There are few things better than filling up your belly with amazing fresh seafood and then meandering along the waterfront at dusk. This part of Edinburgh has so much history as a once busy port. Now it is home to several amazing (some even Michelin starred) restaurants, and tastefully renovated waterfront areas. Take a seat and watch the big ships roll past.
16 or 22 bus from Prince's st in direction of Ocean Terminal
Google map: bit.ly/Yh7Juj
According to one architectural guide Edinburgh's famous Cafe Royal has a "swaggering Parisian air". It was opened in 1863 and boasts Corinthian brass lamp standards, tall beveled windows, marble-topped counters and large tile pictures of famous inventors. It was said that this was the venue where Princess Margaret met a certain Roddy Llewellyn. What is less well known is that it was planned as a showroom for sanitary fittings. It’s a wonderful cathedral to the bon vivant – whether on a hot sunny day or a cold winter evening. It’s the sort of place you might go with mates for a swift half and when someone says lets have oysters and champagne everyone says yes!
Time was that when the Edinburgh Festival finished at the end of August the city quickly slipped back into its famous genteel torpor. No more. Nothing matches the city for vibrancy in the famously rainy month of August but September and October in Scotland's most enigmatic city are often drier and sunnier. Walking hand-in-hand down the old cobbled ginnels (alleyways) of the Old Town or sipping cocktails on any number of rooftop terraces like that of Harvey Nichols, the place is full of romantic possibilities. Wrap up well, there is a chill that blows in from the North Sea. There is plenty of culture from the newly refurbished Scottish National Museum and Scottish National Portrait Gallery to theatres and concerts, not to mention fine dining from the likes of Tom Kitchin and Mark Greenaway. And Edinburgh must be unique in that in the middle of the city there is not only a castle sitting on a volcanic plug but a little patch of the Highlands in the shape of Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags. With the Scottish independence debate high on the agenda there has never been a better time to visit the Athens of the North.
Edinburgh is UNESCO's first world city of literature. Everyone from Burns to Stevenson and Conan Doyle to Ian Rankin lived or wrote here, and a walk with a drink is the best way to find out about them. The Edinburgh Book Lovers' Tour takes you through the Old Town at night, weaving from pub to pub telling stories and reciting extracts. If you're a particular fan of just one grumpy detective, Rebus Tours will take you to the scenes of some of Britain's best-selling crime novels.
Mr Woods Fossils sells exactly what it says (and no crystals.) There are large slabs of rock with a lot of fossils in them and huge ammonites but also plenty of interesting smaller specimens as well as some which are pocket money sized. There are also usually the most amazing fossils of fish and shrimp like creatures. When you've done the tartan and whisky bit in Edinburgh this is the place to go.
Starting in the Pentland Hills, The Water of Leith Walkway takes you through leafy Juniper Green along the old Colinton railway and Dell then through Edinburgh to the Firth of Forth. The full walk is 13 miles but for a half-day easy stroll you can start halfway at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre and get a view of the importance of this river to Edinburgh. Once boasting 70 mills producing paper, flour, snuff and textiles, it flows from the rural Pentland Hills through Edinburgh to Leith’s busy port.
Follow the meandering river downstream to the preserved Dean Village deep in a gorge spanned by Thomas Telford’s dramatic Dean Bridge. Here you can stop off at the Gallery of Modern Art. At Canonmills leave the trail for a visit to the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens.
The walkway passes through considerable woodland and the river flourishes with wildlife; brown trout, grayling, eels and otters have been seen. There are kingfishers, herons, wagtails and dippers. You may also see roe deer and otters.
End up with a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia docked at Leith’s Ocean Terminal and immerse yourself in the bustling splendour of this great whaling and shipping port.
Castle Rock’s smaller sibling is Calton Hill, a grassy spot some 450ft above sea level at the east end of Princes Street. It is from this spot that every postcard shot of the city has been taken, so take a wander up and take in the view for yourself.
Explore the strange structures at the top – including the locally named ‘Edinburgh’s disgrace’ – an overambitious attempt to replicate the Parthenon in the ‘Athen’s of the North.’
Take a picnic and take this short walk to one of the finest views of Princes Street, the Castle and beyond.
Google map: bit.ly/qNhCjl
Most people think Burke and Hare and follow in their footsteps when they go in search of Edinburgh's spooky side, or they head to the Real Mary Kings Close to visit the old – once plague infested - streets of Edinburgh which lie beneath the modern city. But if you want something really chilling go on a tour of the vaults beneath the South Bridge. Tours can be booked online or operators can be found on the Royal Mile. We went last winter with a group at around 4pm when it was getting dark. The entertaining guide led us down some stairs and closed the door behind us before regaling us with stories of the troubled spirits that are said to remain in the abandoned vaults. We were given electro magnetic field detectors and set off around the many cavernous rooms in search of the supernatural. I'm a sceptic, but have to admit that as the clicks increased (a sure sign of ghosts, apparently) even I felt a bit spooked. When the tour finished, we headed onto the cold dark streets and quickly retreated to the safety of the nearest pub to settle our nerves.
Not only are The Vaults under Edinburgh's South Bridge terrifying as you pass through a small stomach churning torture museum before you are lead in to the vaults themselves, but you are greeted by the cursed witches circle, said to cause fits and collapses upon entering. If The Vaults don't satisfy your quench for fear, the Greyfriar's Cemetery offers you a chance to walk in the footsteps of the infamous Burke and Hare body snatchers after dark which unveils Edinburgh's grim history. The graveyard also comes with it's very own 'Creepy Wee Shop in the Graveyard'.
If you are interested in the Scottish Enlightenment, I recommend this excellent walking tour of historical David Hume sites in Edinburgh.
For more information on walking tours in Edinburgh, contact Saints & Sinners in Edinburgh: www.edinburghsaintsandsinners.co.uk/
You can check out the "rough guide" by cutting and pasting the URL: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gn9Amnnq10o
Spent a romantic weekend in Edinburgh in this hostel. Would be ideal for a couple trying to do the Edinburgh festival on a budget - private rooms are spacious and there were no stag or hen parties, or drunk backpackers.
Housed in a charming 19th century building, the comfortable private rooms mean this is a great alternative to a souless hotel - the rooms have antique furnishings and bags of character, as well as amazing views of the castle. Loved all the art on the walls as well.
The location is unbeatable (a minute from the Castle, Royal Mile, Grassmarket), and there's a huge lounge and movie screening room.
Not everyone wants to be in the city centre and this hotel is only about a 15 min bus ride to Princes St. Its main advantage is that it is right by the Braid Hills Golf course (and the hotel has special green fees), is very near the main bus routes, is not far from one of Europe's largest artificial ski slopes and it is also one of the hotels nearest to Rosslyn Chapel. They have plenty of free parking and its bistro has great views across the city.
A weekend trip to Edinburgh is a must by anyone's standard.
Unless you have to, ignore the modern day Prince's Street which is home to pubs and shops that you can find on any high street in any city in the country.
Instead head to the old part of town with the hidden alleyways and courtyards of The Royal Mile. At the top end, once the burning place for all the local witches, lies Edinburgh Castle perched atop a volcanic crag, while at the bottom lies Holyrood House - the Queen Mother’s imposing former residence.
At the entrance to the Castle is The Witchery Restaurant and rooms - voted in the top 3 most romantic destinations in the UK. Eight incredible rooms ranging from the library to the armoury are Gothic in style and extremely luxurious. I would defy anyone to stay here and not feel like a Lord.
Make sure you have a table booked at the Witchery Restaurant for the evening. My recommendation would be the Secret Garden, very romantic with a totally decadent ambience.
If you feel like working up an appetite before dinner then why not join Adam Lyal on a tour around "Auld Reekies" streets. This long dead Highwayman leads you through the haunted alleys with tales of wrong doings of ne'er do wells from Scottish history. A word of caution, you never know who you might bump into on this tour. ‘Jumper Ooters’ lurk on every corner- not for the faint hearted!
When you make it back to the land of the living make sure you pop into the wonderfully traditional Ensign Ewart for a pre dinner drink. The eponymous hero won a VC for charging the French lines and capturing one of Napoleons Eagles and his story is displayed on the walls of the pub.
There are so many other tours available in Edinburgh. From the Ghostly to the factual they all represent its long (and often bloody) history. The Restaurant scene is fast springing up in Leith, the dockside area of Edinburgh. Leith is currently under regeneration and transforming into a very modern and lively location.
Edinburgh is a very cosmopolitan city and there are some 13 million visitors every year to the Tattoo, Festival and historic buildings. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site, testament to its architecture and history. Superb bars and restaurants blend with the older buildings bringing old and new together on these cobbled streets.
Pay them a visit - just be sure to take a peep round every corner. You never know who or what you might bump into!
Hidden under the Royal Mile is a series of narrow streets that used to be part of the city above in the 16th century or so and are now part of the foundations of the Royal Mile. These are real preserved buildings, not just a tourist show, and a fascinating look at Edinburgh in a past time.
A word of warning – the smells are pretty real too!
2 Warriston’s Court, Writers Close, EH1 1PG. 08702 430160
If you plan on spending a few days visiting most of the attractions around the city, the pass is definitely worth buying.
With free entry to 30 places and airport transfer included, it saves a packet.
Buy from www.edinburgh.org/pass/
Borthwick is a 15th century castle, 15 miles from Edinburgh Centre. We stayed there with our three children recently. The kids were totally in awe of the castle and the historic atmosphere that oozes from its pores!
To add to the experience we also dined at the castle, as a treat. The castle offers an option of children's menus, either a standard three-course menu, with kids' favorites (fish fingers, sausages etc), or a half adult portion, they really did offer an option to suit all.
The children were so well behaved, totally engrossed in the castle's history, and the memorabilia which is displayed in each of the rooms. Followed by historic tales and ghost stories by the castle staff, it set the kids up with tales and stories to keep them amused all the way home!
Cosy tea room/bistro/restaurant (mind your head!) at beautiful Cramond on the quayside of the River Almond and Forth. A great selection of home cooked local recipes, soups with home made bread, full meals or just a tea, coffee or chocolate and cake.
The stone built artisans cottage was once a cooperage for the long gone brewing pub next door. Lovely walks along the beaches and fields away from the Edinburgh crowds, but within walking distance of the city (four-five miles).
On the waterfront at Cramond, watch the boats swans and seabirds. Buses and a big car park up the hill.
Doors Open Day, organised by the Cockburn Association (The Edinburgh Civic Trust) in partnership with Edinburgh World Heritage, has become one of the capital’s most popular days out.
It is your opportunity to see inside some of Edinburgh’s most architecturally, culturally and socially significant buildings. This year’s programme gives free access to over 70 buildings, ranging from historic landmarks to the most contemporary of designs – including many hidden gems.
Each venue has organised a range of free activities, designed to bring the history, design and the everyday use of the building to life – including behind the scenes tours, talks, exhibitions, musical recitals, demonstrations and re-enactments. There are also many activities for children.
Venues are throughout Edinburgh. Further details, including how to obtain this year's brochure, can be found from www.cockburnassociation.org.uk
You can also see pictures of some of the buildings taking part in this years event on: www.flickr.com/photos/doorsopenday/
No visit to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to the top of Arthur's Seat - the large volcanic hill in the centre of town.
The views are amazing. Sturdy shoes are a must.
While there make sure you go on a pilgrimage to Hutton's section, the place where one of the great heroes of the enlightenment, geologist James Hutton, deduced in the 18th century that the world must in fact be millions of years old: "there is no vestige of a beginning nor prospect of an end".
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