“In a way Edinburgh is not fully like Scotland, just as London is not fully like England.”
Starting an occasional series on what makes cities tick, we meet Ian Jamieson in a coffee bar in the centre of Edinburgh. Sandwiched between chocolate brownies and carrot cake we chat about what creates a buzz in Edinburgh.
“I didn’t realise how small Edinburgh is,” Ian says enthusiastically, leaning across the table to make himself heard over the coffee machine, “It is very easy to get around and get to know people. In a way Edinburgh is not fully like Scotland, just as London is not fully like England. There are so many different cultures, so many different languages, so much going on …culture is something you can’t just buy and Edinburgh has got it in abundance.”
The tiny basement Wellington coffee bar in George Street is going like a fair. It’s a handy meeting place for the man who now holds the franchise for Hotels.tv Edinburgh. Success in the hotel bookings business demands a good knowledge of what is happening in the city and who is doing it well.
Originally from Aberdeenshire, Ian is a former banking analyst who fulfilled a long ambition to live in Edinburgh just over a year ago when he moved with his wife from London. He spent the first six months exploring local hotels and support services, building up a network of companies, concentrating where possible on local independent businesses. Now he has around 100 of them on his books – from hostels to castles – all subject to the same test: “I only work with places I would book my mum and dad into”.
With disarming openness, Ian admits the first year has brought its ups and downs but he clearly enjoys getting to know a city which offers many more attractions than the festivals. Challenges too. Working on the city’s Wheelchair Tennis Tournament for 2012 has revealed just how difficult it can be to get wheelchairs into hotels or B&Bs. Now there’s Hogmanay looming on the horizon but year-round business means getting to grips with a range of attractions from dog shows to gardening exhibitions.
For sheer enthusiasm it would be hard to beat Ian’s blog – see his 21 reasons for coming to Edinburgh and the bagpipe video! Very much at home in social media – “Twitter is great if you only have time to do it properly” – he likes to get out too, meeting people, exploring streets and architecture. But, when pressed to come up with his favourite place, he heads away from the centre.
“My favourite place to escape the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh is the Water of Leith walkway. The walkway is about 12 miles from Balerno to the Port of Leith, and all along you can see Edinburgh’s varying art, architecture, history, wildlife and human life! As well as being a great place to go walking and running, it’s also got some good fishing – I’ve managed to catch a couple of brown trout from its peaty waters over the years.”