Dramatic landscapes, countrysides littered with castles, literary heavyweights, and world-famous whiskey. Despite its small size, Scotland packs a big punch, and it is easy to see why Lonely Planet nominated them as one of the top countries to visit in 2014. The cultural and historical hub of Scotland is none other than Edinburgh, and with its renowned Fringe festival and historic sites like Edinburgh Castle, and only a short distance to the Highlands, it is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Beat the crowds before they flock to this city and see historic Edinburgh with this weekend guide.
8:00AM – Start the day with a Hula. This popular stop serves hearty portions of Scottish smoked salmon and eggs, but make sure you save space for their smoothies and desserts, which are the real reason to go here. Organic foodies and diners need speciality dietary requirements will particularly enjoy this brunch bar, and make sure you spend some time appreciating the original artwork and photography they exhibit. For more information, opening times and prices please check http://www.hulajuicebar.co.uk/.
10:00AM – Take a tour around Scottish Parliament. In terms of history, the Scottish Parliament building is modern, but it is filled with motifs that evoke the country’s past and people. Make sure you book ahead of time for tickets to Parliament, as school groups and tour companies converge on the weekend. For more information and to book tickets, check their website at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/visitandlearn/24228.aspx.
12:00AM – Explore Edinburgh Castle. Arguably the city’s most popular attraction, make sure you book your tickets in advance to skip the long queues. Besides the castle formations the National War Museum, Scottish crown jewels and military prison are also housed within its walls. Complimentary guided tours around the grounds are provided, but visitors are also welcome to see the castle on their own time. For more information and to book advance tickets, visit http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/plan/getting-around.aspx.
2:00PM – Dine at Maison Bleue. This opulently-decorated French restaurant gives off an atmosphere of antiquated elegance, but its prices are surprisingly cheap. The menu provides classic French and Scottish dishes, so even if you decide to forego tasting haggis, there are a number of delectable options on the menu. For more information, visit their website at http://www.maisonbleuerestaurant.com/.
4:00PM – Go on a tour with The Real Free Edinburgh tours. See some of Edinburgh’s astounding architecture and learn about its glorious and somewhat gritty history with energetic and knowledgeable tour guide Justin. Funny, interesting and completely unique, the tour will make you see Edinburgh in a different light. Tours are run several times a day and although they are free, a tip of £5 is advised. Fore more information, check their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/realfreetoursedinburgh?fref=ts.
6:00PM – Watch a show at one of Edinburgh’s many theatres. Being the host to one of the biggest annual celebrations of theatre, comedy and performance, obviously a trip to the theatre is a must on anyone’s list. With more than 18 venues to choose from, there is bound to be something to anyone’s preference. For performance times and purchasing tickets, check http://www.edinburghtheatreguide.com/.
6:00AM – Hike up Arthur’s Seat. Rise before the sun and hike to the top of this hill for the best panoramic sunrise views of the city. Arthur’s Seat is a part of Holyrood Park, and is a popular destination for locals to exercise. After reaching the top it is worth exploring the hillside to search for archaeological remains that dot the landscape. For those wanting a less arduous climb, there are stairs to the summit around the back. Otherwise, bring comfortable shoes and a windbreaker. Take the scenic route back along the Royal Mile, stopping at the Fudge Kitchen and Cranachan & Crowdie to stock up on brunch.
1:00PM – Have a picnic on Carlton Hill. It is easy to see why Edinburgh was once dubbed the ‘Athens of the North’ upon seeing the monuments sitting atop the summit. Like Arthur’s Seat, Carlton Hill offers panoramic views of the city, and provides lots of green space to spread out and enjoy a picnic lunch on sunny days. The hill is the centre for the Scottish Government and as a result many of the monuments are a celebration of this country’s heritage; keep an eye out for the Burns Monument and Dugald Monument.
3:00PM – Sample some of Scotland’s signature spirit at the Scotch Whiskey Experience. The initial video and barrel ride might seem a bit twee, but the tasting session afterwards and a walk around the world’s largest whiskey collection more than makes up for it. Afterwards, head to their bar and taste more regional variations of scotch, and enjoy the rooftop views of some of Edinburgh’s iconic buildings and landscapes. http://www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk/
4:30PM – Learn about Scotland’s literary history. The Writer’s Museum may be small, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in character and information. Artefacts ranging from letters to furniture from Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson are on display here, and offer an insight into the inspiration for their literary works. Check their website http://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/Venues/The-Writers–Museum for more information.
5:00PM – Have a nightcap at the Grassmarket. Once the venue for the city’s gallows and a 15th century cattle market, today the Grassmarket is Edinburgh’s centre for pubs and nightlife. Literary patrons should head to The White Hart Inn, which was frequented by Robert Burns, while many pubs have live music in the evenings. Whichever you choose, there are more than two dozen pubs and clubs only a five minute walk from each other, leaving many spoiled for choice.
What are your recommendations?