Only in Edinburgh

We recently reviewed Only in Paris, the first of these guides by urban explorer Duncan JD Smith that we'd read, and we absolutely loved it. We were pleased to receive a copy of the latest in the long series, Only in Edinburgh, another of our favourite cities. So would it match up to Paris?

The subtitle is 'A Guide to Unique Locations, Hidden Corners & Unusual Objects', which definitely sounds like our kind of guide. One of the key phrases is 'unique locations'. This isn't simply another version of another excellent guide to the Scottish capital, Secret Edinburgh, which actively seeks out places most visitors – and many locals – may well not know about. The author of Only in Edinburgh looks for not only the hidden corners but also places you may already know about but which are unique to Edinburgh... and then finds interesting ways of looking at them. So you will find Edinburgh Castle here, along with the National Museum, the Edinburgh Festival and the Writers' Museum – but you'll learn something new and fascinating about them.


The urban explorer's curiosity is what makes these books so good. His interests range from Inspector Rebus to deep-fried haggis to gin to Harry Potter. Yes, if you're going to Edinburgh of course you want to visit the café where JK Rowling wrote several of the Harry Potter books. And who wouldn't want to read an entry called Cock Fights and Jamie Oliver?

One problem with conventional guidebooks – we know because we've written them – is that they have to cover absolutely everything. We used to groan at having to cover nightlife, for example, as it's just not our scene. Writing about hotels you haven't stayed in and restaurants you don't have the time or budget to eat in never seemed right to us. You do the best job you can, but it's not always from personal experience or enthusiasm. Duncan JD Smith takes his own personal approach. He writes about things that interest him and he has, as we said, a wide-ranging curiosity about life. 

Book Structure

The contents of the book might not be conventional but the structure is. The city is divided into six areas, including the suburbs, with the bulk of the entries being for the Old Town, where most visitors are likely to spend most of their time. There are two maps, of the wider city and the city centre, and each entry in the book is marked with a flag on the appropriate map. Each entry also tells you which bus or tram to take to get you there, and at the back of the book is a list of opening times followed by a bibliography for follow-up reading.

The Verdict

Nicely laid-out and copiously illustrated with colour photos, this is an attractive and fascinating book that we will thoroughly research before our next visit to Edinburgh. We certainly want to eat in Jamie Oliver's place, and stay in one of the Hotels with History, which include one of the best places we've ever stayed at in Edinburgh: 2 Cambridge Street.

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