Each time I visit Edinburgh, I think: “I could live here!” I imagine myself owning one of its pebble-hued tenement houses and people-watching from the bay window. Or finally getting the wiry lurcher I’ve always dreamed of and marching it up Arthur’s Seat, the city’s Medieval sandstone core and dappled green hills stretched out below – just think how fit I’d be if climbing the wind-whipped volcano became a daily thing.
Edinburgh’s uniqueness and historic charm makes it a city that inspires you to dream. It feels like the place I could finally finish that novel that may or may not be brewing in my mind – no wonder former resident J K Rowling made the Harry Potter books so lengthy, or Ian Rankin managed to pen 20 Rebus titles and counting (the well-loved detective series set in the city).
But what makes the Edinburgh lifestyle appealing is not the staggering castle backdrop and the narrow wynds of Old Town alone. It’s the amount of stuff that’s going on here – the buzz of the Fringe festival each August, the individuality of the local restaurants and boutiques, the fact that you’ll wander into a vault-like bar and discover a craft cocktail or a gin you’ve never tried before. Local creative projects and businesses seem to be thriving, and making the city more colourful.
In fact, Edinburgh was recently named the best place in the UK to launch a small business according to research conducted by Expert Market UK. It ticks the usual boxes: a small size that allows for close networks, its large student population for acquiring talent, relatively affordable rent and, as mentioned, a covetable quality of life that lures people here.
London may be touted as the startup capital of Europe in terms of investment, but did you know that Edinburgh is where you’ll find the largest tech incubator in the UK? Home to 80 startups and 500 startuppers at a time, Codebase (thisiscodebase.com), helps fledgling businesses by offering mentorship, custom-built office space, hosting workshops and finding routes to investment, by connecting them with venture capitalists including DFJ Esprit, Oxford Capital, Scottish Equity Partners, Pentech VC.
What’s more – and the value of this for business should not be underestimated – Edinburgh’s already-speedy internet connection of up to 300Mbps is about to get a boost.
Following in the footsteps of Aberdeen, Edinburgh will become one of the first cities across the UK where broadband speeds of up to one gigabit per second will be plugged into homes, schools, public offices and local businesses. The move is a tie-up with Vodafone and CityFibre – the latter is a fibre network infrastructure provider that calls itself “the builder of Gigabit Cities”.
In terms of more traditional infrastructure, plans are underway for a £45 million concert hall on St Andrews Square in New Town, which will be Edinburgh’s first purpose-built performing arts venue for more than a century. Set to open in 2021, the Impact Centre’s design by London architectural firm David Chipperfield envisions a structure with world-class acoustics that will hopefully attract more than 350,000 concert-goers each year, and corporate travellers may also benefit from the venue, which will have a 200-seat auditorium.
Another significant addition to the Scottish capital will be the first single malt whiskey distillery to open in the city in 90 years. In April, Holyrood Distillery completed more than £5.8 million of fundraising to renovate Old Town’s 180-year-old Engine Shed building into a working distillery with a visitor centre. Sixty private investors and Scottish Enterprise backed this exciting new project, where customers will help the distillery “build the spirits and flavours they most enjoy” in a collaborative approach to production.
Edinburgh knows what it’s loved for, and has managed to preserve these things remarkably well – the distinct lack of litter, merchandising and other tourist toot up and around Arthur’s Seat is a testament to this. At the same time, judging by the new developments taking place, it’s making smart decisions to ensure its facilities are as up-to-the-minute, culturally relevant and business-friendly as possible.