Edinburgh is one of those cities you really ought to visit if you haven’t already. Riddled with history and mystery, pickled in whisky, ravaged by cold north winds, it’s the beautiful, literate capital of Scotland and always worth visiting. Here’s just some of what Edinburgh has to offer:
the castle, the history – Braveheart, Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie – and a great literary history too – Edinburgh inspired the creation of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Sherlock Holmes. The Crown Jewels are here and so is the Stone of Destiny on which Scottish kings were crowned. The Palace of Holyroodhouse was once Mary Queen of Scots’ home and is now the British Royal Family’s official home in Scotland. The lucky Queen of England, Prince Charles and the rest of the royals can take their pick between many acres of wild land around Balmoral, or Holyroodhouse right in the centre of town. The Royal Mile runs through Edinburgh’s Old Town down to Holyrood House. This is the spot in Edinburgh to find cashmere scarves, Scottish lambswool pullovers, kilts, bagpipes and antiques. You’ll find Royal Mile Whiskies too, stocking over 100 distinct single malt whiskies with expert staff to advise you as you taste them. The New Town, built in the 18th century, houses some of the best-preserved, most imposing and most beautiful Georgian architecture in Europe. Walk along Princes Street, George Street and Queen Street in the city centre to see it. Here you’ll also find excellent hotels, bars and restaurants. There are too many to mention and they’re easy to find online, but one I particularly like is The Dome – a large domed restaurant with huge windows, massive fresh flower decorations and great food. Jenners is Edinburgh’s rather stately traditional department store. I like the old building with its wooden staircase and slight rickety lifts. The stock is good too but lots of people are now attracted to the brasher new Edinburgh Harvey Nichols with its crisp decor and top of the range designer clothes.
When you’ve had your fill of beautiful old buildings, Edinburgh Castle, single malt whisky, bagpipes and shopping you can head off on a guided “ghost walk”. Scotland has a bloodcurdling history of war and rebellion and Edinburgh’s narrow streets and deep vaults are reputed to house many dark, half-known histories. The ghost walk guide recounts the blackest moments in the city’s history, showing you spots where people succumbed to Plague and pestilence, fighting and attack down the centuries. Kidnappers, bodysnatchers, murders and ghosts all feature. The walks are informative, entertaining and the exciting hair-raising histories are invariably followed by a warming dram of whisky.
Edinburgh is also the birthplace of Harry Potter. Everyone knows the tale of JK Rowling, penniless single mother who conjured up a magical solution to her financial distress. Young fans love to see the quirky laid-back Elephant House cafe where she wrote the books and invented the boy wizard, sipping coffee and overlooking Edinburgh Castle.
You may also be interested to attend the world famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo which takes place at the Castle Esplanade for three weeks every August.
A few miles south of Edinburgh is the mysterious Rosslyn Chapel. Key to the climax of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, the 500 year old chapel has long been thought to have unknown links to freemasonry, the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. Mystery surrounds the chapel’s unusual carvings, some of which appear to show American plants – maize and aloe vera among them – which were carved 50 years before Columbus set eyes on America….
Edinburgh is easily reached by plane or train. The airport is a few miles west of the city. Waverley train station is slap bang in the middle of town. It is served by frequent trains to and from Glasgow in the west of Scotland, and England to the south.