WHEN lockdown ends, why not explore the wonders of Britain.
Scotland’s capital has plenty to entice – from historic buildings to fun family attractions. Here are ten reasons to put Edinburgh at the top of your must-see list . . .
THE CLASSIC SIGHT
Edinburgh Castle is full of treats. It sits on a rocky outcrop at the top of the Royal Mile in the city’s Old Town, and is almost a small town in its own right.
If it’s heritage you are after, St Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest building in the city.
The Honours of Scotland — the Scottish equivalent of the Crown Jewels – provide the bling. And the Royal Apartments impress with lavish, palatial furnishing. See edinburghcastle.scot.
THE WOW MOMENT
At the eastern edge of the New Town, Calton Hill hosts a collection of grandstanding monuments.
The classical style of these earned Edinburgh the nickname “the Athens of the North”. But beyond the big stone decorations, there are some superb 360-degree views. Turn one way, and the city unfolds before you.
Turn the other, and you can see out to the Firth of Forth estuary.
NEW FOR 2021
Edinburgh’s East End is getting a new lease of life with the St James Quarter.
This mixed-use development will feature dozens of restaurants, an Everyman Cinema and a swanky W hotel.
Designed as a modern hub for living, shopping and playing, the district is due to open in spring 2021. See stjamesquarter.com.
THE TOP TOUR
Off the Royal Mile are several centuries-old alleyways. One of these, the Real Mary King’s Close, has been covered over to the point where it feels like an underground tunnel.
Tours head inside the close, exploring the grim 16th century living conditions. A few ghost stories are also thrown in, told with relish by the theatrical tour guides. See realmarykingsclose.com.
A CULTURAL FIX
Covid-permitting, Edinburgh will once again become the cultural capital of the world in August. This is when the Edinburgh Festivals take place, and seemingly every room in the city becomes a performance space.
The city is by no means a cultural desert for the rest of the year, though. The Stand is one of the greatest comedy clubs in the country, with appreciative crowds.
Comedians tend to love playing there, and it attracts high quality line-ups. See thestand.co.uk.
THE FUN NEIGHBOURHOOD
Once Edinburgh’s scruffy port area, Leith has perked up considerably in recent years. Attracted by cheap rents and a fabulous waterside setting, a host of restaurants have opened — some attracting Michelin stars.
Leith is now a fine place to eat and drink, with inventive indie options in the once-grotty back streets.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
The Water of Leith river runs past the New Town on the way to Leith, but just upstream is the gorgeous Dean Village.
This was once a milling settlement, and wealthy philanthropists had housing built here. It feels a world away from the city, as does the stream-side walking track that heads through the woodland valley. Look out for kingfishers and herons while taking a stroll.
A FANTASTIC FEAST
The Café Royal looks beautiful — all wood panelling and ceramic tile art. A long-standing favourite of Edinburgh authors and artists, it’s also a fabulous spot for seafood.
The oyster bar is what this atmospheric old joint is best known for, but you can also tuck into mussels, clams, langoustines, roasted monkfish and king scallops.
WITH THE KIDS
Edinburgh Zoo is justifiably regarded as one of the best in the country, and is the only place you can see giant pandas in the UK. The panda enclosure naturally gets most of the attention, but there’s plenty more to see.
Penguins Rock — Europe’s largest penguin pool — is hugely entertaining.
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ONE MORE TREAT
The Royal Yacht Britannia is moored in Leith. It transported the Queen and the Royal Family around the world for 43 years, clocking up 696 foreign visits.
It is now open to all, and provides a great insight into what life aboard was like. The tours around it cover the escapades the crew got up to, and the Queen’s surprisingly unflashy tastes in décor.
There are direct trains to Edinburgh from most UK cities.
Easyjet offers flights to Edinburgh from Birmingham, Bristol, Luton, Stansted and Gatwick.
For more info, see visitscotland.com.
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