Been to Edinburgh and seen it all? Haud yer wheesht - keep it down - not on your Nelly you haven’t. For a seriously small city, there’s a never-ending range of possibilities to keep everyone busy. First timers should tick off their favourites and returnees delve further into her ancient nooks and crannies.
1. Edinburgh Castle
A site of Scottish Royalty, bloody battles and grizzly secrets this is an absolute must-do. Built on the tip of an extinct volcano, meander through the cobbled streets and soak up the city’s rich history and proud heritage. Visit the Crown Jewels and Heritage Stone, and take in the breathtaking views to the Firth of Forth.
2. Camera Obscura – Royal Mile
This quirky Castle-side house of illusion is a hidden gem. Wend your way up through the optical illusions and nostalgic befuddlement to the camera obscura itself, an 1853 device that use lenses and mirrors to project upside down images of the outside world.
3. The National Museum of Scotland
Edinburgh’s equivalent to the London’s Natural History, Transport and Science Museums all melded into one, this tarted-up classic is a great distraction to the ancient architecture and free. If nothing else the giant galleried Great Hall is eye-popping and the mid-level cafe great for people watching.
4. The Real Mary King’s Close
When the 18th Century Royal Exchange was built, a medieval alleyway was entombed below and remained virtually intact for three hundred years. Take a costumed ghost tour of the preserved thoroughfare for a neck-tingling peek into Edinburgh’s past.
5. The Royal Mile
Nothing more clearly encompasses Edinburgh’s history than a walk along the cobblestone streets of The Royal Mile, linking Holyrood Palace to the Castle, which houses some of the city’s oldest and most important buildings. Try spotting a cannonball and a heart or take after dark Ghost Tour.
6. The Palace of Holyroodhouse
Like all good palaces, Holyrood has plummy staff and its own ghost - Bald Agnes, a witch who’s been around since 1592. Be charmed by this historic part of local history, peek into HRH’s State Rooms - closed only when she’s in town - or venture into the extensive Holyrood Gardens.
7. The Edinburgh Dungeons
Easily spooked folk should best avoid this vaudeville jaunt through Edinburgh’s grim and grizzly past. A cast of larger-than-life actors combined with gory sets and special effects to vividly bring to life Edinburgh’s most macabre characters and instruments of torture from history.
8. The Scott Monument
A much-loved icon, this monument celebrates Scotland’s famous author Sir Walter Scott. Work off those foodie excesses by climbing all two hundred and eighty seven steps to the top; the view of Princes Street Gardens sixty metres below is a fiver well spent.
9. Edinburgh Zoo
Meet the Zoo’s star attractions, Chinese-born giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang whose antics make the trek to Corstorphine worthwhile. Or frolic with the jaunty penguins and sea lions that thrive in the cool weather climate on the edge of The Pentland Hills.
10. Inchcolm Island
Venture to the city limits at South Queensferry for a boat ride to the middle of The Firth of Forth and Inchcolm Island. Visit the romantic medieval priory, see basking grey seals and seabirds whilst taking in the unique perspective back to the city and Castle, and the Firth of Forth’s famous bridges.
11. The Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh
It’s easy to wax lyrical about the number of plants, rich biodiversity and the fact that it’s Britain’s second oldest garden. But the reason most folk love The Botanics is because of its’ wide-open space, lovingly tended gardens and stunning glasshouses; that and great cakes in the café.