Touring town with a hound? Take our lead and head to Scotland’s capital to find out how easy it is, from finding a place to stay to the best walks and days out.
Inews reports that ordinarily, Edinburgh would be teeming with festivalgoers, but that torrent of visitors is more of a tranquil pool this summer. At other times of the year, Harry Potter nerds delight in its connections with JK Rowling and her series of witchy fantasy novels; history buffs trail to the 900-year-old castle and handsome historic buildings on the Royal Mile; and families spend hours in the many engaging museums and galleries that dot the city.
But there’s one member of the household you might not consider taking on a city break to Edinburgh (or, indeed, other cities around the country): the dog. But that would be remiss. Edinburgh is one of the UK’s most dog-friendly cities, with plenty of parkland, pet-friendly pubs and – most excitingly – a handful of attractions that’ll let you bring the whole family. Earlier this month, I did exactly that, and was delighted by how enjoyable it was exploring the Scottish capital with my pup. Here’s what I learned.
Where to go for walkies
Needless to say, the most important thing on a dog owner’s mind is where you can go for that all-important walk. Thankfully, Edinburgh is a delightfully green city, with central parks for little strolls and vast landscapes worthy of far longer hikes.
In the heart of town, Princes Street Gardens is a beautiful spot for a short stroll, with pretty seasonal planting and brilliant views of that ever-present castle. To the east is Calton Hill, a 103m-high mound you can climb for fantastic views over both Old and New Town, and on a clear day you can see right over Leith to the Firth of Forth.
Inverleith Park, north of New Town, has 54 acres in which your dog can roam off-lead and chase a ball if they’re so inclined.
But the walker’s highlight in Edinburgh has to be Arthur’s Seat. This extinct volcano sits within Holyrood Park and towers above the surrounding area at 251m high. It’s just under a 5km (about 3 mile) walk from Holyrood Palace, at the end of the Royal Mile, and with a steady incline throughout it’s a good two-to-three-hour hike and a bit of a scramble at the end to reach the very top (not suitable for elderly dogs), but the reward is unrivalled views of Edinburgh Castle and the entire city.
It’s a shame that Edinburgh Castle doesn’t allow dogs inside, but there’s still enjoyment in strolling along the Royal Mile that leads up to its gates. You could join the free Sandemans daily walking tour, which takes in the famous high street while guides regale you with tales of Edinburgh’s illustrious and occasionally sordid past.
Or, if there are children (big or small) in your midst, book in to visit the Camera Obscura & World of Illusions – a five-storey townhouse packed with interactive installations, ranging from holograms and glowing plasma tubes to a mirror maze and the rather sickening vortex tunnel. Dogs are allowed everywhere and they make a great prop in the Ames Room, where an optical illusion can turn them (and you) into a giant.
For more refined fun, Edinburgh’s creative hub, Summerhall, is dog-friendly throughout. Pop in to see the latest exhibitions in its galleries, then have coffee or a Pickering’s gin and tonic (the distillery is based here) at the Royal Dick Bar in the courtyard. Further afield, you could spend the day cruising the Firth of Forth with Forth Boat Tours. The 90-minute Three Bridges cruise takes in all three of the bridges across the waterway and a smattering of islands nearby, and it includes an insightful commentary on the area’s history.
If staying on land is more your vibe but you do like to be beside the seaside, then don’t miss Portobello, the city’s coastal suburb where all the good dogs come to run along the vast sandy beach. While you’re there, don’t miss a visit to Harry’s Gourmet Treats to pick up their home-made haggis-flavoured treats (incidentally, this is also the only shop in the UK where you can bring your dog to be fitted for the brilliant Equafleece coats).
Where to eat and drink
When the weather’s good, almost any outdoor dining area is dog-friendly in Edinburgh, but let’s face it, the Scottish weather cannot be relied upon. Nip into Arcade on Cockburn Street for whisky and haggis served in a multitude of ways, drink local ales alongside hearty pub grub in the 17th-century Ensign Ewart on the Royal Mile, or head further east to seek out ludicrously tempting cakes at Mimi’s Little Bakehouse.
In New Town, The Huxley on Rutland Street does great hot dogs, burgers and beef-dripping chips, but the highlight out here is Baba on George Street. This rabbit warren of rooms offers plenty of space for dining with the dog and the Levant-inspired small plates that come from its open kitchen are spectacular. The blackened sweet potato with saffron crème fraîche and the slow-cooked lamb shoulder are particularly unforgettable.
Where to stay
There’s a host of hotels in the Scottish capital that allow dogs, including the new Moxy Edinburgh Fountainbridge (doubles from £80 with additional £20 for pet) and the illustrious Balmoral (doubles from £150 with an additional £50 for your pet, which must be under 9kg), a former railway station converted into a 167-room property now home to the suite where JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. But the cream of the crop is Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel. Set inside seven interconnected townhouses right in the heart of New Town, it has handsome interiors decorated with quirky artworks and a leafy indoor courtyard, and the dog-friendly bedrooms are spacious with big, supremely comfy beds. Staff will make a fuss of your pup on arrival with treats at reception, and when they need a little comfort break you can grab the keys to Charlotte Square’s pretty enclosed garden, where the dog can run safely off-lead for a leg stretch any time of the day or night (doubles from £135, dogs must be under 35kg and are free to bring along.)
(Story source: Inews)