Through the 1700s, the coal-fuelled chimneys of Edinburgh city would cast such a smoky haze over its skies that its residents nicknamed it Auld Reekie, the Old Smokey. For centuries, the Scottish capital has been a bustling center in Western Europe, steeped in its rich history, vibrant summer festivals and vivacious natural sceneries. From its heather moorlands, teak forests, sandy coasts to metropolitan vigor, Edinburgh is the city for those who want to immerse themselves in the culture and traditions of its people.
Experience the Vintage Scottish Affair
Traverse through the winding wynds of Edinburgh’s Old Town. If you’ve ever wondered where the phrase “to turn a Nelson’s Eye” came from, at Canton Hill, the Nelson’s Monument pays homage to Admiral Horatio Nelson, who, legend has it, during the Battle of Copenhagen, disobeyed commands to retreat troops by using his blind eye to see the signal flag. Visit the Royal Mile thoroughfare of Old Town, which runs from Edinburgh Castle, a medieval royal residence that has the honor of being the most attacked palaces in the world, to Palace of Holyroodhouse, the residence of the British monarch in Scotland. The royal residences are a highlight of Scotland’s regal monuments, with their elaborate halls, many decked corridors and exquisite architecture. The Edinburgh Castle, which sits on Castle Rock, forms a prominent feature of the city’s skyline.
Built to defend against English attacks, Edinburgh is rife with underground closes, restricted streets and alleyways that date all the way back to the 1600s. One such beauty is Mary King’s Close, named so after a prominent widow and businesswoman in the 1630s, built underneath the vibrant markets of Royal Mile. These formerly mysterious closes are the stuff of legends of hauntings and horrors. The Edinburgh Vaults, chambers constructed in the arches of the South Bridge, are another mysterious addition to the history, where traders stored illicit goods and, as myths go, 19th-century serial killers William Burke and William Hare stored their dead victims. Edinburgh never disappoints.
At the Royal Mile, visit the historic fair, Grassmarket and the 12th century St Giles Cathedral, a revered and spectacular place of worship whose embellished crowned steeple has marked the skyline for six centuries. The National Museum of Scotland, the Scottish National Gallery, the Camera Obscura illusion house from 1835 and Royal Yacht Britannia, royal yacht to Queen Elizabeth from 1954 to 1997, permanently berthed at the Ocean Terminal, Leith. Spend your afternoon leisurely at one of the many genuine Victorian Turkish bathhouses in Portobello or catch one of the many enacted historical tours of the city. These witnesses of Scotland’s rich history deserve some space in your Edinburgh trip planner.
Nature and Nurture – Getting some Outdoor Time
Edinburgh is a hilly city nestled in the Scottish Lowlands over volcanic rock. One such extinct volcano is home to Arthur’s Seat, a vantage point that allows the eye to scale the sprawling city. River walkways take you through the Water of Leith, which runs a full 29 kilometers through the length of the city before draining into the sea. Wildlife, lush greenery, deep gorges, slippery ravines and woodlands come together to create a picturesque landscape for nature-lovers and bird watchers. Get an unusual beach experience that’s unique to Edinburgh at the Portobello beaches that are set against Scottish ruins.
South-west of Edinburgh, the Pentland Hills run through the Lothians. The Pentland Hills are a prehistoric settlement and, today, its sprawling pastures, hills, moors and woodlands make have made a prized destination for mountain biking, horse riding and hiking. Just half an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, towards North Berwick in East Lothian, the coastal village of Aberlady, in its bay, is home to eight maritime wrecks open to exploration, but only with great caution. All around Edinburgh, villages just a short distance away from the main city offer unconventional leisure for travelers.
Food, Music and Dance – Your days are packed!
If you’ve had your share of the nature-made and man-made marvels of Edinburgh, then the Farmer’s Market is sure to delight your culinary senses. Hundreds of farmers meet at this fair for their trade, and you’ll find here some of the best quality produce of Scotland. In spite of being steeped in history and a strong sense of Scottish culture, the capital is also an unbelievably cosmopolitan metropolis that boasts fine Middle Eastern, Thai and South Asian restaurants. Head over to get a taste of New Town cafés, breweries and eateries.
Along with Old Town, these historic regions are World Heritage Sites, and well worth their salt in everything they have to offer. Bus tours are always around, ready to take you through the city, whether it’s to experience the Scotch Whisky Experience or the Literary Pub Tours. At Whiski Rooms, diners are presented with 300 varieties of malts, blends, wines, craft beers and cocktails. The Piemaker has been feeding visitors and residents freshly baked, scrumptious pies for over two decades. And every second eatery is a feast for sausage and steak enthusiasts. Your Edinburgh travel planner is incomplete without an entry for the fun to be had in Edinburgh!
The city knows no end to merry-making – when summer washes over the pleasant coastal city, dozens of festivals begin. Edinburgh is swathed with motley colored street performers, musicians, plays, opera, dancers and the who’s who of the art and literature scene from around the world. The Edinburgh Film Festivals sees the influx of international celebrities; the yearly Jazz and Blues Festival fills the air with the euphony of trumpets, saxophones, guitars against double bass; the Edinburgh Art Festival brings the latest in contemporary art; performers from around the world participate in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo; and Edinburgh Mela is an extravagant exercise in bringing together world music, food and dance in exuberance.
This is just the modest, meek and mild story of the wonder that is Edinburgh. A city used to the inflow of traffic from the far stretches of the world since centuries, it gives travelers a city they can enjoy, they can learn from and they will ultimately envy – because once it’s time to leave Edinburgh, you know you’re leaving a better home than home.