

 It was a Sunday so the Stockbridge market was on, selling all things local and organic including gourmet dog treats ( I kid you not).

 some lovely macaroons matching my lipstick. #win

 and tartan lingerie... #normal

 there was some street food too.

 and fresh mussels..

 Floatarium is a place where you can pay £30/h and float in a little capsule of water (for real).. It was featured in one of the McCall Smith's books too.
We then walked to Affogato for some Italian ice cream and back to our neck of the woods to try a new burger place. It was one of those perfect Edinburgh days with blue skies, ideal for a long walk.

Destination 2014

After thinking about it for what seems like ages, we finally booked tickets this morning. (here's a little photo quiz.. sorry to be such a tease)

Edinburgh walks // Architecture

19 March 2014

On Sunday after a long breakfast we headed off to wander around Edinburgh. We usually just walk in the residential areas, to discover how other Edinburghers live, to take pictures, discover new parts of the city. We started our walk in the West End and headed towards the Gallery of Modern Art (a must if you visit Edinburgh, even if you don't like modern art, it's a pretty perfect place to get away from the festival crowds and stop for an impromptu picnic).
 ^^ We stopped on Dean Bridge to take some pictures.

And walked on towards the Modern Art gallery. On the left hand side I spotted this tiny bay window.
On the grounds of the Modern Art gallery there were some interesting road signs.

After turning right we ended up in the Mews area - the Edinburgh New Town mainly consists of grand tenement buildings and town houses. Mews are small houses built at the back of the grand rows of sandstone buildings. They used to be servants' quarters in the past, and now serve as trendy properties perfect for quirky conversions. If we were ever going to stay in Edinburgh for good I would be saving my pennies for one of those houses. 

This is what a typical mews street looks like. With parking spaces being so scarce in Edinburgh having a garage is a bit of a luxury.
^^ I'm fascinated by modern mews conversions. This one was one of the best ones we've seen that day.

We walked on towards the Dean Village.
 Here someone built a glass conservatory. I bet they have a nice view from that floor. And it's warm in the winter. Perfect spot for reading books and sipping hot chocolate. Although J says it's probably freezing cold and draughty.
This house is slightly unusual, reminds me of case study houses from California. 
The Dean Valley itself is a place by the river which used to be a settlement famous for its mills. It's a little known place for tourists and one that we only dscovered after about 4 years of living in the city.  This house reminded me of New York brownstones.
 Some random window placements on the side of this tenement building.
And 18th century vs 20th century 
 I bet people living in the Dean Village can forget they live in the capital of Scotland, I mean, they live by the river, surrounded by trees, very little traffic, no cars or tourists, what's not to love. Some houses have staircases that lead all the way to the river banks. Normally we would walk to the St Bernard's well and Stockbridge but it looked as it was going to rain so instead we headed up to Dean Bridge.
 Where J spotted this sun clock.
 This building looks like straight from "Shakespeare in love", doesn't it? After a long walk we were desperate for some coffee and cake. Unfortunately our favourite Italian cafe Affogato was closed so we headed to Grass Market to try Lovecrumbs - arguably the best place in Edinburgh for cakes (they sell out pretty much every day).

It was a good afternoon. Reminded me of when I first arrived here and was quite taken by this grand city.
PS. Here is a link to our walk on Google maps including the route and places I mentioned in this post. I will add more Edinburgh walks this year.