For those visiting the Selvedge Fair in Edinburgh on August 19th, enjoy a guided walk through the historic city devised by Clare Lewis and illustrated by Anna Simmons...
1. Begin at the Dovecot Studios, a centre for contemporary art, craft and design nestled in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town. Built around the tapestry studio founded in 1912 by the 4th Marquess of Bute who invited weavers from William Morris’s Merton Abbey to set up shop, it became known for its collaborations with artists and designers such as Stanley Spencer, Graham Sutherland, Cecil Beaton, David Hockney, Elizabeth Blackadder and Eduardo Paolozzi.
2. Turn left out of the gallery and cross straight over to Chambers Street to the National Museum of Scotland. Delve inside to see Dovecot Studio commissions by Victoria Crowe, Kate Whiteford (level 1) and Bruce McClean (level 3). Get the lift to the 7th floor for a spectacular view of the city.
3. Turn left out of the museum. At the top of the road, cross over looking out for the statue of Bobby: The faithful Skye terrier who sat by his master John Gray’s grave in the nearby Greyfriars Kirkyard (entrance via alleyway by pub) until he died 14 years later. Turn right down Candlemakers Row following the cobbled street all the way to the bottom of the hill. Turn left into Grassmarket by Hawico, a family-run Scottish cashmere company, on the corner.
4. Turn right up Victoria Street, hugger-mugger with brightly painted independent shops and restaurants. Look out for the tailored designs at Walker Slater using Scotland’s Harris tweed handmade from pure virgin wool dyed, spun and woven by islanders in the Outer Hebrides.
5. At the top turn left onto George IV Bridge then right into High Street, known as the Royal Mile, as it runs from Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle. Walk a short distance to West Parliament Square, once the home of the Scottish Parliament, and the Gothic St Giles Cathedral. Inside is the Thistle Chapel – spot the bagpipe-playing angel. The heart-shaped mosaic embedded in the cobbles outside the west door, known as the Heart of Midlothian, marks the symbolic centre of the city.
6. Retrace your steps up the High Street, up Lawnmarket and Castlehill to Edinburgh Castle. Visit the Royal Palace to see the medieval Great Hall, Stone of Destiny and Scottish Crown Jewels.
7. Retrace your steps a short way to turn left down Ramsay Walk. Cross the main road at the bottom of the hill, take the steps down to the neoclassical buildings of the National Gallery of Scotland and Scottish Royal Academy. Built by renowned architect William Henry Playfair in the 19th century, it marks the divide between the Old and New Town. Pop in to see a potted history of art, from 15th century Italian Renaissance paintings to Dutch Masters, English landscape and portraits to the French Impressionists. A café in the underground tunnel between here and the Academy runs a year-round programme of shows.
8. Admire the view of Nelson’s column and the ruin atop Carlton Hill before cutting between the galleries. Cross The Mound into Princes Street Gardens and walk to St John’s Church exiting onto Princess Street, the New Town’s main street. Walk up South Charlotte Street to the imposing Robert Adam designed Charlotte Square and site of the summer Book Festival. See the Georgian House at no 7; a typical Edinburgh New Town house of the late 18th and early 19th century.
9. Turn left out of the house and left again to George Street, an elegant street of the New Town built on a grid pattern of streets and squares. Continue all the way to St Andrews Square, home of the Royal Bank of Scotland. An option here is to cut through the central gardens to Harvey Nichols and take the lift to the top floor terrace bar, offering great views of the city and its surroundings (rejoin the walk by retracing your steps to point 10).
10. Turn right down St David Street back towards the bustle of Princes Street and Scott Monument, the imposing Victorian gothic structure commemorating Sir Walter Scott. Climb the 287 steps for a stunning panorama.
11. With your back to the monument turn right along Princes Street to the Balmoral Hotel, famous for afternoon tea in its glass-domed Palm Court. Turn right onto North Bridge then left onto the Royal Mile to walk downhill through the heart of the Old City, peppered with alleyways and old buildings. John Knox house, no 43-45, is the only surviving medieval building. Continue until the New Scottish Parliament building, the historic Holyrood Palace and Queen’s Gallery. Also looming large is Arthur’s Seat; atop an ancient volcano 251m above sea level. The garden tearoom of the Queen’s Gallery is the best view.
Route devised by Clare Lewis
Illustration by Anna Simmons