IF the recent vote had gone the other way, I’d have been green with envy right now that Edinburgh belonged to a foreign country. As it is, I can feel a proprietorial pride that it still belongs to us!
Scotland’s grand capital city is drenched in centuries-old history, but my five-day visit showed me some of its other faces, too: the extraordinary friendliness of its natives chief among them.
Everywhere I went – castle or palace, parliament building, shop, gallery or museum, restaurant or bar – I encountered only warmth, kindness and cheerfulness.
Coming so soon after the in-out independence referendum that had so sharply divided the Scottish nation and could have made life uncomfortable for the Sassenach tourist, the city’s smiling countenance was as welcome as it was unexpected.
From the great castle at the top of the famous Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace and the new parliament building at the bottom, Edinburgh has a sheen of class blended as beautifully as its finest malt whisky with a wonderful town-to-earth accessibility.
Its unique place in the history of the United Kingdom is profound, of course, but its geography, too, is formidably impressive. Perched alongside a long-dead volcano on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth on Scotland’s rugged east coast, it is surrounded by the glorious, rich landscape of the Lothians.
Edinburgh’s tourism credentials are further enhanced as its atmospheric Old Town and sprawling, mainly Georgian, New Town share a joint listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With a packed annual calendar of arts events, the highlight of which is the Edinburgh Festival and its world-class Fringe, small wonder Scotland’s brightest jewel is second only to London as the UK’s top destination for overseas tourists.