Even if you have visited Edinburgh before, an open-top bus tour of the city is a great way to orientate youself and work out what’s where. Tours follow a circuit through the medieval Old Town and the 18th century Georgian New Town so you can always get back to where you started. The top of the Royal Mile is a great starting place to explore on foot. Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s number one attraction and definitely worth a visit. As well as the obvious visits to see Scotland’s Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny, it’s worth trying to locate the Dogs’ Cemetery in memory of man’s and soldier’s best friends. Arguably the best view of Edinburgh is from the castle ramparts as nothing in the city can be higher.
Crossing the Castle Esplanade, scene of the annual Military Tattoo, you will find The Spirit of the Tattoo, a new and free visitor centre which gives some of the history and flavour of the magic of the Tattoo. Another Scottish flavour is honoured at the Scotch Whisky Experience with a dram at the end of the tour and Scottish restaurant, Amber, in its basement for lunch.
With batteries recharged you can either continue down the Royal Mile with its museums and visitor centres on everything from weaving to childhood toys or jump back aboard a tour bus to take you down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament or over to Princes Street with its shops and galleries.
In the evening, combine a tour of pubs with a love of literature on the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour before dinner in one of the intimate restaurants and bistros of the Old Town.
Edinburgh is surrounded by hills which give a great outlook as well as good exercise. If an extinct volcano in Holyrood Park is too much for you, try the more manageable Calton Hill, off Princes Street. This is the site of what should have been Scotland’s National Monument but the city ran out of money so the columns are all that was completed, earning the title “Edinburgh’s Disgrace”. Nelson Monument, in the shape of a telescope, is worth the climb to the top. A ball at the top of its mast drops simultaneously with the firing of the One O’Clock Gun from the Castle.
Keep the natural theme for the afternoon with a tour of the Royal Botanic Garden with its recently renovated Glass Houses, exhibitions and world of colourful plants and shrubs. It’s where Edinburgh people go for moments of quiet reflection and a reviving cup of tea.
In the evening, try one of the traditional pubs in Leith with their menu of freshly-caught fish dishes as you look over the Water of Leith.