“It has been said that a Scotsman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh…”
Occupied for centuries, the city of Edinburgh is the second most visited in the United Kingdom after London. It is named after Edinburgh Castle, a prominent structure sitting atop an imposing pinnacle in the city center. The castle was built in the 13th century and the city gradually grew up around it. It was originally intended to be a fortress and has been a host of royal power throughout its history. The center of Scottish life since the first millennium, today it contains the Crown Jewels of Scotland and is the most-visited paid tourist attraction in Scotland. The Old and New Town sections of the city are also included in its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.
Edinburgh is well-known for its higher education, with four universities being found in the city. The population of around half a million people is about 1/5 students, and the University of Edinburgh was recently placed 21st in the World University Rankings. The college itself is over 400 years old and is the alma mater to many of Scotland’s most famous sons and daughters. One of Edinburgh’s claims to fame is its literary genius represented by its many noteworthy authors including: Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and most recently J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, who began writing the first book in an Edinburgh coffee shop. The city has such a storied literary significance that it is actually the first UNESCO City of Literature.
Scots are generally stereotyped to be a dour and serious lot, quick tempered, and quite boorish. There’s also the infamous characterization of James Bond as played by Sean Connery though, so you can see how much stock we take in stereotypes. Edinburgh residents, we find, are quite friendly, eager to meet people, quick to party, and in the right venue, ready to show and tell the answer to the age-old questions, “Just what do you wear under those kilts?” Just be sure you’re prepared to hear the answer. That said, Scotland has had some bad press in recent years for its record of hate crimes specifically against Gay / LGBT persons. It may also soon be the first place in the UK to allow gay marriages though, so take that as you will. Gay Edinburgh though has a well-maintained gay scene that centers on “the pink triangle” near Leith Walk in New Town. It switches off Pride festivities with nearby Glasgow every year though.
Weather in Edinburgh is relatively mild compared to other areas of similar latitude. Its position so far north though, means it rarely gets above 70° F and it can be below freezing in the winter. Summer is an ideal time to visit, and you still may want to bring a sweater for the evenings.
Edinburgh Gay Scene
Edinburgh is a city of nearly half a million people, and that means there are certainly venues for its resident gays. Edinburgh may not have a “gayborhood” really, but its gay bars all seem to be centered in a specific area referred to as “the Pink Triangle.” It’s a collection of clubs and eateries along Leith Walk near the eastern edge of New Town. The area’s somewhat a combination of The Castro and Chelsea, and each venue offers something unique. All are within walking distance making it convenient for dinner and drinks before going dancing!
Pubs are very popular in the UK, and Edinburgh is of course no exception. The Street and the Regent are the traditional pubs, with good food and real ale. The funky gays seeks out the four shabby-chic pillars of Victoria Bar, Boda Bar, Sofi’s Bar, and Joseph Pearce which are all on or near Leith Walk. For a late night out, bounce over to recently-refurbished CC Blooms or the massive GHQ. There are also plenty of queer nights at different places, so keep an eye out for the gay listings section of The List magazine.
The local Pride festivities take place in May, but every year Edinburgh switches off with nearby Glasgow to host it. It happens to be a great time to visit the area, and a perfect excuse to go see another one of Scotland’s fantastic destinations!