Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland since the 15th century but it has been inhabited since the Stone Age. It has been a Roman settlement, who constructed the Antonine Wall as the Empire’s northernmost defence, and also the home of the Celtic tribe Votadini. The city’s modern name is also rooted in Celtic history, as the tribe called the Castle Rock area Din Eidyn (“Eidyn’s Hill Fort”).
Nowadays, the city is the seat of Scottish government and the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland (known as the Palace of Holyroodhouse), but also a modern cultural hub (just think of the International Film Festival, the Fringe Festival and so on) welcoming visitors with so many things to do and see.
The Must-See of Edinburgh
The Edinburgh Castle stands on Castle Rock where the Votadini Celtic tribe originally built Eidyn’s Hill Fort. It’s been a royal residence, military garrison, prison and fortress, and it offers a long history for visitors to be explored. Nowadays it’s home of the Scottish Crown Jewels, St. Margaret’s Chapel, Mons Meg, the National War Museum of Scotland and they fire the One O’Clock Gun from the castle since 1861 every day except for Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day. It’s also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Old and New Towns of Edinburgh”.
Royal Mile is almost exactly a mile-long succession of cobbled streets running between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. There is plenty to explore in between on a walk: the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, the Scotch Whisky Experience, The Real Mary King’s Close, St. Giles’ Cathedral and the Scottish Parliament, just to name a few. You’ll also find he Heart of Midlothian, a heart-shaped mosaic in the grey cobbled pavement around St Giles’ Kirk.
Palace of the Holyroodhouse
Palace of the Holyroodhouse, also known as Holyrood Palace, in its current form was built between 1671 and 1678, and it is the official residence of the Kings and Queens of Scotland since the 16th century. It had some notable residents throughout history, such as Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. By tradition Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at beginning of each summer. When someone of great significance is staying at the palace, the flag is at full mast to let residents know. Otherwise, certain quarters are open to the public all year.
Royal Botanic Garden
The Royal Botanic Garden, the second oldest Botanic Garden in Britain was founded in 1670 near Holyrood Palace. The Gardens occupy four different sites across Scotland (Dawyck, Logan and Benmore being the other three), each having their own special collection, and it’s truly a sight to behold.
Calton Hill is a hill with a majestic view on the city in central Edinburgh near the Royal Mile, and it is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hill is home of many monuments, such as the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, the Dugald Stewart Monument, the old Royal High School (also known as the New Parliament House), the Robert Burns Monument, the Political Martyrs’ Monument and the City Observatory.
Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia served the Royal Family for more than 40 years before it was decommissioned in 1997 as the last British Royal Yacht, a tradition dating back to 1660 and the reign of Charles II. The Royal Yacht’s final foreign mission was to convey the last governor of Hong Kong and the Prince of Wales back from Hong Kong after the city’s handover to the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997, and it was retired later that year. As Britannia was crafted in Scotland by John Brown & Co, the ship is now berthed in Leith, Edinburgh and attracts visitors all year from all around the world.
Off the beaten track in Edinburgh
Made famous by Dan Brown’s work, the Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel is well worth a visit without the mystery of Holy Grail and the Templars, and it’s only a short drive of public transport ride from the city center. The chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir William St Clair, and it has been a sculptural fascination since the medieval era. The stone carvings are everywhere, on every available surface: from flora and fauna to saints, sinners, and angels, the proliferation of detail covering the structure is mind-boggling.
Dean Village, once known as the “Water of Leith Village” is now a quiet residential area. Once a quaint village on its own with no less than eleven grain mills working driven by the strong currents of the Water of Leith, it’s well worth a visit for the scenery and the calmness of the area. Serving as a reminder of its old glory, you can still see the iconic Well Court and Dean Bridge.
The Mound is an artificial slope in central Edinburgh, connecting the Old Town and New Town. The construction was initiated in 1781 and was more or less finished in the 1830s. You can find notable monuments and institutes here, such as the National Gallery of Scotland, the Royal Scottish Academy and more. The Mound provides an excellent view over the New Town.
The National Monument
The National Monument of Scotland stands on Calton Hill. It was erected to commemorate the Scottish sailors and soldiers who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. It was modelled after the Parthenon in Athens and construction started in 1826. However, due to a lack of funds the monument was left unfinished in 1829, with only 12 of the planned 69 columns finished, earning various nicknames such as “Edinburgh’s Disgrace” and “the Pride and Poverty of Scotland”.
Many just come here to shop but you can actually observe a bizarre interplay of past and present in many of the stores. Towards the end of the 19th century, Princess Street became the city’s high street, giving place to large Victorian buildings, stores and hotels. After a failed large-scale redevelopment project in the 1960s, Debenham’s acquired many of the buildings and decided to preserve the palatial exterior and part of the interiors. The result is Victorian elements amongst the racks of clothing on sale; the marble bust of the 19th century politician, William Gladstone, rests on an imposing bookcase, and an extravagant processional staircase can be found.
5 daysJun, Jul
Edinburgh City Tour
From A$2,450 AUDView Tour
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Small Group Tour
One of the few European tour companies to have in Scotland an escorted small group tour of Edinburgh during the fringe festival. As well attending performances, this trip includes time to experience, the old town, new town and the royal mile, a UNESCO world heritage site plus Edinburgh Castle and Palace of Holyroodhouse.
From A$5,150 AUDView Tour
Jacobites, Scottish History small group mature travellers tour
From A$13,250 AUDView Tour
20 daysSep, May, Jul
Scottish Islands and Shetland small group tours for seniors
An escorted small group tour for couples and solo travellers of the Scottish isles including the isle of Skye draws on local guides to share their knowledge of the destinations in this unique part of Scotland. UNESCO world heritage site are visited as breathtaking scenery and authentic experiences are shared in a group of like minded people on this guided tour of remote Scotland.
13 daysJun, Aug
Scotland's Great Trails Walking Tour
An escorted walking tour of Scotland. This trip is mainly in the Scottish Highlands. Your tour leader guides you to Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and Craignorms National park with experienced local guides. The tour for mature couples and solo travellers finishes in Edinburgh with time to visit Edinburgh Castle and the Royal mile a UNESCO World heritage site.
From A$9,250 AUDView Tour
British Gardens Small Group Tour including Chatsworth RHS show
Visiting England, Scotland
22 daysJul, Sep
Scotland small group tour | Tracing 5,000 years of history
This guided tour of Scotland with a tour leader and local guides includes the isle of Skye, Orkney islands, the Scottish highlands with breathtaking scenery. Edinburgh including the royal mile, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Fort William, Urquhart castle, Stirling castle, loch lomond, Hadrians wall and New Lanark also a UNESCO World heritage site.
19 daysAug, Jul
Whisky and Other Scottish Wonders
A guided small group tour of Scotland is a day tour collection that includes Edinburgh, the royal mile, Edinburgh castle, and the old town a UNESCO World heritage site Experience and learn about, Kellie castle, St Andrews, Skye, Balmoral castle, Loch Lomond and Loch Ness as well touring the Scottish highlands to finish in Glasgow.