If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh for your next getaway, you’ve made a great choice. Not only does it boast an excellent location on the shores of the Forth of Firth, but the city itself is arguably one of the most beautiful and historically alluring in the UK. With so many different areas to explore it can be difficult to know where to start, so why not take the logical approach and begin your journey on the Royal Mile which extends right through the heart of the city.
Explore the past in Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Since its foundation almost 900 years ago, the majestic palace has played a pivotal role in the history of Scotland, particularly in housing Scottish royalty since the 15th century. Head to the State Apartments and observe rooms that are still in use today, including the Throne Room, the Great Gallery and the Morning Drawing Room, which are each decked with paintings and works of art spanning centuries of occupation. At the Historical Apartments, accessible only via a set of 25 stone steps, see the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots which are filled with the memories of passion, jealousy and murder in the midst of a troubled reign.
Dine: There are a huge range of restaurants to enjoy on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile but probably the most famous is The Witchery, located by the gates of Edinburgh Castle. Popular not only with visitors, but with locals and celebrities too, it offers a delicious menu of Scottish fare and an interesting historical reminder to boot: The Witchery is named after the hundreds of women who were burned at the stake on Castlehill during the 16th and 17th centuries. Inside the restaurant the decoration is lavish and theatrical – perfect for an evening with friends or loved ones.
Drink – not at a bar but at the Whiskey Heritage Centre, where you can learn about more than 300 years of history relating to Scotland’s national tipple. Ride a barrel through a replica distillery on the introductory tour; you’ll hear all about the different colours and flavours a whiskey can have. Then, join the guided tour where experienced staff members will help you find your perfect single malt whiskey with a few tasters, depending on which experience you choose. And if you’ve got children with you there are characters and themes throughout to help keep them entertained.
Reminisce at the Museum of Childhood which is bursting with collections of toys, books, teddy bears, pedal cars, computer games and more. The first museum in the world dedicated to the history of our youth, it aims to explore all aspects of growing up from play time to health and education. Get involved with interactive exhibits designed to spark creativity and learning in visitors of all ages, and observe the evolution of objects that have entertained us and generations before. Entry is free, but you might want to leave a donation to aid the continuing enjoyment of others for years to come.
Brave Mary King’s Close, the spooky network of long disused streets that lies hidden beneath Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. It’s hard to believe that, in the 17th century, these were once some of the city’s busiest and most exciting streets; sealed off from the world for many years, the close became shrouded in dark mysteries which, even today, remain speculative. If that hasn’t got your spine tingling, the guided tour will certainly test your courage with tales of ghosts, gruesome murders and plague victims who were walled up and left to die. At just £12.95 per adult and £7.45 per child, Mary King’s Close is one of Edinburgh’s favourite and best value attractions.
Discover the secrets of Edinburgh Castle, Scotland’s most visited paid tourist attraction. This iconic fortress sits atop Castle Rock and looks down on the city as though still protecting it from unseen enemy advances. Steeped in history spanning hundreds of years, the castle has been used as a royal residence, a military base, a war prison and, today, stands as a proud monument and museum dedicated to preserving this magnificent piece of Scottish heritage. Even if you think you’ve seen your fair share of castles already, this is one you’ll definitely regret missing if you avoid it on your visit to Edinburgh.
With so many things to see and do, you’d be forgiven for spending your whole holiday wandering down this central stretch. However, the city’s compact size means that venturing to other areas like the West End, Haymarket and Leith is easy to do, and there’s a myriad of hotels and serviced accommodation on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile that will allow you to explore the city to its fullest.