Edinburgh is situated on an area of ancient volcanic activity meaning the natural landscape is something to behold. Extinct volcanoes, such as the famous Arthur’s Seat and Castle Rock, make Edinburgh a breathtaking place to visit. If you’re intrigued by its colourful and sometimes violent history, simply wish to wander Princes Street and sample some whisky or explore the alleyways of the Royal Mile; Edinburgh has something for you.
No trip to Edinburgh would be complete without seeing some of its most famous attractions. Edinburgh Castle being Scotland’s number one tourist attraction, dominates the Edinburgh skyline and has played a huge part in its history. A royal castle since the 12th Century this ancient monument is open all year round (ex. December 25th & 26th). Aside from wandering the extensive grounds you should also see the Crown Jewels of Scotland, a massive medieval cannon called Mons Meg, the oldest building in Edinburgh - St. Margaret’s Chapel, the National War Museum and the stone of destiny.
The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile follows on naturally after you have spent a couple of hours exploring all Edinburgh castle has to offer. This street runs downwards from the castle to Holyrood Palace and contains all things Scottish; from kilt rental shops to whisky specialists. The Royal Mile also contains many sights along its length. St. Giles’s Cathedral is found on your right as you walk down the street with its distinctive crown shaped spire. Further down the Mile on the right is the John Knox House, look inside at the wooden gallery and hand-painted ceiling.
Holyrood Palace is found at the bottom of the Royal Mile opposite the Scottish Parliament Building and is the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. It is open to the public when the Queen is not in residence and highlights include the Great Gallery which contains portraits of the Kings of Scotland.
Parliament and the National Museum of Scotland
The Scottish Parliament Building is found opposite Holyrood Palace and is worth a look if only to marvel at the architecture that has divided the country, make your own mind up and go inside for a free guided tour.
The National Museum of Scotland is great for a rainy day and has free entry. It is made up of two museums but you can move freely between them once inside. The Museum of Scotland contains exhibits that focus exclusively on Scotland, its culture, history and people. The Victorian Royal Museum covers a wide range of areas from natural history to art and technology.
Edinburgh Zoo is a 10 minute bus ride from Princes Street and is Scotland’s second most popular tourist attraction. Set in attractively natural surroundings it houses over 1000 rare or endangered species. There are educational shows and animal encounters as well as a free hilltop safari.
Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia was considered a royal residence during its use from 1953 to 1997 as it transported members of the Royal Family around the globe and entertained many foreign dignitaries. Visitors can take a tour of the five decks and visit the state rooms as well as the engine rooms. Situated in Ocean Terminal it’s a short bus ride from Princes Street.
Reportedly one of the most haunted cities in the World, Edinburgh has a wealth of spooky ghost tours which will scare even the toughest visitors. Most popular tours take place in the vaults, the underground catacombs beneath the Old Town, and Mary King’s Close, an alleyway with a dark, plague past. Centred around the Royal Mile there are several well established tour companies that are easy to spot by their ‘creepy’ street representatives through whom you can book tours.
How to get there
Plane - Edinburgh International Airport has flights from many European and UK airports with low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet. Connections by bus to the city centre take between 20 and 30 minutes.
Train - High speed rail links connect Edinburgh to the rest of the UK a direct route runs cross-country from the south coast of England to Edinburgh. There are also regular trains from London Kings Cross to Waverly Station that take just under 5 hours.
Coach - National Express and Megabus offer coach links with most English cities but be aware if you’re coming from London or the south of England coach times may take as long as 10 hours, but are often the cheapest option.
Car - Edinburgh is located in the heart of the Scottish motorway network so can be reached easily by car. Journey time from London is approximately seven and a half hours, with Glasgow only one hour away.