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Scotland for the Independent Traveller

Things to do in Edinburgh

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Edinburgh Castle - even if you go nowhere else the castle is a must both for its historical interest and for the fabulous panoramic views of the city. It's open all year.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street Gardens

Camera Obscura - located in a tower at the top of the Royal Mile just by the entry to the castle this is a fascinating place to visit. It uses a clever system of mirrors to project a moving image of the city on to a table. The best time to visit is about midday on a clear day. Open from April to October from 9.30am to 6pm and November to March from 10am to 5pm.

Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura

Dynamic Earth - located close to Holyrood Palace and next to the new Scottish Parliament building at the bottom of the Royal Mile this exhibition opened in June 1999. It tells the story of the evolution of the earth from the big bang to the present day. Kids will love it and most adults we have spoken to have also. Open daily from April to October from 10am to 6pm and during November to March from 10am to 5pm Wednesday to Saturday.

Greyfriars Bobby - one of our favourite places to visit - and it's free. This life size bronze statue of Greyfriars Bobby was erected in 1872 and is located at the junction of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge opposite the new National Museum of Scotland.

Quite easy to miss, it's a memorial to a Skye Terrier believed to have been the companion of 'Auld Jock' Gray a local policeman. After Gray died in 1858 Bobby is reputed to have stayed loyal to his master sleeping close to his grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard nearby for fourteen years until his own death in 1872.

Greyfriars Bobby
Greyfriars Bobby

Royal Botanic Gardens - an oasis of calm very close to the centre of the city. The gardens consist of 72 acres with more than 2,000 species of plants, tropical glass houses, an art gallery and a very acceptable cafe. Open every day from 10am to 4pm or 8pm during May to August.

Mary King's Close - Mary King lived in Edinburgh during the 17th century and when the city was hit by the plague in 1645 the 'close' (narrow street) was boarded up and the City Chambers were later built over it. Regular tours now visit the underground close and it is well worth a visit. Tours usually start from the Mercat Cross beside St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile. Advance booking is recommended as the tours are very popular.

Princes Street Gardens - the lovely gardens used to be an open sewer for the Old Town. Now they form one side of Edinburgh's main shopping street and when the shops get too much you can retreat to the relative peace and quiet of the gardens. The National Gallery at the Mound divides the gardens into east and west. The east garden has a putting green in summer and an outdoor ice rink in winter and the west garden is the location of the Ross Bandstand which is the venue for a varied selection of entertainment.

Arthur's Seat
Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat - an extinct volcano right in the centre of the city Arthur's Seat, supposedly named after the famous King Arthur of Round Table fame, is worth the climb. It will take a fit person about 40 minutes to reach the summit although if you want you could take a car a fair bit of the way up. The views are wonderful and are particularly spectacular at sunrise or sunset.

Royal Yacht Britannia - after 44 years of service the Royal Yacht now has a permanent berth in Leith Docks. Its not as big as people expect it to be but if you are interested in the Royal Family its worth a visit. You can get a shuttle bus from the Waverly Bridge but we would recommend you spend a day exploring Leith which used to be Edinburgh's port and is now crammed with excellent restaurants and a developing waterfront area. Britannia is open from 9.30am to 6pm and later during August.

Royal Yacht Britannia
Royal Yacht Britannia
Calton Hill
Calton Hill from Arthurs Seat with north Edinburgh in the foreground and the Forth Bridges
and mountains in the background


Calton Hill - a much easier climb than Arthur's Seat - you can in fact take a car to the top. On the top is William Playfairs National Monument (dedicated to the dead of the Napoleonic Wars) also known as Edinburgh's Disgrace because it was never completed. Also on the top is the Royal Observatory with its visitors centre. The main attraction though is the view which can only be described as spectacular. Entrance by car is via Royal Terrace and by foot via Waterloo Place (the eastern extension to Princes Street).

Forth Bridge
The Forth Bridges near Edinburgh

The Forth Bridges - not strictly speaking 'in' Edinburgh the two Bridges, rail and road, are a real must for a visit. As you can see from the picture to the left they are only a few miles outside the city and cross the River Forth at North and South Queensferry connecting the Lothians to the Kingdom of Fife. The railway bridge is over 110 years old and is a masterpiece of Victorian engineering.


No. 28 Charlotte Square - Charlotte Square was designed by Robert Adam in 1792 and it remains his finest civic monument in Scotland. Owned by the National Trust for Scotland No. 28 has a gallery, coffee house, gift shop and restaurant. It's open all year.

Palace of Holyrood House - the official residence in Scotland of Her Majesty The Queen. Holyrood Palace stands at the bottom end of Edinburgh's Royal Mile and is set against the spectacular backdrop of Arthur's Seat.

As the palace is right opposite the Scottish Parliament and a few hundred yards from Dynamic Earth these three make a good day out.

Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Palace

The Scottish Parliament - It is an interesting building, it certainly cost a lot and is worth a visit.

Rosslyn Chapel - The chapel is unique and famed world wide for the beauty of its carvings and for the aura of mystery amd magic that surrounds it. Built in 1446 by William St. Clair, third and last Prince of Orkney, Rosslyn Chapel conforms neither to contemporary architecture nor to any fashion. The carvings themselves, including the famous "Apprentice Pillar", are endless in variety and full of symbolism. The Chapel, its shop and Tea Room are open all year from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (Sundays 12.00 am to 4.45 pm). There is an admission charge and guides are available.