Favourite Visitor Attractions in Edinburgh, Capital City of Scotland
I fell in love with Edinburgh during my first visit. Since then, I have made several more trips to the capital city of Scotland on the East Coast railway line, which runs from London to Edinburgh. It's a pleasant journey, running close to the coastline for much of the way. Disembark from the train at Waverley Street station and you are quickly in Princes Street and the city centre.
The architecture of the old buildings in Edinburgh is wonderful, and it's a pleasure simply to stroll—but take warm clothing, as there is often a very chilly breeze. Though if you have only a few days, you may not have too much time to spend strolling, as there is a wealth of galleries, museums, and shops to visit.
I wanted to use my time well during my first three-day visit and used a guidebook to pre-plan a rough wish-list of places to visit and things to do. When travelling, my personal choice is the Marco Polo guidebooks, which have detailed maps in the back covers, with sites of interest marked on them. The has suggestions about what to do on rainy days (always useful in Scotland) and information about restaurants to suit different budgets. Edinburgh guidebook
Edinburgh Is Becoming an Increasingly Popular Visitor Destination
The percentage increase in visits to the top attractions in Edinburgh has outperformed the increased visits to London's attractions in recent years.
- National Museum of Scotland: 1,081,909 (20% increase)
- Edinburgh Castle: 2,063,709 (16 % increase)
- Scottish National Gallery: 1,600,761 (4% increase)
Figures for 2016 Released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions
Spend a couple of hours strolling around the National Gallery of Scotland and you’ll find masterpieces from Raphael, Velázquez and Vermeer to Monet, Cézanne and Van Gogh, as well as art by Scotland's best-known artists. The collection is rightfully regarded as one of the very best in the world.
Choice of Restaurants in Edinburgh
As in any cosmopolitan city, the choice of restaurants is immense and eating and drinking were an important part of our weekend. I have eaten Tutti Frutti di Mare at an Italian restaurant, very generous portions of delicious mezes and mains in a Middle Eastern restaurant, and lunch at a restaurant with a distinctly French flavour.
A Restaurant With a View of Edinburgh Castle
One of my favourite places for lunch is the Outsider Restaurant, where it's possible to reserve a table overlooking Edinburgh Castle. It offers fabulous food (I recently had a fish stew) and wine. The extensive, quirkily descriptive and amusing wine list is a talking point at this restaurant.
On leaving the restaurant we passed queues of Japanese tourists waiting for admittance to the Elephant House Coffee Shop—the place where J.K. Rowling did much of her early writing.
Interview With J.K. Rowling in The Elephant House, Edinburgh
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo: Scotland's Greatest Spectacle
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been held every year since 1950, on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, when the Army of Scotland took part in the Edinburgh International Festival. It's held in the first three weeks of August and so far no Tattoo has ever been cancelled. If it rains, they carry on. Umbrellas are not allowed, so take a hooded waterproof, just in case!
220,000 people attend each year. The shows are always a sell-out so, if you want to see a live event rather than watch it on television, it's a good idea to book at the earliest possible date. We opted for the cheaper seats, at £25, but prices vary considerably—tickets for the Royal Stand cost £300 (2017 prices). There is only one entrance to the event and long queues form. Arrive early or be prepared to queue for a long time.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival coincides with the Royal Military Tattoo. It is the world's largest arts festival, providing a platform for new talent as well as events by well-known artists.
If you haven't pre-booked tickets for a show and are prepared to cue, a visit to the Virgin Hut on the Mound might produce half-price bargain tickets. We couldn't fit in time for a show but didn't feel that we had missed out because the streets of Edinburgh are buzzing with free live performances throughout the period of the festival.
If you hope to stay in Edinburgh during the period when the Tattoo and Fringe are being held, you will need to book a hotel way ahead of your visit—the sooner the better, if you want to avoid disappointment.
A Tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia
A visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia when visiting Edinburgh is a never-forgotten experience. Treat yourself to afternoon tea on the ship and you will be treated like royalty.
Between its launch date in 1953 and the decommissioning in 1997 Her Majesty's yacht Britannia sailed one million miles. During that time, it was the favourite leisure resource of the Royal Family and a place where the Queen entertained numerous Heads of State and dignitaries, including President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela. Now berthed at Leith in Edinburgh, it is a fascinating museum piece, a glimpse into the life of the British Royal family and one of Scotland's major tourist attractions.
Travel Directions to the Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia is accessed via the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre (allow time for shopping after your visit—if you still have enough energy. for it). There are plenty of car parking spaces but you can catch the Number 11 or Number 22 bus from Princes Street. The journey takes approximately 25 minutes. A single bus ticket in Edinburgh costs £1.70, regardless of the length of your journey and where you dismount. A hop-on/hop-off day ticket costs £4 (2019 prices)
Access to the Royal Yacht Britannia
Access is via the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre. Each deck is boarded by a shore to ship gangway (as seen on the photograph above) which is reached either by the lift or stairs.
The yacht is open to the public on 363 days of the year. But be warned—it can be wet and very cold in Edinburgh during the winter months and you will inevitably spend some time out of doors whilst on the ship—so dress for the weather. In late October, when we visited, the rain held off, and the tourist crowds had diminished, so we were able to tour the yacht at a leisurely pace.
The politeness, cheerfulness, and courtesy of the staff was outstanding; they are very evidently aware that this is a special occasion for most visitors and do their utmost to enhance the experience. Those stationed on the main deck made an unsolicited offer to take photographs for us and the staff in the on-board restaurant treated customers as Royal guests.
Tour Times for the Royal Yacht Britannia
6 admission times
Jan, Feb, March, Nov, Dec
April, May, June, July, Aug, Sept
Edinburgh Zoo will Delight Children
Edinburgh Jazz Bar
The Edinburgh Jazz Bar is a small and intimate venue deep in a cellar close to the old town. It hosts first rate musicians in an intimate area with a relaxed ambience. We visited in the afternoon and managed to get a table—it's heaving in the evenings.
Travel Tips for Visitors to Edinburgh
- Don't store your luggage in the Left Luggage office at the train station. It costs £6 per bag for up to 3 hours. £10 per bag for 3–24 hours. Very expensive, but the train stations now use similar security checks to airports
- Tourist attractions have cheaper storage facilities, but the lockers are not large enough for anything bigger than carry-on luggage cases.
- Familiarise yourself with the bus routes and then use the hop-on-hop-off bus to travel around the city. A bus ticket is £4 for as many journeys as you care to make in a day, but a ticket for a single journey is £1.70.
- If you plan to travel by train within the UK, try to book your tickets 12 weeks in advance; they will be considerably cheaper than a last-minute purchase. If the budget will stretch, it's worth booking first class for a longish journey (around 4 hours London to Edinburgh)—there's more leg space, it's quieter, and a meal, drinks, and newspapers are included in the price.
- Compare the price of a train ticket with the price and convenience of a flight. My sister flew from Bristol for £47, which was considerably cheaper than my train ticket!
- Pack comfortable walking shoes and a warm jacket.
Bars, cafes, upmarket shops, interesting architecture
Where J K Rowling wrote early Harry Potter chapters and where other famous writers enjoyed a cup of coffee
© 2016 GlenR