“Edinburgh isn’t so much a city, more a way of life… I doubt I’ll ever tire of exploring Edinburgh, on foot or in print.” - Ian Rankin
Grab your coat, gloves and hat and discover a city quite unlike any other. Edinburgh is perpetually beautiful, but there is something about the city at Christmas that makes it rather incredible. From the ancient architecture, magical skyline and ever-brisk chill in the air, there is something for couples, families and solo travellers alike to enjoy.
Edinburgh, in winter time, is simply magical. We might be biased but we don’t think you will find anywhere quite as special as Edinburgh at Christmas.
Let us take you on a tour.
Princes Street is where Hamilton & Inches first began. In 1866, our doors opened at number 88, overlooking the old Nor Loch which is now transformed into the lush, green Princes Street Gardens.
Twenty years prior, the Sir Walter Scott Monument had been erected nearby; a huge, striking tower, now at the very centre of Christmas in Edinburgh. It was soon followed by the imposing Balmoral Hotel which dominates Edinburgh’s skyline and lies at the heart of our Hogmanay, or New Year, celebration. At the west of Princes Street, lies the exciting new Johnnie Walker Visitor Experience; fresh life breathed into an iconic building.
Although technology has changed the landscape of the street, with trams silently gliding past and shop facades becoming ever increasingly glossy, Princes Street is the geographical centre of our city – lying between the old and the new. It is where we enjoy our traditional German markets, bursting with Glühwein, Raclette and attractions. It is where busy shoppers come to find last minute gifts or to simply admire the Castle – that view never gets old.
Top Pick: Enjoy a well-deserved Christmas shopping break at Brasserie Prince in the Balmoral. The hotel enjoys many famous guests and was recently the star of a Channel 5 documentary.
The New Town
In 1952, we moved our business five minutes north of the city to the luxury surrounds of Edinburgh’s New Town. Although George Street runs parallel to Princes Street, there is a noticeable shift in architecture, landscape and atmosphere. We sit at the top of a hill, enjoying views towards Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle but also down the cascading streets that run to the Firth of Forth. The New Town is where people come to get that special little gift or to enjoy a Christmas cocktail in a glamorous bar.
Top Pick: With a Christmas display to rival our own, there is no better place to enjoy Christmas food and drink than at Continis. Run by Edinburgh-based dynamic duo Victor and Carina, the restaurant offers a welcome escape from the bustle of George Street. Guests can enjoy breathtaking interiors and impeccable service. Enjoy their famous Contadino pasta and fresh produce often sourced from their own incredible garden.
The Old Town
For all the glamour of the New Town, it is matched undoubtedly by the wild beauty of the old. The ancient, cobbled streets and closes that run off the Royal Mile are packed with centuries of history and are the perfect place to enjoy a romantic Christmas break. From the collection of independent shops to the world-renowned Witchery Restaurant and hotel, this gothic-inspired section of the city is no better explored than at Christmas time.
Top Pick: Spend a day discovering the twelve closes of the Old Town. Each accessible from the Royal Mile, they offer a hidden little part of the city, from mediaeval architecture to award-winning restaurants. One such close is slightly more famous than the rest, Mary King’s. Find out why when you next visit.
If the history of the Old Town isn’t enough, then why not explore the ancient Arthur’s Seat and Crags? The remains of an extinct volcano that erupted 340 million years ago, Arthur’s Seat translates to “Àrd-na-Said” or “Height of Arrows”. Ask any romantic local and they will tell you it is named after King Arthur and, according to legend, is the site of the mythical Camelot.
What we do know is Arthur’s Seat and the nearby Crags offer some of the best views of the city and beyond.
If you are prepared to brave the cold, then the Royal Botanic Gardens at Inverleith is a spectacular place to spend with the family. Open daily, you can enjoy a series of beautiful landscapes; from the hidden Chinese Hillside to the immaculate rocky garden in the south.
Top Pick: Visit the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel (pictured above) near Arthur’s Seat. No one knows its construction date or purpose, but it is believed to be pre-1400s. It offers a fantastic vantage point down across Holyrood Palace and St Margaret’s Loch, created at the request of Prince Albert in 1856.
Hamilton & Inches has been part of Edinburgh for over 155 years and we continue to love a city that is as beautiful as it is fascinating. If you are planning a trip, please visit us at 87 George Street to discover a building packed full of its own history and a business like no other.