It’s no wonder that Harry Potter and his enchanted environs were born in the imagination of an Edinburgh author. Scotland’s architectural wonderland of a capital defies visitors to remain in the realm of reality, or in the current century. With a castle, a palace, a cathedral, and a host of medieval structures in Old Town’s Royal Mile, fantasies of regality fly freely. Navigating the claustrophobic closes (alleyways) in the birthplace of Jekyll & Hyde, you’ll feel naked without your cape and walking stick. New Town’s impressively imposing Georgian houses standing in carefully planned arcs around idyllic private gardens beckon you back to the 18th- and 19th-century elegance of Edinburgh’s well-to-do. It’s a city of magic that transcends times and invites you to taste them all.
If you’d rather escape the city than the century, it’s just as easily done in Edinburgh, which surrounds an extinct volcano amid magnificent hills in Holyrood Park. For centuries, residents and tourists have scaled Arthur’s Seat for panoramic views of Edinburgh’s distinct towns and villages. To stand at the top, surrounded only by rolling greens of swaying grasses and, at the right time of year, oceans of flowering yellow, is to feel like Zeus on Olympus, looking down at the city below, sheltered in a natural oasis that feels miles from urbanity. Elsewhere are tranquil paths along streams with waterfalls, secret gardens, and Victorian cemeteries perfect for quiet strolls. In a city overflowing with inspiration, Edinburgh’s citizens have mastered imaginative and artful living.
My host in Edinburgh was Julian Bukits,53, whose primarily Scottish art collection itself should be in guidebooks. Here, Julian and close friend/former partner Andrew Large, 54, make some recommendations for a quick visit to Edinburgh, though they insist you’ll need more time and you should leave your heels at home, two statements with which I heartily agree.
Out Traveler: How long have you lived in Edinburgh?
Julian Bukits: 53 years. I grew up on the Royal Mile at the World’s End.
How long have you been out?
Since I was 20. There was no “coming out.” It was just natural. There was no revelation.
How is it for a gay person to get along in this city?
It’s easy. You don’t even think about it. It doesn’t ever cross my mind.
Two places a visitor should go with just one day here?
Arthur’s Seat for the view, and Rosslyn Chapel [made famous by The DaVinci Code] for the mystery.
Your favorite restaurant in Edinburgh?
Rhubarb. It’s a 16th century country house in the city center with first-class food, unique ambience, and over-the-top décor—it’s set like an opera. It’s owned by James Thomson, a gay man who has three of the best restaurants in Edinburgh.
One thing every visitor needs to know about your city before coming here.
You need good walking shoes. Lots of cobblestone streets and hills. No good in your stilettos.