Going for the Fringe? Here are our favorite places to refuel

There are plenty of opportunities to treat yourself to a break, not far from the crowds of festival fans, but close enough to Edinburgh’s coolest places to eat and drink, as Ailsa Sheldon reveals

Fortunately, the Edinburgh Festival is back for real this summer and with it all the energy, color and dynamism that we were missing. We’ll rush between shows, marvel at street performers and rely on food trucks to supply us. I can not wait.
However, it’s easy for the festival to feel overwhelming and exhausting, especially when many of us haven’t been to crowded places in the past couple of years.
So why not, when booking shows and making plans, allow for downtime? While chipping away in the Meadows with a popsicle is never a bad option, consider making time to visit parts of Edinburgh where the festival frenzy doesn’t reach. Allow yourself to relax, recharge and explore before returning to the fray.
Every area here is easily accessible by bus from the city center and I’ve shared a few favorite places to eat, drink, stretch your legs and relax.

morning side
An easy bus or walk from Meadows to Bruntsfield takes you to the Morningside area. It’s the fictional home of Miss Jean Brodie and Maisie the cat, the real home of a variety of independent businesses and lively hangouts. A first stop should be Salt Coffee. This popular spot is in a class of its own. How many cafes have a butcher and bakery on site? Inside, there are sage green walls, neon signs, exposed brickwork, and seating made from repurposed industrial pipes. It’s very cool, but with a welcoming neighborhood vibe.
To experience Salt at its best, book for a leisurely brunch. The menu is seasonal and interesting with the majority of ingredients sourced within 35 miles of the cafe, so swap the avocado on toast for the much tastier braised garden peas, little gem and spring onions on bread grilled, with Corrie Hands Perfect poached eggs.
I’m really into Edinburgh’s fermented pea, bean and mojito kraut fritters which arrive topped with poached eggs, chilli garlic yoghurt and flaked smoked trout. There are stuffed flatbreads, buckwheat and currant pancakes, and potent cooked breakfasts perfect for big appetites (or hangovers), choose from Butcher, Grocery, or Gluten-Free. The homemade sausages are excellent, the haggis is a hit, but it’s the breakfast extras that make it really special: sriracha baked beans, baby miso turnips and candied cherry tomatoes. I loved the Virgin Mary Spicy Smoked Tomato Juice and my kids raved about the roasted marshmallow skewer in their hot chocolates. And the cakes? Exceptional. We tried a dark chocolate salted caramel brownie and a rocky road Biscoff. Both were ambitious after brunch but too good to miss. Pair it with a strong coffee from local coffee roaster Mr. Eoin to set you up for the rest of your day.
Along the road, Matto Pizza is another crowd favorite. Choose a standard tomato base for your pizza or go matto (mad in Italian) and opt for an artichoke, pumpkin or pea puree base. It sounds crazy but try the pea-based pizza with mozzarella, gorgonzola, speck, arugula and figs before you decide. Also be sure to try the arancini, they just might be the best in town (I always check, it’s hard work).
From there, stretch your legs on beautiful Blackford Hill, a veritable oasis close to the city. Take a walk through the woods and by the duck pond, then climb the hill and enjoy incredible views over Arthur’s Seat, the city and all the way to the Forth. From here you can choose to take a walk through the woods to the Hermitage of Braid. Deep in the century-old trees, you’ll find it hard to remember that you’re not out in the countryside. Alternatively, a mooch around Morningside’s excellent charity shops can provide the perfect outfit for your festival night.
On the way back to the festival center, stop Modern standard cafe bordering Bruntsfield Links.

An easy walk down the hill from the new town takes you to chic Stockbridge. With cobbled streets, a river running through it and plenty of brilliant independent shops and restaurants, Stockbridge has retained a friendly village feel and is an easy place to spend a few relaxing hours.
You could close your eyes and point and most likely land on a great place to eat, it’s also easy to find great restaurants in Stockbridge. A favorite is the wine bar Smith and Gertrude, where flights of wines from unexpected regions go perfectly with cheese or charcuterie. You can of course just order a drink, the wines by the glass change daily so there is always something new to try. For a casual meal, head to Bell’s Diner. It specialized in burgers, steaks and sundaes with a cheerful vibe. . . what’s not to like?
On the other side of the road, the traditional pub the Bailie’s Bar is the ideal place for a quiet drink with friends. Brunch lovers should try HAmilton’s, Cowan & Sons or Hectors. For street food The neighborhood market is a large grassy area with food trucks open all summer and great fun on a hot day.
Stockbridge has two excellent independent libraries, Golden Hare Books and Rare Bird Library, which only sells women’s books. From there, head to the Botanical Gardens (RBGE). A true jewel in Edinburgh’s crown, the Botanics are free to visit and offer tranquil green spaces and easy walks. A large part of the garden is wheelchair accessible. From the center there are beautiful views of the castle.
From Stockbridge you can also walk along the river to pretty Dean Village and visit the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (there are two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two). There are sculptures around the gardens, including the striking Landform by Charles Jencks. Inside, you could spend an entire day exploring the collections.


How many festival-goers arrive at the beach? Many students in the city go four years without visiting but it’s actually very easy to get to; about an hour walk from the old town or half an hour by bus. So grab your shades and head to Porty to relax by the sea.
The long sandy beach is very popular with swimmers all year round. Along the boardwalk, there is no shortage of dining options. My favorite is Shrimp Wreckwhere from a small kitchen they serve some of the best hot seafood street-food style in town: think bowls of mussels, crab macaroni and cheese, or how about Pittenweem lobster in a brioche bun with fresh remoulade and old-fashioned fries?
The pastel facade next door Civerino’s serve huge slices of pizza and the Beach house, Oscar and Miro’s all make good ice cream and cakes.
Along Portobello High Street you’ll find plenty of great cafes including Twelve trianglesa branch of Bagel Brosand go go beets.
Stroll along the boardwalk to Joppa and back, grab an ice cream or maybe a cold pint of The spy and enjoy the city beach.


Leith has a year-round buzz that intensifies in the summer when people come out of the riverside pubs to sit in the sun, but it never gets as busy as the town centre. There is a wide range of pubs and restaurants, with the Water of Leith running through the middle and plenty of green space.
For hearty meals and a warm welcome to Leith, head to the family restaurant The rose leaf. The Chunky Cullen Skink is a house favorite and the burgers always hit the mark. Accompany it with a cocktail, a pint of local beer and a local sweet. On the other side of the river, Nobles also punches above its weight for pub food and the bar is beautiful with stained glass windows, dark paneling and funky art.
Cocktail bar Three Marys brought a new vibrancy to The Shore with regular live music and mind-blowing cocktails. The bar is gorgeous, with dark walls, stained glass, velvet seating, and bold florals. The Lioness of Leith is another favorite. For a glass of wine try the stylish Mistral wine bar, for an aperitif try the recently opened Italian aperitif bar Bittersweet – definitely order focaccia and olives on the side.
Leith is home to two Michelin-starred restaurants: The Kitchen and Restaurant Martin Wishart. But the fine dining options extend beyond the winners, reserve a table at Dawn for a multi-course tasting menu with a difference, or try the word-of-mouth favorite Heron for a great value lunch or an exciting à la carte evening menu. The bar snacks are amazing too.
Near Leith Links is a grassy park with many trees, a similar feel to the Meadows but no sign of a marquee. It’s great for a picnic. The Water of Leith Road follows the river to Balerno near the Pentland Hills and Leith to Stockbridge takes less than an hour.

Comments are closed.