Edinburgh has a lot to offer, from Georgian houses and flats to excellent schools and a thriving gastronomic scene, finds Anna Tyzack.
Following the Brexit vote, the telephones in Edinburgh’s estate agencies buzzed with English ‘remain’ voters looking to move north. ‘They were hoping Scotland might retain stronger links with Europe,’ explains Max Mills of Rettie & Co, ‘However, there hasn’t been any kind of stand-off from buyers this summer either. We’re seeing demand from locals, but also from London and overseas.’
Peter Lyell of Savills attributes the current buoyancy in Edinburgh’s market to referendum fatigue—after months of uncertainty, buyers are eager to commit. Whatever happens post-Brexit, he continues, Edinburgh has a lot to offer: in a recent Daily Telegraph poll, the Scottish capital was voted the UK’s best city to live in for the third consecutive year.
Along with Edinburgh’s traditional buyers—young professionals, families and student investors —agents have noticed an increasing number of overseas buyers, lured by the weaker pound. ‘If you’re based overseas, a house or a flat here is a rather good deal at the moment—up to 30% cheaper,’ explains Neil Scott of Knight Frank.
House prices rose 3% at the beginning of the year, but have now levelled out, according Mr Lyell, with a lack of stock propping up the £600,000 to £1 million bracket. A two-bedroom flat in Edinburgh’s Georgian New Town now sells for about £500,000 and a three-to four-bedroom family house in the Grange or Inverleith will cost between £1 million and £2 million.
Edinburgh also supports a thriving rental market, according to William Lobban of Martin & Co, with average rents of £850 to £900 per month and apartments in the new Quartermile development generating 6% to 7% yields.
For Georgian terraces, you can’t do much better than Moray (pronounced ‘Murray’) Place in the New Town—a quiet, circular terrace with access to private central gardens and further gardens on the banks of the Water of Leith— or nearby Heriot Row and Abercromby Place, which overlook Queen Street Gardens. However, very few properties come on the market here—‘people tend to hold on to them forever,’ explains Jonathan Gordon of Clan Gordon.
Regent Terrace on Calton Hill, a short walk from the city centre, with panoramic views of Holyrood Palace, is a paradise for families: town houses have large gardens and direct access to a park with tennis courts. Enormous detached villas can be found on leafy Whitehouse Terrace in the Grange, to the south of the city, and Inverleith Place in the north, which backs on to the Royal Botanic Garden.
You’re never far from a first-rate independent school in Edinburgh. On the northern fringes are Edinburgh Academy (co-ed, day and boarding) and the château-style Fettes College (co-ed, day and boarding), along with St George’s School for girls (day and boarding) and Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools (co-ed juniors, separate boys and girls boarding).
To the south are Merchiston Castle School (boys, day and boarding) and George Heriot’s School (co-ed, day), founded in 1628. Cargilfield (preparatory, co-ed) is fashionable with the New Town finance set and parents pay over the odds to live in the catchments of esteemed primary schools South Morningside Primary and Sciennes on the south side and St Mary’s in the New Town.
Butcher, baker, coffee maker
With I. J. Mellis for cheese, Crombies for award-winning sausages—and Armstrong’s for fish, plus Scotland’s oldest deli, Valvona & Crolla, one needn’t darken the doors of a supermarket.
There are proper pubs—Greyfriars Bobby, The Bailie, The Blind Poet—and revered restaurants such as The Witchery by the Castle, The Honours in New Town and the trendy Gardener’s Cottage. There’s a growing gastropub scene led by The Scran & Scallie in Stockbridge.
Out and about
As well as hosting the world’s largest arts festival each August, Edinburgh has a science festival in April, a film festival in June, a jazz and blues festival in July and a short-film festival (October 26 to November 6). The Royal Botanic Garden has open-air cinema nights in September (www.thelunacinema.com) and Edinburgh Doors Open Days (today and tomorrow) give a chance to visit buildings that are usually closed to the public. There’s also an art and streetfood market in Stockbridge every Sunday and rugby at Murrayfield throughout the autumn.
Hyde Park homesick
For manicured perfection, there’s the Royal Botanic Garden and Princes Street Gardens. To feel the wind in your hair, climb up Arthur’s Seat or Calton Hill—both have extensive views across the Firth of Forth. The Meadows, near the university, makes a picturesque picnic spot.
Need to know
Now the tram network is up and running and the airport has undergone a £50 million expansion, the focus is on large-scale property developments. Haymarket and Waverley stations are being redesigned to include offices, hotels, bars and restaurants and a new canalside residential community is coming together at India Quay (www.india-quay.co.uk).
The overhaul of the dated St James shopping centre in the city centre (www.edinburghstjames.com) into a luxury mall, five-star hotel accommodation and 250 apartments is one of the largest regeneration projects under way in Britain.
On the market
Italianate villa for sale, £1.675m
Sydney Lodge is an Italianate villa in the Grange, one of Edinburgh’s trophy neighbourhoods, not far from Fettes College and St George’s School. It has elegant reception rooms, five bedrooms and beautiful gardens with a summer house. Knight Frank (0131–516 4608)
Superb pied-à-terre for sale, £395,000
This pied-à-terre on Regent Terrace Mews, a short walk from the city centre, isn’t enormous, but it has resident’s access to the prestigious Regent Gardens (for a modest annual fee). There are three bedrooms, a kitchen and a sitting room, all in superb condition. Rettie & Co (0131–624 4066)
Splendid town house for sale, £1.15m
The grandest floors of a splendid town house in sought-after Moray Place, the apartment has four bedrooms, a stately entrance hall, cornicing and a flamboyant sweeping stair with cupola above. Of particular note is the elegant drawing room, with three huge sash windows. Savills (0131–247 3700)