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Edinburgh Travel Guide

Edinburgh Travel Guide

An historic, atmospheric and arty city, Edinburgh is one of the great European capitals and is deservedly very popular with travellers:

Edinburgh was nicknamed Auld Reekie (Old Smoky) at a time when coal and wood was still relied on to keep the populace warm, and although the city is now a modern metropolis with fabulous shopping and more Michelin-starred restaurants than any UK city bar London, the nickname still suits this delightful and ancient city, with its old chimneys, smoke-stained Gothic buildings and towering, medieval castle. It is easy to understand how Edinburgh has influenced and inspired so many famous authors, as the city feels like something out of a very good novel.

Edinburgh is renowned for its many museums, old buildings and monuments, but it has appeal beyond the historic. The Scottish capital's nightlife is always interesting, with charming old pubs and fashionable nightclubs rubbing shoulders in a number of trendy districts. The city is also celebrated for its performing arts, with many theatres and an exciting and full cultural calendar, the highlight of which is the Edinburgh International Festival in August.

Best time to visit Edinburgh

Edinburgh's weather is notoriously changeable, with plenty of wind and rain in every season. The weather is at its best between May and September, in late spring, summer and early autumn, and this is the most popular time to visit. The city is flooded by travellers during the famous festival in August and the lively Hogmanay New Year's celebrations. Read more on Edinburgh's Climate and Weather.

What to see in Edinburgh

-Spend at least a few hours exploring the many wonders of Edinburgh Castle.

-Take a tour of the Palace of Holyrood House, official Scottish residence of the Queen.

-Enjoy thrills, scares and laughs in the Edinburgh Dungeon.

-Explore the Royal Yacht Britannia, used by the British Royal Family for 40 years.

What to do in Edinburgh

-Hike up Arthur's Seat for phenomenal views of Edinburgh.

-Visit the fascinating Rosslyn Chapel, made famous by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code.

-Picnic or stroll in the beautiful Royal Botanic Garden.

-Stroll down Edinburgh's Royal Mile, a route crammed with shops, pubs, museums and historic buildings.

Beyond Edinburgh

Many glorious daytrips are possible from the Scottish capital: the cities of St Andrews, Dumfries and Dundee are all within easy reach and bursting with historic attractions, famous golf courses and interesting museums. A trip to Stirling Castle, one of the most impressive fortresses in Scotland, is also a very popular excursion from Edinburgh.

Getting there

Edinburgh International Airport, situated eight miles (13km) west of the city, receives cheap direct flights from many other cities in the UK. Edinburgh is also well connected to cities like London by rail. Get more information on Airports in Edinburgh.

Did you know?

-Edinburgh is said to be one of the most haunted places in Europe, with many famous ghost stories and graveyards.

-Grey Friar's Bobby, a terrier, won the hearts of the populace by sitting on his owner's grave for 14 years.

-J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter novel in the Elephant House cafe, with a view of the castle.


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Edinburgh © Ipoh Žq

Presenting a distinctly Gothic cityscape as it spreads out below its ancient castle, reaching out to the port of Leith, Edinburgh is far from dour. The canny Scots have crafted a capital that is crammed with culture, filled with fun and festivity, veneered with sophistication but reeking of history and mystery. It's a heady combination that never fails to charm visitors to this city, built on a set of extinct volcanoes on the Firth of Forth, an inlet from the North Sea, just north of the border between Scotland and England.

The first thing that catches the eye in Edinburgh is the looming battlements of the castle, sitting atop sheer granite cliffs that can only be accessed from one steep ridge. Today the castle heads up the Royal Mile and a linear set of streets making up the 'New Town', created when Edinburgh was re-designed in the 1700s, after the Act of Union with Britain. Tourists eagerly wander up and down the main street, Princes Street, all year round, browsing in the top quality stores and photographing the vista of the castle and the old town. When it comes to sightseeing, Edinburgh's attractions are largely based on historic stories and legends, from the churchyard where Greyfriar's Bobby, the terrier, refused to leave his master's grave, to the grand royal apartments of Holyrood House, where Mary Queen of Scots watched her husband kill her lover back in the 16th century.

Edinburgh oozes atmosphere, but never more so than during the summer months, when the vibrant Edinburgh Festival fills the city with drama, creativity and colourful visitors from around the world. Another occasion when Edinburgh pulls out all its stops is during the traditional Hogmanay New Year festival, when the jolly festivities are warmed by a great imbibing of Scottish malt whisky and ales pulled in the many local pubs.

Edinburgh is perhaps best summed up by one of its famous sons, the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, who described it as 'a profusion of eccentricities; a dream in masonry and living rock'. Just remember that if you want to endear yourself to the locals, pronounce the city's name as 'Edinbruh' and not 'Edinberg'!

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