Things to do and places to go
Edinburgh has a great many attractions, most of which you will probably be familiar with, such as the Castle. However, I thought I would offer a few of my personal favourites as a local resident.
The Scottish Parliament
Only in existence since the late 1990s, this is a fantastic new building that is well worth seeing inside and out. You can watch proceedings from the public gallery (MSPs don’t sit in the summer), take a guided tour, and have a nice cup of tea in the café:
A nice spot that is easily accessible from the city centre although some of our guests walk to it from here. Get on the number 26 Lothian bus if you want and that will drop you off right outside the zoo. Check out the Lothian buses website:
And have a look at the Zoo’s website too (best to book in advance if you can):
Scottish National Galleries
These three galleries cover modern art, portraits and the national collection. The main gallery is just off Princes Street and houses some nice impressionist work in a small room up the stairs at the back. The portrait gallery is in nearby Queen Street and worth seeing.
The modern collection is housed just outside the centre of town on the Water of Leith. Once you’ve seen the art walk down the steps to the river and then take the path – westwards will take you further out of town towards while eastwards goes to Leith and is a very nice walk that will take two to three hours.
A great local food experience plus brilliant arts and crafts but only there on Sundays (all day) and Thursday afternoons. There’s also a good food market at Castle Terrace (adjacent to Lothian Road at the west end of Princes Street) on Saturday mornings. Lots of guests walk from here to this village and market.
Bass Rock, North Berwick and Gullane / Muirfield
Easily accessible in around 30 minutes by train from Waverley, North Berwick is a lovely seaside town with several world-class golf courses nearby (especially at Gullane, location of the Muirfield course that hosted the 2013 British Open). You can walk from Gullane to North Berwick in around two hours.
There are also some lovely walks and beaches to the south of North Berwick, especially at Seacliff. However, the best thing to do here is take a boast trip out to Bass Rock, which you need to book in advance. I can’t recommend this trip highly enough (especially in good weather):
The Scotch Whiskey Experience
Near the Castle on the Royal Mile. A “ride” through the whisky making process and a chance to taste at least one malt. My favourite malts are from Islay
and are very peaty and smoky – best examples are Bunnahabhain, Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Bruichladdich.
A hike up to the summit of Arthur’s Seat is highly worthwhile, especially on a nice day when you can see across to the coast at North Berwick or up towards the start of the Highlands. The best approach is from the gentler eastern slope, which is accessible just beyond the Parliament building.
The surrounding Holyrood Park is great for picnics and less strenuous hikes – you can walk right around the Seat.
St Margaret’s Loch is a very pretty spot from where to start the climb up to the summit.
Bruntsfield / Morningside
This is a lovely area to take a stroll (the former home of JK Rowling is in Abbotsford Park) with nice boutique shops and an array of fine cafes and the brilliant Canny Man’s pub – plus good bakers, deli’s, butchers, a cheese shop and a Waitrose.
The number 5 bus from the town will take you directly to Morningside Road via The Grange, one of Edinburgh’s most exclusive residential areas.
While in this area you could make the short journey up to Craiglockhart (now part of Edinburgh Napier University) but once a sanatorium and home to poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon during part of World War One (there’s a small museum in the university building)
The Shore / Ocean Terminal / Royal Yacht Britannia
The Shore is a small harbour at the foot of the Water of Leith and is a great spot for a stroll and something to eat (the Michelin-starred Martin Wishart and Tom Kitchin restaurants are here along with a whole range of different eateries).
You can easily walk across to Ocean Terminal from here, to catch a movie, do some shopping or visit he Royal Yacht Britannia, which is a surprisingly interesting place with a nice café (and you can check out where Charles and Diane spent their honeymoon!).
There’s no direct rail link to this beautiful Fife seaside town but you can get the train to Leuchars (just south of Dundee) from where you can take a bus the short distance to St Andrew’s – the bus is often waiting when the regular trains arrive in Leuchars and there’s also a taxi rank.
Apart from the 13 or so golf courses around St Andrew’s, the town itself is well worth seeing with nice cafes, restaurants and shops, as well as a lovely beach.
Near the Castle on the Royal Mile. A unique experience and well worth a visit:
The Crags can also be reached from another path just past the Parliament and is a far less strenuous climb but the views from the cliff over the Old Town are amazing.
You could also cycle up to very near the summit as the surrounding road goes quite high up on the southern side.
In the Old Town (below the castle on the opposite side from Princess Street) with lots of bars, cafes and good off-beat shops.
Royal Botanic Gardens
This is an amazingly idyllic spot just down the hill from George Street (about a 15-minute walk or a few minutes on the number 23 or 27 buses from Hanover Street). Or you can walk from here along Ferry Road or take bus 29 from Ferry Road and walk down to the Gardens.
This seaside town boasts an amazing sandy beach and great views over the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh.
As it’s in Fife, the best way to get there is by train from Waverley (numerous trains and the journey takes around 30 to 40 minutes).
One of the best bits about this trip is that the train goes over the amazing Forth Rail Bridge.
A very easy day trip with regular trains from Waverley – ensure you get the more direct one that takes 55 minutes or so (rather than the one that stoops at every station and takes about 30 minutes longer).
Queen Street station is right in the centre of Glasgow.