Located in the South East of Scotland is the capital city of Edinburgh. This bustling center of culture is the second most populous city in the country. It has long been a top destination for people visiting the United Kingdom. Here we’ll take a look at some of the most notable attractions scattered throughout the hills of this beautiful European city.
It’s not often you hear Edinburgh spoken about without mention of the famous Royal Mile. Stretching for almost exactly one mile, this succession of streets runs directly through Edinburgh’s Old Town. Today it is an eclectic mix of shops, bars, restaurants and visitor attractions making it one of the most exciting places in the city. The Royal Mile is the busiest street in the old town and during the summer months it becomes a bustling center for street performers and busking talent. During the month of August hoards of street performers flock to the Royal Mile to ravish and amaze the passing crowds visiting for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Situated at the end of the Royal Mile and on the edge of the old town is Edinburgh Castle. Sitting atop a 350 million year old piece of volcanic rock , the castle is a dominant feature of the Edinburgh city skyline. Archaeologists have dated the earliest settlement on the rock back as far as the Iron Age and in the time since it has been an important part of many historical conflicts. The Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century and the Jacobite rising in 1745 are just two events in the rich history surrounding this important piece of Scottish real estate. Guided tours go every 30 minutes and come highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Scottish history.
The Scotch Whiskey Experience
The Scotch Whiskey experience located at the top of Edinburgh's Royal Mile, just steps from Edinburgh Castle, is a must for any Whiskey connoisseurs who find themselves in Edinburgh. Choose from a varied selection of experiences and enjoy a taste of some of the finest whiskeys on the planet. A barrel is your vehicle as you ride through the line of production of Scotch Whiskey and get an insight into the nuances of whiskey distillation. Visitors get a chance to learn techniques for identifying various aromas with guided nosing and tasting of contrasting varieties of whiskey. The world’s largest collection of Scotch Whiskey is the icing atop the liquor infused cake that is the Scotch Whiskey Experience.
The National Museum of Scotland
Located on Chambers Street in the southernmost part of the old town is the National Museum of Scotland. Formed in 2006 from an amalgamation of the Museum of Scotland and the Royal Museum, the NMS boasts an impressive collection of artifacts and exhibitions encompassing everything from Scottish antiques and history to technology and world cultures. One of the more astonishing exhibits on display in the museum is the stuffed body of Dolly the sheep, the first successful clone of a mammal from an adult cell. Other notable attractions include Ancient Egyptian exhibitions and an extravagant suit taken from the collection of Sir Elton John! Over 2 million people stepped through the doors of the museum in 2018 making it the most popular tourist attraction in Scotland. Admission is free and we’d recommend setting aside the best part of a day to explore this important piece of Scottish culture.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Enter the world of Illusions and prepare to have your brain rattled by dozens of astonishingly mind bending exhibitions. With roots dating back as far as the 18th century, Camera Obscura is the United Kingdom’s oldest purpose-built attraction. 6 floors of interactive exhibitions are capped off with a rooftop terrace offering unrivaled views of the Edinburgh skyscape, along with telescopes to look beyond what the naked eye can see. Visitors get a chance to learn about illusions, holograms and the origins of photography all while solving brain tickling puzzles, navigating a mirror maze and delving deep into the vortex tunnel. Tickets last the entire day including re-entry so we recommend getting there as early as possible.
Approximately 1 mile to the east of Edinburgh Castle is a peak which could be taken directly from the Scottish highlands and planted in the capital. Arthur's seat is an extinct volcano considered to be the main peak of the group of hills adjacent to the city. There is no traditional Scottish Gaelic translation for the name of the volcanic rock although speculators say the name may have been derived from legends pertaining to King Arthur. The peak stands at 823ft tall and is a popular hill walking route for hikers and laymen alike. There are a number of routes leading to the peak ranging with the longest taking approximately 2 hours. The views atop the seat make the hike worth it for even the most exercise adverse.
Calton Hill is situated beyond the east end of Princes Street and is home to many impressive monuments as well as the Scottish Parliament. On top of the hill stands the Nelson Monument, a commemorative tower in honor of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, a British flag officer from the 17th century known for his inspirational leadership, understanding of strategy and unconventional methods. The National Monument of Scotland is a memorial to the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died fighting the Napoleonic Wars. The inscription on the monument reads “A memorial of the past and incentive to the future heroism of the men of Scotland.” Various other monuments can be found scattered around the hill making for an exhilarating day of exploration and learning.
The countless hills and whimsical old town make the Scottish capital a uniquely breathtaking experience for people of all ages, cultures and denominations. Whether soaking up the incredible street talent during the fringe festival, or summiting Arthur and enjoying the majestic city views, a wide toothy grin decorates the face of everyone who decides to visit the verifiable utopia that is Edinburgh. Our 6 Day Sampling Scotland tour spends 2 nights in Edinburgh and includes a walking tour and a visit to Edinburgh Castle. Follow the link for more details.