Travel Guides: Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a city on the east coast of Scotland and its capital since 1437. It is one of the 32 subdivisions of Scotland. In the city is situated the Scottish Parliament, which was restored in 1999. It has 447,500 inhabitants. Edinburgh is famous for its festival, which brings together several smaller festivals. The city of Edinburgh was inscribed in 1995 on the UNESCO world cultural heritage list.
Edinburgh is a miniature capital comparing it with other European capitals. It’s not even the biggest city in Scotland (that status is reserved for Glasgow). The advantage is, however, that with barely 500,000 inhabitants, the capital is small enough as to allow easy access to all major attractions. Edinburgh stands out clearly from all the European capitals – not regarding the number and grandeur of attractions, but the unique and varied views from above that tourists can enjoy. For those who love nature and landscapes, and especially photographers, Edinburgh, now called North Athens, is a dream. In conclusion, no other European capital is so compact and offers views as varied and diverse as Edinburgh.
Most attractions in Edinburgh are located in the Old Town, the capital’s medieval center. Almost all the places and monuments tell the story of a turbulent past and the mysterious legends of the ancient city. The Old Town’s main attraction is, of course, Edinburgh Castle, the most visited castle in Scotland. Then, follows the Royal Mile, 1.5-km road that links the historical castle with the palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. The Royal Mile is the backbone of the Old Town, many of the main attractions being located here. It is sprinkled on each side with side streets, very narrow, and known as closes and wynds. The most beautiful of these is Advocate’s Close, from where you can see Scott’s monument, but the most visited is Mary King’s Close.
Royal Mile is also dotted with numerous churches; the most impressive is St. Giles Cathedral. Strolling the narrow streets of Old Town you will find:
- The story of Deacon Brodie, a respected citizen of the city by day and thief by night, whose double life inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.
- About Burke and Hare, serial killers who have exploited the growing demand from students’ bodies to medicine to commit 17 murders.
- The story of Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye Terrier dog whose loyalty to his master, from whose tomb was not separated until his death, which so impressed that he was raised a bronze statue in front of Greyfriars cemetery.
Much of the Old Town consists of 6-7 storey high buildings, old, at least 400-500 years old. These are the first skyscrapers in Edinburgh (due to lack of space, the municipality decided to develop vertical). Other famous attractions are: Ramsay Gardens, the most expensive residential area of Edinburgh, Grassmarket and Victoria Street and the streets Greyfriars, Cemetery on the street Candlemaker Row (resting place of the famous Skye Terrier, Greyfriars Bobby). Calton Hill offers undoubtedly the best views in Edinburgh. Located in Waterloo Place, a few hundred meters from the east end of Princes Street, on Calton Hill can be found: Nelson’s Monument (you can climb to the top), Dugald Stewart Monument, National Monument and the Observatory.
From Calton Hill you can admire the whole center of the town, the estuary of the Forth River with the island Inchkeith, the extinct volcano Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and in the distance to the east, Pentland Hills. The views are great in the evening, sunset and the morning till 10 o’clock. Holyrood whole area is at the eastern end of Royal Mile. The main attraction is the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the new Scottish Parliament building, whose avant-garde architecture and budget exceeded many times have aroused strong controversy. Once visited these attractions, many tourists turned way to the center, rises when the main attraction, in fact, behind these buildings.
From Holyrood you can walk on the path which climbs the Salisbury Crags, and distinguishing perfectly vertical cliffs that can be seen from anywhere in town. The path to Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano in the shape of the camel can be seen from miles away. It is an easy ride but the views are superb. From here you can see Edinburgh Castle and the main historic monuments, Calton Hill, the Firth of Forth, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the new Scottish parliament. After passing the Salisbury Crags, you can pick up a trail that takes up to the top of Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in town, with incredible views in all directions, or on the plateau above the cliffs Salisbury. The best views are early morning and evening at sunset.
Princes Street and its adjacent gardens divide Edinburgh in the Old Town (south) and the New Town (north). In the New Town there are some of the finest examples of residential architecture in Europe. This area is often neglected by tourists in favor of the Old Town. New Town is not exactly new, being built in the 18th century when the Old City became so crowded, dirty and noisy, that wealth, which at that time lived in the same buildings with the poor, strained municipality to extend the city to the north. Thus was born the New Town with its wide streets, large buildings and private green spaces where wealthy families have moved.
Princes Street is the Main Street in this area, but commercial interests have destroyed over the years the special architectural facade. At first, however, lived there the city’s richest citizens who have used their influence to prevent the construction of buildings in Princes Street Gardens. They would have ruined views towards the castle. Main attractions in the area are: Charlotte Square, where resides First Minister of Scotland, St Andrew’s Square, on the other end of Princes Street, where is the headquarters of Royal Bank of Scotland, Rose Street, the street full of bars and terraces, beautifully decorated with flowers, Moray Place and Ainslie Place two residential areas in the form of a perfect circle, and the streets surrounding St Mary’s Cathedral, Grosvenor’s Crescent and Glencairn Crescent, both excellent examples of Georgian architecture, Belford Road and Dean Gallery.
Leith area is an area with docs in Edinburgh, a place with a fascinating history. Unfortunately, many tourists do not come here just to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, Leith permanently docked Queen’s yacht, which have spent their honeymoon Charles and Diana, or to shop at Ocean Terminal. Ahead of the decay period after the Second World War in recent years Leith has become an attractive area for both tourists and locals, with many pubs, cafes and restaurants. It’s worth a walk through the port and nearby residential neighborhoods.
Apart from Princes Street, the main shopping street in Edinburgh where you can find big names like H & M, Debenhams, Next, Marks & Spencer, HMV, Clarks, Gap, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and others, there are many malls and outlets where you can spend money: Fort Kinnaird (Lothian Bus No. 30), Straiton (Lothian Bus No. 37/47), Gyle (Lothian Bus No 22), Ocean Terminal (Lothian Bus No 22). Edinburgh has the best transportation from Great Britain, the main operator Lothian Buses winning almost every year the title of best bus company in the United Kingdom. Buy from the driver one day ticket and use it in any of the red buses.
The Scots “crafted” a capital full of culture, entertainment and festivities, sophisticated, but the history and mystery abound. Edinburgh is full of charm especially during the summer months, when the Edinburgh Festival fills the city of drama, creativity and visitors worldwide. Another event that interrupts the monotony is given by the new Hogmanay festival when festivities are soaked in whiskey and Scottish pubs are filled with revelers.
Royal Botanic Garden – Situated in north downtown, Royal Botanical Garden is the second oldest botanical garden in the British Isles. The Gardens include an exhibition of plants, a tropical greenhouse with exotic orchids, a collection of cacti, an alpine greenhouse, a garden and all species of heather Calluna vulgaris grown in highlands, a gigantic collection of rare trees (Himalayan America North and Chile), a greenhouse with colorful azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and mouse eyes, a greenhouse with tropical water plants, water lilies and lily of the Indian and South America.
Palace of Holyroodhouse was often the location of historical events of Scotland. Both James II and James IV were married here, Mary Stuart was married here with Lord Darnley and James I and Charles V was crowned. Currently, the Royal Museum is housed in a Victorian building built between 1861 and 1888. Entry with fountains, sculptures, Asian and Mediterranean palm is linked with arcaded galleries. The museum includes the following departments – archaeological, ethnographic, natural history, geology and technology. On the first floor are a library and an exhibition of European art from the XV – XIX centuries, ancient Egypt and costumes. On the second floor there are Islamic and Chinese art objects, minerals, fossils and scientific instruments.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery includes pictures of some of the most important people in Scotland’s history. They include Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, David Hume, Sean Connery, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Watt and Mary Stuart, Lord Byron, Winston Churchill, Thomas Carlyle and the Queen Mother. Scottish National Gallery contains the largest collection of European painting and Scotland, starting with Renaissance or “rebirth”. The Galleries were opened in 1859. Edinburgh Festival Theatre – Edward Moss built this building in 1892. It was the first theater of Nicholson Street and accommodates 3,000 spectators. Rich decorations include elephants, nymphs and cherubs.
Some of the most distinguished artists such as Vesta Tilley, Anna Pavlova, Charley Chaplin and Charles Laughton had shows here. In 1994 was added a glass-fronted foyer and a café. The most interesting aspects of the Museum of Scotland exhibition are probably Neolithic tools, reconstruction of a Neolithic village, painted sculptures, Hunterson brooch, an ornament of the eighth century Celtic, part of the wall and Antonian’s Treasure. Calton Hill offers a panoramic view of Edinburgh city. The Hill has a volcanic origin. At its foot is the Royal High School, where Sir Walter Scott was a student.
The City Art Center offers a permanent exhibition of 3,000 paintings, drawings and sculptures, mostly by Scottish artists of the XVII – XX centuries, and Hornel, Lorimer, Ferguson, Peploe and Elizabeth BNlackadder. St Giles Cathedral was consecrated in 1243 and is a seventeenth century cathedral. Edinburgh Castle is the most popular national monument of Scotland. The castle is situated on a black basalt rock, offering a magnificent view of the city. The main entrance is flanked by bronze statue of William Wallace, who led Scottish resistance against Edward I and the statue of Robert the Bruce, Scottish national hero. George House – Located in Charlotte Square, Georgian House offers an atmosphere of an ordinary middle-class families from the eighteenth century.11