Edinburgh, a Bachelor Destination of Choice

In the UK, Scotland is certainly one of the best places for a short break, and undoubtedly Edinburgh with its ancient history, massive castle, pubs, restaurants, and annual citywide events, is the perfect location for a bachelor party to remember.

edinburgh for bachelors

Get the timing right 

The first thing to contemplate is the timing of the visit. Scotland’s inclement weather makes the best times of year to visit between Easter and September. It might rain a little, but it won’t hurt as much.

If a group visits the city during the Edinburgh Festival (summer time), or the Fringe Festival, there will be world-class performers, circuses, live music and comedians mixed in with up-and-coming or not-known-at-all performers playing out to everyone in the city. A good time, guaranteed.

But what to do when the festivals are off?

Activities to experience 

The Scotch Whisky Experience, at the top end of the Royal Mile (on Castlehill) lets visitors sample wares from the best stocked bar in town (it’s sponsored by the biggest names in single malt, so it should be) while attempting to learn a bit of whisky history.

If physical and competitive activities have more of a draw, perhaps the guys would prefer to go kayaking, river bugging (a successful New Zealand import) or white water rafting. Scotland has plenty of dangerous sports for the more adventurous visitors. There are even ‘mini Highland Games’ events to be booked for those who love old time athletics. Why not try a shot at archery?

Organized tours can be taken, from the Ladies of Pleasure culminating in a free ticket to a strip club, to scavenger hunts through the pubs and round the city.

Accommodation 

There are plenty of websites to help visitors with how to find cheap hotels, but if a bed and breakfast is acceptable, there are some fabulous establishments to try. Ben Cruachan on MacDonald Road is an excellent example, with a fantastic choice at breakfast (including the ever-fascinating haggis), and its period décor with lots of mod cons. It’s also very near Princes Street, which is the main shopping and bar zone in the city center.

For somewhere a little further out, Cramond Mill Bed and Breakfast (on School Brae) is on the quiet outskirts of the city, and doubles as a café, so guests are guaranteed some freshly baked scones, good coffee and a lovely hostess.

Places to eat 

Food is one of the most important factors when planning a trip and as an international city Edinburgh has many restaurants, which boast of ‘Scottish’ cuisine, international and fast food. The choices are there – the decisions are up to the visitors.

For party-style tapas, a great buzz and good value for money, Indaba on Lochrin Terrace offers African, Spanish and Venezuelan style food alongside good beer and a rocking atmosphere.

Scotland’s most consumed dish is apparently chicken tikka masala, so if the guys would prefer a curry, the family-run Kismot on St. Leonard’s Street is the right place to go with its fabulous home cooked food.

If something more Scottish and formal (and expensive) would be a fun novelty, The Castle Terrace (on Castle Terrace) is the place to visit for interesting dishes like spelt risotto and other gourmet delights.

Whatever the decisions made, a bachelor party in Edinburgh is sure to be a winner, whatever the weather.

5 of the Swankiest Restaurants in Edinburgh

Visitors to Edinburgh could be forgiven for arriving with slight apprehension around the food and restaurants that are going to be on offer. They may be fearful of being fed all their food deep fried and greasy, however this common stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no need to settle for generic restaurants when in Edinburgh, we have gone out to find 5 of the swankiest restaurants going that are bound to make for a dining experience to remember.

The Kitchin

Now, no restaurant list for Edinburgh would be complete without The Kitchin. This well-known restaurant run by Tom Kitchen offers a taste of his vivid imagination.  They are fanatical about seasonal cooking here; the food makes the most of local produce and the menu changes with the seasons. The interior of this restaurant is cool, slick and sophisticated, giving a fairly formal dining experience so we recommend you dress to impress.

78 Commercial Quay, Leith, Edinburhg, EH6 6LX

To Book Telephone: +44 (0) 131 555 1755

Ondine

Ondine

Next up on our list is the specialist seafood restaurant Odine. Huge glass windows and the silver topped horseshoe bar give this restaurant a swanky interior. As mentioned, seafood is Ondine’s specialty and if you want a dish to remember then we recommend going for the roast shellfish platter, you won’t be disappointed.

2 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1AD

To Book Telephone: 0131 226 1888

Martin Wishart

Edinburgh’s first Michelin star was awarded to this charming dockside restaurant in 2001. The food here is best described as modern French, using only the finest and freshest ingredients. The restaurant offers a seven course tasting menu as well as an a la carte, to get the full experience we strongly recommend going for the tasting menu. The interior is airy and relaxed, but the occasion is certainly a treat worth dressing up for.

54 The Shore ,Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6RA

To Book Telephone: +44 (0) 131 553 3557

 Wedgwood

Wedgewood is located on the touristy Royal Mile but does not fall into the trap of providing overpriced underwhelming food like many of the restaurants aimed at tourists. This restaurant serves cutting edge takes on Scottish classics with its pigeon served with haggis, neeps and tatties being the perfect example. The interior of Wedgewood is suave and swanky, the modern décor gives this place a sophisticated feel as one of Edinburgh’s most offbeat restaurants.

Royal Mile, 267 Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8BQ.

To Book Telephone 0131 558 8737

Rhubarb – Prestonfield

rhubarb prestonfield

Rhubarb is set in fantastic and historic Prestonfield house and as the name suggests, you are indeed treated like royalty.  The food here is fine dining at its best and the dish of hand-dived scallops with Iberico de Bellota, quince and macadamia nuts really sums up what the food here is about. But what sets this restaurant apart from the rest, and gains it a place on our list of swanky restaurants, is the setting. As soon as you walk up to the door you are overwhelmed with a sense of grandeur that makes the whole dining experience that little bit special.

Prestonfield House, Edinburgh, EH16 5UT

To Book Telephone +44 (0) 131 225 7800

 


Ben is an avid foodie and recently set up WhereToEat.co.uk. He loves to eat out and is always looking for exciting new restaurants.

3 Top Tips for Planning Scottish Road Trips [Infographic]

You all know that I am no stranger to a road trip; in fact, my most memorable Scottish experiences are those found after long, almost painful drives, only to arrive at jaw-dropping vistas, fairytale castles, and engulfing forests that leave one with the feeling that forest gnomes may appear from around the corner.

scottish road

People always are asking me about recommended road trips, both in Scotland and the north of England (I say the north because we all know, London is not a place one wants to be with a car.  Ever!)

Our good friends at Enterprise Rent-a-Car have published a really interesting infographic that shares their top recommended roadtrips across Great Britain: one in Scotland, two in England, and two in Wales.

Caption: The graphic is interactive – so hover and click!  While Scotland appears to have gotten shortchanged, to be fair this is a great suggestion and is the best “bang for your buck” if you are visiting from afar and don’t weeks of time off to spare.  Be sure to look out for the pullout for Loch Garry – it’s a lake that looks like Scotland

Thoughts on Scottish Roadtripping

Apart from the fact that some of you might be driving on the wrong side of the road, a UK roadtrip is a lot of fun.  The scenery is varied, you can very easily get off the beaten path, and in every town pretty much there is a pub where a cold ale and hot chips will be waiting.  Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?  I will leave you with some solid road trip suggestions to help you get started planning:

  • Plan Ahead.  You must plan ahead.   I cannot overemphasize this.  The road system in Britain is very old, which means at times it is a little overcomplicated.  Attractions are not necessarily going to be in a neat little lineup.  And you’ll want to consider where to spend the night, and make sure you’re back in time for your flight home!  My favourite resource for roadtrip planning is Secret Scotland – their itineraries and route planners are VERY detailed and worth every cent.
  • Britain is much bigger than it looks.  In America, I often gasp at how long the drives are because, even though you have expressways and direct routes, it is just a big country.  You might be thinking, it’s an island, how bad could it be?  But for the most part, there are only a handful of direct routes, and the best views are on the narrowest, most crooked roads.  Take the long way, trust me.  And plan ahead for time – you can easily drive yourself to death, which isn’t anyone’s idea of a vacation.
  • The islands and time and complexity to any trip.  Skye is the only Scottish island connected to the mainland by road.  Otherwise, you’ll need to use ferries, which leave at certain times and are subject to cancellation due to weather (happens more often than most travelers realize).  There are also single track roads on the islands (on the mainland too, but let’s skip over that fact for now).  Don’t get me wrong – I love the islands – but only include them if you have 7 or more days in your agenda.  Otherwise, the Highlands are plenty.

It goes without saying – use your common sense.  Slow down and use caution in unfamiliar terrain, especially while you get used to your rental vehicle, and please – do not text and drive or drink and drive.  We all want you to get home safely and share all those good stories.

 

What’s New In Edinburgh

If you’re looking for something new in Edinburgh here are a few of the most recent additions to the city to tempt your senses on your vacation.

edinburgh

New Edinburgh Venue 

The Annexe – What makes this such a trendy and popular new venue is the big smoking garden. The night club is attached to The Liquid Room and partiers tend to move from one venue to the other.

New Edinburgh Café

Loudons – If you’re looking for class and quality then this is the café for you. Located at 94B Fountainbridge it is best known for the artisan bakery, breakfasts, special selection of tea and excellent coffee. The café has been mentioned in the Guardian newspaper. The café and bakery also makes gluten free and dairy free goods and can cater to those with allergies and intolerances.

Café on the Corner – This is a community café and part of the Autism Initiative charity. The café at 24A Hill Street is reasonably priced and has a selection of sandwiches, salads, small meals, cakes and drinks. Adults with autism are offered the opportunity here to learn new skills in a real work environment.

Café Republic – Situated in Gyle Shopping Centre it is aimed at families with kids and babies. There is easy access for prams, helpful staff and food to suit all members of the family big and small. All the baked goods are made fresh every morning on the premises. The coffee has won several awards.

New Edinburgh Restaurant

Field – Gordon Craig and Richard Conway formerly of the Michelin starred Plumed Horse have opened their own establishment in Newington where the Home Bistro used to be. The restaurant serves fine cuisine in a bistro environment.

The Panty – Situated in Stockbridge this restaurant serves a range of dishes at reasonable prices from breakfast to dinner. It is a farm shop and kitchen, the food is fresh, locally sourced, seasonal and delicious. The shop/restaurant aims to bring authentic Scottish cuisine from the rural areas into the city. You can buy their products and take them home or eat on the premises.

New Edinburgh Attraction

Gallery TEN – Opened in November 2012 this West End gallery specializes in prints and studio glass, there are works by studio glass makers and guest artists. The gallery is run by Paul Musgrove and Gill Tyson who aim to promote contemporary emerging talented artists.

Britain from the Air – A free outdoor street gallery with 100 huge photo images of aerial views of Britain. The photos were taken by the country’s top photographers. This exhibit is so new it will be open from 22nd March to 20 May 2013.

New Edinburgh Hotel

B+B Edinburgh – Open for under a year this is a 22 room hotel in an elegant historic building on Rothesay Terrace. The hotel has wood paneling, period furniture and a view of the Drumsheugh Gardens.

Itihaas, a Unique Indian Dining Experience

The city of Edinburgh is completely littered with forgettable Indian restaurants; however, if you’re willing to venture just 20 minutes down the road, the ancient burgh of Dalkeith maintains one of area’s most unique Indian dining experiences available in Scotland.

ithihaas

Located right in the heart of Dalkeith, Itihaas serves a wide array of Indian and Bangladeshi dishes based upon the principle that cooking is an art form. You will immediately notice why Itihaas stands apart from its stiff inner-city competition when you step into the small restaurant. Proprietor and Head Chef Matin Khan makes every guest feel more than welcome – which is consequently why the majority of tables are always packed with repeat customers that have evolved into friends of the restaurant. Khan and his professional, but discreet, staff emanate a disarming aura that allows customers to truly relax and get the most out of their dining experience.

Itihaas’ décor is impeccably clean, and quite simple – which only lends further to its character as an award-winning establishment. Before any talk turns to food, the staff provides diners with a wine list that’s quite extensive by comparison to most Indian restaurants – and while one’s selection depends considerably upon their entree of choice, the Rioja admittedly outshines the rest.

With regards to food, Itihaas maintains a jam-packed menu 7 days a week; however, the best evenings to visit are without a doubt Thursdays, when the chef offers a special Tapas menu.

Based upon the classic Spanish dining experience, Itihaas’ Tapas menu allows for couples and groups to indulge in as many dishes as possible by sharing slightly smaller portions. This offers diners a respite from the typical argument of who will share what, and also allows for visitors to explore some of the chef’s more unique and traditional Bangladeshi dishes.

ithiaas

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The Thursday Tapas menu isn’t necessarily daunting, yet there are still difficult decisions to make. Accordingly, Chef Khan or his staff are more than happy to offer suggestions – or if you’re really struggling, they will even risk choosing for you. Although some dishes shine brighter than others, there aren’t necessarily any wrong choices at Itihaas.

With regards to starters, the slightly spiced grilled lamb chops are cooked to perfection, and simply can’t be faulted. The Tangri Kebab – which features two behemoth tandoori chicken wings – is also a must; however, the chef’s Garlic Tiger Prawns are by far the most unique starter available on the Tapas menu. Fair warning – this is only a starter for those who absolutely love garlic. Infused with a blend of spices and lemon, the fried prawns are literally swimming in seared garlic cloves, offering an oddly tantalising charred flavour that may quickly turn to addiction.

As with the starters, the best way to experience Tapas at Itihaas is to simply order a sampler. Chef Khan’s slow-cooked Beef Bengal – a must if you’d previously often for that Rioja – is as hearty a dish as one will ever encounter, while the Lamb Dansak offers the palate a satisfying buzz of the city’s freshest chilies  For those less keen on red meat, the Chicken Tikka Rajnagari provides an enjoyably mild blend of tandoori chicken with ginger and roasted tomatoes. That being said, the chef’s Garlic Tiger Prawns steal the show completely. Fair warning – this is only a dish for those who absolutely love garlic. Infused with a blend of spices and lemon, the fried prawns are literally swimming in seared garlic cloves, offering an oddly tantalising charred flavour that may quickly turn to addiction.

Traditional Indian deserts – which are notoriously sweet – provide a filling end to a filling meal, with favourites available such as Gulab Jaman and various flavours of Kulfi.

ithiaas

Everything about Itihaas just screams ‘home-cooked Indian meal’, in the sense that each ingredient is blended with absolute purpose. Chef Khan’s mantra that “cooking is an art form” drives each dish – all of which include unique spices that even the most experienced curry fiend may have never encountered. Bearing this in mind, it’s no wonder that Itihaas’ owner, Matin Khan, was named the Best Bangladeshi Chef in Scotland for 2011. In fact, the restaurant has accumulated a handful of prestigious awards within the last 3 years – including the best Bangladeshi and South Asian restaurant in Scotland. This comes as no surprise after visiting and experiencing the unique flavours that emerge from Chef Khan’s ever-evolving kitchen.

Itihaas is located at 1-7 Croft Street in Dalkeith – No 3 Bus (going towards Mayfield, near Keir Hardie Drive on Bogwood Road). Lunch hours are from 12:00-2:00pm, and dinner from 5:00-11:00pm Monday through Saturday. Alternatively, Itihaas runs a buffet from 12:30-9:00pm on Sundays, and serves its Tapas menu on Thursdays only. Customers should expect to spend between £20-30 per person. www.itihaasrestaurant.com

 

Comfortable Italian: A Dinner Date at Al Dente

Al Dente is a bijou Italian Trattoria tucked away on Easter Road, not my usual stomping ground but as I had a date with The Phantom at The Playhouse it seemed like a good opportunity to check it out. Italian food is a favourite of mine and the glowing reviews I’d read online gave me little sparks of anticipation that I may be about to discover a new hidden gem.

It was early doors on a wet & windy September evening but the welcome was warm (even if the restaurant itself was somewhat chilly)! Graziano, our Chef and host was charming as he told us about the style of their food and the tasting dinners paired with wines that they do to test new dishes for their ever changing

cabbage dumplings stuffed with pork & mushrooms

Cabbage dumplings stuffed with pork & mushrooms

The first thing that struck me about the menu was how unlike it was from any other Italian restaurant’s – apart from Lasagna and Bruschetta it was awash with seasonal, wholesome and hearty fare, so much so it took me a lot of deliberating as to which of these appealing dishes I should choose.

After quite some deliberating (washed down with a negroni) I settled for the gorgonzola stuffed, parma wrapped figs and my companion the cabbage dumplings stuffed with pork and mushrooms to start. For our mains I went for Pork Belly with an apple puree and gorgonzola sauce and my friend a fresh pasta dish with grilled Verona Radicchio and mushrooms flavoured with a parmesan, mozzarella and besciamelle sauce.

foreground is the gorgonzola stuffed, parma ham wrapped figs, background the cabbage dumplings stuffed with pork & mushrooms

Foreground: gorgonzola stuffed, parma ham wrapped figs; Background: cabbage dumplings stuffed with pork & mushrooms

The dishes were beautifully presented and didn’t disappoint, my figs were soon polished off and right after so was the pork belly and it was awesome! I LOVE pork belly, a favourite since childhood and something I find hard to resist on a menu and it certainly didn’t disappoint! A few days on and I’m still salivating at the thought of it.

foreground is the pork belly with apple puree & gorgonzola sauce, background fresh pasta with grilled Verona raddichio & mushrooms flavoured with Parmesan, mozzarella & besciamelle sauce

Foreground: pork belly with apple puree & gorgonzola sauce; Background: fresh pasta with grilled Verona raddichio & mushrooms flavoured with Parmesan, mozzarella & besciamelle sauce


Alas we had no time for dessert but all in all, a great little find, the service was excellent, the menu was exactly my ‘bag’ and I’ll be keeping an eye out for their wine & food matching evenings because I think it’ll be worth taking a trip to the other side of town. Price-wise it was on-point for the quality and presentation and definitely a place to go and get a big comforting Italian ‘hug’.


About the Author: Nadine Pierce is an Edinburgh-based foodie and author of the popular Eating Edinburgh blog, a self-confessed ‘gluttonista’ who has been known to eat out every day of the week in the course of research!

You can follow her foodie adventures at www.eatingedinburgh.com or on Twitter, @nadinepierce.

Cranachan and Crowdie: The Crown Jewel on the Royal Mile

Cranachan and Crowdie is the latest addition to Edinburgh’s bustling Royal Mile. The purveyor of fine Scottish food and drink recently opened its door in its bright new premises on the Canongate. The mile is jammed packed with false tartan and tinny bagpipe music, but there is nothing garish or mass produced about these products, and you’d be hard pressed to find more truly scottish fare.

The Store’s Story

cranachan and crowdie

The shop is all about the best of Scottish produce, the vivacious owners Beth and Fiona describe their venture as “a farm shop in the city”. They stock products from small manufacturers and cottage industries around Scotland, and have personally tried, tested and approved all the products on sale. They felt that there has been a gap, particularly on the Royal Mile, when it comes to highlighting local, seasonal and handmade Scottish food and drink to Edinburgh’s 7 million annual tourists.

Products to be proud of

Cranachan and Crowdie is steeped in foodie passion. On arrival the owners, who are pottering around on the shop floor, arranging products and setting up displays, are friendly and welcoming and happy to chat about themselves, their products and their suggestions. It is early days still, the co-owner Beth tells me, and they are trying to get a good balance of products. She walks me around the shop talking me through their selection of goodies.

The shop itself is arranged with a real eye for aesthetics, each display looking more appealing than the last. At the moment the sweeter goods hold the dominant position in the store, which tells you a lot about the Scottish appetite! There is an extensive selection of biscuits and cakes from different producers, ranging from the traditional petticoat tails and Tunnocks Tea Cakes, to a more modern take on shortbreads with flavours including chocolate orange, chocolate chip, demerara and cinnamon and stem ginger. In true scottish fashion they also have a mouth watering selection of tablet, honey, and conserves.

cranachan and crowdie

For those lacking the sweet tooth, Cranachan and Crowdie have some well sourced savoury products too including exotic warming spice mixes perfectly blended by a Scottish family of Indian origin located in Fife. The fridges are laden with beautifully cured meat products including smoked  venison, black and white pudding, haggis, flaky handmade pies and even Scottish prosciutto!
One of Cranachan and Crowdies most prestigious products is their Uig Lodge salmon. The salmon is hand produced and cured with utmost care, precision and know-how. This salmon has won a number of food awards and really is second to none! The ladies suggest that you accompany this fine fish with their namesake crowdie -a low fat cream cheese- and why not pick up some of Stoats artisan oatcakes or a jar from the extensive selection of chutney and preserves.

Wash it all down

Despite it’s tourist hot-spot location Cranachan and Crowdie offer gorgeous products aimed at locals too. As well as food goods, they have a wonderfully exciting range of Scottish beers, including the increasingly popular Brew Dog and Harviestoun range and some lesser known breweries such as Fyne Ales and Black Isle. The Owners are keen to chat about their beer selection and also happy to take suggestions if you know of any products that could be added to their range. They also have some gorgeous golden whiskeys on sale and will talk you through your purchases if you require some advice.

Presents, parcels and non perishables

cranachan and crowdie

Another service which will appeal to locals and visitors alike are the hamper baskets that you can have made up for you in store. The baskets themselves are good quality and extremely pleasing. You can then fill them up with goodies of your choice, for a chance to really tailor your gifts. This doesn’t need to be limited to food and drink items, as the shop also stocks gift items made by scottish craftsmen, including attractive slate products, hand painted mugs and fun figurines (all bright and tasteful!)

While in store, you can pick up the ingredients to make the shops other namesake, the humble scottish pudding -made from oats, cream, honey, whisky and raspberries- the cranachan.

Cranachan Recipe
(serves 2/3)

Toast 2 tablespoons of rolled oats with 1 tablespoon of flaked almonds in a heavy bottomed pan, until golden brown. Allow to cool.
Whisk 200mls of double cream, and add in 1 tablespoon of heather honey, and a 25ml tot of whisky (or more to taste).
Line the bottom of a few attractive glasses with some juicy ripe raspberries, and then layer up the glasses with the whisky cream, the oats and nuts and the fruit, finishing with a scattering of the nutty oats.

Chill for half an hour or so before serving.


The shop is certainly worthy of its regal location!

A Dose of Edinburgh, Just What the Doctor Ordered!

Since the Edinburgh Medical School opened its door in 1727 students and academics have flocked to the city to study the human body in all its complexities.

According to historians and medical practitioners alike Edinburgh is synonymous with Medical History. The city was certainly the hub of Scottish enlightenment, from banking to literature, music to inventing, and medicinal advances were right up there with some of the most pivotal medicinal discoveries being made in the city by members of the medical school.

Significant Discoveries

One such discovery which transformed the medical world, was made by Dr. Joseph Lister (5 April 1827 – 10 February 1912) whose research into antiseptic surgery revolutionised the professions approach to cleanliness and saved countless numbers of lives in the process. Prior to Dr. Listers findings the general belief in the medical world was that infections and diseases were somehow spread by foul smelling air. It was believed that there was little need for sanitary practices in hospitals, and surgical tools, hands and clothing were often kept in a squalid state. In fact many of the surgeons would wear their bloodied aprons proudly, as a sign of their surgical dexterity.

Dr. Lister reformed this way of thinking when he discovered the effects of carbolic acid on the healing of wounds. Lister had come across Pasteur’s Germ Theory, which proposed that micro-organism in the air were responsible for infections and disease. Expanding on this Dr. Lister was able to prove a huge success rate in surgery in which both the wounds, and the tools used for surgery had been sterilized by carbolic acid.  His theory was at first dismissed and ridiculed, but even the most cynical could not deny the vast increase in the survival rate.

Another Ground breaking discovery made by a local man was that of the effects of chloroform and its uses as an anaesthetic. Dr. Simpson was a well respected doctor who dedicated much of his time to searching for chemicals with anaesthetic properties. He discovered the effects of chloroform by chance, when testing out various substances with some other doctor friends. On trying the chloroform the three men passed out, only the come around the next morning. Simpson was especially interested in gynecology and after much research started to issue chloroform to his patients during childbirth. This was greatly contested at the time, as it was believed that suffering during labour was right and godly. This view changed however after chloroform was administered to Queen Victoria during birth of her 8th child Leopold.

Gruesome Realities

Despite these remarkable discoveries, the medicinal history of Edinburgh has a much more sinister side. While the learned world thrived a dark and dirty underworld existed in the poor, cramped areas of the macabre old town, and no tale highlights this better than that of Dr. Knox and his accomplices.

Dr. Robert Knox was a brilliant young medical student who had thrived in his studies and after a period of serving as an army doctor, returned to Edinburgh to teach. His forte was anatomy, and the combination of his sharp mind, flamboyant style and intellectual arrogance attracted hundreds of students to his lectures, which regularly included the live dissection of cadavers.
Knox had suffered from smallpox as a child, leaving him disfigured and partially sighted, adding perhaps to the spectacle of his performance as a lecturer.

As the popularity of his anatomical lectures increased, so did the demand for cadavers. At the time the only legal supply was executed criminals, and the demand vastly surpassed what the gallows could deliver. This opened up a perfect opportunity for criminals to make money through grave robbing, and led to a period where this was commonplace across the city. Families often had to keep watch over new graves to prevent their loved ones bodies from ending up on the dissection slab. However once graveyards started erecting watch towers and employing guards this supply of bodies petered out too.

burke and hare

Enter into the picture the infamous criminals Burke and Hare. On the 29th of November 1827 an army pensioner died of natural causes in a lodging house in West Port, owned by William Hare. In order to cover the costs of the rent owed to him, and to save on funeral expenses, the morally unconscious Hare and his equally unethical friend William Burke decided to sell the body to the Medical School for dissection. Originally intending to do business with the Chair of Anatomy, Alexander Monro (tertius), the pair came across a medical student who advised them to rather take their cargo to Dr. Knox, as he would pay better. On taking this advice Burke and Hare received a payment of £7.10/, and a money making scheme was planted into their minds. Over the next year Burke and Hare murdered at least 15 people, targeting the poor, drunk and alone. The pair would suffocate their victims to prevent any obvious signs of evil, and sell their prey to Dr. Knox for his dissections.

In 1829 the murders of Burke and Hare came to light and Burke was publicly executed. Hare managed to get away without conviction as he gave evidence to help convict burke. Dr. Knox also managed to avoid legal consequence, mainly due to his connections and educated position in society. His reputation was severely tainted however, and he eventually moved away from Edinburgh to escape abuse. A popular victorian skipping rhyme expresses the views at the time, that Dr. Knox was by no means innocent.burke alley

“Down the close and up the stair,
But an’ ben wi’ Burke and Hare,
Burke’s the Butcher, Hare’s the thief,
Knox, the boy who buys the beef”

After his death Burke was publicly dissected, a fate that was believed ironically worthy of his crimes.

My interest in Edinburgh’s medical history took me to the Surgeons Hall Museum, which I would strongly reccomend for a more indepth history of Edinburgh Medical significance, together with some fascinating anatomical specimens. The museum is well worth the £5(£3 Conc) entrance fee, although bare in mind some of the displays may not be suitable for young children or the faint hearted!

Cakes, Crumbs and Creme Patissiere in Edinburgh

When I’m visiting the European continent, one thing that always stand out to me is the prominence of exceptional baking. There is nothing that I love more when wandering around French towns, Italian villages or Greek streets than the smell of freshly baked bread, sweet pastries and tart cooked fruit.

I’ve felt for a long time that bread culture is lacking in the UK, as so much of what we consume on a day-to-day basis are the sawdust like supermarket sliced soulless, overly processed, prepackaged let down of a loaf. I’ve noticed in recent years however that this seems to be changing. Bakeries are springing up all over the place and people seem to be demanding more from their dough! Chain such as Pauls Patisserie and Patisserie Valerie have spread across the country and are introducing the idea of artisan baking into day to day life. More and more supermarkets now have a larger range of baked goods including sour doughs, ryes, stone baked baguettes and more. Programmes such as the popular ‘Great British Bake Off‘ are very much bringing baking back in vogue and transforming the image of a baker from the frumpy housewife to the hip student, working woman, eccentric older gentleman, and any interested in between.

When it comes to passion for exceptional baking Edinburgers are at the forefront. The city has a vibrant foodie culture and is therefore the perfect home for outstanding bakeries, so I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite bakeries in Edinburgh. Well worth a visit for a quick lunch, long chat over coffee and cake or to pick up a loaf to gobble with cheese.

La Barrantine

This snug little cafe brings the best of Paris to Edinburgh while leaving behind the steep prices and the rude waiting staff. You are greeted with a cheery ‘bonjour!’ on arrival and are served quickly and by the most delightful friendly family. The coffee is perfection but it completely overshadowed by the stunning pastries and baked treats on display. Their macaroons are a triumph and all homemade with love and such care. But don’t allow yourself to get completely taken in by the sweet goods because the bread demands a lot of credit too. Oh la la j’adore La Barrantine!

Falko: Konditormeister

This traditional German bakery truly embraces the old fashioned baking techniques and perfects them. The bakery itself is a lovely place for a breakfast or lunch, and fully appeals to my Swiss side! The bread is dark, hearty and often grainy, which I love and combined with subtle, but well thought out flavours. Personally however, I think it’s Falkos cakes which show his genius flair. No celebration is complete without one… but while you’re picking up a cake, make sure you get a pretzel for the way home!

Bakery Andante

The philosophy of Andante is all about slowing the pace of baking to improve the quality and depth of their products. Specializing in sourdough, this bakeries bread is some of the tastiest I have ever had. I love to combine it with a selection of cheese from the cheesemonger along the road. Although their sourdough is their trademark product, their other breads are made with just as much love and care as are their sweet bakes. I especially love their gooey brownies and their spelt biscotti.

The Manna House

If baked goods could be framed, my house with be adorned with the beautiful little cakes and tartlets from the Manna House. It is almost impossible to make a selection from all the mouth watering masterpieces on display. As well as sweet delights galore, they also have an inspiring selection of breads of varying darkness, density, grain selection and styles. Their savoury meals are sublime too. Perfect quiches, vibrant salads and unadulterated flavour appreciation. The sweet bakes make wonderful gifts if you manage to get them home. My favourites include the lemon and blueberry bundts, the chocolate and pistachio opera cakes and the mini fruit tarts.

I have such admiration for the skill and time that goes into creating all these goods, and think that these artisans should be celebrated… with cake preferably!

Universities in Edinburgh

A lot of friends visiting Edinburgh ask me if the city is a college town, to which I always say yes.  I used to live in the Old Town, and in fact my gym (just 2 blocks away) was a University gym – it was a great gym.  I also was typically outnumbered in the cafes in my ‘hood by students buried in their books and chatting about their classes.

Here’ s a quick run-down of the universities in Edinburgh.
edinburgh college

Edinburgh University

The prestigious Edinburgh University is one of Scotland’s ancient universities – a term well deserved considering the school was founded in the 1500s!  The campus in Edinburgh is beautiful, and if you’re here for Edinburgh Fringe in August you’ll be in many theatres and classrooms.  Don’t miss a walk through the Playfair Library in the Old College building – I think it is one of the best architectural experiences in the entire city.

Napier University

Napier is one of many well known hotel management schools in the world.  I love Napier’s slogan, ”Everything is in vain without knowledge.” I recommend for people who have plenty of time in Edinburgh to enjoy a stroll up to the Craiglockhart Campus of Napier, on a hill just to the southeast of the city – it’s a wonderful view and very quiet, especially on weekends as it is one of the smaller campuses.

Heriot-Watt

One of the most prestigious schools by name, Heriot-Watt feels like it fell right out of a chapter of Harry Potter; that is entirely possible because the school was established in the 1800s, and the author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling, doesn’t live too far from campus.  The school is very well known for mechanics and engineering, as well as business degrees.

NOTE: If you are not from the UK or don’t hold a UK passport and plan to complete a full curriculum in the country, you’ll need a Tier 4 General Visa.

Queen Margaret University

The last but certainly not least school on our list is Queen Margaret, which in stark contrast to the other universities listed here, was only established in 2007.   That’s being slightly disingenuous as the school has been here since 1875, but it was only a “University” in 2007 – until then it was known as the Edinburgh School of Cookery. Moving on from those roots in domestic science, the school is now well known for is medical/healthcare fields, including specialization areas in topics such as speech therapy, chiropody, radiography, and physiotherapy.  The university has campuses spread out across town included some larger bases found in the south part of town.

Edinburgh also has a number of colleges, and you might find it interesting that it is home to one of the oldest high schools in the world! Edinburgh is certainly a historical seat in education and you’d be doing well to study here.