Lockdown Edinburgh

Eat walk Edinburgh food tour route in Lockdown Edinburgh

Lockdown Edinburgh, like many major cities around the world, looks a different place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I wondered what the walking part of our food tour would look like in these present circumstances.

The Old and New Town food tour takes in five different bars and restaurants tasting locally sourced Scottish food. With three of the stops also having Scottish drink tastings. The guide talks about the history of the area as the group walks between venues.  The tour takes around three and half hours to complete.  Only has up to eight people on each tour.

I thought it would be fun to walk the tour route during the 1st lockdown. To see what the Edinburgh Old and New Town looks like in this time.

In Scotland we are limited to a one hour walk per day.  Although the area I needed to cover only takes under an hour. I had to walk from my home into town which added another 20 minutes each way. Putting together a pictorial record of the tour route took three days to complete. All photos were taken between 1pm and 2pm on Wed 8th – Fri 10th April 2020.

Old Town

Our food tour starts at a local hotel in Bread St. It then goes down the West Port, a narrow road, into the open expanse of the Grassmarket. You are normally greeted with a busy area of people eating and drinking. Instead today we have boarded up bars and restaurants.

A Busy Grassmarket
Grassmarket in the Summer. See bottom of page for source of photo 1.
Full size Grassmarket
Even in April you would expect to see people eating & drinking outside with many more wandering around.


From the Grassmarket the tour heads up Victoria Street, one of the busiest streets in the Old Town of Edinburgh.


Busy Victoria St
Typical day on Victoria Street. See bottom of page for source of photo 2.
Full size Vic St
Deserted Victoria Street


The photo of Victoria Street on the left shows a typical day. With people stepping onto the road, avoiding cars, to get a good photo of the colourful shop fronts. Not a problem today.


Lockdown Edinburgh : Mariachi
Boarded up Restaurant on Victoria Street


One of the many restaurants on Victoria St, this one is boarded up for extra security and has messages for all who pass.

VIVA NHS is a shout out to the doctors and nurses dealing with the pandemic. (National Health Service)


Turning left at the top of Victoria St. The tour makes its way along a small part of George IV Bridge onto the Royal Mile. This is the main artery of the Old Town of Edinburgh. Linking Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood. Today the tranquility of this normally bustling area is astonishing.


Full size Lawnmarket
Looking up the Royal Mile to the Castle
Full size St Giles
Down the Royal MIle to the Palace of Holyrood. St Giles Cathedral on the right.


The Mound

Just off the Royal Mile the tour normally stops in Makars Court. To talk about the Writers Museum. Makars Court although close to the busy Royal Mile is often a quiet sanctuary. It is easily missed by the first time visitor but today it is totally deserted.

The tour exits out the other side to the second food stop at Makars Mash Bar. Where they would sip on Edinburgh raspberry gin. While tasting wild boar sausage with buttered mash potato. As well as Stornoway black pudding on potato scone.


Full size Writers Museum
Writers Museum in Makars Court


New Town

From Makars Mash Bar the tour walks down the Mound onto the first street of the New Town. Princes Street, normally the busiest shopping street in Edinburgh.

Today deserted. Not many people live in this area and with the shops and offices closed not much reason for people to walk the streets.

Full size Princes St
Princes Street


Full size George St
George Street

The tour walks up Hanover street and onto George St. Where there are more boutique-like shops. A good range of coffee shops and cocktail bars.but today it is continuing the theme of a ghost town.


After crossing George St, the tour walks down the hill and turns left onto Queen St. The view along Queen St continues the ghost town feel.

Due to changes in Edinburgh traffic management. Queen St is the only route through the city centre that cars can drive. Princes St is only for buses, taxis and trams. George St cannot be accessed from either end of the street. Leaving Queen Street is to be congested with cars, vans and lorries but today it is empty.

Full size Queen St
Queen Street


Full size SMWS sign
SMWS sign, guess what we taste here?

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society would have been the next stop but the sign on their door apologies for being closed.

But the last paragraph says: “Once back we will be stronger and thirstier than ever. Keep in good spirits and we look forward to welcoming you all back very soon.”


Charlotte Square

Walking the length of Queen street, the tour comes to Charlotte Square a very beautiful area designed by Robert Adams.

One of the main buildings of interest is Bute House the official residence for the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.


Full Size Charlotte Sq
Charlotte Square
Full size Bute House
Bute House


The First Minister doesn’t actually live in Bute House, it is used for official engagements. Presently the location for the regular COVID-19 briefings.


Full size Le Di Vin
Le Di Vin Wine Bar

Just behind Charlotte Square in Randolph Place the tour normally stops for beer and cheese at Le Di Vin wine bar.

The mock Tudor building was built in 1899 and is now a French restaurant called La P’tite Folie. Eight years ago the owners converted a Polish Catholic church attached to the back of building into a wine bar.


A short walk from Le di Vin brings the tour back into the centre of city at the West End of Princes street.

The last stop on this Lockdown Edinburgh walk. Brings us to the Ghillie Dhu where  a Scottish dessert would normally be served. This is an old  Episcopalian Church renovated into a bar and event space. Next door is the boarded-up Huxley bar.


Lockdown Edinburgh : Ghillie Dhu
Ghillie Dhu bar in converted church.

West End of Princes St

At the Ghillie Dhu maps are given out showing people where they have visited on the tour. The map have discount information for most of the bars/restaurant visited. Should people wish to return for a full meal. The guides makes sure that everyone know how to get back to their accommodation. Or to the next place they wish to visit.

That is the end of of this Lockdown walk around of the tour route, its time to head home.


Lockdown Edinburgh : Full size Diggers sign
The Diggers bar, Angle Park Terrace

Homeward bound

On the way home I pass the Diggers. The official name of the pub is the Athletic Arms. It’s known locally as the Diggers as historically it was frequented by the grave diggers from the nearby cemetery. They have a sign in the window which made me laugh in what are rather sad times .

Although the walk was a great experience. Having the City almost to myself. I would much prefer it to be bustling and vibrant. As it is the life blood for Edinburgh.

Once the lockdown in Edinburgh is lifted it will be good for people to get out and enjoy themselves again. But maybe not take what they have on their own doorstep for granted.

We are happy to take people on our food walking tour and give them a better understanding of the City. While tasting great locally sourced food and drink.

Thanks for reading about my Lockdown Edinburgh walk

All photos taken by Alan Chalmers between 8-10th April 2020 except:

  1. Grassmarket : from lifetraveledinstilettos.com
  2. Victoria Street : from Etihad Edinburgh page.