Edinburgh – home to a dormant volcano, a centuries-old castle steeped in mystery and of course, a Sahara boutique located in the heart of bustling Grassmarket. As part of our Day Trip Diaries – a new series of UK travel guides celebrating the locations of our Sahara boutiques – we paid a visit to the Scottish city to discover the most inspiring things to see, do, taste and shop for.
As remarkable a city as you’re likely to find, windswept Edinburgh is a bustling intersection between historical places of pilgrimage and trendy bars, shops and eateries. It’s a place for everyone, hosting all manner of events, from the annual International Festival and Fringe Festival in August to daily tours of the sublime natural landscape that surrounds it on all sides.
Scotland’s capital is a city of two parts; the Old Town, where you’ll find our Sahara boutique, and the aptly named New Town. If you’re visiting Edinburgh, a look around both sides of the city comes highly recommended. We began our journey on the older side of town. Dating back to 400BC, this part of Edinburgh is furnished with ancient buildings and museums, including the city’s beloved Edinburgh Castle.
This fortress, or at least the site beneath it, has been occupied since the Iron Age and the castle itself, with its many turrets, chapels and expertly preserved chambers, makes for a fascinating afternoon of exploration. Of course, if you’d rather not ascend the castle rock, you can admire its beauty and listen out for the daily One O’Clock Gun from the streets below the hill.
Edinburgh City Centre, photographed by Adam Wilson
Given its rich and mysterious history, ghost tours are plentiful in Edinburgh, but if all things spooky and supernatural aren’t to your liking, a visit to one of the many quirky bars and restaurants populating the dark alleyways might provide a flavour of local history that promises to be slightly more comfortable. Whisky bars are myriad and modern Italian and Japanese restaurants are bountiful too. In fact, the city is peppered with Michelin-starred eateries and lesser-known epicurean spots serving fine food.
A walk down the long curve of Victoria Street down to Grassmarket proffers a string of independent stores filled with artisan products, from homegrown produce to furniture handmade by local designers. It’s here that you’ll find our boutique and a team of friendly style advisors. For those who might enjoy a brisk walk from the shops, Arthur’s Seat, the iconic dormant volcano and an elevated spot of great natural beauty, is a 15 minute walk from this area – it should be noted that not many cities can attest to such a variety of landmarks within a mere mile.
Speaking of elevated spots, fans of architecture might enjoy a trip up the spiral staircase of the Gothic Walter Scott monument. Not one for those with a fear of heights, this sky-high turret can be admired from the ground below, or climbed for a panoramic view of the city.
The Elephant House
For fresh air and green spaces in spades, Edinburgh is generous with parks and gardens dotted all over and around the city. The New Town, built during the mid-17th century, is a feat of grand Georgian architecture and features a host of sculpted private gardens. Home to modern bars and restaurants and commonly known department stores, this area of town provides a fresh contrast to the Old Town, though the two make very happy neighbours.
On Victoria Street, the city’s most photographed street and the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, sits our Sahara boutique. ‘What makes the store special is firstly the location; it’s not just a shopping trip it’s a whole day out if you wish and a great experience.’ says our Store Manager, Moia. ‘You cannot help but be taken in by the quirky beauty of the street and we love our like-minded neighbours, from Walker Slater our city’s hipster tweed destination, to the no-frills Bow Bar (recently voted Best Bar in Scotland) serving straight up Scottish whiskeys’.
Indeed, Sahara is surrounded by centuries of history in a part of the city that has inspired famous classics such a Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, the blood curdling true story of Burke and Hare the infamous body snatchers and more recently the Harry Potter novels. The Elephant House where J K Rowling wrote the beginnings of the books that captured the world’s imagination is just a two minute walk from the store and is still a place of interest for writers and fans alike.
After a spot of shopping, a visit to the city’s many museums and galleries or perhaps an afternoon tea is likely to be your next port of call. Edinburgh offers a wealth of trendy and traditional spots in which to enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. The perfect fusion of culture, comfort, history and of course, unique places to shop, Edinburgh is one of our favourite places to visit in the UK.
You can find Sahara, Edinburgh at 82 West Bow, Edinburgh, EH1 2HH. We are open seven days a week. Have you visited our Edinburgh boutique recently? Or perhaps you have a story about one of the places we’ve mentioned. Let us know on our Facebook page by clicking here.