West End, Edinburgh

Go beyond the Old Town’s tourist attractions for Georgian houses, broad avenues and local joints where well-known chefs make heroes of Scottish ingredients, says Neil Davey

Travel Time 1hrs 10min

Why go?

For many, if not most, visitors, Edinburgh is roughly centred on Princes Street and the Royal Mile. The former is the retail heart of the capital and where you’ll find fine landmarks from the Scott Monument to the Scottish National Gallery. The latter is home to Edinburgh’s mighty castle and lies at the heart of the Old Town, meaning the likes of Holyrood and Greyfriars Kirkyard are a short stroll away.

But break away from the whistlestop tours, give yourself time to wander, and you’ll find myriad delights, unexpected spaces, quirky shopping, dining and drinking and a far greater sense of what truly makes this city tick. Perhaps its true heart can be found in areas more familiar to locals (and, indeed, Fringe Festival goers hunting down more obscure venues) such as the evocatively named Grassmarket, Haymarket, Stockbridge, Morningside and Merchiston, plus the elegant Georgian houses, open squares and broad avenues of the New Town.

Built originally as an expansion of the New Town, the West End is a good place to start. One of the city’s most affluent areas, it spans the western end of Princes Street towards Murrayfield, a little north across the Water of Leith and, at its southern tip, either Waldorf Astoria The Caledonian hotel or to the foot of Castle Rock, depending on your definition of the West End. As a partial ‘bridge’ between the New Town and Old Town, the West End is thus also part of the city with Unesco World Heritage Site status.

What to do


Much of the West End is based around Easter Coates House, built in 1615 by John Byres,
Edinburgh’s city treasurer. The house still stands – its vast estate, however, was absorbed into the city after the estate was purchased around 1800 by a man named William Walker, who was seeking to develop part of the estate as an extension of the New Town. Shortly after, in 1808, architect Robert Brown devised a plan for West End village: as with London at that time, the west of the city was desirable to the wealthy as the wind carried dust and pollution eastward. These days, the West End covers the gamut of residential, office, retail, hospitality and the arts.

Where to stay

As one of the ‘border’ landmarks for the West End, Waldorf Astoria The Caledonian is very much part of the area’s history, built as a railway hotel for the now defunct (and mostly demolished) Princes Street Station. The hotel has undergone considerable refurbishment since the station was closed in the mid-Sixties, and is now an impressive mix of modern luxury and Victorian style. hilton.com

For something a little authentic-to-the- period, Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel sits right on the join between the West End and New Town, its classical Georgian exterior giving way to the all-mod-cons interior, complete with buzzy glass-topped central courtyard, and an inhouse restaurant, Baba, where Middle Eastern meets Scottish fare. kimptoncharlottesquare.com

The same can be said of the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa in Festival Square. Here, five-star luxury comes with a spa and pool that offer welcome recovery from the exploring on foot that is essential to get the best out of this beautiful city. Book into one of their Castle View Rooms and Suites for a vista that’s second to none. marriott.co.uk

Where to eat and drink

There’s interesting dining at all points in the hospitality spectrum across the West End. Masterchef: the Professionals finalist Dean Banks continues his steady culinary takeover of Edinburgh with The Pompadour at the Waldorf Astoria, offering a seasonally-changing, fine dining celebration of the Scottish larder. At Grazing by Mark Greenaway in the same hotel, the formerly Michelin-starred chef offers some great simple cooking (with the occasional fun, Michelin-esque flourish) to a menu of straightforward, crowd-pleasing classics from steaks to pies, where the well-sourced hero ingredient is always allowed to shine. deanbanks.co.uk markgreenaway.com

Edinburgh’s seafood is second to none and nowhere is this more evident than at Dulse, a friendly, neighbourhood joint. The local catch is celebrated both in a series of small sharing plates in the downstairs wine bar and slightly more elaborately upstairs in the seafood restaurant overseen by that very same Dean Banks. dulse.co.uk

For something altogether more relaxed and fun but still well- executed, head to Froth and Flame, their name a reference to the excellent craft beer selection and the wood-fired oven from which they produce decent pizzas, pasta dishes and burgers. frothandflame.co.uk

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