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Edinburgh, Scotland

City of Edinburgh at dusk

The city of Edinburgh at dusk

Highlights of Scotland | Edinburgh

An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983 provides this article to support its small group tours for senior couples and mature solo travellers exploring Scotland and the Scottish isles. 

Discovering Edinburgh

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

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh – Scotland

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

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

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

Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel

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

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

The Mound

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.

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