Edinburgh CastleEdinburgh, the historic capital city of Scotland is steeped in history and culture. It is often referred to as "the Athens of the north" due to its literary and cultural history and, with its medieval and Georgian architecture, combined with many ancient cobbled streets and lanes, it is one of the most beautiful and picturesque cities in Europe - and possibly the world.


Famous historical characters such as Mary Queen of Scots, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes), Sir Walter Scott, Alexander Graham Bell and, of course, Bonnie Prince Charlie are just a few of the characters who form part of the city's rich history. On a slightly more modern note, J.K. Rowling - author of the Harry Potter novels - is a resident of Edinburgh.


Today, Edinburgh is a modern dynamic city. Full of theatres, restaurants, nightlife and with excellent shopping and hotels to suit all budgets, the city is a great holiday destination. Whether you want to soak up the history, visit the numerous architectural points of interest (both ancient and modern, absorb some of the Scottish culture or dance till dawn, Edinburgh has something for you. Here are just a few suggestions of what you might consider if you're fortunate enough to visit this lovely city.


Visit the famousEdinburghCastle.


Seated high on an extinct volcano, EdinburghCastle was built around 1130 by King David the first of Scotland. Inside the castle, he also built a chapel, dedicated to the memory of his mother Queen Margaret, which still stands today and is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh.


The castle is open from 9.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Monday to Saturday during the summer months (from the beginning of April to the end of September) and from 9.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. for the rest of the year. Admission is currently £13 for adults, £6.50 for children. Children under 5 go free.


The absolute minimum time recommended for a tour of the castle is two hours - but you could easily spend the entire day there.


Visit the Royal Yacht Britannia

The Queen's private yacht has now been decommissioned and is docked at the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre in the city's Leith district. It is now open to the public and you will be following in the footsteps of many of the world's senior statesmen, members of royalty from around the globe and internationally famous celebrities. After you've completed your tour you can visit the shopping centre right next door and pick up a souvenir.


Allow about one and a half hours for your tour. Tickets cost £10 for adults, £6 for children (6 to 17 years of age) and children under 5 are free. The Royal Yacht is extremely busy during the month of August, so it's a good idea to book in advance if you want to visit then.


Try The Scotch Whisky Experience

Take the Scotch Whisky tour at The Scotch Whisky Experience. The Scotch Whisky Experience is located right in the centre of the town - it's just down the hill from the castle as a matter of fact. You actually become part of the whisky making process as "the experience" consists of a barrel ride. You can learn a little about Scotch whisky and there's a tutored whisky tasting at the end of the tour.


Open from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. every day of the year except Christmas. The last tour starts at 5.00 p.m. Adults £11, Children £6, children under 5 are free.


Take A City Tour - With A Twist


You can certainly take a standard sightseeing tour of Edinburgh in an open topped bus should you wish. There are plenty of sites to see and you'll probably find it very enjoyable. However, a city as old as Edinburgh and with so much history also has some very interesting ghosts and ghouls in its past.


There are a number of different tours which will let you find out about the grave robbers, witches, ghosts who have wandered the streets of Edinburgh over the years.


You can also tour certain sections of Edinburgh's underground city (as featured on the Discovery Channel in both the USA and Europe) by visiting Mary King's Close. Open from 10.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. seven days a week between November and March, from 10.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. in the summer months except August when the hours are extended to 9.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. to cope with the increased demand.


You will be guided around a genuine Edinburgh street, which has been preserved underground as the city grew upwards, by a "character" guide. The tour is underground and is absolutely fascinating - but you might want to give it a miss if you don't like confined spaces. Adults price is £10.50, child (5 - 15 years) £6. Children under 5 are not allowed. Also worth noting is that anyone who is in a wheelchair, or who requires a walking aid should not consider this.


It is absolutely necessary to book this in advance. You can get details of how to do this by visiting the website - http://www.realmarykingsclose.com . You should also note that the tours are all guided and set off every twenty minutes. If you're late you may lose your place and be unable to get either a refund or to join a later tour.


Catch A Show At TheEdinburgh Festival


The Edinburgh Festival is world famous. In fact, it has evolved into a series of different events which, although separate and independent, are generally referred to as "the festival". It tends to run from the end of July until early September, although the unofficial events can vary in duration.


The "official" festival is the Edinburgh International Festival which is basically a collection of high profile theatre productions and classical music performances performed by internationally known theatre companies, orchestras, directors and conductors.


The Edinburgh Fringe began as a program of independent and unofficial acts and has now grown to be larger than the official festival. Comedy was always an important part of the Fringe - many internationally famous comedians got their big break at the Edinburgh Festival - and in 2008 the Edinburgh Comedy Festival was launched. Other festival activities include - the Edinburgh International Film Festival, The Edinburgh International Book Festival and The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival.


Also running side by side with, but not officially part of any of, these festivals is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo which features massed Scottish pipers, guest military units from around the world and a fireworks display each night.

Edinburgh is, to put it mildly, a happening place during the summer months. It's hard to imagine that there would be nothing to suit your taste.


Scotland Travel Guide

Lonely Planet Scotland (Travel Guide)
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It's a beautiful country, steeped in history. Put it on your list of things to do.

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