In 2017, Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, was ranked second in the world for quality of life. This usually overlooked historic city allows you to experience a true melting pot of Scottish culture, history, hospitality, and architecture. If it isn’t on your bucket list, you could be missing out on one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, if not the world. Its compact and perfectly formed layout means that you can explore most of the city on foot, allowing you to truly see the many beautiful facets that Edinburgh has to offer.
One of the most visited historic sites in Scotland is the architectural wonder of Edinburgh Castle. Sitting proudly upon a towering 700 million-year-old extinct volcano, this majestic castle can be seen all throughout the entire city. Wandering up the historic cobbled street of The Royal Mile leads you to the castle entrance where you can delve into the history of this iconic building. If you choose not to visit, simply relax in Princes Street Gardens where you can lay back on the grass by the stunning Victorian-Gothic Scott’s Monument, look up and marvel over this amazing fortress that commands the Edinburgh skyline.
Leading down from Edinburgh Castle is the surrounding area of Edinburgh’s Old town. It is here where you are truly immersed in the magic of this beautiful city. Feeling as though you have gone back in time, you are able to roam its many cobbled streets, alleyways and closes. With its towering small windowed tenement buildings and traditional narrow passages, you feel Edinburgh’s medieval history ebb from every brick. Taking one of the many ghost tours (especially after sundown) will allow you to delve into Edinburgh’s dark history.
Meandering down the traditional Royal Mile, you come to The Holyrood Palace. This 16th-century palace is the official residence of the British Monarchy in Scotland and opened to the public. Opposite this delightful palace is the Scottish Parliament. Soaring above them all, in the middle of Holyrood Park, is Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Craig. Arthur’s Seat is the highest point in Edinburgh, providing excellent panoramic views of the city and its surrounding areas. If this climb is too much, you can get a fantastic view from above Carlton Hill. This historic hill is situated at the east end of Princes Street and is the location for the national monument, the city’s observatory, and many more attractions. This UNESCO world heritage site is often used in photographs and paintings of this great city.
To the north of Edinburgh Castle is the elegant Edinburgh’s New town. Here, large Georgian style buildings line sweeping cobbled roads. It is here you can see the complete contrast from the old town, with wider streets built to show off every grand building. In the New Town, you can explore Edinburgh’s Modern Art Galleries and Neo-Gothic National Portrait Gallery. Take this opportunity to visit The Royal Botanic Garden, wandering through the beautifully manicured plants and trees allowing you to escape city life.
Situated in Edinburgh’s New Town, the enchanting area of Stockbridge is filled with quaint streets that exude the ambiance of a traditional village. This area is filled with tempting eateries, bakeries, coffee establishments and independent stores. Behind the main streets is the Water of Leith; a 35km river that cuts through the city. Following this, you will arrive at the captivating Dean Village; a former milling village. Explore the 19th-century architecture that cradles the side of the river, a perfect oasis in the middle of a vibrant city.
The charm of Edinburgh is also based on the relatively small size of the city. You don’t need to go very far to feel like you are not in the city at all. To the North of the city visit the beautiful shores of South Queensferry and the Firth of Forth, a major river that opens onto the North Sea. It is here you can marvel at the historical red Forth Bridge built over 100 years ago. Now home to three bridges connecting Edinburgh to the north, you can take one of the many boat tours that sail along these wind-swept shores catching a glimpse of the local wildlife such as seals and puffins.
Edinburgh Zoo houses an array of wildlife and is the second most popular paid-for tourist attraction in Edinburgh. Here you can experience wildlife that is native to Scotland and other parts of the world, including the famous Tian Tian and Yangguang Pandas. If you are looking for countryside, then head towards The Pentland Hills; a 20-mile range of hills in the south-west of Edinburgh. With an amazing range of walking trails, you can wander through this ever-changing landscape where you can feast your eyes on rivers, farmland, and reservoirs.
Edinburgh harbours all the ingredients needed to make a city delightful. Whatever you may choose to do on your visit, simply sit back and marvel at the views that lay before you. As the evening sun casts shadows across the landscape, this is when you will understand the magic that lures millions of visitors each year to this captivating city. -GM
Camera: Nikon D810/24-70mm f/2.8G ED