Time is of the essence when you’re planning what to see in Edinburgh. There’s plenty to pack in: from a tour around the Royal Yacht Britannia to an active walk up Salisbury Crags or Arthur’s Seat. That’s even before you’ve started to explore the excellent shopping on Princes Street, or the boutiques, bars and restaurants on Rose Street.
Luckily, Edinburgh is a fairly compact city. Getting from attraction to attraction shouldn’t eat into your precious holiday time. Just remember to always have your camera handy. You’ll no doubt come across a beautiful church, intriguing alleyway or important monument during your short commutes.
You can walk from Colinton Vale to Leith, via Murrayfield and Stockbridge, along the river. It is an easy and relatively flat walk that goes past the National Galleries and various other sights; you will get a unique view of Edinburgh through the New Town.
In the middle of the city stands Edinburgh Castle. It’s hard to miss. The sheer, jagged cliff it sits on gives it a menacing look, but walk around the site and you’ll see a softer side as you enjoy beautiful views of the city. You may even catch the daily 1pm gun going off. Inside the castle and fortress walls you’ll discover its royal history and Great Hall.
Royal Yacht Britannia
This was once the queen’s favourite way to holiday – it’s rumoured she cried when the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned. Take an audio guided tour around the ship and you’ll see why. Considering it was built for royalty, it has a very homely, down-to-earth feel. See how the Windsors lived when on board, then go below deck and explore the quarters and the engine room.
Mary King’s Close
Visit the Royal Mile and chances are you’ll have passed Mary King’s Close, but it’s unlikely you’ll have noticed it. This warren of 17th century streets are hidden underground, quietly holding onto some of Edinburgh’s darkest history. If you’re feeling brave of heart, book a tour through the close and discover how people survived and what part Mary King’s Close played in ridding the city of The Plague.
The Scottish Parliament Building
At the foot of the Royal Mile and close to Holyrood Palace is the Scottish Parliament Building. Its design, which combines steel, oak and granite, caused much discussion before its official opening due to the scale of the budget. However, the result is a stunning piece of architecture. Public areas are open six days a week, so pop in for a visit before exploring the nearby Salisbury Crags.
Edinburgh is a truly beautiful city on appearance, but look beyond this and you’ll find a history that’s full of horror, gore, and questionable characters. A trip to Edinburgh Dungeons will unveil the likes of grave robbers Burke and Hare, half-hanged Maggie Dickenson, and cannibal Sawney Bean – all once residents of Edinburgh. Special effects, theatrical actors and rides will take you to Edinburgh’s dark side.
Follow actors through the wynds (narrow lanes) and quirky nooks and crannies that tempt you into the world of wizards and real-life witches of Edinburgh. Visit the locations that inspired characters and places from the Potter books and stop at the Elephant House, one of the cafes where JK Rowling first put pen to paper and wrote about the magical world of Harry Potter.