This is just a fraction of what you see when you climb the stairs from Waverley station and look around. In every direction there are more buildings, structures and monuments, like some delirious CGI sequence in a fantasy movie, except that it’s real. Edinburgh is magnificent. It also gave me The Fear: I tried to find the right bus stop for route 42 but felt somewhat overwhelmed and had to go and have a sandwich and a pot of tea in an Arts Cafe to settle myself down. I never did find the bus stop: I ended up walking to Smith’s Guest House, but it wasn’t too far.
Perhaps because I’m basically a flatlander – I once got dizzy looking at a photograph of a workmate’s vertiginous hometown in the Bolivian Andes – I didn’t really warm to Edinburgh the way I did to London. It was fascinating and beautiful, though, and the restaurants were remarkable. On the first night I looked at the good eating guide in my room and found the nearest place to my B&B. It was the New Bell, at which I had a three-course blowout (Shetland mussels, venison, local cheese platter, all delicious). The second night I tried the next closest, Pataka’s, an Indian/Bengali place with a Charles Rennie Mackintosh theme: equally good. A couple of months before the trip, some expat Aussie chef in London had bagged Sydney’s restaurant scene as being complacent and tired; such is the self-confidence of my native town that this was front-page news. After Edinburgh, I could see what he meant.
The Castle is a bit of a tourist trap, but it’s a beautiful tourist trap with excellent views. Holyrood Palace, at the other end of the Royal Mile, was more my style, especially the old Abbey, and Mary Queen of Scots’ bedchamber. It was at the cafe at Holyrood that I discovered Innis & Gunn oak-aged ale, one of the best beers I have ever tasted, even allowing for the fact that I had quite a thirst on me by that stage.