Scotland is a proud nation with Edinburgh it’s capital city. While it is a dynamic financial and business centre, visitors are drawn to it as a place of history and ceremony, due to the castle that looms high above the city, and but its culture, due to the massive Edinburgh festival held at at the end of summer every year. Once there they discover a youthful and dynamic city that is full of exciting and varied attractions and much to discover.
Some key must-know things about Edinburgh:
1: Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second most populous city in Scotland and the seventh most populous in the United Kingdom.
2: The population is just over 500,000.
3: Edinburgh has a buoyant economy that has been focused on banking and insurance. It is the biggest financial centre in the UK after London.
4: It is famous for the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe, which is the world’s biggest international arts festival.
5: Across the city are a huge range of historic buildings, including Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and an gorgeous Georgian New Town built in the 18th century.
6. The city has many important universities with a long history of expertise in medicine, law, science and engineering.
My main observations about Edinburgh:
1: Every time I visit I am reminded of just how different Scotland is to England. Although part of the United Kingdom the country and city has fiercely retained its Scottish feel and heritage. It is a very different feel to England, and this adds to the excitement of visiting. It is both familiar and varied, and why I recommend visitors to the UK to ensure they go beyond just staying in London and venture North to explore the city.
2: Although at times it can tend towards overplaying Scottish stereotypes in tourist facing activities with a sometimes corny over reliance on tartan, shortbread and so on. But embrace it, and enjoy it.
3: Edinburgh is a pretty city and over the years much work has been done to improve and restore buildings. There are many gorgeous areas and exciting to explore.
4: The city has a young and energetic feel, helped by the large proportion of young students that live in the city and the annual arts festival.
Key historical points:
Edinburgh has been recognised as the capital of Scotland dating back to the 15th century. It’s political importance declined after the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the Union of Parliaments in 1707 when power moved to London. The city’s significance had rapidly developed after the granting of devolution of power to the Scottish Parliament, which officially opened in the city in 1999.
MY TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS
Best time to go?
Although it is horribly busy, going in July and into August to experience the tattoo and festival is a real highlight and worth doing at least once. Overall the weather is not brilliant and it is likely to be chilly and wet much of the year, but great weather is not the reason for visiting.
There are many regional, european and international connections into the international airport and a good and comprehensive rail network to the rest of the United Kingdom.
As a major city you will find extensive bus and tram service, plenty of taxis. There is also excellent Hop-on Hop-Off bus tours which are especially good for getting to see the architecture and beauty of the city as well as getting to the main attractions.
10 Must-see and must-do sights and attractions:
- Edinburgh Caste: Edinburgh Castle is the fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh on Castle Rock. It is the iconic and most recognisable symbol of the city and so, not surprisingly, it is the most visited attraction. It used to be a royal residence but after the creation of one royal family for the UK it became a military barracks. Inside the complex are a range of significant buildings including St Margaret’s Chapel, the Royal Palace, the Great Hall, Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum of Scotland.
- Camera Obscura. This is the oldest visitor attraction in Edinburgh. It opened in 1835. In addition to the unique camera that through the use of mirrors gives you view around the city, there are also various interactive activities and things to do. It is not the most exciting attraction, in my view, but is such a classic that worth visiting. It is located just near the castle.
- Royal Mile. This is the road that runs from the castle down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It is always busy with lots going on. There are various tourist shops and pubs.
- Palace of Holyroodhouse. You can visit the official residence in Scotland of The Queen and explore the history of royal family and connections. You are able to tour the Royal Apartments and Throne Room, Mary Queen of Scot’s Chambers. A more recent attraction is The Queen’s Gallery that was opened by The Queen on 29 November 2002, and features changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection.
- The Scottish Parliament. Located in Edinburgh’s Old Town is the very modern Parliament building. It is a very unusual and unexpected feature. You are able to go on free tours which cover its history, work and the story behind the unique design. The tour includes a visit to the main chamber, unless Parliament is in session when you view it in action from the public gallery. There are also Art and Literary Tours.
- Princes Street, Princess Street Gardens, Tourism office and The Scott Monument. This is where the contemporary shops are. The big feature is the large memorial that commemorates the Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott. You can climb up 287 steps to the top and take in incredible views of Edinburgh and the countryside.
- Arthurs Seat: Arthur’s Seat part of a range of hills near the centre of Edinburgh and about a mile from the castle. It is 822 feet high and offers great views of the city. It is fairly easy to climb, and a popular activity for people who like walking
- The Royal Yacht Britannia. This was the ship that ferried the Queen and Royal Family around the world for over 40 years. It sailed over 1,000,000 miles. There is a great audio tour and you explore the royal apartments, grand dining room and also get to see what life was like below decks. Watch my video tour of Royal Yacht Britannia.
- Edinburgh Zoo. A great zoo made famous as the only place in the UK that you can see giant pandas, who are on loan from China..
- Museums: The best to see are:
- National Museum of Scotland: focuses on the natural world and cultures.
- National Galleries of Scotland: Edinburgh is home to a collection of a few key galleries: National Gallery on the Mound, the Portrait Gallery on Queen Street and the Gallery of Modern Art .
- The Museum of Childhood: The Museum of Childhood is a fun day out with a collection of toys and games from the past through to the present.