Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and a proudly historic city of kings and queens, kilts and military tattoos (of the musical kind). Rising darkly proud above the city is Edinburgh Castle, perched high on black volcanic rock. The Old Town’s city buildings march down from the castle along the Royal Mile to the royal palace at the other end of the road, Holyroodhouse - still one of the Queen’s official residences and full of history. Nearby is the modern and controversial Scottish Parliament building.
Wrapped around the base of the castle hill is the New Town - actually dating from the 18th century, which shows how old the Old Town must be - including botanic gardens, museums and art galleries, shopping and residential areas and the city’s main railway station, Waverley. Edinburgh is both visually spectacular and culturally dynamic, home of the annual Edinburgh Festival, where many famous entertainers make their start.
How to Get to Edinburgh
Cruise ships dock in Leith, not too far from the city center. You can catch a taxi, shuttle or local bus for a ten minute ride to the Old Town, or walk for about half an hour. In Leith is also permanently moored the now-decommissioned Royal Yacht Britannia, which makes for a fascinating tour.
One Day in Edinburgh
If you only have one day in Edinburgh you must see the castle. It is not huge but it is full of low doorways into small rooms which burst with history. And the views are wonderful. From here wander down Royal Mile, which changes names along the way: Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate.
Royal Mile has now become a bit of a tourist strip filled with shops selling tartan, but look beyond this to the wonderful buildings filled with history and the great small museums such as Camera Obscura and the Scottish Storytelling Centre in John Knox House (which dates from 1470).
At the bottom of the road is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the wonderful current royal palace, and nearby Arthurs Seat rises high in the parklands and is a favourite walk for locals and tourists alike. In the New Town the Scottish Portrait Gallery has recently reopened and the Scottish National Gallery has been renovated to put even more of their wide collection on display. The Royal Scottish Academy shows Scotland’s own great artists and designers.
A bit of a must-do in Scotland is to sample the local whiskies of which they are so rightly proud. And if you’re brave, taste some haggis, the national dish. If you are a golfer, head to nearby St Andrews where golf began. And if you’ve seen Edinburgh before, Glasgow is only 45 minutes away by train.
The language is English, although it is spoken with a distinctive Scottish lilt and some puzzling Scottish turns of phrase. The currency is the British pound - if you receive any Scottish pounds they are quite legal even though they look different to the English pounds commonly used across Britain. ATMs are easy to find.