Sophisticated culture, stunning surroundings and down-to-earth locals make Edinburgh one of the jewels in the UK’s crown. Whether you plan your trip around Hogmanay, the Fringe Festival or exploring the city, it’s bound to be memorable.
Edinburgh becomes a hive of cultural activity in August when the city plays host to the Edinburgh International Festival (eif.co.uk) and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (edfringe.com), the biggest arts festival in the world. More than 400,000 revellers are expected to flock to the city for three fun-filled weeks of comedy, music, drama and dance. Also visit Edinburgh at New Year’s Eve for the Hogmanay street party (see P121).
Perched at the top of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle dominates the city from every angle. It’s a great place to learn about Scotland’s history and take in views of the Scottish capital. It’s also worth heading up to Arthur’s Seat, in Holyrood Park, which provides a stunning bird’s eye view of Edinburgh’s gothic architecture.
The dead have haunted Edinburgh’s cobbled streets and buildings since medieval times and what better way to get spooked than to go on a ghost walk. Visit the vaults beneath the South Bridge and discover the story behind the city’s body snatchers.
Heaps of haggis
Nip into a cosy pub on the RoyalMile or IN Grassmarket and sit down to a steaming plate of Scotland’s most famous dish, haggis (sheep’s intestine combined with onion, oatmeal, spices and salt). While it sounds horrible, it tastes incredible when served with “neeps and tatties” – turnips and potatoes.
Whisky sans mixer
As a nation of whisky drinkers, Scotland’s national drop is always at hand. But be warned, the locals wouldn’t dream of contaminating their aged whisky with any perceived impurities such as a mixer. The Scots love a drink so there are plenty of pubs from which to choose in Edinburgh. One of the best is The Last Drop where, legend has it, convicted criminals were taken for their final meal and a glass of whisky before being walked across the road to be hanged in the market square. The pub retains an old charm that makes it a wonderful place to spend a few hours.
Best of the rest
Best for … club: Wee Red Bar
Top tip: Check out ‘The Egg’ on Saturdays, a weekly alternative bunch-up of classic punk, garage, soul and indie music — past and present — to delight the student crowd. Situated on the grounds of the Edinburgh College of Art, this institue of a night club doesn’t lack any character.
Price: Entry prices range.
best for … hidden haunted history:The Real Mary King’s Close
Top tip: Discover the underground streets and spaces below Old Town through a guided tour complete with a costumed character guide to tell of all the blood and ghosts. For three quid extra you can get the “Gold Ticket” for an extended tour above ground. In December, experience the special Christmas “Daft Days” tours.
Fly to Edinburgh in 40 mins and then catch the Airlink 100, which departs every 10 minutes, into the city centre. Virgin’s train service from London takes about five hours and drops you in the city centre.
When to go: Edinburgh International Festival runs from August 13-September 5, while the Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes place from August 4-31.
Getting around: It is easy to explore Edinburgh on foot, but there is a fairly extensive bus service if you want to go further than the city centre.
Accommodation: Dorm beds start from £9 and private rooms from £18.