At the risk of upsetting Andy Williams fans around the world, I have a confession to make: Autumn is here, and to me, it is hands down the most wonderful time of the year.
I love watching the colours change in the trees; reds, hazels, ochres. I love the way children, adults and dogs alike are united in their lack of shame as they plunge into stacks of leaves. I even love it when the nights grow dark and the air begins to nip, with the promise of pumpkins, sparklers and, before-you-know it, Christmas to come.
In fairness, it helps that I live in Edinburgh. With its leafy neighbourhoods, sandstone tenements that seem to glow in the low-setting sun and spooky caverns all beckoning, this is a city which wears autumn like a glove. In fact, having travelled a lot during the months of September and October, I’m willing to stick my neck out on the line and say that it might just be one of Europe’s most beautiful places to soak up the Fall vibes.
Of course, Edinburgh’s always going to be booming during the summer months, with its wondrous festivals on offer, and I firmly believe that everyone should experience the Fringe at least once in their lives. This post, however, is going to argue that autumn is in fact the best season to visit. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the reasons why…
#1 It’s leafy!
Let’s face it; autumn is all about the colours. Thankfully, Edinburgh’s green spaces are plentiful, with tree-lined neighbourhoods, sprawling parks and gorgeous walkways all perfect for soaking up those copper hues. Here’s a few of my favourite places for capturing the perfect Autumnal snaps:
- The Water of Leith (particularly the stretch between Roseburn and Stockbridge)
- The Botanic Gardens
- The Hermitage of Braid
- Princes Street Gardens
- Calton Hill
- The Meadows
- Colinton Dell
#2 The coffee will keep you warm
There are few feelings better than snuggling up in a comfy windowside armchair on an autumn day, with the wind swirling outside and the sound of espresso beans grinding away in the background. Thankfully, Edinburgh’s cobbled streets are awash with excellent coffee houses to warm up in. For particularly cosy vibes, I’d head to:
- Victor Hugo Delicatessan, Melville Terrace – beautifully placed on a corner of the Meadow’s, serving up French-inspired tasty treats
- Project Coffee, Bruntsfield Place – Slap-bang in one of my favourite neighbourhoods, with expertly-crafted cuppas and large windows just right for watching the world go by
- Qupi, Leith Walk – A Greek cafe with a quirky hat-lined snug at the back, their punchy coffee and Mediterranean menu will have you feeling a million miles from the Scotland weather
- Artisan Roast, Stockbridge – These guys know all the tricks of their trade and have a smattering of excellent coffee shops across the city. Personally I’d head for their Stockbridge joint, if only so that you can spend an afternoon enjoying the village-like feel of the area.
- Thomas J. Walls, Forrest Road – A stone’s throw from the Meadows and the city’s university district, this former opticians has been beautifully converted and has a vibe that’s somewhere between trendy, sumptuous and academic. Think Ivy League Fall vibes.
#3 The bars are cosy too!
If it’s a blood-warming tipple you’re after to escape those October chills, you won’t be short of a pub or two. Edinburgh’s bar culture is vast and varied, ranging from quaint wee hole-in-the-walls and folk bars to swanky nightclubs and bellow-ground cocktails. I love a characterful boozer, particularly if it’s en route to a scenic walk, or has a fire crackling away in the background. To whittle away an autumnal evening, you might want to try:
- The Stables Bar, Mortonhall – This family-run gem is one of the city’s best-kept secrets! Tucked away in a stretch of wilderness between Liberton and Morningside, you’re into semi-rural territory here, and there’s a beautiful woodland walk leading to the bar which’ll have you feeling much further from the city than you actually are. Perfect for cosy country vibes (and the food is excellent too!)
- The Sheep Heid Inn, Duddingston – Again, channeling the out-of-the-city vibes here! Rumoured to be Edinburgh’s oldest pub, this quaint inn has an incredible setting at the foot of Arthur’s Seat and marking the entrance to the envy-invoking Duddingston village. It’s the perfect spot to sink a Guinness before having a crack at their in-house bowling alley!
- The Golf Tavern, Bruntsfield – Overlooking the Bruntsfield Links, this much-loved boozer was founded back in 1456, and is still packed to the gunnels with character to this day. As well as supplying some fine local bevvies, you can also pick up some golf balls if you fancy teeing off on the nearby golf course!
- The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Queen Street – If anything’s going to provide a cosy hit, it’s a nice wee nip of one of the country’s finest malts. Do it in style with some expert guidance at the Whisky Society. With a crackling fire and sumptious armchairs to sink into, it doesn’t come much more comfortable than this!
#4 The festival game is still strong
When most people think of Edinburgh’s festival season, their thoughts naturally turn to the summer. With the Film Festival in June, the Jazz and Magic Festivals in July and the Fringe, Book and International Festival dominating August, it’s easy to understand why! What many overlook is that autumn is still bustling with activity, and you’ll almost certainly find exciting events to keep your group entertained! Some important dates to pop into your diary might be:
- Scotland International Storytelling Festival, mid-late October
- Samhuinn Fire Festval, 31st October
- Wondrous Woods at Hopetoun House, Mid October – Mid November
- Drive-In Movies at Edinburgh Airport, various dates throughout Autumn
Even in 2020, events such as these were able to take place safely, some online, and others with social distancing measures in place.
#5 Our museums and galleries won’t set you back a penny
That’s right; in Scotland, our national museums and galleries are free! This is great news for autumnal visitors, particularly with the expensive festive season looming. Edinburgh is particularly blessed with cultural institutions. If it’s an afternoon of enlightenment you’re after, you won’t be short on choice. Some of my favourite escapes are:
- The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Belford Road – Split across two buildings, this beauty offers not only some of the most incredible collections of contemporary art, but also a beautiful setting, with grounds overlooking the city’s skyline, and secret entrance to the beautiful Water of Leith below
- The Fruitmarket Gallery, Market Street – Perfectly placed, just steps away from Waverley Station, this modern gallery is bright, airy and also has a lovely cafe and bookshop on hand for exploring.
- The National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street – Stunningly reworked in 2006, you really have to see the interior of this building to believe it. And that’s before you get to the exhibitions!
- The Writer’s Museum, Lawnmarket – dedicated to the lives and works of Robbie Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott
- Jupiter Artland, Bonnington – Okay so this one does have an entrance fee (£9.00), but believe me when I say that this collection of outdoor sculptures is worth every pound! Worth noting that that the exhibition closes for the season at the end of September. If you’re lucky enough to visit in time you’ll be blessed by some truly gorgeous colours in the surrounding woodlands.
#6 New season? New produce!
The harvest is the perfect time to get your hands on delicious seasonal fare. Supplies won’t come much fresher than the ones you’ll find at the Sunday farmer’s market, held in a pretty cobbled square in Stockbridge every week! You could easily spend a couple of hours here, with stalls selling everything from fruit and veg to fancy cheese, fish and street food. You’ll also find local artists and craft-makers, making this the perfect place to stock up on unique, handmade gifts for the fast-approaching festive season.
#7 It’s a city full of spooky tales!
Stuck for this year’s Halloween costume? You won’t be short on inspiration after a visit to one of the city’s creepier sights!
Edinburgh is a city of layers, both literally and metaphorically. The Old Town is the perfect place for horror fanatics to indulge their fascination with all things macabre, with its underground chambers, labyrinth of hidden streets, gothic churches and -of course – the castle itself, which comes with centuries-worth of harrowing tales. If you’re feeling brave enough to learn a little more about the city’s murky past, you might want to consider:
- Visiting the jails and chambers of Edinburgh Castle
- Wandering through Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. Keep an eye out for Tom Riddle’s grave, said to be the inspiration behind J.K. Rowling’s villainous character!
- A trip to The Edinburgh Dungeon, where the silly factor is high and the jumps are real!
- Delving into the underground vaults with Mercat Tours
- A backstage tour at The Festival Theatre, said to be haunted by The Great Lafayette, who died during a fire upon the theatre’s stage
- Exploring the hidden depths of the city at Mary King’s Close
- Taking a peek at the wonders of human anatomy with a visit to the Surgeon’s Hall
- Having dinner at The Witchery, which stands upon a site once used to burn accused witches
- Riding the Ghost Bus, where the laughs will accompany the screams!
- Learning about the infamous Body Snatchers, Burke and Hare (the former of whom’s death masks and skeleton remain to this day at the university’s Anatomical Museum)
#8 You can experience the zoo in autumnal bloom
Edinburgh Zoo makes for a great day out any time of the year, but it’s particularly impressive during the Autumn months. Built into the expansive Corstorphine Hill, the natural environment is lovely to walk around. The views across the city, its surrounding hills and the Firth of Forth beyond make it well worth the climb! You could easily spend a full day exploring the 82 acres on offer and the incredible wildlife, conservation efforts and learning opportunities will leave you packed with a new appreciation for the animals that roam this earth. Plus, you’re not too far from the fabulous Mimi’s Bakery in Corstorphine, should you fancy a wee reward at the end of all that walking! A body and heart warming way to spend an Autumnal day!
#9 It’s perfect place to start your Christmas shopping early!
Admittedly, I am definitely one of those people who leaves their Christmas shopping to an unfathomably late point in December. BUT, if you are more on the organised end of the spectrum, then Edinburgh is the dream place to work your way through the prezzy list. If it’s high street stores you’re after, you’ll be spoiled for choice on scenic Princes Street or the expansive Fort Kinnaird retail park, just a short bus ride from the city centre. For designer wear, head to George Street or Multrees Walk. To support independent stores, spend an afternoon exploring areas like Leith Walk, Rose Street and Bruntsfield Place, or check out events such as the weekly flea market at the Out Of The Blue Drill Hall.
#10 It’s. Just. So. Beautiful!
Ok, so I’m going to end this on a fickle note, but hear me out. There’s just something so indescribably beautiful about Edinburgh during the autumn months. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re blessed with so many green spaces, that you really get to watch the changing of seasons unfold before your eyes. Maybe it’s the way that only here could rain possibly look so good, glistening on the cobbled streets. Perhaps it’s in the way that the buildings seem to glow with every shade of amber as the afternoon sun hits them just right…the castle, the churches, the tenements… If ever there was a time this city could capture your heart, this is it.
Edinburgh is a special place at the best of times, but it absolutely bosses it when it comes to autumn. Do yourself a favour; set aside some time next Fall. Come see for yourself. I might even buy you a hot chocolate.