Discover Edinburgh with @ExploringEdinburgh
Self-proclaimed explorer Shawna is the person behind Instagram account @ExploringEdinburgh and has kindly agreed to share some of her best Edinburgh tips with us, so have a read and get to know this beautiful city even better!
Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself and how you got started with Instagram?
Hello I’m Shawna, I have lived in Scotland for roughly eleven years and before that I lived in Malaysia. I moved to Edinburgh to study Business Management and that is when my love affair with the city began.
@ExploringEdinburgh originally started through a university summer pilot program called SLICC (Student-Led Individually Created Courses). The course allowed me to delve deeper into my interests in Edinburgh’s history and improve my photography along the way. I chose Instagram to showcase my project as it allowed me to display my photographs in portfolio-like feed and share the history I was learning as well.
You’ve got quite a few followers on Instagram – how did that happen?
I often find myself asking the same question, my goal when starting the SLICC program was to reach 1,000 followers on Instagram and even that seemed a bit ambitious at the time. I honestly believe it is Edinburgh’s quirky charm that has brought the followers.
What inspires you about Edinburgh?
As a child I was a huge fan of fairy-tale stories and walking the streets of Edinburgh today I often feel like I live in one of those faraway fairy-tale lands. To have a castle, an extinct volcano and a palace all within walking distance of the main shopping area still amazes me. So I would have to say what inspires me is Edinburgh’s charm and history.
What’s your favourite place to photograph in Edinburgh in spring, summer, autumn and winter?
In spring, I would say the Meadows when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. I find it just magical to wander under the pink blossoms. On my walk the other day I stopped to photograph the trees when a gust of wind brought the blossoms fluttering down like snowfall, the photograph does not do it justice.
During summer, I find photographing Edinburgh’s festival a lot of fun as you never know what you are going to see!
Autumn is probably one of my favourite seasons to take photographs in Edinburgh. It is a beautiful time to visit Holyrood Park as it is covered in blanket of leaves and the trees in the park all seem to be different shades.
Although the German market leaves Princes Street Gardens looking pretty sad in January, months prior provide the perfect setting for atmospheric winter photos. I am also very fond of stepping into the Dome on George Street during the festive period to admire their famous Christmas decorations.
Could you name a few spots where you can get a great snap of the city?
There are a couple of classic spots that offer fantastic views of the city including Arthur’s Seat/Salisbury Crags, Calton Hill and the Scott Monument. However, there are a few more hidden spots such as The Vennel which is located just off the Grassmarket and offers a stunning view of the castle.
Any “secret” Edinburgh gems you’d like to share with us?
I’m not sure how secret the ‘closes’ on the Royal Mile are but I highly recommend popping into a few of them if you never have. Some of my favourites include: Dunbar’s Close, White Horse Close and Lady Stair’s Close.
Additionally, Dr Neil’s Garden is definitely a secret gem that took me a considerable amount of time to find. It is located in Duddlingston Village behind Duddlingston Kirk and well worth a visit.
Edinburgh’s most picturesque street in your opinion?
It’s a tossup between Victoria Street in Old Town and Circus Lane in New Town for me. Both have oodles of charm and interesting architecture.
What is your favourite place or area to go for a walk in in Edinburgh?
I’m a self-proclaimed explorer so when I go out for a walk I like to find an area of Edinburgh that is not as familiar to me and wander around.
If your friend came to visit for only one day, where would you take her/him?
Funnily enough a friend of mine visited last week and since he only had a couple hours we started at Haymarket Station then walked through Dean Village, along the Waters of Leith walkway to Stockbridge then through Circus Lane and back up toward Princes Street. We also popped into the National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street and the Royal Bank of Scotland building at St Andrews Square as I wanted to show him the stunning architecture that both buildings have to offer.
You’re hungry and want a cafe that never lets you down – where do you go?
I am a lady who likes to lunch and when I want a cafe that has never let me down I go to Deli Di Rollo and have the Animators Tuna baguette or Press Coffee to have their potatoes and jarlsberg hash, asparagus, poached eggs with beetroot chutney. Both cafes are conveniently located next to each other which often leaves me in a dilemma.
What’s your favourite place to grab a coffee?
Be prepared to take a sudden gasp when I say I don’t drink coffee. I am however a huge tea drinker and on a recent trip to Life Story, a beautiful Scandinavian design led store with a tiny cafe at its rear, I tried their matcha almond latte and fell in love. I recommend trying their vegan tiffin too; I couldn’t tell the difference and actually preferred it over regular tiffin. It’s definitely going to become a firm favourite of mine.
For any tourists coming to Edinburgh this year – what’s the one place you would urge them to visit?
I believe if it is your first time visiting Edinburgh by all means visit the Castle, the Royal Mile and Arthur’s Seat but if it’s your second visit or you have a couple of days to spend in Edinburgh I would urge any traveller to venture out to Dean Village and Stockbridge. Visiting Dean Village feels like stepping back in time and every time I have visited it has been fairly quiet and peaceful; plus it’s only a 15 minute walk from Princes Street. As I previously mentioned Stockbridge is only a short walk from Dean Village via the Waters of Leith walkway and you can expect to be greeted by independent cafes, shops and a hoard of lovely charity shops to wade through.
What are your 3 favourite Instagram accounts to follow?
That’s incredibly difficult… if I had to choose only three I would choose (in no particular order):
I’m a huge dog lover and I thoroughly enjoy following this adorable pooch’s adventures around Scotland. I have actually had the pleasure of meeting Sally and her “human” at an Instameet and they are just as lovely in real life!
My dear friend has the loveliest Instagram feed filled with her wanders around Edinburgh and Scotland.
He’s incredibly talented at portrait photography and his Instagram is filled with wonderful photographs of both locals and tourists in Edinburgh. Somehow he manages to capture the emotion and environment beautifully.
All photos are by Shawna if not stated otherwise.