The Skinny guide to Abbeyhill

Big hills, great sandwiches, exciting galleries and historic pubs all await in Abbeyhill

Feature by Tallah Brash | 17 Aug 2021
  • Abbeyhill

Taking its name from the nearby ruins of Holyrood Abbey, Abbeyhill is one of the oldest parts of the capital. A mostly residential area made up of classic Edinburgh tenement flats, you’ll also find the super quaint Abbeyhill colonies here. The colonies are perhaps now best known for the annual Colony of Artists festival where locals turn their homes into mini exhibition spaces, opening them up to the general public each September.

Casting the net a little wider, our Abbeyhill section borders the New Town – where you’ll find the start of the city’s main LGBTQI+ thoroughfare – and the boundary of Leith, halfway down Leith Walk.

Go outdoors

It’s not often you find an easily climbable extinct volcano (!) in the middle of a city (!!!), but, well, welcome to Edinburgh and its iconic Arthur’s Seat. Set in the grounds of Holyrood Park, you’ll want to set aside most of a day to properly explore the city’s biggest green space, and its highest peak. As well as the lion-like Seat, the park also boasts the ruins of a 15th century chapel, three lochs and the impressive Salisbury Crags, accessed via the Radical Road. Plan your day wisely and you’ll have time for a pub lunch, a pint and a game of skittles at The Sheep Heid Inn (43 The Causeway).

Excellent views can also be taken in from atop Calton Hill, one of the easier hills in the city to climb with both step and path access available. Modelled on the Parthenon in Athens, once you hit the summit be sure to laugh hard at the National Monument of Scotland, aka 'Edinburgh’s Disgrace'. It will forever remain unfinished due to the money running out during its construction almost 200 years ago. In the former City Observatory you’ll find the gorgeous Collective, a key Edinburgh Art Festival venue since moving into the building several years back. Calton Hill is also home to two seasonal fire festivals – Beltane and Samhuinn.

If you just want a quiet park where you can sit on a bench, read a book, eat a sandwich and enjoy a cold can, Regent Road Park is the best in the area, complete with a knockout view of the Salisbury Crags. Fun fact: Abbeyhill was the site of the first ever hot air balloon flight in the UK in 1784.

Food

As well as sharing its name with the home of Hibernian football club (aka the Hibs or The Hibees), Easter Road is a great place to head for a coffee or quick bite. The fresh focaccia sandwiches stuffed with melt-in-the-mouth mortadella, peppery salami or artichoke pesto from Polentoni (no. 38) are worth walking across town for. A few doors down you’ll find Australian-inspired coffee locale Little Fitzroy (no. 46); with their expertly-made coffees, sandwiches, and well-stocked cake counter, there's plenty of vegan options too. Go the other way and you’ll find the ‘bakery and provisions’ outpost of Twelve Triangles (no. 22) where you can pick up some local produce alongside your long black and pastry.

More sweet treats, like rich ricotta-filled cannoli, can be found at the family-run Sicilian Pastry Shop (14 Albert St). If you’re after something more substantial, you’ll find delicious tacos at Bodega (14 Albert Pl), and the best poutine in the city at Canadian-style diner Down the Hatch (13 Antigua St). For a dining experience with a difference, try the seasonal set plates at The Gardener’s Cottage (1 London Rd). And if you can get in, Roberta Hall’s award-winning cuisine at The Little Chartroom (30 Albert Pl) is a must before it moves to Leith. When it does, this space will become eleanore – run by two chefs from the Chartroom's Portobello beach spot.

A table of burgers, fries and glasses of beer

Drinks

If you fancy a proper pint as well as some great food, the beer garden and taproom at The Bellfield Brewery (46 Stanley Pl) is a no-brainer. The neighbouring Safari Lounge (21 Cadzow Pl), with its kitsch animal print decor, pull a great pint too; their tacos, French fries with jungle sauce and mussel popcorn are all *chef kiss*. The shabby chic Joseph Pearce and ‘proper pub’ vibe of The Windsor (23, 45 Elm Row) are popular with the locals too, as is The Tourmalet (25 Buchanan St), a loosely Tour de France-themed bar offering a vast selection of German beers. At the top of the Walk you’ll find the start of an area lovingly referred to as the 'Pink Triangle', devoted to LGBTQI+ bars, clubs and restaurants – head to CC Blooms (23 Greenside Pl) for their drag nights.

Indie shops

Be sure to plan ahead for after the bars close and pop into the well-stocked Cornelius (18 Easter Rd) for some local beers or SPRY Wines (1 Haddington Pl) for some natural wines. Valvona & Crolla (19 Elm Row) is also a must. Founded in 1934 this cured meat, cheese and wine haven is Scotland’s oldest delicatessen and Italian wine merchant.

Indie books and typewriter maintenance are the name of the game at the quaint Typewronger Books (4a Haddington Pl); second-hand record shop Vinyl Villains (5 Elm Row) will likely help plug some gaps in your record collection; if you're around on the second or last Sunday of the month, head to INK Market at Ltd Ink Corporation (77 Brunswick St) to shop all things bric-a-brac, vintage clothing, antiques, food and drink.