Old Town

While inner-city blight may have affected many cities, Edinburgh’s historic Old Town has retained its position as the lively, bustling heart of Scotland’s capital. The area is home to much more than mere tourist gift shops as Clare Lawler discovered when exploring the closes and wynds.

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TEL: 031 225 5144 144 High Street,Roya1 Mile, Edinburgh

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Ale and wine bar at Les Partisans Free live music Wednesday - Saturday

The Old Town was Edinburgh‘s earliest trading centre. Today it is an area that retains a high commercial profile: the Royal Mile is still the main thoroughfare. and the Grassmarket and Victoria Street are the principal retailing points. The dramatic architectural skyline dominated by the Castle and the attractions around St Giles and Parliament Square continue to draw hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Although there are inevitably too many tartan gift shops. the Old Town remains popular with residents for its mixture of highly individual specialist shops. restaurants including some ofthe best in Edinburgh and pubs.

Each summer during Old Town Week the area asserts itself. This year the event runs from Saturday l2 to Sunday 20 June. with daily events. Highlights include the Old Town Gala Parade on 19 June. and St Giles‘ Fair. including a! fresco jazz and classical concert performances in the square. See Days Out section for further details.

I Azteca 5 Grassmarket. 229 9368; 16 Victoria Street. 226 6695. Over the sixteen years since it opened. Azteea has formed strong links with a number of Latin American families with whom John Scarlet trades directly. Azteca trades from two Old Town premises:

the Victoria Street branch specialises in . colourful Mexican and Peruvian

i clothes. jewellery. recycled glass ware and wall hangings. Larger items such as rustic fumiture. terracotta plant pots and ceramic jugs and sinks can be found in the Grassmarket site‘s spacious interior. Azteca stands out as one ofthe city‘s best ethnic folk art shops.

I The Beehive Inn l8—2() Grassmarket. 225 7171. With plans for a beer garden to be opened in mid-summer. this innovative bar and restaurant looks set to attract still more people to the Grassmarket. A vast bar with a fine selection of cask ales is only the beginning. The adjacent Honey Pot bar

serves good value lunch fare. and

accommodates the overflow of evening

l revellers when the main bar is bustling.

Q Upstairs an informal wooded restaurant

5 serves a menu strong on seafood and

i variants on Scottish staples. The

; chargrilled steaks are not to be missed. I Black Bo’s 57—61 Blackfriars Street. 557 6l36. Black Bo‘s has earned a loyal following for its vegetarian restaurant and adjacent bar. If you are looking for a refreshing change from

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big brewery standard pub interiors. look no further than Black 80’s. A small but uncluttered bar. Bo‘s has become a popular destination fora young. easy-going crowd. The restaurant has gained a well-deserved reputation for cuisine appealing to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

I Fiddler’s Arms 13 Grassmarket. 22‘) 2665. One of a wealth of drinking holes in the Old Town. the Fiddler‘s Arms stands out as an ideal Saturday afternoon pub. A place to pull up a stool at the bar. sample the cask conditioned ales and traditional lunch snacks. Although recently refurbished. this bar offers a friendly arnbience. that many theme bars lack. With live folk

music and quiz nights during the week.

and the odd football match on the box. a round here could soon become a habit.

I Grain Store Restaurant Looking out

over the steep incline of Victoria Street.

this first floor stone-vaulted restaurant is well worth seeking out. A choice of lunch or snack. and evening and a la cane menus offer a selection of dishes for all appetites and budgets. Choose from subtle smoked salmon escalopes with salad. to fillet steak with blue cheese and red wine sauce. or impressive baked rabbit with apricot and sherry stock.

I Helios Fountain 7 Grassmarket. 229

7884. While Helios Fountain's unique formula leans towards New Age. this is

not a shop and cafe that intends to preach any message. For the ‘new' stands for the fresh approach to retailing that Helios has taken over the past years. stocking a tempting selection of alternative books. gifts. crafts. toys. jewellery and cards. Their backroom vegetarian healthfood cafe offers an array of tasty salads. quiches. freshly baked cakes and biscuits and a main course Monday to Saturday.

I le Sept 7 ()Id Fishmarket Close. 225 5428. The Fishmarket alley winds steeply off from the High Street and Le Sept is well wonh a detour. An outside terrace which catches the summer sun provides an extra attraction to this ever popular Old Town restaurant. The friendly informal atmosphere is a perfect setting for the bistro-style ,