To the visitor at least, the country’s capital would probably be regarded as Scotland’s most charismatic city in terms of its aesthetics and character. The attractions it offers are genuine rather than manufactured. The city is overlooked by the castle, which is a staple for visiting tourists. It was built on a volcanic plug which glaciers divided around unable to erode the hard-wearing rock. The result was a ‘crag and tail’; the tail being the incline that leads up to the gates. From its prominent position it looks down on the Princes’s Street gardens and National gallery below, the gardens themselves once being a natural lake, and where you can climb the classical gothic structure; the Scott Monument.
The Ross Fountain with Edinburgh castle above it looking down
Princes’s Street and the ‘old towns’ Royal mile, stretch from the Royal Palace of Holyrood to the castle, although the traditional line has been broken up a bit with new additions. In any event, the Royal Mile is likely to be where you’ll spend most of your time taking in the eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, pubs, and other visitor attractions.
Prince’s Street, with the new trams The Royal Mile during the festival © Copyright image Jim Baron (Prince’s Street – left)
© Copyright Matito (Royal Mile right)
Both images licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Terms of licence [CLICK].
Edinburgh is perhaps optimistically called ‘the Athens of the North’ which owes something to its own national monument on Calton Hill and other stylised Greek influences. The explanation is more straight-forward. Edinburgh had started to build its New Town in the 1770s, but there were few grand public buildings, and as the confidence of the city grew, so did calls for suitable monuments to showcase its achievements. It’s natural topography invited travellers to draw comparisons with the Acropolis and Parthenon of Athens. Where as Glasgow drew on its indigenous Arts and Crafts movement, Edinburgh adopted classical Greek designs. This is a vibrant and charismatic city of colour and personality and very, very, rarely do you hear a dissenting word uttered.
It’s symbiosis of Gothic and classical Greek influences give the Edinburgh skyline both personality and contradiction. Edinburgh is a city of culture and character, and to be honest, if the high brow stuff isn’t to your taste, then its not short on the entertainment and hospitality front.
During the month of August Edinburgh hosts its world famous arts festival. For the visitor, it’s a great time to be here. The city is alive, it’s colourful and its hums. ‘Vibrancy’ is a word much over-used in the travel lexicon, but when describing Edinburgh in August, its a fair application. We do have to admit however that accommodation becomes harder to find, and Edinburgh hoteliers long ago realised that demand exceeded supply! One of the most sought after tickets for the festival is the ‘military tattoo’ held at the castle every evening. If your taste is little bit more contemporary and avant-garde then there are no shortage of options on ‘the Fringe’ which attracts many break through acts, and has a reputation for innovation.
The military tattoo is a pageant of colour with visiting display teams coming from all over the world
Immortalised in a 1961 Disney film, another popular Edinburgh attraction is ‘Greyfriars Bobby’. Greyfriars is a cemetery, and ‘Bobby’ a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died himself in 1872. Close to the Greyfriars Kirk (churchyard) Edinburgh as developed another, and somewhat unlikely visitor attraction in the ‘Elephant House’ coffee shop. It was here than a largely penniless single parent called JK Rowling spent her time writing a book about a boy wizard. Suffice to say, it’s become something a magnet now for Harry Potter fans
A narrow entrance to the side of the pub leads to the churchyard The Elephant House. The self-styled ‘Birthplace of Harry Potter’
Finally, if you only have time to visit one Scottish palace, 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.
Holyrood Palace sits at the bottom of the ‘royal mile’ and is still in occasional use a royal residence