Thursday, January 24, 2008

Something for the Weekend - Edinburgh

It is little wonder that Edinburgh is one of Europe’s stag and hen night hotspots and an ever-popular destination for a short break. With late night drinking, a town centre compact enough to stumble through in almost any state of disrepair and more than 700 pubs, clubs and bars, ‘Embra’ is better equipped to cope with and entertain weekend revellers and trouble-seekers than most other British cities.

Although there has been a bit of a style bar revolution in recent years, Edinburgh’s Cowgate, Royal Mile and Rose Street have all retained their reputations as homes to more traditional, rowdy pubs such as Biddy Mulligans, The Three Sisters, Deacon Brodie’s and Breck’s. On student nights and at the weekend in these old favourites, rugby supporters can come face-to-face with football fans, short-skirted hen night parties can find the stag party hangers-on they always dreamt of and freshers from Edinburgh’s universities and colleges can try desperately to sink that third tequila shot and squeeze the lemon in their eye.

For those seeking a more fashion-conscious and discerning clientele, George Street, The New Town and the streets around George IV Bridge and Bristo Square have suddenly become hang-outs for wannabe DJs, cocktail connoisseurs, young professionals and employees of Harvey Nichols. These bars are constantly vying with each other to see which has the edgiest décor, most eclectic playlist and most exotic top shelf spirits, and with booths, comfy seating and attractive menus of fusion food, some of the more notable ones are: Hector’s, Opal Lounge, The Villager and The Human Be-In.

Outdoor fun can be had by tagging along with one of the Old Town ghost walks. These depart from the middle of the Royal Mile every night and if you decide to go for it, you get to see the beautiful nooks, twists and crannies of Auld Reekie, hear about the city’s grisly past, run into some haunted souls under ground and have the wits scared out of you by the Hibs supporter who springs out on your costume-wearing tour guide at the bottom of Niddrie Street.

Of course no lads’ night out or messy weekend away with your student mates would be complete without the courtesy trip to one of Edinburgh’s late night spots. The choices are many and varied, ranging from pole-dancing and strip shows at the hilariously named Bottoms Up and Big Daddy O’s, to a cheese-fest at the Potter Row student venue and from folk music and drunken nonsense at Whistle Binkie’s to jazz and funk at The Jazz Bar and Cabaret Voltaire or indie nights at the Citrus Club.

Fortunately, the majority of the kebab and fast food shops in and around the epicentre stay open until after 3am, so you’ll be able to leave a club at kicking-out time and still get that deep fried Mars bar or battered haggis supper you’ve been longing for. You can even sit down for a pizza, a sambuca and a drunken food fight in Pizza Paradise at 4 o’clock in the morning, before braving the cold wind on North Bridge as you wend your way to The Scotsman Lounge or The Penny Black (both open their doors at 5am) to complete the famous 24 hour party that Edinburgh has to offer.

Who knows… if you’re lucky enough to avoid a killer hang-over after all your festivities, you might even get to do some shopping and sight-seeing on the Sunday. The imposing castle, Princes Street, Calton Hill, The Royal Mile, the Georgian New Town, Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags all combine to make Edinburgh’s city centre arguably the most beautiful in the whole of the UK.

Niven Whatley

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