Summer is fast approaching here in Scotland, and Edinburgh is gearing up for another round of this year’s tourism influx. There are lots of types of Edinburgh trips you can have, and in celebration of my new Edinburgh iPhone app, Edinburgh Secrets, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorites. As you’ll see, you can have lots of different types of experiences here in the city, as there really is something for everybody.
And if you do decide to go to Edinburgh, don’t forget to pick up either a copy of Edinburgh Secrets (if you have an iPhone – it’s only $1!) or a copy of my popular print guidebook, the Historic Walking Guide to Edinburgh, listed at the bottom of this article.
Yes, it rains a lot here. But it rarely rains for the entire day. And because you have this expectation of it being an utter downpour, you will likely be pleasantly surprised. One Edinburgh trips idea is to spend the entire time outdoors. Bring a good sturdy jacket, sturdy and comfy shoes (it is hilly), and you’ll be all set. Some popular sights to see:
- The 7 Hills of Edinburgh: They say Edinburgh is a city of 7 hills, but to be honest, you can cast your net wider for far more than 7, or use the true city limits where you are short a hill or two . But there are some hills worth climbing – specifically Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park (highest point in Edinburgh) and Calton Hill (with the magnificent architectural buildings) are the most popular.
- Union Canal: This canal silently snakes its way out of Edinburgh from a Quay hidden away in Tollcross. This is a contour canal, meaning it was built to slope according to the landscape, so it makes for a terrific walk.
- Water of Leith: My favourite place in Edinburgh, bar none. The walking trail is actually 12 miles long and runs from the Pentland Hills all the way around town and into Leith. If you can find the time, check this out, it is great.
- Cramond: This is know as Edinburgh’s “beach” – though you can leave the beach towels and sun lounger at home. Though I do recommend coming here for the enjoyable walk out to Cramond Island at low tide, as well as the nice strolls in the area.
It isn’t a surprise that another great idea for Edinburgh trips is the history (there is a reason it is in my guidebook title). Edinburgh is dripping with history, and it’s hard not to get away from it – it’s everywhere. Be sure to explore your options because I can’t recommend everything here, but my personal top choices would have to include:
- Ghost Tours: There are lots of these, but Mercat’s night tour of Greyfrair’s Kirkyard is supposed to be an insight into Edinburgh’s most haunted place, and their guides are well informed with lots of Scottish history.
- Edinburgh Castle: Yes, it is expensive and crowded. But with a great few and loads of weird quirks (like a dog cemetery, anyone?), you really have to go.
- The New Town: This isn’t an attraction, per se, but the endless Georgian architecture is. Just head over here and wander around. Look up.
Most of Edinburgh’s museums are free (except for special exhibitions), and gosh there is stuff hidden everywhere. Keep your eyes open; if a wee stairway looks interesting, it probably is – see where it goes.
So Scotland is a pretty big place, and many Edinburgh trips start here but then go on to explore elsewhere. I’d suggest at least one day out of town if you can spare the time. A few places I love and are easy to get to:
- Pitlochry: This is a little gateway town to the highlands, and I always recommend it because you can just zip up there on the train. The village has a highstreet with shops and tons of tea shops, and if you pop into the tourist centre you can pick up a colour-coded walking map.
- Loch Ness: This is do-able by day trip, either by driving yourself or taking one of the many providers offering a coach service. I can’t guarantee you’ll see Nessie, but it is a beautiful place.
- Glasgow: Scotland’s largest city, full of museums, architecture, and lots of shopping. You can also try to combine this with a daytrip to New Lanark (though a car is required).
- Roslin: Roslin used to be unheard of until Dan Brown put Rosslyn Chapel on the map. Only a half an hour out of the city by bus (Lothian Bus 15), this chapel has lots of secrets – some correctly portrayed in the book and others not so much. A walk in the valley is also quite lovely.
Food and Drink
Last but not least, I can not have you booking Edinburgh trips without something to eat and drink. Edinburgh is well represented in this area, with a little bit of everything. And of course, there’s Scottish food – haggis and shortbread being the two items that seem to come up most often in conversation. Recommendations:
- Coffee: Get the day started right. The best coffee in Edinburgh is available at Artisan Roast, followed closely by the lovely folk over at The Grind Cafe.
- Cakes and Cafes: Who doesn’t love some scones, cakes, and tea? eTeaket (pronounced ‘etiquette’), Clarinda’s on the Royal Mile, and the Elephant House are all good choices.
- Historic Pubs: When in Edinburgh, you can’t miss a nice pub meal. The ones with the best ambience and food include the Sheep’s Heid (down in Duddingston – the oldest pub in the area), the Queen’s Arms, and World’s End on the Royal Mile.
Enjoy your visit to Auld Reekie – it’s a great place, even in foul weather.