May 31, 2006

Expensive Taxis

Edinburgh taxi fares are among the highest in the world, according to a recent survey. At a cost of £7 for a 3 mile (about 5km) journey, Edinburgh comes in in 5th place in a ranking of the most expensive cities for taxi rides. Only Oslo, Geneva, Osaka and London were more expensive.

May 30, 2006

George Square

Here are some of the nice buildings which line George Square, the central hub of the University of Edinburgh. Unfortunately, the University in their all-knowing wisdom, pulled down the attractive houses on two sides of the Square to erect some of the ugliest buildings in the city. The University Library resembles a multi-storey car-park, the David Hume Tower, at 13 storeys high is really too tall for the city and as for the Appleton Tower, it just needs knocked down. I will showcase these buildings in due course!

May 29, 2006

Slutty Cow!

With the colour they are bringing across the city, I can't resist showing you some more highlights of the Cow Parade. This rather slutty looking cow is obviously ready for a night out in Edinburgh...and with all the hen nights and stag parties in the city every weekend, she'll certainly be in good company.

May 28, 2006

Valvona & Crolla

If you're looking for wonderful cheeses, the best of Italian wine, the finest pastas, the best salamis and cold meats all served by knowledgeable and helpful staff, then Valvona & Crolla is the place to go in Edinburgh. Established in 1934, it truly is an Edinburgh institution known for its range and quality. Their main shop is on Elm Row near the top of Leith Walk, but they also recently opened a little Italian café in the fashionable new Multrees Walk.

May 27, 2006

Waverley Steps

Daniel from Miami requested a shot of the steps as you come out of Waverley Station towards Princes Street. As they're doing renovations at that part of the station, they've closed that entrance so I've taken the shot the other way round, looking down the steps from Princes Street. At the moment, you can access the station through the shopping centre, but the plan is to create a glass structure with escalators going in and out. Not sure how that will look up against the side of the rather grand-looking Balmoral Hotel, but at least it will keep you dry as far as Princes Street!

May 26, 2006

Police Box Coffee Bars

One rather unusual sight you'll see all over the centre of Edinburgh is old police boxes which have been turned into coffee bars. Obviously, the old police boxes fell out of use, but by turning them into these rather cool little coffee bars, the streets of the city have managed to retain a little piece of history while changing with the times. As I don't work in the city centre, I don't get much of a chance to frequent them much, but when I was a student, a hot coffee on the walk to a 9 o'clock lecture was a very welcome pick-me-up!

May 25, 2006

Edinburgh Cuisine

Edinburgh does have many fine restaurants which showcase some of the best of Scottish produce and cooking. However, our fish 'n' chip shops have a tendency to deep-fry in batter anything that sits still long enough. One "delight" you may come across in Edinburgh is the deep-fried mars bar...yes, it is as disgusting as it sounds! Bizarrely enough, they are usually found in chippies owned by 2nd or 3rd generation Italian-Scots!

May 24, 2006

Scottish Edubloggers

Ewan McIntosh organised a meet-up in the pub following the City of Edinburgh council's eLive conference which aims to promote the use of ICT in education. The Jolly Judge was the chosen venue, not because of the fine beer or vast selection of malt whiskies but because they have wi-fi, and as you can see these bloggers, John Johnston, Will Richardson and David Muir can't be parted from their laptops even while drinking.

May 23, 2006

A Young Cow-ple

Everyone seems to be enjoying the Cow Parade. Children shriek with delight and laughter when they see the various installations around the city, and this young couple couldn't resist the chance to have their photo taken on top of this brightly-coloured cow - only they didn't know I was taking one too!

May 22, 2006

Caricature Exhibition

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street is playing host to a rather cool exhibition of caricature portraits of weel-kent (well-known) faces from Scottish life. It makes a rather refreshing change from the very traditional portrait paintings you'll find in the rest of the gallery. Can you recognise the faces on the poster?

May 21, 2006

Rosslyn again

This will be the last of my mini Rosslyn series. The Da Vinci Code has obviously had a huge effect on the number of visitors who come to Rosslyn Chapel - many of whom come armed with a copy of the novel rather than a guide book! It is undergoing some restoration work at the moment, which was a bit of a hindrance to the film crew when they arrived to shoot the film. Hope you've enjoyed seeing inside Rosslyn Chapel and I hope you come to discover its secrets for yourselves.

May 20, 2006

Rosslyn carvings

I'm going to stick to Rosslyn Chapel today and show a bit more of a close-up of some of the carvings on the ceiling. Do these symbols hide a long-hidden or long-forgotten clue to the location of the Holy Grail? Whatever you make of the connection to the Grail and indeed to the Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel really is well worth a visit. In fact the little village of Roslin has another more recent claim to fame...anyone know??

May 19, 2006

Rosslyn Chapel

As the eagerly awaited film of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" is released today in the cinema, I thought I'd bring you inside the intriguing Rosslyn Chapel, in the village of Roslin about 5 miles/8 km south of Edinburgh, where the novel's dénouement takes place. Rosslyn Chapel has long been associated with the Freemasons, the Knights Templar and the search for the Holy Grail. Its carvings leave so many questions unanswered. What is it trying to tell us? How did a chapel founded in 1446 manage to contain carvings of corn - a plant not believed to be discovered by Europeans until Columbus landed in America? Does it still hide the secret of the Holy Grail?

May 18, 2006

Fettes College

This rather handsome Gothic style building is a rather exclusive private school, which goes by the name of Fettes College. This building, with its turrets and spires, provided the inspiration for Hogwarts in JK Rowling's Harry Potter novels. The rather odd pink and grey striped blazers they wear as uniform may also have inspired her somewhat too. It is also the school attended by British Prime Minister, Tony Blair...not really the kind of up-bringing you expect of a "Labour" PM!

May 17, 2006

Building the New into the Old

The problem the architects of the Omni Centre were faced with was how to integrate this old façade into the new building. It is a listed structure and as such could not be knocked down. For a long time, all that was on this site was the old façade held up by support structures and a large empty building site. I think the architects did a pretty good job as the glass makes the old part of the building stand out, but they've still been able to use at as an integral part of the whole structure. It's the entrance to a nightclub called Mood, if anyone is interested!

May 16, 2006


This is the Omni Entertainment Centre and this is where the Edinburgh giraffes live, although they too have been joined in recent days by multi-coloured cows from the Cow Parade...fabulous! The city is a riot of colour! This site was for many years a bit of a scar on the landscape of central Edinburgh, as the building work just never seemed to start. I'll show you the reason for the delay tomorrow. Anyway, the Omni houses a cinema, a gym, restaurants, bars, a nightclub, a comedy club and offices on the upper floors. It's a good place to do a pub crawl on a wet evening in Edinburgh!

May 15, 2006

Multi-coloured Cows

Eric in Paris showed us the Paris Cow parade a few weeks ago, and also mentioned that it happened here in Edinburgh too. I had never seen it before, but yesterday, while it wasn't a parade - there were already 125,000 people in the streets for the Hearts victory parade, there were a lot of multi-coloured cows in Princes Street Gardens and around the National Gallery. There are even some flying cows on the Gallery buidling! Find out MOO-re about the Edinburgh Cow Parade and view some photos from BBC Scotland.

May 14, 2006


Like many other cities, Edinburgh has invested heavily in public art projects, some of which are loved more than others. This is one of the latest which was unveiled outside the Omni entertainment centre in July of last year. Officially entitled 'Dreaming Spires' it shows two giraffes made up entirely of recycled motorbike and car parts. It is the work of a Scottish artist called Helen Denerley. I like them. What do you reckon?

May 13, 2006

Hearts win the Cup

I'm cheating a bit today as this is not my photo, it's taken from BBC Sport, but as it's a huge event for the city of Edinburgh (well, half of it anyway), I thought I'd show a picture of Hearts captain Steven Pressley lifting the Scottish Cup after their victory on penalties against little Gretna (1-1, 4-2 on pens), the second division champions. This is the seventh time Hearts have won the Cup in their history and their first since 1998. Prior to that, they last won the Cup in 1956. Their local rivals Hibs, have been waiting a lot longer as they've not won the Cup in over 100 years. It's also been a good few days for the Scottish national team, winning the Kirin Cup today after a 0-0 draw against Japan. Our 5-1 victory against Bulgaria on Thursday, coupled with today's draw meant Scotland have actually won a Cup!! We might not be going to the World Cup, but there is quiet optimism for the future of Scottish football.

May 12, 2006

Say Cheese!

After seeing some glorious looking cheese in Wilf James's blog of Réal in rural France, it made me want to go out and buy some really good cheese, and photograph a great Edinburgh cheese shop at the same time. This wonderful place is on Victoria Street, a street I have showcased a few times before, and it sells all sorts of fantastic, locally-produced Scottish cheese as well as quality cheese from other parts of the British Isles and Europe. The smells as you walk past the shop are fabulous!

May 11, 2006

Bloody students!?

I'm sure statues in other cities get similar treatment, but for those unaccustomed to seeing statues bearing traffic cones, this is a very typical student prank. The only slightly unusual thing is that they've put two traffic cones on this statue of David Hume. Such a world-renowned philosopher and leading thinker of the Scottish Englightenment surely deserves better treatment!

May 10, 2006

Is it summer?

You can tell it's May and the start of the exam season as the weather over the last few days has been glorious. It feels like summer already with daytime temperatures around 24C here in Edinburgh. Lots of people have been out enjoying the sunshine around Arthur's Seat and Princes Street Gardens. The best we managed to do at school was to have lunch out on the grass. Lovely!

May 09, 2006

More Lothian Buses

Just to add a bit more colour, we have one of the shiny new buses, and the back of one of the older style. I don't know if this was done deliberately but the predominant colour of Edinburgh buses is maroon and the bus lanes in town are green. Can anyone guess the colours of the two Edinburgh football teams, Hearts and Hibs?? There is another bus company which operates in the Edinburgh area, First Bus, whose colours are grey, pink and purple...not as bad as it sounds. What is confusing for tourists is that if you a buy a day or week pass for one bus company, the ticket is not valid on the other company's buses. Also, bizarre fact, Lothian Buses which have the new style of number plate XX 00 XXX all have London registration plates rather than Scotland ones! This is because they can have LB as the first two letters standing for Lothian Buses!

May 08, 2006

Smoke-free and Proud

After Nicola's comment yesterday about our rather colourful trains and having shown you many colourful taxis, I thought I'd show you (part of) one of our typical Edinburgh buses. This one sports a rather clever and powerful advert about the smoking ban from Cancer Research Scotland. Most of the buses in the city are double-decker. They are modern, clean and Lothian Buses provide a very efficient service. The fares have gone up recently to a flat fare of £1 for a single journey, which can be as long as 20km from the eastern to the western suburbs, or £2.30 for an all-day ticket. While our trains are a total rip-off, I reckon our buses provide an excellent service at a fair price.

May 07, 2006

Inside Waverley

I'm bringing you inside the station today and you can see some people having got through the new ticket barriers, running to catch the train to Glasgow. The ticket barriers have been erected at the main stations in Edinburgh and Glasgow to cut down on people trying to dodge the fare on short journeys. The train companies say it's effective, but a lot of people find it a pain to be made to wait to buy a ticket to exit the platform, when they were unable to buy a ticket at the station they got on at, or on the train. Also if you arrive at the station without a ticket and your train is sitting there ready to depart, the chances of you catching it are pretty slim by the time you've gone to the ticket office to buy one. I can see the train companies' argument, but they really should install more automatic ticket machines in the stations and make the fare-system more user-friendly for the customers. A fact-finding trip to Japan would be in order for our train station operators.

May 06, 2006

Waverley Station

Nerissa and Sarah were both right, under the North Bridge and directly behind the imposing Balmoral Hotel, we have the city's main train station, Waverley. As a tourist, it's a nice way to arrive in the city because as soon as you come out of the main entrance, you're greeted with a glorious view of the Castle, the Old Town buildings, the Scott Monument and Princes Street Gradens. The only other cities I've been to which match the immediacy of such a fantastic view from the train station are Cologne with the 'Dom' right outside the front door, and Venice.

May 05, 2006

North Bridge and the Old Town

Yet another view from Calton Hill, this time looking north towards the Old Town and the brightly painted North Bridge. North Bridge is an important artery in this city, linking the Old Town to the New Town. Underneath North Bridge, there is no water - anyone know what's there? If not, I'll show you tomorrow. When you come to Edinburgh, your first stop really should be a trip up Calton Hill because the views all around are truly spectacular.

May 04, 2006


This was the lovely sunset we got treated to while we were walking up the hill to the Beltane festival the other night. We've had really nice weather here for the last few days. Let's hope it continues to the weekend.

May 03, 2006

Dancing with Fire

Here's the last of the Beltane photos. In its current form, the festival was brought back to life by the foundation of the Beltane Fire Society in 1988. It started off as a small scale event, but has snowballed in recent years into one of Edinburgh's many festivals. On the hill, I certainly heard more foreign accents and languages than locals. The locals were the ones trying to evade paying the admission fee by climbing up through the woods onto the hill rather than coming up the pathway!

May 02, 2006

Edinburgh's Disgrace at Beltane

If you come to Beltane for the first time, and you're up the hill early enough, get a spot in front of the National Mounment (or Edinburgh's Disgrace.) We didn't know this and so when the action started, we had to push our way through to get a bit of a view of the fire rituals. We didn't get terribly close so this is one of those put your camera in the air and hope for the best photos.

May 01, 2006


Last night was Beltane, the ancient Celtic fire festival. Beltane on 30th April welcomes in the summer, in the same way that Samhuinn (or Hallowe'en) on 31st October brings in the winter. We got on top of the hill at around 8, but nothing really happened until after 10 so there was a lot of sitting around in the cold while various people tried to entertain by running onto the little stage and revealing various parts of their bodies! I will show some more Belatne pictures in the coming days, and explain a little more about it, but here's a torch-bearing goddess to start with!