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Things To Do

There isn't space to describe all the things to do in Edinburgh. For comprehensive coverage see Visit Scotland, the official tourist agency. However, here's a summary of some of the highlights.

History - City Centre

Edinburgh Castle - visit it for the views, which are spectacular, the Honours of Scotland (the Crown Jewels), the famous Stone of Destiny, and of course the One O'Clock Gun, for which our own Edinburgh Gunners are named.

St. Giles' Cathedral - steeped in history, this is where the English Civil War really started - find out how and why. And see if you can spot the bagpiping angel!

The Royal Mile - the succession of streets that connects the Castle with Holyroodhouse, and Edinburgh's central thoroughfare for hundreds of years, is your chance to walk in the footsteps of history.

Palace of Holyroodhouse - The Queen's Official Residence in Scotland and linked to many of the Kings and Queens of Scotland, including of course Mary, Queen of Scots.

Mary King's Close - hidden underground remains of 16th and 17th Century Edinburgh

Gladstone's Land - a restored 17th century tenement house

The Georgian House - see how life was lived in the elegance of Edinburgh's New Town - when it was still new!

History - Beyond the City Centre

Rosslyn Chapel - weird and wonderful, and now almost as big a film star as Tom Hanks!

Royal Yacht Britannia - The Queen's former official place on the high seas. Visit it while you still can - the Queen's apparently miffed at it being tied up alongside something so common as a shopping mall.

Museums and Galleries - The City Centre

Museum of Scotland - the story of Scotland - its land, peoples and culture - as told through some wonderful exhibits and artefacts. Includes the ever-popular Roman statue of a man being devoured by a lion, recently discovered in Cramond harbour.

The Royal Museum - Decorative Arts, Science and Industry, Natural World and Archaeology - some exhibits are millions of years old, some less than a decade.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery - from ancient kings and queens to Billy Connelly and Sean Connery, every famous Scot you've ever heard of, and many you haven't, is captured here for eternity.

National Gallery of Scotland - shows a fine collection of European paintings and sculpture from the Renaissance through to the Post-Impressionists, and is one of the best galleries of its size in the world. The building is connected to The Royal Scottish Academy by the Weston Link, providing vast exhibition areas for visiting and temporary exhibitions.

The Writers Museum - Edinburgh has a proud literary tradition and is now the UN's first City of Literature as well as host to the biggest annual Book Festival in the world. From Robert Burns via Robert Louis Stevenson and Walter Scott to J.K. Rowling - they're all here!

The City Art Centre is one of the most visited arts centres in Britain; it has played host to exhibitions on subjects as diverse as the Chinese Terracotta Army and Start Trek.

Museum of Childhood - 'the noisiest museum in the world' (not my words - theirs!)

Our Dynamic Earth - the story of our planet, told in dynamic fashion!

Museums and Galleries - Beyond the City Centre

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art houses a superb collection of 20th century painting and sculpture, with the adjacent Dean Gallery showcasing the world-renowned holdings of Dada and Surrealist art together with the Paolozzi Gift, a collection of the work of the celebrated Edinburgh-born sculptor Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.

Museum of Flight - the story of man's ambition to fly and how achieving it has changed the world is told through extraordinary machines at East Fortune airfield, from which the R34 airship took-off for the first east-west transatlantic crossing. Includes The Concorde Experience.


There are several vantage points that provide spectacular views of the city. Some of the most popular are:

Scott Monument

Nelson Monument and Calton Hill

Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags

Edinburgh Castle

The Camera Obscura

Natural World

Water of Leith Visitor Centre - learn about the other river in Edinburgh

Scottish Seabird Centre - located in North Berwick, 20 minutes by train from the city, this is a marvellous place to learn all about the seabirds that inhabit the Firth of Forth.

Edinburgh Zoo - a great day out, especially for kids, and not far from Murrayfield Stadium.

Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World

Other Attractions - City Centre

Scottish Parliament Building - loved by the professionals (who've showered it with awards), loathed by the public (who can't get past the cost) - my guess is that in a hundred years time it will be the other way around. See for yourself.

Edinburgh Dungeon - some of the more gruesome scenes from Scotland's history brought to life (or should that be death?)

And of course you can't come to Edinburgh without partaking of 'the water of life'. At the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre you can learn all about the art and history of whisky making. Don't forget to print off your voucher entitling you to a free dram if you take the tour.

Other Attractions - Out of Town

Edinburgh Crystal Visitor Centre - Edinburgh Crystal is famed the world over, and here you can see how it's made as well as stocking up on some fine glassware for all that whisky you'll be taking home!

Glenkinchie Distillery - just 15 miles south-east of the city, this is the closest distillery to Edinburgh. The tour includes tasting of their own and numerous other whiskies in their well-appointed lounge, where experts will guide you from what you know and like to other whiskies you may never have heard of, but might just grow to love.

Guided Tours

Mercat Tours and Witchery Tours both offer great guided walking tours of the city centre, including hair-raising tales of ghosties and ghoulies. If you prefer writers to ghosties there's the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour, which has the added attraction of all those bars. For the more energetic there's also the Edinburgh City Cycle Tour.