Edinburgh, the original home of Drambuie, is a beautiful city to visit any time of the year. We take a look at the Scottish capital
Legend has it that in 1746, Prince Charles Edward Stuart fled to the Isle of Skye after defeat at the Battle of Culloden. The MacKinnon clan gave him sanctuary and in return the prince gave him his prized drink recipe – Drambuie.
Whether this is historical fact or mythical conjecture, the recipe somehow fell into the hands of one James Ross, who trademarked the drink in 1893. It was sold by his widow in the early 20th century to a different MacKinnon family, who still produce the drink today.
The original site of production was Union Street in Edinburgh, then a small road behind the main city in the middle-class enclave of New Town.
Today, Union Street is a hub of creative activity. Close by is the Edinburgh Playhouse, which opened in 1929 as a super-cinema modeled on the Roxy in New York. These days it’s home to many touring musicals and concerts as well as local productions. If you take a short walk down nearby Elm Row, you’ll find the famous Valvona & Crolla, Scotland’s oldest delicatessen and Italian wine merchant, founded in 1934. Lunch at their café is well worth the time, or buy some delights to take away for a picnic in nearby Holyrood Park, a 260-hectare former-hunting estate, dating from the 12th century. Home to the beautiful Palace of Holyrood House, you can also climb Arthur’s Seat – one of seven formerly volcanic hills in Edinburgh – for a panoramic view of the city and its surrounds.
From Holyrood you can walk up The Royal Mile, a collection of Edinburgh’s oldest streets leading to the castle. With some beautiful examples of architecture dating back to the late 1500s, it’s important to look up – but also down. Below street level is a warren of secret passages, frozen in time since they were sealed up in the 17th century. By 1645, Edinburgh had 70,000 residents, the poorest living at street level in near darkness as the closely constructed stone buildings towered above them for up to 12 floors. No one really knows why the street level was raised and the passages sealed, but it’s an interesting look at life 400 years ago.
The castle, of course, dominates the skyline, and for all the right reasons. There have been fortifications on this site since the Iron Age, with parts of the current castle structure dating back to 1124. With a rich history and amazing artifacts, it’s well worth a tour.
If you feel the need to be fed and watered after all that walking, then the Café Royal on West Regent Street should be your first port of call. This opulent Victorian building was opened as a hotel in 1863, but these days is split into two bars – the ornate Circle Bar, with its high ceilings and cosy booths, and the smaller Oyster Bar, with polished marble floors and wooden revolving doors. Expect award-winning local cask beers, such as Deuchars IPA, and a wide selection of high-end malt whiskies. There’s also a healthy champagne list and a great range of cocktails to pair with their wonderful seafood menu.
Edinburgh too far to travel? Get a taste of the city with this iconic Drambuie cocktail: