Time to Celebrate: 40th Birthday Ideas in Edinburgh

A special birthday deserves a special place to celebrate, so why not head to the Scottish capital?


View over Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

Well, och aye the noo and a very happy birthday. Whether you’re looking to celebrate your own milestone birthday (don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone, you still look 28 as far as we’re concerned) or that of a loved one, we here at Plum Guide have compiled a list of the very best things to do and see for great 40th birthday ideas in Edinburgh. The Scottish capital is renowned for its rich literary and artistic history, but more recently has developed a bit of a name for itself among foodie and booze connoisseurs, so if dining out is your thing, or you’re just looking for that special place to celebrate, there’s plenty of options, and we’ve selected only the very best so you don’t have to.


The most crucial thing to know, is what the weather will be like when you start planning 40th birthday ideas in Edinburgh. A Scottish winter can be bitterly cold so make sure you pack some thermals. Of course, you are also in the best place to buy high-quality wool and cashmere garments, so you could do all your shopping once you get there. We’d recommend Brora or Hawico. But if you’re travelling over summer and are really savvy, you’ve already booked a stay over festival season, most likely in one of our premium Plum Guide homes. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the world’s largest and arguably most important arts festival. It usually takes place over the whole of August. However while the 2020 schedule has been somewhat thrown by the coronavirus pandemic, it promises to be back in full force next year (subject to health and safety recommendations, naturally). Be aware that the city is usually packed with tourists from across the globe during festival season, but it’s with good reason. You’ll be able to catch the next big artist/comedian/dance troupe/performance poet before they make it big time.

Need to know

For some reason (we like to think it’s because Edinburgh is charming and romantic, if a little archaic), plenty of places still operate on a cash-only basis. So make sure you have some notes handy so you’re not caught short. Oh, and don’t get a shock when you see it come out of the cash point. Scottish bank notes are real, and yes, you are able to use them in England. The other thing you should definitely know before planning any kind of 40th birthday ideas in Edinburgh, is that you most definitely have to book ahead if you want a seat at the best tables in the house. Be it for a show, restaurant or bar, make sure you call and place a booking so as not to be left disappointed. Tables at the best restaurants are often booked up weeks in advance, so you may need to choose a quirky timeslot, but that’s okay. If it’s Michelin-star quality food, we’re not complaining. Any time of day or night will do.

Food and drink

Considering you’re in Edinburgh for 40th birthday celebrations, we think there’s only a couple of places good enough to fit the bill for that special meal. First up, The Witchery. This cosy bolthole near the Castle has officially been dubbed the fourth most romantic restaurant in Europe. Well, with a title like that, you can’t really begrudge it. Second of all, we’ve selected the aptly-named Number One restaurant in the Balmoral hotel, right by Waverley Station, which also made its way into our rather marvellous Edinburgh 3-day itinerary. It is well-deserving of its Michelin star and features sophisticated Scottish fine dining, complete with a chef's tasting menu. At some point during your trip, whether for an aperitif or a digestif, make sure you also find time to grab a cocktail at the famous Panda & Sons bar, with cocktails made to your specific taste. Go on, try something with whiskey in it, you’re in Scotland after all. But if you’re heading out of Edinburgh via train, grab a dram of whiskey at the historic Cafe Royale tucked away opposite the station. If you’re lucky, you may even catch JK Rowling dining out there.

Number One at The Balmoral, Edinburgh

Old sights

It really depends on what you’re into, and we’re not judging. From the historic sites of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat (not that you have to climb the last two, they’re still rather marvellous from the terrace of a good bar), there’s plenty to get you going, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Calton Hill, Edinburgh

New sights

If you’re up for a gallery, we highly recommend the following itinerary: a stroll among the boutiques and cafes of the bougie neighbourhood of Stockbridge, followed by a walk along the Water of Leith until you reach the modern art gallery. For some reason the gallery is split into Gallery One and Gallery Two, separated by a road. We don’t question why. Possibly it’s part of the art, but who knows these days.

When it comes to 40th birthday ideas in Edinburgh, you'll no doubt need a remarkable place to stay. And for that, you needn't look further than our guide to the city's best neighbourhoods.

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