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  • Amy Norton

Peaceful Places - Edi's Best Self Date Spots

Amy Norton discusses the importance of taking time away for yourself amidst the stresses of university life and shares her top spots in Edinburgh for a peaceful solo trip out:

Artwork by Sophie Pywell (IG: @S.louise.pywell).

Scheduling quality time for yourself can sometimes feel pointless or even embarrassing. We hear a lot in the media about the importance of self-care, but with all the stresses and pressures of university life it isn’t always our top priority. I noticed recently that I spend practically all of my time stimulated either by technology or interactions with other people; I even go to sleep with music on. It’s difficult to disconnect and achieve a calm headspace, but for me a solo trip out is the closest I can get to it. You might be thinking that a peaceful self-date sounds lovely, but when am I going to find the time with all the work I have to do? It’s all about shifting our idea of what being productive actually is. Maybe it’s not about how much work you do, but how you balance the work you do with the rest of your life. University and working hard is important, but it is not as important as your own mental health and wellbeing. Doing things for you and removing yourself from your laptop every once in a while, is just as productive in my opinion.

I want to share with you my top six spots in Edinburgh for a calm, wholesome solo trip for when things feel a bit much, or just simply because you fancy it. Most of these places pluck you out of the university bubble that we don’t always register how swamped we are in. Doing this is necessary and grounding, makes you understand that the things you’re stressing about really aren’t as life-or-death as you think. There is a bigger picture. At the end of the day, you aren’t just a student, you are a person living in a gorgeous city, so go and explore it! All these places are easy to get to and free, but all also have the option of treating yourself to a nice coffee.

Dr Neil’s Garden, Old Church Lane:

Located just next to Duddingston Loch, Dr Neil’s Garden (created by Drs. Andrew and Nancy Neil) is the perfect spot for some calm contemplation. It’s the place that inspired me to write this article because I think it’s the loveliest and you should all know about it. This gorgeous garden is open 7 days a week and is maintained through charity and public donations. I grew up in the Peak District, so being in nature is what makes me feel the most peaceful- cheesy but it’s true. When sitting on one of the many benches in Dr Neil’s Garden you cannot see any roads or evidence of city life at all. I sit and listen to the birds and the water, and it makes me feel like I never want to leave; it is so picturesque and beautiful year-round. They have a little community cafe, as well as stalls sometimes where you can buy fruit and vegetables grown from the garden. I cannot recommend it enough, so please visit and treat it with love.

The National Portrait Gallery, Queen Street:

I love a self-date to a gallery, and the National Portrait is my favourite in Edinburgh. Whether you have a strong interest in art or have no knowledge whatsoever, an hour in this stunning building is a good way to spend your time. It’s totally free to enter, you can just walk in and wander around without being bothered (although the staff are lovely if you do want a chat). I tend to eat the soup in the cafe if I’m there at lunch time, and not care about the fact that I am the youngest in there by about thirty years. The quietness of a gallery might be uncomfortable or intimidating for some people, and it’s totally fine if that applies to you. I just make sure to never put any pressure on the experience - there are no rules about how long you’re supposed to look at each painting. It’s up to you how you go about it; take ownership of the experience and you will see your self assurance soar.

The Botanic Gardens, Inverleith:

It always surprises me just how many people haven’t been to the Botanic Gardens. It’s a wonderful 70 acres of land that is well worth the walk (or bus) down into New Town. The gardens are free and open every day. I have been in all seasons now and can safely say it is gorgeous in all of them. Where Dr Neils is better for a sit down, I’d say the Botanic Gardens are perfect for a solo walk. I have been so many times and I’m sure I find a new route around it with every visit. They have multiple great cafes if you do want to grab a coffee, as well as an exhibition space in the central building. For somewhere so close to the centre of the city, it feels like the perfect escape.

Waterstones Cafe, Princes Street:

Although cafes aren’t necessarily peaceful in a quiet sense, they provide a warm and calm atmosphere that’s sometimes just as beneficial. There are so many cafes in Edinburgh that you could probably try out a new one every week for your whole degree, but I have to give a shout out to the cafe in Waterstones on Princes Street. In order to not fall into the trap of spending lots of money I have to avert my eyes as I climb the stairs to the second floor of the shop to get to the cafe. It’s worth the risk for what’s at the top. Arguably the most special bit about the cafe is the grand, rounded, floor-to-ceiling windows with stunning views of Princes Street Gardens and, of course, the Castle. It’s never particularly loud in Waterstones, so it’s a great place to relax with a book, and there’s plenty of them to choose from too!

Stockbridge & Dean Village:

Stockbridge is my favourite area of Edinburgh. There I said it. I am slightly biassed because I work there, but even before then it was always (and still is) such a treat to go. I like all the parts of Edinburgh for different reasons, but there’s something so lovely about the vibe of Stockbridge that sets it apart for me. Take yourself off for a date there on a Sunday and you won’t regret it. With plenty of great shops and cafes, there’s enough to keep you entertained for the whole afternoon. But you don’t have to spend money to have a nice time in Stockbridge, just walking around the beautiful streets is enough. I think Ann Street is the nicest, but I’m open for debate. Just off Stockbridge is one of the most picturesque spots in the whole city- Dean Village. A short and peaceful walk along the river takes you to this fairytale-looking scene that you can’t help but fall in love with. Sitting on a bench, listening to the river and people watching there is always lovely.

Rainy Hall, New College:

My final place on the list is actually a university study space that I have been gatekeeping, but I’m going to let you all in on it. Rainy Hall inside New College (Edinburgh University’s Divinity Building) is my favourite study spot simply because of the aesthetic. This Hogwarts-esque Hall has high ceilings, tapestries, oil paintings and stained-glass windows. What more could you want? If you’ve ever done a theology or divinity module, you’ll know that the New College staff are the nicest people and really add to the wholesome energy of the entire building. There’s really nothing intimidating about Rainy Hall, and this is why I love working there. This year saw the re-opening of the cafe attached, so you can grab a bite to eat there too. The only downside is that it’s not as warm as the library, so make sure to wear a decent jumper.

That concludes my top six self-date spots in Edinburgh. So, get your favourite outfit on and schedule in some well earned me-time!


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