Few trips to Scotland could really be considered complete without Edinburgh. The Scottish capital is frequently regarded as one of the UK’s most charismatic cities and famed for the castle that overlooks the city, as well as being an arts, entertainment and hospitality centre. Prince’s Street is the main shopping thoroughfare.
The city has two personalities. The ‘old town’ is dark, tight, atmospheric and gothic. Whereas the ‘new town’ is classical, leafy and open. It’s quite a contrast and they both work well. You could fall in love with either and not feel any guilt of betrayal to the other
Edinburgh old town in particular (around the castle) is hilly. You don’t really want to be walking too much of it. The city isn’t really car-friendly either. The best solution is to use a hop-on/ hop-off rover bus ticket that lasts 24/48 hours and allows for multiple uses across three different operators
If day-tripping from St Andrews, then consider using the train from Leuchars. The journey takes 60 mins. Edinburgh’s Waverley station is slap-bang in the middle of the city, pretty well next to the kiosk to activate your rover bus ticket
Edinburgh tour bus
Arthur's Seat overlooking Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Castle with the Ross Fountain.
Edinburgh castle is the most famous and popular visitor attraction. It stands on a volcanic plug, a stub of hardened basalt that withstood Europe’s ice sheets. The ice flow divided around it, abraiding the edges and depositing debris in its wake. When the ice withdrew it left a flat area to the north with a crag (the castle rock) and a tail (today’s ‘Royal Mile’). The summit of the Castle Rock is 130 metres (430 ft) above sea level, with rocky cliffs to the south, west and north, rising to a height of 80 metres (260 ft) above the surrounding landscape. The only readily accessible route to the castle lies to the east, where the ridge slopes more gently, but where any approach can be seen for miles and where a defence could be concentrated. Climate and geology had combined to create a natural defensive position.
Princes Street is traditionally the main shopping thoroughfare in Edinburgh. It is the southernmost street of Edinburgh’s New Town, and stretches for a mile with Calton Hill overlooking it to the east. The street has few buildings on the south side, and overlooks the Princes Street Gardens affording panoramic views towards the Old Town, and Edinburgh Castle. One particularly striking landmark is the Scott Monument (known locally as Thunderbird 3 due to its uncanny likeness). This gothic tower can be climbed to offer superb views across the cityscape of Edinburgh. In recent years adjacent George Street has begun to eclipse Prince’s Street a little bit for quality retail and perhaps the two should now be viewed together
Edinburgh’s Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century. The current Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood Palace at the beginning of each summer. The 16th century apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots and the State Apartments, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence.
The National Gallery of Scotland is located on ‘The Mound’, close to Princes Street. The gallery is a neoclassical design and first opened to the public in 1859. At the heart of the collection is a group of paintings which includes masterpieces by Jacopo Bassano, Van Dyck and Giambattista Tiepolo. The main ground floor rooms host a number of large-scale canvases such as Benjamin West’s Alexander III of Scotland Rescued from the Fury of a Stag, Rubens’s The Feast of Herod, and a pair of paintings by Titian. The gallery has a notable collection of works by Scottish artists, including several landscapes by Alexander Nasmyth, and Sir Henry Raeburn, including the celebrated, ‘The Skating Minister’. The gallery also holds a collection of works by English painters, such as Constable’s ‘The Vale of Dedham’, a sizeable collection of water colours by Turner and ‘The Monarch of the Glen’, by Sir Edwin Landseer, considered to be iconic of Scottish culture
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