If you’ve ever wanted to visit Edinburgh but not known where to start, then I might just be able to help. Working a summer school in Edinburgh meant I spent a lot of my time guiding children around various parts of the city so, naturally, I got to know it pretty well. This list is going to include a few things that may seem obvious but, hopefully, I’ve found some hidden gems as well.
- Edinburgh Castle
So here is the obvious one! The castle is really quite nice. I’d say the highlights would be the Scottish Crown Jewels and the restored Royal Apartments. It does get very, very busy though so I’d keep that in mind. It isn’t always easy to move freely. The oldest part of the castle is St Margaret’s Chapel and it is lovely. It’s quite small (only about ten people could fit in there comfortably) but I enjoyed going to have a look. Tickets are £17.00 for an adult, £13.60 for concession and £10.20 for a child. An audio guide is extra so things can get a little pricey. Still, the castle is well worth going to— there are some great views and an incredible amount of history to discover.
- Holyrood Palace
So it’s another obvious one…but it has to be done. Holyrood Palace is worth it though; it is incredibly beautiful. It’s the Queen’s official residence in Scotland; contains a vast variety of paintings, tapestries and various other historical items; and features the restored apartments of Mary Queen of Scots. I preferred the Palace to Edinburgh Castle because I found it, visually, more impressive. Also, the Palace is better value for your money. Tickets are £12.50 for an adult, £7.50 for under 17, and concessions are £11.40. All tickets include an audio guide (which I’d definitely recommend). Of course, if you aren’t into history you probably won’t like it as much as I did!
- Rosslyn Chapel
Hopefully this one will surprise a few people. It’s a little out of the way from the city centre— about forty minutes by bus— but it’s absolutely beautiful. The Chapel was built in 1446 and has recently been restored. I went on one of my days off and really loved it. There weren’t too many people, it’s a lot less busy that Edinburgh Castle, and I felt I was able to appreciate what I saw a lot more than I could at the castle. Tickets are £9.00 for adults, concessions are £7.00 and children go free as part of a family group. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside the chapel, as it is still a working building, but this honestly didn’t bother me. Anyway, it’s a beautiful building with a lot of history and I’d highly recommend a visit.
- National Museum of Scotland
Museums are kinda my thing. I love them. The National Museum of Scotland really impressed me when I went to see it. There is a lot of interactive stuff there— you can control a robot, control wave formations, try and beat a cheetah in a virtual race and even run in a massive hamster wheel to generate power— so it’s excellent for children as well as adults. I’m twenty-two and I had great fun trying everything out! it’s also free which, considering how much is there, is amazing and should totally be taken advantage of. They have exhibits of science, nature, history, fashion…it’s got something for everyone. They also have temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Right now, they have ‘The Tomb’, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites’ and ‘The Galloway Hoard’. Personally? I loved The Tomb— Egyptian history is fascinating.
- Arthurs Seat
Contrary to its name, I am not telling you to go and visit a chair. Arthurs Seat is the main peak of the group of hills in Edinburgh. It is situated right next to Holyrood Palace. So, why am I telling you to go look at a hill? Well, if you walk to the top of it you can get a spectacular view of Edinburgh. That isn’t me exaggerating. It really is incredible. This list has been filled with a lot of buildings, a lot of being inside, but Arthurs Seat is for all of you people that love the outdoors. It’s a bit of a walk, and can be quite steep, but I really do recommend going for a look. Will you feel like King Arthur going on a great quest? Maybe, the name does suggest such legendary connotations, but there is a myth I like even better. The story goes that a dragon once flew around, terrorising the countryside, until it ate so much, and got so fat, that it lay down and went to sleep. The dragon never woke up and, eventually, turned to stone, and became Arthurs Seat. So go hike up the back of a sleeping dragon! Hopefully it won’t wake up…
That concludes my list! It is by no means exhaustive; there is so much more to Edinburgh than five attractions. Some honorary mentions include St Giles Cathedral, Canongate Kirk, Royal Yacht Britannia, Dynamic Earth and the Royal Botanic Gardens. Honestly though, the best way to get to know a city, to find what you want to see, is to just wander around until you spot something that interests you. The best piece of advice I can give is to think like an explorer and not a tourist. So, with that said, happy exploring!