Columnists » William Kapfer

72 Hours In Edinburgh

by William Kapfer
Monday Jan 9, 2012

I had the opportunity to travel to the capital city of Scotland recently and was incredibly impressed by the historically significant sights one can find in Edinburgh. The town is a combination of ancient and modern. A small, friendly city that is easy to get around, Edinburgh is divided between the Old Town and the New Town ensuring that there is plenty of interest for all its guests. Oh, and did I mention that it has a vibrant and interesting gay scene?

Often overlooked by gay travelers, Scotland is a location that deserves to be on your agenda. We decided to center our travels in Edinburgh, the capital of the region. This turned out to be a good choice due to the incredible sites in the general vicinity and the amazing gay nightlife. For a central location with deluxe accommodations, the discerning gay traveler should seriously consider the stunning Hotel Missoni. The hotel is sexy, smart, stylish and giddily decadent. The cutting-edge black and white décor is complemented by the distinctly Missoni signature design aesthetic of dramatic use of color and bold patterning. The unique luxury hotel opened in 2009 and is the first in the Missoni design collection.

Within close proximity of the Hotel Missoni is the Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse-the Queens's official residence in Scotland-and one of my favorite attractions, the Princess Street Gardens. The Gardens are located in the heart of Edinburgh's City Centre. They were once a lake called Nor' Loch. The Loch, which had been the trash dump of Edinburgh for centuries, was drained in order to improve access from the New Town to the Old Town. Later, the Nor' Loch was transformed into the beautiful Princes Street Gardens we see today.

For the more adventurous travelers, I would suggest a short hike up to Arthur's Seat - it is situated in the center of the city-about a mile from Edinburgh Castle-and makes for a terrific climb. Described by Robert Louis Stevenson as "a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design," the extinct volcano rises above the city to a high of 823 and offers breathtaking, panoramic views of the city. We made the climb for the stunning views and to work off some of previously night's indulgences.

In Edinburgh, one cannot go far without stumbling across one of the many museums or galleries-two of the most notable are the National Gallery of Scotland and the Gallery of the Modern Art - the Modern features work from the 20th and 21st centuries, with everything from Cubism and Expressionist pieces, to modern British art. You should also take a look at the relatively new Scottish Parliament building. It is really quite a structure.

Along with a healthy dose of history, art and culture, Edinburgh also delivers when it comes to shopping. Princess Street and George Street should be on the top of the list for any shopaholic, as these streets are packed with well-known Madison Avenue names.

As you would expect from a world-class capital, once the sun goes down there are countless places to enjoy the Edinburgh nightlife. We had many delicious meals while in Edinburgh, but two that really stood out were actually eateries located in hotels. The first was Cunia at Hotel Missoni. The menu is a contemporary take on Italian dining-rooted in the love of fresh, seasonal Italian ingredients. The head chef, Mattia Camorani is the talented protégé of Girogio Locatelli - owner of Zafferano and considered one of the most important chefs in the UK.

The second was at Hadrian's Brasserie in the historic and opulent city landmark, The Balmoral Hotel. The eatery was chic, stylish and had a 1930's feel -- with pale-green walls, dark-wood furniture, and waiters with white aprons and black waistcoats. The stylish atmosphere is reflected in both, its décor and the excellent contemporary menu, which includes posh versions of popular Scottish dishes such as asparagus with rocket and parmesan, haggis with whisky sauce, game terrine with Cumberland jelly, and rib-eye steak with béarnaise sauce.

Nights ended late for us, partly due to our jetlag! We headed out to the various clubs, which are full of gay travelers from all over the world. One night we met a new group of friends that included Scots, Americans and Italians. As a matter of fact, Edinburgh is a big draw for the Italian community, as evidenced by the popularity of the Missoni. We made the rounds at the most popular clubs including Café Habana, CC Blooms, and Priscilla's. We danced the night away at Planet Out and New Town. Check the listings as they all have themed nights that are loads of fun with events that last into the wee hours. Oh, and don't forget Frenchie's Bar, a fun gay pub with lots of friendly souls.

Although you're probably thinking about sunshine right now, Scotland ought to be on your agenda. In fact, it's not a bad thing when some of the boys need warming up!


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