During my second year of university in Edinburgh, when most people I knew were living in the student-dominated Marchmont area, my friends and I stumbled across a fairly unknown gem in Edinburgh’s Western side. Passing through the buzz of Lothian Road, with its plethora of pubs, bars and restaurants, and along towards Fountainbridge, a quick left-hand turn leads you onto the Union Canal.
The heart of the canal lies behind West Tollcross, a plaza boasting some smaller bars and cafes – my personal favourite being Swedish-run Akva, which has a large seating area spread right up to the water’s edge. Whilst most of these are found, as expected, on-land, the canal’s surprises don’t end there: two of the classic narrowboats that are docked on the water form a tiny, floating hotel, and also a coffee bar.
A walk further along the canal will drop you into the city’s calmer, more residential side, that many tourists don’t get the opportunity to experience. I used to use the canal as a running route, which is popular also with cyclists aiming to explore a more natural side of Edinburgh.