Rejoice! We've almost seen the back of winter and many of us will be emerging from hibernation to spring into action so allow Ailsa Sheldon and Paul Trainer to guide you around the country's top spots for the year ahead. 

This feature is the cover story for the February edition of Best of Scotland magazine, published monthly with The Herald on Sunday and the Sunday National. 

HeraldScotland:

MELROSE

Melrose's place in the story of Scotland stretches back a thousand years -   a small town in the Borders with an enduring charm. This is rugby country and Melrose is the birthplace of the Rugby Sevens with an annual local sporting event held in April each year.

Local legend says King Arthur is buried in the Eildon Hills over­ looking the town. At the summit of Mid Hill there's a viewpoint dedicated to the memory of Sir Walter Scott, who lived in Abbots­ ford House at Melrose while becoming the biggest-selling author of his day, kickstarting the fashion for Scots Baronial architecture. It's one of the most remarkable literary landmarks in the country. The 250th anniversary of Sir Walter Scott is being celebrated in 2022, providing the ideal excuse to visit the house, gardens, estate, and visitor centre.

King David I founded Melrose Abbey, the first Cistercian mon­ astery in Scotland, in 1136. A lead container, believed to hold the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce was found below the Chapter House in 1921. You can explore the ruins at the atmospheric site with its Gothic structures and decorative carvings of saints and gargoyles. 

HeraldScotland:

KNOYDART Lochaber

Accessible only by boat from Mallaig, or a long walk over rough ground, the beautiful Knoydart peninsula is bordered by Loch Nevis and Loch Hourn and surrounded by mountains. lnverie is the main settlement - from here enjoy woodland walks, rent a bike to explore, or go hillwalking (if well prepared).

There's a variety of accommodation including self-catering cottages, hostels, B&Bs and a great campsite on the beach, look at Visit Knoydart for all the options. Local pub The Old Forge is the most remote pub on the British mainland, and the last few years have seen an impressive campaign to bring it under community ownership.

Local shareholders, hundreds of Crowdfunder supporters and a signific ant pay-out from the Scottish Land Fund are all helping make this a reality. The community aims to take ownership in 2022, so this year may be the perfect time to visit for a congratulatory pint.

HeraldScotland:

PERTH

A destination ideally positioned to bring together elements of country living with the attractions of an historic small city. Perth is a focal point for food and drink producers in the surrounding area, with a purpose-built business park dedicated to the industry.

When exploring the town, look out for independent local shops like Concorde Music, the  family run  record shop that was established in 1967, or the vintage shops of George Street. You  can  stop for a coffee at Provender Brown deli. The Fergusson Gallery in the old Watertower, which displays the works of John Duncan Fergusson, the Scottish colourist, and his wife Margaret Morris (it reopens late spring 2022).

This month, work will begin on a new museum at Perth City Hall that will have the Stone of Destiny as its centrepiece. The historic sandstone block, used for early Scottish kingship ceremonies, was originally kept at Scone Abbey in Perthshire. It is currently housed with the Regalia of Scotland at Edinburgh Castle. The new tourist attraction will be ready for 2024.

HeraldScotland:

ABERDEEN

Aberdeen's arch itect ure is always impressive, but will be seen in a new light as Spectra - Scotland's Festival of Light, takes over the city in February making it the ideal time for a winter break to the cit y. The light artworks will be on show in Marischal College, Union Street, Broad Street, Upperkirkgate, Schoolhill, Marischal Square, and Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Featured art will include Luke Jerram's 'Gaia' and 'Museum of the Moon', and Lucid Creates will bring 'Together', an immersive large-scale light and sound experience - featuring stories and memories from the community. To celebrate the Year of Stories, 'Writ Large' will project prose and poetry from Scotland' s best storytellers across the city.

In the daytime visit Aberdeen Art Gallery, it has a wonderfully expansive collection, and the gallery's restoration and redevelopment scooped most of last year's top architecture prizes - come and see why.

HeraldScotland:

BARRA

Make this the year you explore Scotland's islands and start with Barra at the southern end of the Outer Hebrides. The only place in the world where scheduled flights land of the beach, you can sit in the airport cafe and watch as planes make a dramatic entrance.

Kisimul Castle, perched atop the rocky Bagha Chaisteil islet, the historic seat of Clan MacNeil is a site of pilgrimage for descend­ants of Barra emigrants, including those who left for Canada during the clearances of is a monument to the island's past Barra is studded by monolithic monu­ments, burial cairns and standing stones. Artefacts are displayed at the Dualchas Her­itage Centre.

Buth Bharraigh is a community shop and visitor centre that showcases local foods, craft products, art and clothing. There are caravan and campsites on the island, or you can stay at Castlebay, Heath­bank or Craigard hotels.

HeraldScotland:

LOCH FYNE Argyll

Loch Fyne extends some 40 miles inland from the Sound of Bute. At the head of the loch is Cairndow, surrounded by hills and home to both Loch Fyne Oysters and Fyne Ales - making it the ideal place for a food-focused trip in a beautiful location.

The name Loch Fyne is synonymous with the very best shellfish. Daniel John­stone, restaurant manager at Loch Fyne Oysters explains the appeal: "Loch Fyne Oysters as a business and as a restaurant is very unique. Because we smoke our own salmon on site, we farm our own oysters and mussels - it's all about the produce and how we look after the product . We see that journey from how we farm the product, how to treat it, all the way to how we cook it and serve it.

"All our shellfish is from Loch Fyne, it's all creel caught. That's how it started back in the 70s and it's still the same ethos now, we're very proud of it." There's no overly elaborate cooking at Loch Fyne Oysters, although the chefs are certainly highly skilled, instead it's about allowing diners to really appreciate the freshness of the products.

"It's on our doorstep so we're lucky about that, " says Johnstone, "not many restaurants can say they farm their own products and know exactly how it's farmed. That' s what makes us different, and proba­bly why we've stood the test of time over the last 42 years."

In the restaurant you' ll be treated to fresh oysters simply prepared, steaming bowls of mussels and juicy langoustines with garlic butter. The deli next door has all the edible treats you could desire, and the smoked salmon is a must. The restaurant itself is like the food, simple and stylish with a relaxed feel.

When Loch Fyne Oysters was founded, the owners were looking for a sustainable business to give young people employ­ment without damaging the environment. The inspiration for Fyne Ales two decades later had a very similar ethos, as Iain Smith, Fyne Ales marketing manager explains: "The brewery was founded as we had a lot of farmland, and the founders wanted to do something that wasn't just based on crops or livestock and bring a bit of joy and life to the area. So they opened a brewery in an old dairy shed."

Fyne Ales is a family run 'farm brewery'. From humble beginnings the brewery now successfully produces a wide range of beers. Some like Jarl and Avalanche are stocked across Scotland, others like the small-batch 'Origins' series are more experimental and well worth seeking out.

Fyne Ales has a strong environmental ethos. As Smith explains: "The envi­ronment, the land, the estate, is really important to us. Whatever activities we do, we always try to keep it neutral, either not taking from the land and if we can, trying to enhance it. All our brewing water is rainwater that collects on the hills." Spent grain is fed to the estate's herds of red deer and highland cattle.
They go further too, restocking rivers and planting biodiverse woodland. The aim is that, "Glen Fyne is in the best condition for future generations." 

A visit to - The Brewery Tap at Fyne Ales is a treat - a welcoming bar with the fresh­est beers. In the summer the courtyard makes an idyllic spot for a pint, and you can bring takeaway food from nearby businesses. Fyne Ales also run Fyne Fest - which returns this June. It's a fami­ly-friendly festival with bands from across Scotland and beers from over 30 brew­eries. As Smith explains, "Waking up in Glen Fyne between the mountains and looking at the river running past, it' s a pretty spectacular site for a festival."

Not convinced? "You have to see it for yourself," says Smith. " There' s a lot of beautiful places in Scotland but Glen Fyne is really special. It's been home to our founders for six generations, we think we're one of the most beautifully situated breweries in the world, surrounded by these peat-rich hills, at the top of the longest sea loch in Scotland.

Loch Fyne is, "a combination of the incredible scenery, the seafood and the beer plus the lovely people in the community - it' s a really special place." 

HeraldScotland:

ANSTRUTHER

The coastline of the East Neuk of Fife features a chain of Scotland's most picturesque fishing villages. The largest is Anstruther, with echoes of a past as Scotland's main fishing har­bour at the end of the 19th century.  It is now a port of call for tourists looking for the best fish and chips in the country. Join the queues on Shore Street for had­dock, lemon sole or Pittenweem prawns from The Anstruther Fish Bar, The Wee Chippy or any of their loca l rivals. Prince William was a regular visitor while study­ing at St Andrews.

During the summer months you can take a boat trip from Anstruther to the Isle of May to view the puffins and local sealife. Cellardyke harbour, to the east of the town, is overlooked by a collec­tion of charming, white-washed houses, set against winding lanes. Chef Billy Boyter grew up here before embarking on a prestigious career, including time as Head Chef at Number One in The Bal­moral. He returned to the area in 2014, opening The Cellar restaurant, which holds a one Michelin star rating. Their menu features local lobster thermidor buns served with pickled wild flowers and caviar.

HeraldScotland:

PORTNAHAVEN Islay

With nine whisky distilleries, incredible wildlife and beautiful beaches, Islay is nicknamed 'Queen of the Hebrides'. You're spoiled for choice with perfect beaches, from the easy to reach Kilnaughton Bay near Port Ellen, the white sands of Sanaigmore Bay in the north of the island, to pebbly Claggain Bay near Ardtalla.

The distillery tours are excellent, but when you need a break from those delicious peaty drams, visit pretty Portnahaven on the southwestern tip of the island. It's a winding single-track road to get there, but well worth the trip, with idyllic white-washed cottages set around a bay frequent­ed by curious seals.

The next village along, Port Wemyss, has views of the uninhabited island of Orsay and the Rhinns of Islay lighthouse, built in 1825 by the Stevenson lighthouse builders.

HeraldScotland:

ROYAL DEESIDE

Queen Victoria fell in love with this area, and perhaps you will too? Situated on the eastern edge of the Cairngorms National Park, between the pretty towns of Banchory and Braemar and following the River Dee, it's a beautiful part of the country well worth exploring. Hillwalking is a big draw with easy access to the Cairngorms, but there's plenty at a lower level too - explore Linn O'Dee in the Mar Lodge Estate (near Braemar) for well-marked trails or wander among the Scots Pine trees and spot red squirrels at Glen Tanar National Nature Reserve near Aboyne.

Visit Craigievar Castle - this beautifully pre­served pink castle is reputed to have inspired Walt Disney. For opulence and contemporary art, stay at The Fife Arms, recently refurbished and redesigned by international art dealers lwan and Manuela Wirth.

HeraldScotland:

GLEN COE 

This area of the country deserves a pilgrimage in 2022. The landscape  is  nothing  short of  remarkable. The mountains of Glen Coe are built from some of the oldest volcanic strata  in the world, dramatically moulded by fire and ice 380 million years ago.

Today you are greeted by a strikingly beautiful and serene range of peaks and ridges, culminating in Biedean nam Bian, known as the Three Sisters.

The moody and atmospheric views, which are easily accessible from most parts of Scotland, merit repeated examination. A hike up a steep and rocky path reveals Coire Gabhail, the Lost Valley of Glencoe, a spectacular glen that was historically used by members of Clan Macdonald to hide cattle. Now, it's one of the most awe-inspir­ing natural settings in Scotland. Glencoe village offers a chance to delve into local history or you can go for a dram at the cosy Clachaig Inn.

The Glencoe Mountain Ski Resort has excellent snow runs that often remain open into April each year.

There are campsites close to the main hill walking routes or you can choose luxury at Glen­coe House, a highland country house converted into five-star suite accommodation.

HeraldScotland:

FORT WILLIAM

One of the best destinations for a weekend break in Scotland, Fort William sits on the eastern shore of Loch Linnhe, in the shadow of Ben Nevis. The start or end point of the West Highland Way, you are within striking distance of Skye and the Isle of Mull to the west and Fort Augustus to the north.

The Jacobite steam train is among the great railway journeys in the world, starting at Fort William before travelling across the Glenfinnan viaduct – made famous by the Harry Potter films – on its way to Arisaig and Mallaig. One of the most recognisable landmarks in the town is Neptune’s Staircase, a series of eight locks on the Caledonian Canal, built by Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822.

Order local seafood dishes at the waterfront Crannog restaurant. They also organise 90-minute cruises daily from March to October with an opportunity to experience more of the scenery of Lochaber that has featured in movies like Rob Roy and Highlander. Inverlochy Castle, three miles to the north of Fort William, is one of the finest hotels in the highlands.

HeraldScotland:

ORKNEY

With a rich history, abundant wildlife, delicious food and a lively cultural scene – Orkney has so much to offer. Travel back 5000 years and explore the neolithic settlement at Skara Brae, and visit the ancient burial cairns at Maes Howe and Quoyness Cairn. Bring your binoculars and visit some of the 12 RSPB nature reserves across the islands, or book a nature walk or wildlife boat trip with a local guide.

Stay at The Foveran in Kirkwall for excellent food and views across Scapa Flow, or for an unforgettable experience, sleep in a yurt at Wheems Organic Farm on South Ronaldsay. Art and music permeate Orcadian life, and art galleries are dotted around the archipelago. For a real treat, catch the Orkney Folk Festival in May for four days of traditional music in Stromness and the surrounding area.

HeraldScotland:

JURA

Craggy and dramatic, Jura’s scenery is in stark contrast to neighbouring Islay, a short ferry trip away. The island is dominated by the towering quartzite scree of the Paps of Jura, providing challenging hillwalking and a great backdrop to the distillery. Jura has only a few roads and deer vastly outnumber people, so it’s easy to imagine why George Orwell sought the quiet of Jura to finish writing 1984.

It’s a haven for wildlife and not only the red deer Birds flourish here with golden and sea eagles, as well as many sea birds that nest in the cliffs on the western coast. From the northern tip of the island you can see the Gulf of the Corryvreckan. Boat trips to see the treacherous whirlpool with skilled local guides are also possible.

HeraldScotland:

Kelvinbridge

The Great Western Bridge over the River Kelvin is the most recognisable landmark in an area of Glasgow that sits at the centre of a resurgent West End. The Kelvinbridge neighbourhood is home to some of the city’s most interesting independent businesses, set on and around the grand boulevard of Great Western Road with its period residential architecture and bohemian atmosphere.

The imposing Gothic Revival spire of Lansdowne Parish Church, designed by John Honeyman, presides over the skyline. It’s 218ft tall and one of the slimmest in Europe. The building is now home to Websters Theatre with a bar and two outside seating areas.

Òran Mór, located at the top of Byres Road, is another part of the thriving local arts scene. The former Kelvinside Parish Church, opposite the entrance to the famous Botanic Gardens, was refitted to include a grand Victorian bar, restaurant and an auditorium with a mural ceiling by Alasdair Gray and has become an emblem of the city’s culture. Afternoon theatres performances there – A Play, a Pie and A Pint – bring the audience up close and personal with actors from stage and screen, often performing new works by local writers.

Top comedy shows take place at The Stand nearby, which regularly plays host to Glasgow performers, including Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges. You are just under a mile from Glasgow city centre, with bus links to Great Western Road, a Subway station at Kelvinbridge and train stations in nearby Partick and Hyndland. This makes the neighbourhood accessible from stylish hotels including Dakota Deluxe, Radisson Red and Kimpton Blythswood Square.

Locally, the four-star Glasgow Grosvenor Hotel recently reopened under brand new ownership and the five-star Hotel De Vin at One Devonshire Gardens offers luxury boutique stays in individually styled rooms within a tree-lined Victorian terrace. The proximity to Glasgow University ensures a youthful energy in the area. With students moving into the purpose-built accommodation for the duration of studies, families have sought out refurbished tenement flats around Woodlands Road.

A walk along the River Kelvin footpath takes you to the greenery of Kelvingrove Park with the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Above the trees, you have the towers and curves of elegant townhouses at Park Circus. The view from here across the city towards the Clyde, with the Finnieston Crane featuring prominently, was captured by photographer Oscar Marzaroli and later became the cover for the Deacon Blue album Raintown.

If you continue your walk beyond the park you can reach the bars and restaurants of Finnieston with fine dining at The Gannet, a dram at The Ben Nevis and cracking Scottish seafood at Crabshakk. Back on Great Western Road, make your way to Paesano for Glasgow’s favourite Neapolitan style pizza.

Bananamoon is a cool local hangout for cocktails that often plays house to local DJs, including Harri from Sub Club and his son Jasper James. The Belle is a traditional local pub for a pint and a chat. Catch bands performing and enjoy some of the best vegan food in the city at The Hug & Pint with a rotating menu of plant-based dishes like kimchi porridge with seaweed and crispy shallots or coconut and turmeric with fried tofu and broccoli.

Any visit to Kelvinbridge also brings an abundance of options for brunch, fantastic coffee and takeaway bakes. Morning Glory by Five March and Sips & Baker are among the new arrivals, joining Kothel, Papercup and Urban West in the breakfast club. Stop at Cottonrake Bakery for cakes and pastries while you wander. El Perro Negro on Woodlands Road are the current holders of the National Burger of the Year Award. The area is also home to Glasgow’s fine dining Michelin Star restaurant, Cail Bruich, with a menu by chef Lorna McNee that showcases the best of Scottish produce. 

HeraldScotland:

DUNDEE

Head to Dundee this year, the UK’s only UNESCO city of design. You can start at the V & A Dundee and explore both design heritage and contemporary design. 2022 will see V&A Dundee curate its first major exhibition, running from April to September and focused on the chequered history of tartan; encompassing tradition and rebellion, and exploring its influence on everything from architecture and fashion to product design and performance.

Also visit Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA), a centre for contemporary art, for workshops, events and films... plus a great café.

In the summer, The Dundee Summer (Bash) Street Festival takes over the city as part of the Year of Stories. Dundee will be renamed BEANOTOWN and host a comic museum, film screenings, street performances and world-record attempts.

HeraldScotland:

WIGTOWN Dumfries & Galloway

Wigtown became Scotland’s National Book Town in 1998 to help revitalise a town that had lost its major industries. Today more than 20 book-related businesses are based here, and with more than a quarter of a million books to choose from this is a real paradise for bibliophiles.

The Wigtown Book Festival returns this autumn and will be even bigger and better than usual, as Wigtown is set to play a starring role in Visit Scotland’s ‘Year of Stories 2022’. Two new commissions will form part of the festival: Into the Nicht, ‘an immersive Dark Skies tour’, and Walter in Wonderland, ‘a whirlwind theatrical tour through the history of the nation’s literature’, as well as other special events throughout the year. When you can’t carry any more books, visit nearby Bladnoch Distillery, Scotland’s most southerly whisky distillery, for a dram and a tour.

HeraldScotland:

ISLE OF ARRAN

A sentinel in the Firth of Clyde, facing the coast of Ayrshire, Arran has been welcoming visitors since the 6th century. During the Viking Age it belonged to the Norwegian crown before being absorbed into Scotland in the 13th century.

Often described as Scotland in Miniature, the island packs a lot in with rugged hills and mountains, sheltered beaches and castles. The circular cycling loop around Arran takes between three and six hours to complete with the route punctuated by bike friendly tearooms and scenic resting spots.

The grand baronial Brodick castle and estate features woodland and waterfalls. The house itself was the ancient seat of the Dukes of Hamilton and has a collection of period furniture, paintings, and sporting trophies. Explore Scotland’s only island country park with its own adventure play area and fairy trail.

In recent years food and drink producers have added a new industry to the local community. Isle of Arran Brewery makes craft beer with Arran Blonde sold in some of Scotland’s top gastropubs. Arran Whisky has two distilleries on the island, making limited edition whiskies, single malts, and blends. Arran Blue cheese is made using cow’s milk from the island’s dairy herd and has won international awards. Isle of Arran Ice Cream offers flavours including Scottish tablet, toffee fudge and cranachan.

Hill walking is a popular pastime on the island, and one glance can tell you why. “Just look at those jaggedy mountains!”, Billy Connolly exclaimed from the ferry when approaching Arran on his World Tour of Scotland. When you get closer you realise the landscape flows around a succession of hills – four of them qualify as Corbetts, peaks over 2500 feet but less than 3000 feet.

You will still find scrambly walks and ridges with impressive views. Goatfell is the highest peak on the island close to the waterfall on Glenrosa Water. Cir Mhor is the most recognisable of the cliffs in the north Arran hills. It sits above the Blue Pool, a popular wild swimming spot.

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CALLANDER Perthshire

A picturesque sliver of a town that offers a warm welcome to visitors exploring the beautiful countryside of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. It sits at the meeting point between the Highlands and the Lowlands so is a convenient base for a weekend break venturing out to local attractions.

Alternatively you can settle in and enjoy endless cups of tea, with portions of fudge and tablet from the colourful collection of local tearooms and souvenir shops.

The town was the location for Tannochbrae in the original Doctor Findlay’s Casebook television series. It’s a short drive to Loch Katrine, the main fresh water supply for Glasgow. Scenic cruises of Loch Katrine leave from Trossach’s Pier where you can also hire bikes. The area is linked to folk tales about Rob Roy MacGregor and the Rob Roy Way, a long distance footpath that runs from Drymen to Pitlochry passes through the town.

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ISLE OF BUTE

A ferry from Wemyss Bay delivers you to the Art Deco seaside resort of Rothesay with its kitsch ice cream parlours, palm trees and promenade. Bute is a small island in the Firth of Clyde full of character and dotted with heather-clad moorlands, beaches, and coves. It has reinvented itself as a popular location for outdoor holidays, offering hiking, cycling, and fishing spots.

The coastal road to the south of the island takes you to Mount Stuart, a 19th century Gothic Revival style mansion with extravagant interiors and expansive gardens to explore. The ancestral home of the Marquess of Bute has self catering cottages to rent on the estate, including the six-bedroom Kean’s Cottage overlooking Loch Fad.

Ettrick Bay is the setting for Bute Fest in July, a weekend of live music at a family-friendly event. This year’s line-up includes Elephant Sessions and Red Hot Chilli Pipers. This summer, Isle of Bute Gin will move to a new distillery in Rothesay as they scale up production of their hand-crafted range, which includes the world’s first oyster gin.

HeraldScotland:

MULL OF GALLOWAY

The gannets that breed here each summer fly all the way up the Atlantic from the coast of Senegal to find shelter amidst the craggy cliffs, sea stacks and caves of the most southerly point of Scotland.

The Mull of Galloway Lighthouse has views of Isle of Man and Cumbria, with porpoises and dolphins to spot close to the nearby beaches. It sits within an RSPB nature reserve. Three former lighthouse keepers’ cottages on the peninsula are now self-catering holiday accommodation. Enjoy lunch with a view at Gallie Craig, a beautifully constructed modern coffee house with a turf roof to blend into its surroundings that was featured on the television program Grand Designs.

Walk or cycle here then order a brie, bacon and cranberry toastie, a steak pie, a scone, or a sponge cake. The Mull of Galloway Trail is a 24-mile coastal path that takes you through idyllic countryside to Stranraer.

HeraldScotland:

NORTH BERWICK

A quick train ride - or strenuous cycle - from Edinburgh, all year around North Berwick has a ‘day at the seaside feel’. This pretty town has plenty to offer for the day-tripper, even when it’s not bucket and spade weather. Find excellent coffee and watch beans being roasted at Steampunk Coffee, for bread and tasty baked goods make a beeline for Bostock Bakery.

Get fish and chips from North Berwick Fry or an ice-cream from Alanda’s Gelato and take it to the beach. The Scottish Seabird Centre makes for a great day out, watch the puffins on Craigleith through the moveable cameras in the visitor centre, or best of all take a Catamaran boat trip around Craigleith and Bass Rock. For fine dining with great views, head to The Lawn at the elegant newly refurbished Marina & Lawn hotel – the afternoon tea here is pretty special too.

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STOCKBRIDGE Edinburgh

Stockbridge is one of Edinburgh’s most popular neighbourhoods, an easy stroll from the busy city centre, but a different world entirely. Once a village seperate from the city, it still retains a village feel with all of the best local amenities available.

A wander around Stockbridge is to forget that supermarkets exist (there are small ones, just squint), and instead fill a basket with the best cheeses from I.M. Mellis and George Mewes, meat from George Bower, fish from Armstrong’s and bread from Twelve Triangles or Soderberg.

On a Sunday catch Stockbridge Market – visiting traders vary but you will always be guaranteed a great selection of hot dishes, as well as usually meat, cheese, vegetables, baked goods, and deli treats from local producers. It’s not only traditional food shops, but Stockbridge is also a place where independent shops of all varieties thrive.

Golden Hare Books moved to Stockbridge in 2014 and has proved a firm favourite in the local area. “We focus on beautiful, high-quality books,” explains manager Polly Markham, “and we have a really loyal customer base. There’s a really nice village feel to Stockbridge,” she says. “It’s a really good place for independent businesses, and a real feeling of community with the other businesses too.” Newcomer Rare Bird Books only sells books by female writers and has also had a warm welcome to the area.

For eating and drinking there is an abundance of choice. For traditional pubs try The Bailie Bar or The Antiquary, for late night cocktails and atmosphere head to The Last Word Saloon. For a cheery brunch it has to be Hamiltons, and for Sunday lunch Hector’s is a good choice, but you will be spoiled for options. Amy Findlater owns wine bar Smith and Gertrude with her husband Daniel. When they opened six years ago, they saw a gap in the market for, “somewhere very wine focused, that was relaxed and comfortable and accessible, a place to drink great wine without going to a restaurant.”

The Findlater’s wanted to create, “a chilled-out atmosphere where the staff are knowledgeable but not patronising, and can encourage people to try new things.” At Smith and Gertrude you’ll find an incredible selection of delicious and interesting wines. ‘Wine Flights’ are very popular,” says Amy. “We’re really keen on them, so that’s three small 75ml glasses of wine, on their own or with cheeses,” – it’s certainly a brilliant way to explore wines that you aren’t familiar with. The Findlater’s love the relaxed community feel here: “We have a lot of people popping in for just a glass, chatting to staff or bringing a book. It’s a very broad dynamic that we have, Stockbridge is like that.”

Amy is keen to recommend other excellent local businesses too: “Stockbridge has so much to offer, from coffee at Fortitude, and Bearded Barista on Sundays at Stockbridge Market. There’s lovely independent boutiques, like Dicks and treen, and The Method (lifestyle and massage). We love Grow Urban for plants and Voxbox Records for music, we love going in there to chat to them.

“Golden Hare Books – they’re just all so knowledgeable, we do our cheese and wine book club with them in our wine cellar downstairs. “Everyone is so supportive of each other.” While Stockbridge may be an enviable place to live, it’s certainly not just locals who enjoy shopping and spending time in this neighbourhood. It’s reputation as a haven for independent retail attracts people from across the city as well as visitors from all over.

When you’ve shopped or eaten then explore. Stockbridge extends on both sides of the Water of Leith, and makes a good starting point to follow the river path at one of its most scenic points (head towards Dean Village). Nearby you’ll find both the expansive Inverleith Park, and the Royal Botanical Gardens.