Your guide to slow travel in Edinburgh.
Ahh, the pleasures of slow travel.
Is there anything better than getting away from the daily grind, slowing down and immersing yourself in a new place? Probably not!
Anywhere you go has the potential for a slow travel approach. Even a busy city like Edinburgh has places and spaces that allow you to slow down and connect more deeply with your experiences.
To let every moment fill your senses.
If you’re headed to Edinburgh, why not dedicate some time to slowing down the pace and really connecting with your experiences. You might just love it!
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Slow travel can mean different things to different people, yet at it’s core it involves personal awareness of how we travel.
Emerging out of the Italian Slow Food Movement, slow travel is about taking your time to explore a place and immerse in the local culture.
Slow travel is an approach of building connections to local people, places and cultures. It’s travel that enhances the well-being of the individual as well as the communities they visit.
The idea of slowing down seems to be picking up more steam.
In fact, just last year Scotland announced a new slow travel initiative. One that encourages people to slow down and unplug. Sounds dreamy, right!
As well as, honor and preserve local cultures.
So, why not explore Edinburgh at a different pace? One where you:
- take your time to explore a place
- immerse in the local culture
- are open to the experiences that present themselves
Come along and see the possibilities of slow travel in Edinburgh!
Slow Travel in Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s history-soaked streets and eye-catching skyline, have engaged my senses many times over the years.
Hands down, Scotland is one of my favorite countries to explore and I try to get there as often as possible. Having experienced many of its iconic sites, this trip was all about slowing down and diving deeper into Edinburgh’s sense of place.
You know, taking a few days to do a little less, so I could experience a little more.
To relax my way into a recent week-long adventure, I decided to ear mark the first weekend as a slow travel weekend. To give myself some time to unwind after what had been a long stretch of work.
Here’s some of what awaits you in Edinburgh, I hope it inspires.
Start Your Slow Travel with Intention
Getting the most out of planning travel starts by recognizing your wants and needs. When we travel with intention it helps us align our actions with what we value.
Slowing down the pace allows us to intentionally discover the characteristics of a place. That provides the route to better connections, both in our inner and outer worlds.
A key to slow travel is your state of mind. A desire to slow down and sink into connecting with local people and places needs a bit of attention to come to life.
Heading into the weekend, there were a few ideas brewing for my slow travel adventure.
As well as, I wanted to leave pockets of time to see where the wind would take me. Perhaps, planning fulfilling travel adventures is always a mixture of both.
Want to know more? Check out: 10 Questions to Help You Plan a Wellness Vacation
Relax into Edinburgh’s Literary Scene
Edinburgh is the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, so diving into the literary scene seemed like a fitting match for an Edinburgh slow travel adventure.
After a bit of research, I was surprised how varied literary experiences can be in Edinburgh. From landmarks and monuments to bookshops and cozy cafes where you can sink into a good book, there are many ways to weave literary experiences into any itinerary.
Here are a few literary experiences to try:
The Writer’s Museum
The Writer’s Museum is hidden away right off of the Royal Mile, making it an ideal launching pad for exploring literary Edinburgh.
The Writer’s Museum celebrates the lives of three important Scottish literary figures: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Even if you’re not familiar with these three giants of Scottish literature, the museum is a fascinating look at their stories and includes personal items as well as rare books and manuscripts.
Set over three floors, each section is dedicated to one of the writers. I remembered the unexpected architectural features from a brief visit years ago and was looking forward to taking a deeper dive this time.
Sadly, the museum was temporarily closed. As is the case with travel, sometimes things don’t go as planned.
So, while there would be no museum for my slow travel in Edinburgh, another idea came to mind. I set off for another literary spot, a bookshop near the Grassmarket.
Armchair Books deserves a special mention as one heck of a charming place to explore the past.
If you like vintage corners, you don’t want to miss this used book shop. Stuffed with books from floor to ceiling, this shop is the ideal locale to get lost in the moment.
Opening the door to this tiny shop is like stepping into the past. You can get lost in thought just reading all of the interesting titles.
The Oxford Bar
Every once in a while, we each find inspiration in unexpected places.
The Oxford Bar is an unassuming pub in the center of the city. It’s also the place Inspector Rebus frequented in Ian Rankin’s famous detective series.
Not far from Princes Street, yet just far enough off the beaten track, you’ll find more locals than tourists. Making this low-key and old-fashioned bar an ideal place to kick back and enjoy your favorite tipple.
It’s quite fascinating to visit places that are brought to life in books and movies. It provides a bit of happiness to get lost in thought about characters, storylines and different worlds.
Stroll The Georgian New Town
Edinburgh’s New Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. It’s a unique feature of the city and one not to be missed when you visit Edinburgh
One of the best preserved examples of Georgian architecture, The New Town is known for its graceful sweeping crescents and private gardens.
Strolling The New Town is a meditative study in details. The period door knockers, boot scrapers and mesmerizing symmetrical design peak your curiosity, while at the same time transporting you to a different time.
Georgian architecture is my thing. So, admittedly it’s a relaxing for me to wander without agenda, often with a camera in hand.
Eat & Drink Local in Edinburgh
Eating at local haunts helps us to authentically experience the places we travel. Looking for places that are independently owned, use local produce or feature regional cuisine are all ways to get to know our food intimately.
Here are two ideal stops for your slow travel in Edinburgh:
Artisan coffee shops are a great opportunity to support local and independently owned establishments.
Centrally located right off The Royal Mile is The Milkman. Owned by a local couple, it’s my favorite coffee stop. Last year a second location was opened right up the street, so apparently they have some fans!
Both spots have a small cozy feel, which I love. It allows me to settle in and ground myself for the day ahead.
In a moment of complete serendipity, I happened to meet the owners this year while on a day trip to the fishing village of St Abbs. Where of course, I was enjoying my morning coffee. Their company was as charming as their coffee is good!
Eating in local places is sure a great way to meet people and experience the fruits of slow travel. It also feels good to know your dollars are benefitting the local community.
The Timberyard is a family run affair in the heart of Edinburgh that has it all, and then some.
Said to be one of Edinburgh’s best restaurants, there is so much to love about this sustainably focused establishment.
Wood burning stoves warm up the rustic and inviting interior of this former warehouse. They tend their own garden, in addition to sourcing locally. Add in a tempting wine list as well as, vegetarian options and it’s a good night out. My advice, go now!
Explore Edinburgh’s Farmers Markets
Happiness is strolling a market alongside fresh, local & seasonal food!
Farmer’s Markets are an authentic way to dive into the food scene and meet people. It’s an awesome way to rediscover the human connection.
In addition, your resources support local producers, which is an integral part of slow travel.
Here are two of my centrally located favorites in Edinburgh:
Edinburgh Farmers Market
Every Saturday year round, under the shadow of the castle, is The Edinburgh Farmers Market. There is something atmospheric about the castle looming overhead, it reminds you that you are someplace out of the ordinary.
Wandering around the stalls is a relaxed way to kick off the morning with a sweet treat while supporting local businesses and vendors.
Sunday’s from 10-5, the small patch of land known as Jubilee Gardens comes to life. Located in the a lively suburb of Edinburgh, the Stockbridge Market is equal parts local producers and street food with a few artisans mixed in for good measure.
I’ve been here several times over the years and can vouch that my stomach always leaves happy and satisfied.
This market has more of a neighborhood vibe and is an ideal place to eat after a stroll along The Water of Leith Walkway.
This year I tried a vegan pea and mint fritatta, and it didn’t disappoint. In addition, I bought a fresh loaf of bread for a lazy afternoon picnic in the park. The weather was unseasonably warm and sunny for April, so it was a no brainer for a slow travel afternoon to spend it lounging and reading in the park.
It was bliss! And turned out to be a good call because the next day the weather turned. Later in the week it was two days of hail and snow exploring York. You gotta love April weather!
Don’t Forget to Treat Yourself
Treating yourself can mean so many things! Yet, at heart, it’s about making time for the things that interest you. There’s no better time to do that than a slow travel adventure.
Make time for something out of the ordinary, do whatever brings you joy, or find an activity that brings you deep relaxation.
Give yourself permission to slow down and do whatever that really calls to you. Here are a few things to love in Edinburgh.
For me, especially after a lot of walking, an afternoon stop for carrot cake or shortbread can’t be beat. Artisan bake shops run a plenty in the UK, so I often am on the lookout for an afternoon pitstop.
Too many bakeries, so little time!
My first afternoon, I happened upon Lovecrumbs. The sweets in the window enticed me to stop and relax for a while. Sometimes the unexpected surprises we find are the best ones!
Just know this, the chewy vegan chocolate ganache with peanut butter inside was absolutely divine!
Cheese, cheese and more cheese please! Here’s another place for a foodie treat.
If you happen to be a cheese lover, why not try artisan cheese from the British Isles and support another independently owned store.
I’m a fan of good quality cheeses and regularly seek it out in the UK. So, no trip to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to one of the three IJ Mellis Cheesemonger shops.
This year I tried St. Andrew’s Cheddar and it was melt in your mouth goodness! If you really want to treat yourself, buy a bottle of wine and other charcuterie items, then have a picnic.
The Historic Graveyards of Edinburgh
From sweet treats and cheese to graveyards? You bet!
Filled with intrigue, the historic graveyards of Edinburgh offer a unique glimpse into Edinburgh’s history. They also happen to be some of my favorite spots to explore in the city.
Wandering old graveyards is something I love to do, especially in England. Where there seem to be endless old churchyards to explore.
The amount of historic graveyards so close together is quite unique here, so don’t miss this slow travel experience in Edinburgh.
Experience Scotland at a Different Pace
Scotland is an ideal country for slow travel and there is a whole other world to be experienced beyond the Capital.
Here are some ideas for you bucket list:
You could take a road trip to experience rural life, hike the Scottish landscape, forage for food in the Highlands or train across the countryside on The Royal Belmond. With an on board spa, the apt words “dream bucket list” come to mind!
No matter where you roam in Scotland, clearly slowly is a good way to go!
until the next time…
…live well – travel well – be well
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