Top Visitor Attractions in Edinburgh, Capital City of Scotland
My family and I spent a long weekend in Edinburgh in October 2015, travelling there for the purpose of collecting my Open University Degree at an awards ceremony held at the Usher Hall. I fell in love with the city and since my first visit, I have made several more trips up north on the East Coast Line, which runs from London to Edinburgh. The architecture of the old buildings Edinburgh is wonderful and it's a pleasure simply to stroll up George Street - but take warm clothing, there is often a very chilly breeze. Though when you have only a few days, there's not too much time to waste strolling, as there is a wealth of galleries, museums, and shops to visit. We wanted to see as much as possible during our 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 Old Town and GrassmarketClick thumbnail to view full-size
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
The National Museum of ScotlandClick thumbnail to view full-size
Edinburgh Castle - The Most Visited Attraction in ScotlandClick thumbnail to view full-size
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—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 National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh
Spend an hour strolling around this peaceful setting and you’ll find masterpieces from Raphael, Velázquez and Vermeer to Monet, Cézanne and Van Gogh. For a nation of Scotland’s size, the collection is rightfully regarded as one of the very best in the world.
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.
Edinburgh Streets are Buzzing During the Fringe
Royal Yacht Britannia at Ocean Terminal, EdinburghClick thumbnail to view full-size
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 is charged at a flat £1.50, regardless of the length of your journey and where you dismount. In the future, I would pay £4 day ticket for a hop-on/hop off bus.
About the Royal Yacht Britannia
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.
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—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 and a quiet time. 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 our photographs for us and the staff in the on-board restaurant treated customers as Royal guests.
Official Video Tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia
- Royal Yacht Britannia Video Tour - YouTube
Docked in Leith near Edinburgh (scotland), the Royal Yacht Britannia was the ship the Queen and Royal Family used to tour the world from 1953 to 1997. In 44 ...
Tour Times for the Royal Yacht Britannia
6 admission times
Jan, Feb, March, Nov, Dec
April, May, June, July, Aug, Sept
Eating Out 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 eatenTutti 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.
Black Bull on Grassmarket in Edinburgh Old Town
Grassmarket in Edinburgh
A Restaurant With a View of Edinburgh Castle
Our celebratory lunch at the Outsider Restaurant, where we had requested a table overlooking Edinburgh Castle. Fabulous food (I had a fish stew) and wine. The extensive and 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.
One of the Many Excellent Restaurants in Edinburgh
Interview With J K Rowling in The Elephant House, Edinburgh
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
Edinburgh Jazz Bar
The Edinburgh Jazz Bar is 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.
Edinburgh Jazz Bar
Money-Saving Travel Tips
- 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 £1.50.
- If you plan to travel by train within the UK try to book your tickets twelve weeks in advance - they will be considerably cheaper than a last-minute purchase. Sign up to emails from Virgin Trains, which operates the East Coast line from London to Edinburgh if you would like to receive notification of deals. If the budget will stretch it's worth booking first class for a longish journey (around 4 hours London to Edinburgh) - more leg space, quieter; a meal, drinks, and newspapers included.
- 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
© 2016 GlenR