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Our city guide to Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a truly enchanting capital city. Synonymous with the nation’s ancient culture, the capital of Scotland is also visually spectacular, bristling with elegant architecture and hallmarks of a long and turbulent history. Whilst unashamedly proud of her past, Edinburgh is alsoforward-looking, home to modern Scottish politics, a dynamic social scene and the mother of all international cultural festivals.

The city’s skyline is dominated by Edinburgh Castle, an imposing fortress which appears to grow organically out of the ancient volcanic rock upon which it perches. Throughout history the castle has played host to a procession of sieges, battles, plots and treacherous monarchs and is still home to the Scottish Crown Jewels and the myth-enshrouded “Stone of Destiny”.

Surrounding the castle, Edinburgh’s old town clings to the hillside, a rambling network of cobbled streets and lanes to be explored. The highlight is the romantic Royal Mile, a bustling cobbled strip of historic tenements, inns and souvenir shops. At the foot of the mile, Holyrood Abbey and the Palace of Holyrood House await; once home to the tragic Mary Queen of Scots, this opulent palace remains the British Monarch’s official residence in Scotland. Close-by is the contrasting, ultra-modern Scottish Parliament, completed in 2004 it has since been the home of Scottish politics and is definitely worth a tour during your visit. The old town is home to much of Edinburgh’s vibrant pub scene with traditional and themed pubs lining the streets, and the whole area is alive during the renowned Edinburgh Festival which takes place annually throughout the month of August.

Shopping is a pleasure in Edinburgh; the main commercial thoroughfare, Princes Street, is a wide avenue, flanked on one side by the picturesque Princes Street Gardens and all in the shadow of the magnificent castle. Along Princes Street you will also find a number of cultural highlights including the twisting spires of Scot Monument, the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery of Scotland which showcase both Scottish and international works including Titian and Monet.

Stretching the other side of Princes Street is the elegant “New Town” home to wide avenues of grand Georgian town houses and garden squares which contrasts perfectly with the winding alleys of the Old Town. Fine examples are the grandiose George Street and Charlotte Square which is home to both the First Minister of Scotland’s official residence and the restored “Georgian House” which recreates life in the late 1700’s when the area was first settled.

To capture stunning views of the city in all its glory, you can climb one or both of the areas of high land either side of the city. Carlton Hill overlooks the new town and is home to the stunning Nelson and National Monuments, whilst the famous “Arthur’s Seat” sits at the highest point of the glorious Holyrood Park, an area of diverse parkland right on the doorstep of the city and a favourite for walkers and hikers.

The outskirts of Edinburgh also offer some renowned sights not to be missed. At the rejuvenated Leith Docks in the North you will find the glorious “Royal Yacht Britannia”. Craigmillar Castle, located to the South of the city, is a fine example of a 15th century Scottish fortress with ties to Mary Queen of Scots. Finally, a true gem which was thrust into the limelight following the 2006 Da Vinci Code movie, Rosslyn Chapel in the village of Roslin just 7 miles south of Edinburgh is intricately decorated and today still holds Masonic and Templar connections making it a truly intriguing visit.

Soaking up the history of Edinburgh and its surrounds is a “must” during any visit to Scotland.

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