Hannah's Edinburgh: My Town
Published: June 2009
Twelve-year-old Hannah is learning to play the chanter—the mouthpiece to the bagpipes, on which you practice fingering and blowing—before moving on to the full instrument. She hopes to join her school band this year. Speaking of school, she wears a uniform: a navy-and-red kilt with a navy blazer and, "unfortunately," she says, "a scrunchie in the same tartan as the kilt." Hannah's house is in the center of town, so she gets everywhere by walking. Living in a city that dates from the seventh century, says Hannah, is ideal: "For one thing, old buildings are much prettier than modern office blocks." Since the list of what to do in Edinburgh is longer than the Royal Mile, we asked Hannah to tell us what's not to be missed.
Some of the nicest things about Edinburgh are the parks and greenery. The best park is our famous Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh [20A Inverleith Row; 44-131/552-7171], with lots of rare trees and plants. My favorite section is the tropical greenhouse called the Glasshouse Experience, which is really hot. It has a pond with giant lily pads that are big enough to sit on! For amazing views of the city, climb all the way up Arthur's Seat, a volcanic hill about 250 meters [823 feet] high, near Holyrood Palace. You should also climb up the Scott Monument on Princes Street. It's 287 steps to the top.
The place everyone wants to go isthe new science center, called Our Dynamic Earth [Holyrood Rd.; 44-131/550-7800]. It has lots of exhibits, including the Polar Region, where there's a huge block of real ice you can make handprints on—if you can stand the cold!
Another cool thing to do is go skiing on the artificial snow at Midlothian Ski Centre, just south of Edinburgh [Hillend, Biggar Rd.; 44-131/445-4433; kids $9, adults $13 for two hours, including ski rental]. I also love skating at Murrayfield Ice Rink [Riversdale Crescent; 44-131/337-6933; $5, including skate rental], next to Murrayfield Stadium, where the Scottish rugby team plays.
The best place to shop is on Princes Street. If you're spending your own money, go to Miss Selfridge or Etam, and if you like bright colors, go to Logo. Or check out JJB Sports for rugby shirts.
After shopping, my mum and I go to Caffè D.O.C. [49A Thistle St.; 44-131/220-6846], near Princes Street. It sells really nice miniature biscuits with apricot, chocolate, or nut fillings that are very yummy. I have them with lemonade. Also, you really should try some Scottish specialties, like haggis or shortbread or smoked salmon. Haggis is usually made of spices, liver, and oatmeal, but I only like the vegetarian ones that my 39-year-old half sister invented. She sold the recipe to the Macsween Company, and they make them by the millions! The best shortbread is Walkers. You can buy any of these at our supermarkets.
There are some really good restaurants close to Princes Street. For dinner, one of my favorites is Browns [131133 George St.; 44-131/225-4442; dinner for four $110]. It's quite posh. I order Scottish salmon with salad and potatoes, and then sticky toffee pudding. Another good place is Dix-Neuf [97 Hanover St.; 44-131/220-6119; dinner for four $68]. Sometimes we go here just for dessert—I have hot chocolate and the delicious "banoffe" pie, which has a huge layer of cream and then a biscuit-and-banana base.
Try to come to Edinburgh in August, when the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is on the Castle Esplanade [44-131/225-1188 for tickets]. The Tattoo are marching servicemen who play the bagpipes and drums. The show lasts almost two hours and takes place six nights a week for three weeks. It ends with fireworks, then the band marches out across the drawbridge while a lone piper plays a tune at the top of the castle. Also, dancers perform the Highland fling—with swords.
One last thing: you can't visit Edinburgh without walking the Royal Mile. This is the street linking Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, where Queen Elizabeth stays when she's in town. Along the way you pass St. Giles' Cathedral, where my dad is a minister. The cathedral was built in 1120 and has a crown-shaped spire. It's the third-most-visited place in Britain—at least according to my dad.
—Interviewed by Elizabeth Garnsey