Pretty and set on an extinct volcano, Edinburgh is just quaint and doesn’t have that big city vibe.
Best times to go
The best time to go is in August – during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Actually that whole month of August is full of festivals: from books, science, comedy, the fringe, and the Military Tattoo. The rest of summer (June – July) has quite lovely weather too. Avoid winter: it is cold in Edinburgh even though it’s fall/spring as well (given its location near the top of the UK).
You can get to Edinburgh by driving, taking a bus, or a train. There are express trains from London direct to Edinburgh (make sure you reserve a ticket in advance during festival season). Within the city, if you just want to stay within Old Town, then you can walk around- everything is within walking distance. To get to New Town, Leith, and other parts of Edinburgh, your best bet will be the bus.
Places to See:
- Edinburgh Castle – Overlooking the old town of Edinburgh and on top of Castle Rock (a volcanic formation that looks like a hill), this is a must see. A gun is fired at 1:00PM and can be heard 3KM away. Within its grounds, the Military Tattoo is held for a couple of days in the month of August, where musical bands and display teams from various divisions (coming from the UK and the other Commonwealth countries) perform. Tickets are hard to get for the tattoo so if you are sure you want to see it, book early.
- The Royal Mile – a mile long road that connects Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle. This street is full of street performers (buskers), especially during the Fringe Festival. ]
- Arthur’s Seat – the top of an old volcano, and the highest peak in Holyrood Park. Climbing up to the top is relatively easy. From there, you can explore the Salisbury Craigs and the rest of the park as you hike. Be careful when hiking around the area when the sun has already set though – bring enough flashlights.
- Holyrood Palace – a working palace that monarchs visit at least a week in a year to conduct some business in. You can actually go in and explore some of the rooms. Across the street from it is the Scottish Parliament, where the Scottish politicians convene to discuss affairs of the country.
- Calton Hill – another beautiful view would await you as soon as you climb up Calton Hill. It is home to the National Monument – a memorial to the Scottish people who fought and died during the Napoleonic Wars. Originally built in the late 19th century to look like the Parthenon, it was left unfinished, but still has its charm. Nelson’s Monument was a tribute to Horatio Nelson – built as a tower. You can climb up to the top for a small fee, but is very beautiful in photos. Best time to go up Calton Hill is during sunrise or sunset.
What to Eat:
Haggis – A quintessential Scottish dish made from various sheep parts, mixed with some vegetables and spices. It may look odd at first but it’s definitely worth a try.
Scottish Whisky – there are a few distilleries close to or within Edinburgh, and you can try out these local spirits.
Full Scottish Breakfast – the breakfast is really heavy, so may not exactly be what you are expecting. It’s got sausages, bacon, eggs, a potato scone, fried mushrooms, baked beans, tomatoes, and black pudding.