Discover the best of the so called ‘Athens of the North’ on your next trip to Scotland! Here are ten reasons to visit Edinburgh.
From mystical castles, authentic whisky tasting, ghostly folklore to the cobblestoned streets of the Old Town, there are many reasons to visit the Scottish capital. Today, ‘Auld Reekie’ is a cultural paradise with the backdrop of spectacular countryside. Check out our ten reasons to visit Edinburgh below:
1. Walk through history at Edinburgh Castle
Once a medieval military fortress, this wonderfully historic relic is now a crown jewel soaring over the Edinburgh skyline. This iconic symbol of Scotland is a must-see on a trip to the city as it is a great place to start in understanding the region’s rich history. Edinburgh Castle was built on a rock upon which a castle had stood since the twelfth century and was the home of some famous names, such as Queen Margaret and Mary Queen of Scots. As you stroll through the corridors of the ancient castle, don’t be surprised if you sense eerie vibes, hear ghostly whispers or if something – or someone! – unseen brushes up against you. The castle is one of Scotland’s most haunted places and is often the subject of paranormal investigations.
2. Explore Edinburgh Old Town
The Old Town of Edinburgh, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has a millennium of history to uncover. Featuring many instagrammable spots, take a tour through the cobblestoned streets and visit St. Giles Cathedral. Founded in the 1120s, vaulted ceilings and ornate stained-glass windows characterise this magnificent cathedral. Known as the ‘Cradle of Presbyterianism’, St. Giles was the main church of John Knox during the historic reformation.
The Palace of Holyrood House, Greyfriars Kirk, the Old College of the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Parliament building are also interesting sights to see in the Old Town.
3. Come for the haggis and the Scotch whisky!
With its long history and contemporary flare, Edinburgh offers a plethora of gastronomic experiences to choose from. However, when making a trip to Edinburgh, first-time travellers should be sure to try the traditional dishes that are a source of Scottish pride. Take a food tour of the Old Town and try the fabled haggis, a warm meaty dish made from sheep pluck, or delight the senses with a traditional Salmon Tart. Finally, wash it all down with a swig of Scotland’s National drink: Scotch whisky.
4. Hear ye, hear ye! Scottish legends and folklore
With such an ancient history, it should come as no surprise that unearthed dark secrets abound in Edinburgh. Let a well-informed storyteller shine some candlelight on the gruesome tales of torture, ghosts and the foul-smelling streets of the Edinburgh of old. Take a tour of the Edinburgh Vaults, hidden beneath the busy Old Town and see the series of chambers under the South Bridge, which date back to the 1700s. Having been home to notorious criminals, as well as the poorest within society, the vaults are rife with legends and paranormal activity.
If you’d prefer an enriching family experience without the possibility of those unwelcome sleepless nights, take the kids on a light-hearted ghost stories tour.
5. Discover the magical (real) world of Harry Potter
Fans of Harry Potter will delight in any visit to Edinburgh. Home to author J.K. Rowling, discover the city that inspired her famous books. A simple stroll down the enchanting Victoria Street, Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley, will have you feeling like you’ve been teleported directly to the magical world of witchcraft and wizardry. Visit the café where it all began, The Elephant House, where the famous author wrote some of her early manuscripts. Or find famous monikers in Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery. Wander through the graveyard where she would often go to seek inspiration and keep your eyes peeled for the headstone of Thomas Riddell, whose name was taken by Voldemort himself.
6. Go to the renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Edinburgh is home to the world’s largest arts festival, The Edinburgh Fringe. Established in 1947, the Fringe has become a world class cultural event drawing artists and visitors from all around the world. The festival takes place annually, over the month of August and is the perfect time to see the Scottish capital come alive in celebration of the performing arts. The festival includes theatre, comedy, dance, circus, cabaret, street performances, spoken word and children’s shows.
7. Enoy the view from atop Arthur’s Seat
Visit the 640-acre Royal Park, adjacent to Holyrood Palace, and hike to the highest point, Arthur’s Seat. An ancient volcano, the summit towers over Edinburgh and provides excellent views in all directions. The location is featured in many books and films including T2 Trainspotting and One Day. It is relatively easy to climb and there are different routes, dependant on ability level. The fastest ascent is from the east, where a slope rises above Dunsapie Loch.
8. Museum hop
Since many museums and cultural venues are free in Edinburgh, it is the perfect place to spend a day museum hopping. Located in the heart of the city, the National Gallery of Scotland is one of the top free attractions and features eye catching masterpieces by the greats, such as Van Gogh, El Greco and Rembrandt. The National Museum of Scotland is also worthy of a visit, and houses a collection of Scottish antiquities, culture and history.
The Museum of Childhood is great for families, visitors can see vintage toys, books, games and learn about the history of childhood playthings. The People’s Story Museum, housed in the historic Canongate Tolbooth, tells the story of working-class people from Edinburgh from the late 18th century to the present day. Other free museums include: The Writer’s Museum, National War Museum and the Museum on the Mound.
9. Gaze at the majestic Scottish Highlands
The Scottish Highlands are an amazing sight to behold and can just about be managed in a day trip from Edinburgh. Rent a car for the day or book a tour of the iconic picturesque region. Be sure to visit the famous fifteenth-century Kilchurn Castle located on the spectacular Loch Awe. On the way, stop to explore one of the many charming small towns like Inveraray, home to the castle featured in the 2012 Christmas Episode of Downtown Abbey.
10. Visit Inverness and Loch Ness
Have you ever wondered about the legend of the Loch Ness Monster? Take a trip to Inverness where the first recorded sighting of the legendary creature took place in 565 AD. The countless sightings since that fateful day include the famous black and white photograph taken by R.K Wilson in 1934. Whatever the truth about this mysterious creature may be, it is always worth a trip to Loch Ness to see for yourself and discover the beauty of this ancient lake.