As the city of Edinburgh grew and expanded its boundaries, outlying areas and settlements that were originally external to the city became integrated into the city itself. Many of these smaller areas still survive as districts or suburbs of Edinburgh, and some still retain a sense of distinct character and identity. Any visitor to Edinburgh would be heartily encouraged to explore and investigate these outlying areas for a richly varied experience of shops, cafes, restaurants and accommodation.
Bruntsfield is one such area, lying to the south of the main east-west city axis. It takes its name from a corruption of 'Brown's Fields', after a previous landowner, and originally fell within the Burgh Muir, an expansive area of outlying land no longer formally recognised, although the name survives in a couple of street names and that of the local secondary school, Boroughmuir High.
Originally woodland, the area was cleared during the reign of James IV in 1508, and much of the wood from the trees felled here was used in the construction of timber-framed properties on what is today the Royal Mile and West Bow. A small quarry was established in Bruntsfield, taking stone to build local city properties, and the spaces between the excavated areas became a popular area for playing a form of golf, a pastime which survives today on the Bruntsfield Links, a public pitch-and-putt short-hole golf course. Bring your own clubs and balls to play an idle round or hire them from the nearby Golf Tavern for a small fee.
The area was developed into characteristic Edinburgh tenements, streets of large terraces subdivided into flats, with the main streets having shops in the ground floor properties at street level. Bruntsfield today is a thriving hub that is known for its local and independent shopping opportunities. Aside from a few small chain stores, there are plenty of independent cafes and restaurants and boutique shops.
For eating out, Montpeliers is a local bar and restaurant with some great deals on lunchtime and evening menus; Cafe Grande similarly does a good trade in food and drink. There are also two Italian restaurants in the area, Osteria del Tempo Perso is the most recent addition, but Papilio is also a local favourite, or for contemporary Scottish cuisine try Threebirds Restaurant at the top of Viewforth. There are cafes aplenty, including a branch of the local coffee roastery Artisan Roast, Project Coffee, and La Barantine. There are also an established butcher and fishmonger's shops, as well as a community grocery Dig In which specialises in locally grown vegetable produce.
On top of all these, there are not one but two ice cream parlours nearby - a branch of Nardini's in Bruntsfield itself, and Luca's just over the parish boundary into Morningside. Plus you'll find boutique clothing and jewellery stores, a number of delicatessens, two chocolate shops, a sweet shop, cards and gifts, and a hairdresser or two.
Bruntsfield remains an excellent local community with thriving businesses, and as well as being popular choice for locals is also worth a look by those visiting the city. Stretch your legs, break away from the city centre environs, and discover a whole other side to Edinburgh just a few minutes off the beaten tourist track.
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth Davies, an adopted native of Edinburgh since 1998...