What to see in Scotland
Tourist attractions Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, a magical city filled with historic streets and fascinating landmarks. Nicknamed ‘Old Smokey’ owing to the smogs of yesteryear, this vibrant capital sits on the Firth of Forth Estuary, close to the mouth of the North Sea. If you visit Edinburgh you’ll encounter two distinct sides to the city. On the one hand, you have its atmospheric Old Town, dating back to medieval times with cobblestone streets and dimly lit labyrinthine alleyways. On the other hand, the elegant Georgian New Town boasts impressive classical architecture, open spaces and grid-lined streets.
Edinburgh has long been a centre of education, with the world-renowned University of Edinburgh dating back to the 16th-century. It’s also the seat of the Scottish Government and home to the Parliament of Scotland. Famed for its annual Edinburgh Festival, the city is a cultural hub, with important institutions such as the Scottish National Gallery and the National Museum of Scotland all found within this compact capital. If you travel to Edinburgh you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that many of the museums are free to visit.
This capital city might be a thriving cultural and political centre, but it still manages to maintain a mysterious charm. Full of atmosphere and peppered with legends of ghosts and ghouls, the city’s streets invite visitors to unearth the tales of the Edinburgh of yesteryear. To visit Edinburgh is to discover a city of many faces. From down-to-earth pubs, where you can enjoy a dram of fine Scotch whiskey, to the regal Palace of Holyrood and the natural landscapes of the North Sea, Edinburgh distils them all into one, pocket-sized capital.
Small enough to explore on foot, if you travel to Edinburgh you’ll find that most of the top attractions are within walking distance of the Royal Mile, the heart of the city. If you do want to explore the sights around Edinburgh, there are plenty of buses and also a tram system to keep you well-connected. Be sure to take your walking boots with you on a vacation to Edinburgh as the city is draped across a series of rocky crags and hills. Some of the most-loved attractions require a little uphill walking, such as the eternal Edinburgh Castle and picturesque Arthur’s Seat.
The best time to visit Edinburgh depends on your interests. Of course, the city is at its most vibrant during the Edinburgh Festival season, held annually in August, but if you travel to Edinburgh during the chilly winter months you’ll have the opportunity to join in the New Year’s Hogmanay celebrations on the 31st December or Burn’s Night in January. The weather is generally cold and cloudy, and rain is frequent, but with such an array of sights and landmarks to discover, a trip to Edinburgh is a good choice at any time of year.
Things to do in Edinburgh
If you take a tour of Edinburgh you’ll find a plethora of things to see and do in the city. Edinburgh is a great choice for a sightseeing city break as it is well-connected and has a variety of attractions to choose from.
The best place to start a tour of Edinburgh is on the Royal Mile, which intersects the heart of the medieval Old Town and connects Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood. Lined with shops, restaurants and pubs, the Royal Mile is great for nightlife as well as sightseeing. Countless passageways and courtyards can be found off the main street, inspiring the curious to explore the city further. Once you’ve strolled along the Royal Mile, climb the final ascent up to Edinburgh Castle.
Perched atop of Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is the symbol of the city. Filled with history and home to the Scottish Crown Jewels, you’ll need a couple of hours to fully explore the sights of the castle. Over the centuries, Edinburgh Castle was one of the most important military strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland and has played host to numerous historic conflicts between the 14th and 18th centuries. One of the best things to see at Edinburgh Castle is the daily ‘One O’Clock Gun’. A ceremony that once served to inform the people of Edinburgh of the time, the tradition has endured since 1861. Every day (except Sundays and National vacations) a gunshot is fired from the castle grounds at 1 pm, a spectacle not to be missed on a trip to Edinburgh.
If you’re keen to get your walking shoes on, hiking to Arthur’s Seat is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh. The route from Holyrood Palace, the official Scottish residence of the Royal Family, will take you around Holyrood Park and up the steep hill to Arthur’s Seat, a fabulous viewpoint at the peak of an ancient extinct volcano. This is the highest point in the entire city, so you can enjoy brilliant views of Edinburgh and the North Sea.
Before you can rest your legs, there’s just one more peak that you must explore if you travel to Edinburgh. The peak of Calton Hill, easily accessible from a staircase on Regent Road, is known for its amazing views. Its also the home of the unfinished National Monument of Scotland, which earned Calton Hill the nickname of ‘Athens of the North’ thanks to its similarity to the Parthenon in Greece. The city observatory is also atop Calton Hill as well as the Nelson Monument. Every year on the 30th of April, the Beltane Fire Festival is held here, to celebrate the beginning of summer.
Other fascinating sights to include on a sightseeing tour of Edinburgh include the Scottish National Gallery, housed within a beautiful classical building, the mysterious Blair Street Underground Vaults, filled with ghost stories and the Royal Yacht Britannia, perhaps the most famous vessel in Scotland.