Edinburgh, Scotland: A Great Destination for a City Break
This was my first visit to Scotland's capital city, and I totally fell in love with it. The architecture is so wonderful that it's a pleasure simply to stroll—but take warm clothing, there is often a very chilly breeze. When you have only a few days, there's not too much time to waste strolling though, as there is a wealth of galleries, museums, and shops to visit. We wanted to see as much as possible during the three days that we were in Edinburgh and used a guide book to pre-plan a rough wish-list of places to visit and things to do. When travelling, my personal choice is the Marco Polo guide books, which have detailed maps in the back covers, which 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 guide book
Edinburgh Old Town Roofs
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 Spectacle of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
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
A Visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia is Scotland's biggest tourist attraction. We made a thrilling visit there on the second day of our stay in Edinburgh. It was one of the most memorable highlights of my trip.
Royal Yacht Britannia at Ocean Terminal, Edinburgh
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.
The Main Salon on the Royal Yacht Britannia
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.
The Grand Piano on the Royal Yacht Britannia
The State Dining Room on the Royal Yacht Britannia
The Officer's Dining Room on the Royal Yacht Britannia
H.M. Queen Elizabeth's Bedroom on the Royal Yacht
The Operating Theatre on the Royal Yacht Britannia
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. After the family had met up at the apartment that we had rented for the weekend we spent Thursday evening strolling and then ate Tutti Frutti di Mare at an Italian restaurant. Friday evening found us eating very generous portions of delicious mezes and mains in a Middle Eastern restaurant ( a first for me). A special celebratory lunch at a restaurant with a distinctly French flavour followed drinks at the Black Bull on Saturday.
Black Bull on Grassmarket in Edinburgh Old Town
Shopping in Grassmarket
There are a number of small specialist and upmarket clothes shops on Grassmarket which we were unable to resist visiting before what turned out to be a long uphill walk in search of our lunch venue.
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
The Architecture on George Street
On Sunday morning we visited the shops on George Street (even if you don't plan to buy it's worth it just to see the architecture on the inside of the buildings) and then managed to fit in a visit to the National Gallery of Scotland to see an exhibition of art by the Scottish artist Arthur Melville before the journey home.
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.
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 Glenis Rix