When our Bakeproof columnist, Anneka Manning, headed to the Scottish capital, she found excellent shortbread (of course) but plenty more to eat and do, too.
Where Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and lies on the east coast on the southern shore of Firth of Forth. Behind Glasgow, Edinburgh is the second most populous city in Scotland with just under 500,000 residents.
Why go Edinburgh is a great walking city where you can explore both the old and new towns by foot to really appreciate the architecture, parks and alleyways of this city. Cafes and bakeries with beautiful home baked and artesian-style offering are many. Locals, particularly the bus and taxi drivers, are friendly, helpful and chatty.
Must eats A tiny café off the Royal Mile, the Edinburgh Larder Cafe champions local Scottish produce and make a mean sandwich for lunch. Great bread, delicious soups (I had their tomato and rocket) and impressively indulgent brownies are all on offer! I also could resist going back for breakfast and had some of the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had. Great coffee too.
While in Scotland I was naturally on the hunt for the best Scottish Shortbread and I found it at Pinnies & Poppy Seeds. They make artisan shortbread (obviously handmade with buckets of love) and the aroma as you walk into their tiny shop is rich with toasty buttery notes of pure heaven. A gorgeous selection of round shortbread discs of various flavours are on display including ‘classic’, orange and thyme, triple chocolate and cinnamon sugar. Many of the local cafes also sell Pinnies & Poppy Seed shortbread including The Milk Man, who also made the best cup of tea (Scottish Breakfast was my choice) I had while in the UK (and that says something in itself!)
If you like to eat cake, you will love Lovecrumbs. The gorgeous array of cakes, displayed in an old wardrobe, change daily and the flavor combinations don’t make your decision easy. From a traditional Victoria sponge and pink grapefruit and juniper (yes, because you are in Scotland you can pretend it has gin in it!), to blueberry & lemon, gooseberry, almond and spelt, and vegan salted caramel you will always find something wonderful and interesting to indulge in. The window seat is a treat and I love the fact that your tea also comes with your own person flask of boiling water for top ups!
Not far from Lovecrumbs is Mary’s Milk Bar – a tiny gelato and chocolate bar serving up inspired flavours such as ginger parkin, oat and raspberry, malt beer and peanuts made daily on the premises. The inevitable queue outside is testament…
Soderberg is an artisan Swedish bakery (they have a number of stores but I visited their East End one at 45 Broughton Street) with a beautiful array of biscuits, pastries and breads. They also honor the Swedish tradition of 7 sorters kakor (7 kinds of cookies) – each day you can choose from a gorgeous selection of cookies (seven of course) such as sirapsniff (toffee), chokladsniff (chocolate) and finska pinnar (almond shortbread).
After a morning of contemporary gallery gazing and quirky book browsing at The Fruitmarket Galley and bookstore visit the ajoining Café looking out onto Market Street for delicious lunch salads, a great coffee and and a lovely selection of baked goodies – such as hazelnut, fig and fennel biscotti and lemon drizzle cake.
Archipelago Bakery in the New Town specialises in organic breads and cakes using traditional methods. They offer a great range or sourdoughs, cakes, and tarts and their gluten-free brownie is particularly rich, wicked and memorable.
A relatively new addition to the vibrant Edinburgh dinning scene, Southpour is serving up wonderfully fresh contemporary Scottish food with a nod to the traditional. Great cocktails and coffee are also on offer and be sure to try their venison bridie pies.
The cosy, and slightly humorous, Badger & Co at 32 Castle Street, the former home to Kenneth Grahame, author of Wind in the Willows, is a great place to sample seasonal, local produce no matter what time of day – from breakfast thought to dinner.
Must Visits Holyrood Park, once a hunting ground for Scottish monarchs, covers a massive 263 hectares (650 acres) and is the place to go if you want to escape the city -it's just a short walk away. Spectacular 360-degree views of Edinburgh can be enjoyed from the top of the miniature mountain of Arthur’s Seat in its centre.
Today the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the royal family’s official residence while in Scotland but it was home for the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots during the mid 1500s. A self-guided audio tour will take you through the Great Gallery, Mary’s bedchamber and Holyrood Abbey as well as the fully set dinning room used for official functions.
What is a visit to Scotland without a visit to a castle? Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s most popular attraction (so you won’t be alone) and viewing it from the outside perched on its rocky hilltop it is clear to see why it was so hard for outsiders to invade this city. Viewing from inside, you will discover a collection of chapels, museums, prisons and the Scottish Crown Jewels.
If you want advise about whisky while in Edinburgh head to Whiski Rooms. Knowledgeable staff and with a phenomenal range of Scottish whisky, including both rare and aged, they also do tasting sessions.
Concrete Wardrobe specialises in bringing contemporary Scottish craft to the public. Filled with an eclectic mix from a range of designers this is where you will pick up a Scottish souvenir worth taking home.
If you are only going to visit one gallery or museum while in Edinburgh make it the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Both past and present famous Scottish names are featured (from Mary Queen Scots and Robert Burns and Sean Connery and Billy Connolly), but the neo-gothic palace in which it is housed is worth the visit alone. Temporary exhibitions also change regularly.
Best time to visit The Edinburgh International Festival and The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, generally known as The Fringe, the worlds largest arts festival, take place over three weeks in August each year. The city is a buzz at this time and it is well worth planning your visit to coincide with them.
Watch Munchies Guide to Scotland:
Originating from Forfar in Scotland, the bridie pie is said to be named after a travelling food seller, Margaret Bridie, who sold them during the mid-19th century. Deliciously more-ish, they resemble the pastie in shape and concept but are surprisingly similar in taste and texture to a plain sausage roll. Whilst not traditional, a beetroot relish tomato chutney makes a perfect accompaniment. O why has it taken me so long to discover the bridie!
Mary Queen of Scots' fondness for shortbread is said to be the reason for its increased popularity in the 1500s. Nowadays it is loved so much there is even a National Shortbread Day on the 6th January each year! The key to good shortbread is slow baking until it is pale golden and cooked through – if over baked, or baked too quickly, it will become slightly bitter in taste due to the ‘burnt’ butter.