This apartment is an ideal base from which to explore the city. The Old Town is on your doorstep: a warren of closes and side streets lead from the Grassmarket to the Royal Mile. The Edinburgh College of Art is just around the corner from the apartment.
The apartment is situated in Cordiner’s Land (‘land’ is a Scots word for a tenement building) in the West Port, a few metres from the Grassmarket, in the heart of Edinburgh's historic Old Town. There have been buildings on this site for centuries, and the current architecture dates back to 1887, though it has been modernized and renovated much more recently. This history is marked in the decorative plaques on the front of the building. Cordiners were leatherworkers, particularly shoemakers. Cordiner comes from the French cordonnier, a shoemaker, and reminds us of the ‘Auld Alliance’ between Scotland and France, forged in the 13th century to strengthen both nations against their common adversary England. As well as providing political and economic benefits, the alliance brought many French words and customs to Scotland.
It's a short walk through the Grassmarket to the Royal Mile, the backbone of medieval Edinburgh, which connects Edinburgh Castle at one end with the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Parliament at the other. (Royal Mile is the combined name for the street formed by Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate.) Edinburgh's main visitor attractions are on your doorstep and the neighbourhood is full of attractive independent shops and restaurants, bars and cafés to suit all budgets, from cheap and cheerful pizzerias to fine dining establishments. The Hub (the official centre for the Edinburgh International Festival) and the Festival Fringe office are on the Royal Mile, and you can easily walk to many Festival venues; the Usher Hall, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Traverse Theatre, Filmhouse and Dance Base are all only a few minutes' walk away. You are also ideally placed to enjoy the Christmas and Hogmanay/New Year festivities. Edinburgh Farmers’ Market takes place every Saturday morning only a short stroll from the apartment.
The area is dominated by Edinburgh Castle, the number one visitor attraction in Scotland. Built on an extinct volcano, the Castle's varied architecture reflects its rich history. The oldest part of the Castle, St Margaret's Chapel, dates from the 1100s, and each passing century has brought its own additions. From the living room of the house you look up to the south wall of the Castle, which is protected by the 16th-century Half Moon Battery. The Castle is still a working garrison today, and during August it provides the stage for the world-famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
The Grassmarket is one of the best-known areas of the city, with lots of bars, restaurants and independent shops. This used to be the working hub of the city; a bustling place of livestock, noisy workers, inns and stables. There have been markets (including horse and meat markets) since at least the 15th century; the first written record of a market is in 1477. In summer, the place comes alive with pavement cafes and street markets, and it has a lively nightlife scene.
Notoriously the Grassmarket was the site for public executions, a memory reflected in the naming of the Last Drop pub: the name refers both to drops of drink and to the drop from the gallows! The Martyrs Cross in the centre of the Grassmarket commemorates the Covenanters who were hanged here in 1681 for their part in defending Presbyterianism in Scotland. You can find out more about Edinburgh's grisly past on the guided tours that leave from the Royal Mile; see for example Mercat Tours, Witchery Tours and Mary King's Close.
In the Vennel to the west of the Grassmarket you can see one of the few remaining sections of the Flodden Wall, a defensive structure built around Edinburgh after the disastrous Battle of Flodden (1513), in which King James IV was killed.
The pubs in the Grassmarket were haunts of Roberts Burns (a plaque at the White Horse Inn commemorates his stay during his last visit to Edinburgh in 1791), Sir Walter Scott and many other writers, and you can retrace their steps on one of the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tours, which leave from the Beehive Inn. This is ‘an entertaining, witty and dramatic romp through the life and work of Scotland's great poets and novelists from the early 18th century to the present day.
Don't miss Victoria Street, one of the most charming streets in the city, with its colourful mix of shops, restaurants, cafés and bars; it curves up from the Grassmarket to George IV Bridge.