Book Review of the Week: Locals' Guide to Edinburgh

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

As long-time readers of Wandering Educators know, Scotland is one of my very favorite countries in the world. And yes, Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities. Big enough to offer so very much, and yet small enough to feel comfortable, Edinburgh constantly delights me.  I recently received a copy of the incredible book, A Local's Guide to Edinburgh. YES! Written by Owen O'Leary and Claudia Monteiro, this is the first publication from Word of Mouth Travels. What's cool about this book (besides all the great content, more to follow) is that the book was written, designed, and photographed by Edinburgh-based people, and printed in Scotland.

Contents include a walking map, neighborhood guide, where to say, being from Edinburgh, weather, all you can eat, beautiful walks, cold comforts drink and be merry, you should be dancing yeah, festival fever, one poem, what's in stores, romantic Edinburgh, no money/old money, and too good to leave out - among many others! This is a perfect book to sit home and read - and then to also use, when you're headed to Edinburgh..

We were lucky enough to be able to sit down and talk with Owen about the Local's Guide to Edinburgh - here's what he had to say...


Locals' Guide to Edinburgh

Claudia and Owen


WE: Please tell us about your new book, the Locals' Guide to Edinburgh...

OO: The Locals' Guide to Edinburgh is a complete departure from other travel
guides. Designed to act as a friend in a foreign city, it makes the most of
local knowledge to make visitors to the city feel at home. Add to that the
beautiful design by Claire Dowling, and we feel you have a guide that appeals visually like no other.

We were fed up with guides that had too much information and just looked
like phonebooks with pages and pages of listings. The Locals' Guide series is
designed to be a short cut to the best of Edinburgh, and by interviewing
locals living in the city, readers don't just get to know Edinburgh but the people living there who are just as important to a city as its streets and


Locals' Guide to Edinburgh


WE: What was the genesis of this book?

OO: The book was born out of an idea hatched in a pub (the home of many a great idea!) on a cold night in January. Claudia and I are good friends and were discussing great trips we had in the past year. We realised the highlights
were those that had involved us staying with friends, whether in New York, Berlin or Barcelona - and we wanted to be able to convert that insider knowledge into a friendly travel guide. As we started out on the journey, the concept of the book developed bringing the 'local legends' to the fore and including fun things like Scottish words for the weather, traditional recipes from top chefs and Scottish poems. We wanted to appeal to as many senses as possible.



WE: You must have had great fun researching this book. What were the

OO: Claudia and I have both lived in Edinburgh for about 7 years. Edinburgh's not a big city so we thought we knew it pretty well. How wrong we were! The most fun in researching this book was discovering new parts of the city through the eyes of people living here who are passionate about their home. Claudia had a great day out with the guys at the Edinburgh Canal Association when she went to check it out, and Owen was only too happy to sample many a bloody Mary in an effort to find the city's finest. The real highlight, though, has been the opportunity to make so many good friends along the way. We could have never imagined the generosity of the people we met while working on the book. They believed in what we were doing and were only too happy to give their time, advice, kit and contacts - and it was that help and support that made this guide such a huge success.


Locals' Guide to Edinburgh


WE:  You're an Edinburgh guy - did you find any new places, while writing this book? Or are you busy exploring old favorites?

OO: Well Jessie, I guess I could be called an Edinburgher but I'm actually from Cork in Ireland. I came to Edinburgh on holiday and fell in love with the
city and I haven't looked back since. Claudia has a similar story except she
fell in love with a Scotsman first and Scotland second! As visitors from outside
Scotland, I think we both have had a curiosity for our new homes. We met 6
years ago when I worked for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Claudia had just moved from Lisbon and was covering the festival for a Portuguese newspaper. Since then we've been great friends and our determination to constantly find new events, attractions and activities in the capital set us on the path to publishing without us even knowing it. We found tons of new places working together on the guide and even saw old haunts in a new light.

The great thing about Edinburgh is that it balances the old and the new so the city is constantly changing and evolving, while retaining its' old world charm. We threw ourselves at both sides with equal fervour and continue to do so today.



WE:  Often we hear of the dismal state of Scottish restaurant food (fried), yet in this guide, the food seems fresh, gourmet, and delicious! Is the food scene in Scotland changing?

OO: I think the food scene in Scotland is changing. Scotland has always had the resources in terms of fabulous fresh fish, prime Scottish beef, the best in
organic fruit and veg and now there are more and more restaurants springing
up to make the most of these fabulous ingredients. These changes are across the board too. Farmer's markets, fresh fish fayres and organic food shops are bringing the best of Scotland's food straight to the kitchen table. It's a great time to be eating and drinking in Scotland.



WE:  You've scattered great interviews with really cool Scottish people
throughout the book. How did you find them?

OO: We wanted to give a cross section of people living in Edinburgh; different
backgrounds, lifestyles, careers. We knew of some through their reputation
and good work (people like international rugby star Gavin Hastings and award
winning architect Malcolm Fraser) and others through contacts - people who knew people (like taxi driver Bob McCulloch, folk musician John Croall and tour guide Tim Bell). Others were people we knew about but wanted to know more about their Edinburgh (theatre producer Jude Docherty, fashion designers Holly & Lyndsey and restaurateur David Ramsden). All of the interviewees told us about parts of the city we had never known, and all were passionate about where they lived and why they call Edinburgh home.


Locals' Guide to Edinburgh



WE:  Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

OO: Edinburgh is an incredible city and we can't recommend visiting it enough. Whether your next trip is Edinburgh or elsewhere, we totally recommend trying to see the city or destination behind the city. Talk to the people, stray off the beaten path and try and have a holiday where you really get to know the place you're visiting.

Thanks so much, Owen! I am so impressed with your great, great book. I can't recommend it enough.

For more information, including being able to sign up for a great monthly email newsletter, and to purchase A Local's Guide to Edinburgh, please see:


All photos courtesy and copyright of Word of Mouth Travels.