मुख्य Fodor’s Scotland

Fodor’s Scotland

Scotland offers astonishing variety: its iconic lochs and mountains, as well as lively cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, have strong allure. Visitors from North America increased 28% in 2014, to over 500,000. St. Andrews is a pilgrimage for golfers; castles dot the country; and whisky distilleries are gaining popularity. Scotland's customs and products--from tartans to tweeds--are known worldwide, but there's nothing like experiencing them firsthand.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
वर्ष: 2016
संस्करण: ebook
प्रकाशक: Fodor’s
भाषा: english
पन्ने: 512
ISBN 10: 1101880287
ISBN 13: 9781101880289
File: EPUB, 56.48 MB
डाउनलोड (epub, 56.48 MB)
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				Images of Scotland

				Scotland Maps

				Experience Scotland

				Edinburgh and the Lothians


				The Borders and the Southwest

				Fife and Angus

				The Central Highlands

				Aberdeen and the Northeast

				Argyll and the Isles

				Inverness and Around the Great Glen

				The Northern Highlands and the Western Isles

				Orkney and Shetland Islands

				Understanding Scotland

				Travel Smart Scotland

				About Our Writers

				Credits and Copyright

Main Table of Contents

Edinburgh and the Lothians

				Edinburgh: West

				Edinburgh: East

				West Lothian and the Forth Valley

				Midlothian and East Lothian


				Glasgow: City Centre, Merchant City, East End

				Glasgow: West End, South Side, and the Clyde

				Ayrshire and the Clyde Coast

				Clyde Valley

The Borders and the Southwest

				 				Gretna Green to Kirkcudbright

				Newton Stewart to Portpatrick

Fife and Angus

				St. Andrews



				Angus Area

The Central Highlands


				The Trossachs and Loch Lomond


Aberdeen and the Northeast

				Aberdeen Around Union Street

				Old Aberdeen

				Royal Deeside: Stonehaven to Banchory

				Royal Deeside: Braemar to Alford

				The Northeast: Dufftown to Cullen

				The Northeast: Cullen to Ellon

Argyll and the Isles


				Arran and the Kintyre Peninsula

				Islay and Jura

				Iona, Mull, and the Smaller Isles

Around the Great Glen

				Inverness and Nearby

				Speyside and the Cairngorms

				Loch Ness

				Fort William and Nearby

The Northern Highlands and the Western Isles

				Northern Highlands: Lochcarron to Scourie

				Northern Highlands: Durness to Dornoch

				Isle of Skye

				The Outer Hebrides: Isle of Lewis & Isle of Harris

				The Outer Hebrides: North Uist and South Uist

Orkney and Shetland Islands


				Shetland: South Mainland and Mainland

				Shetland: Yell and Unst

Main Table of Contents

				 				Scotland Today

				What’s Where

				Quintessential Scotland

				If You Like

				Flavors of Scotland

				Playing Golf in Scotland

				Great Itineraries

				On the Calendar

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				 				Travelers arriving in Scotland were once welcomed to the “best small country in the world.” It may have just 5.3 million people, but today Scotland has some big ideas about where it’s headed socially, culturally, and economically. International sporting events, the lively (but ultimately defeated) 2014 referendum on whether to become an independent nation, and even First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s state visits to the United States and elsewhere continue to focus worldwide attention on Scotland.

Travel in the 21st Century

				The experience of traveling in Scotland has changed markedly for the better in recent years, with wholesale improvements in standards of hospitality and food especially. Stylish modern hotels and renovated older ones satisfy the most discerning customers with the latest amenities. Around the country a culinary revolution is well under way: restaurants serve excellent food by internationally trained chefs who take advantage of Scotland’s superb produce.

				Today hotels and restaurants charge prices similar to those in the rest of the United Kingdom. On the other hand, most of Scotland’s biggest and best museums and galleries are free. Walks through well-tended gardens, along bustling waterfronts, and in beautifully renovated neighborhoods mean that a good day out can show you everything but cost nothing at all.

				In 2016 Scotland will present its first Year of Innovation, Architecture, and Design, with events celebrating the nation’s contribution to architecture, engineering, renewables, fashion, textiles, science, technology, and more. Scotland’s following Focus Years are 2017’s Year of History, Heritage, and Archaeology and 2018’s Year of Young People. All in all, it’s an exciting time to travel here.

The Issue of Independence

				Dominating Scotland’s public life in recent years has been the relationship of Scotland with the U.K. Parliament, and the increasingly troubled state of this 300-year-old union. Through devolution, Scotland elected its first parliament in 300 years in 1999. The independence referendum of 2014 saw 55% vote No to Scotland becoming an independent country, but it has by no means resolved the matter. Indeed the referendum has reinvigorated the Scottish population in an ongoing debate about its future, and a full-blown constitutional crisis may arise in the next decade.

				Why are many Scots dissatisfied with the U.K. government? In a time of budget woes, the government has been slashing public services. Many of these cuts deeply offend the Scots, who are committed to free education and free health care from the publicly owned National Health Service.


				The arts continue to thrive, a sign of Scotland’s creative energy. Edinburgh’s arts festivals grow bigger and bigger every year, attracting visitors from around the globe. The National Theatre of Scotland has been such a resounding success that productions have made their way to Broadway. Glasgow is renowned for contemporary arts; a Glasgow artist often seems to win the Turner Prize, Britain’s most prestigious art honor.

				In a sign of vitality, culture is not confined only to the large cities. Far to the north, Shetland (already drawing audiences with its folk festivals) has built Mareel, a remarkable live music venue and cinema. Dundee will be the location of the first outpost of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, due to open in 2018.

				In 2013 a new mural was unveiled in Glasgow’s subway system that employs the words of Scottish novelist Alasdair Gray: “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.” Undoubtedly the artists of Scotland have taken him to heart.


				It’s a disturbing fact that just 500 people own half the land in Scotland, many of them wealthy foreigners who have become absentee landlords. Experts say that giving residents a say on what happens to the land they live on is crucial if communities are going to thrive. New models of community ownership and management are being hard won, particularly in the Western Isles. There have been some community buyouts in which farming communities get the government’s help to purchase the land where they live and work.

				Still, the depopulation of rural Scotland continues. The popularity of holiday homes has meant that some villages are fully inhabited for only a few weeks each summer. Those who want to live here permanently find that low wages, a high cost of living, and a lack of affordable housing mean that they are priced out of a home surrounded by such beauty.

Wind Power

				Urged by the government to help the country meet its ambitious targets for renewable energy, Scottish landowners began leasing land to the corporations behind wind farms. Scotland now has many large-scale commercial wind farms—including Europe’s largest—and hundreds of smaller ones, many in community ownership. This has sparked vociferous debate. The pro-wind lobby argues in favor of emission-free energy that’s better for the environment than coal or nuclear plants, while the anti-wind camp decries the environmental damage to ancient peat bogs and bird populations. At the time of writing, the new Conservative U.K. government is seeking to withdraw subsidies for renewables, and so threatening Scotland’s energy targets and green energy sector.

				Turbines are now being built offshore, which is another cause for dispute. Developer Donald Trump, who ignored environmental activists while building his sprawling golf estate, has had a very public fallout with government officials over the “ugly” planned offshore turbine plant that will be visible from his golf course.

Scotland, Finally Winning

				When it comes to sports, the Scots have reveled in their traditional role as the underdog. But Olympic gold medal–winning cyclist Chris Hoy and tennis Grand Slam winner Andy Murray have shown that this narrative needs rewriting.

				As well as regularly hosting major golf tournaments—the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in 2014 and Open Golf at St. Andrews (2015) and Royal Troon (upcoming in 2017)—Scotland has proved itself of late as a worthy and welcoming venue for multisport international events. After the success of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, and with a Football World Cup 2018 Qualifying Group involving a clash with the auld enemy England coming up, pride in Scottish sports is growing.

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				 				Edinburgh and the Lothians. Scotland’s captivating capital is the country’s most popular city, famous for its high-perched castle, Old Town and 18th-century New Town, ultramodern Parliament building, and Georgian and Victorian architecture. Among the city’s highlights are superb museums, including the newly refurbished National Museum of Scotland, and the most celebrated arts festival in the world, the International Festival. If Edinburgh’s crowds are too much, escape to the Lothians and visit coastal towns, beaches, ancient chapels, and castles.

				Glasgow. The country’s largest city has evolved from prosperous Victorian hub to depressed urban center to thriving modern city with a strong artistic, architectural, and culinary reputation. Museums and galleries such as the Kelvingrove and Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) are here, along with the Arts and Crafts architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and iconic institutions such as Glasgow University. Glasgow is also the place to shop in Scotland.

				The Borders and the Southwest. Scotland’s southern gateway from England, the Borders, with its moors and gentle hills and river valleys, is rustic but historically rich. It’s known for being the home of Sir Walter Scott and has impressive stately homes such as Floors Castle and ruined abbeys including Melrose. The Southwest, or Dumfries and Galloway region, is perfect for scenic drives, castles, and hiking.

				Fife and Angus. The “kingdom” of Fife is considered the sunniest and driest part of Scotland, with sandy beaches, fishing villages, and stone cottages. St. Andrews has its world-famous golf courses, but this university town is worth a stop even for nongolfers. To the north in Angus are Glamis Castle, the legendary setting of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, as well as the reviving riverside city of Dundee with its increasing cultural attractions.

				The Central Highlands. Convenient to both Edinburgh and Glasgow, this area encompasses some of Scotland’s most beautiful terrain, with rugged, dark landscapes broken up by lochs and fields. Not to be missed are Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Scotland’s first national park. Perth and Stirling are the main metropolitan hubs and worth a stop; Stirling Castle has epic views that stretch from coast to coast.

				Aberdeen and the Northeast. Malt-whisky buffs can use the prosperous port city of Aberdeen, known for its silvery granite buildings, as a base for exploring the region’s distilleries, including those on the Malt Whisky Trail. Aberdeen also makes a good starting point for touring Royal Deeside, with its purple moors and piney hills as well as the notably rich selection of castles built over many centuries, including Balmoral.

				Argyll and the Isles. Remote and picturesque, this less visited region of the southwestern coastline has excellent gardens, religious sites, and distilleries. To experience the region in full, catch a ferry from adorable Oban to Mull and the southern isles. If you like whisky, a trip to Islay is a must; if it’s mountains you’re after, try Jura; if a Christian site strikes a chord, head to Iona. The Isle of Arran is the place to see Scotland’s diversity shrunk down to a more intimate size.

				Around the Great Glen. An awe-inspiring valley laced with rivers and streams defines this part of the country. A top spot for hikers, this Highland glen is ringed by tall mountains, including Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest mountain. Rugged Cairngorms National Park lies to the east of this area. Glencoe and Culloden are historic sites not to miss; those who believe in Nessie, Scotland’s famous monster, can follow the throngs to Loch Ness. Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, is useful as a base for exploring.

				The Northern Highlands and the Western Isles. This rugged land is home to the lore of clans, big moody skies, and wild rolling moors. It’s also the place to see one of Scotland’s most picturesque castles, Eilean Donan, which you pass on the way to the beautiful, popular Isle of Skye. The stark, remote Outer Hebrides, or Western Isles, offer ruined forts and chapels. This is where you go for real peace and quiet.

				Orkney and Shetland Islands. Remote and austere, these isles at the northern tip of Scotland require tenacity to reach but have an abundance of intriguing prehistoric sites, including standing circles, brochs (circular towers), and tombs, as well as wild, open landscapes. A Scandinavian heritage gives them a unique flavor. The Shetland Isles, with their barren moors and vertical cliffs, are well known for bird-watching and diving opportunities.

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Time for Tea

				Scots are always eager to stop for a cup of tea and catch up with the local gossip. Tea is still the most popular refreshment, but the spread of café culture has introduced a new generation of coffeehouses—and not just in the cities but in the countryside. The Willow Tearooms in Glasgow and the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh are perhaps the most gentrified places to enjoy an afternoon pot of tea, tiny sandwiches with the crusts removed, and a slice of cake; they are well worth the stop. City coffeehouses are becoming increasingly popular; they offer a different but equally worthwhile atmosphere. But if you’re looking to taste a little of what life has to offer in smaller towns and villages, there is always some local haven that can offer you tea and delicious scones, probably with homemade jam.


				Going to the pub is a pastime enjoyed by men and women of all ages and backgrounds; you can find out why when you explore a few. The no-smoking laws mean that the pub environment is fresher now. In the cities you can take your pick of every kind of pub; traditional favorites are now joined by Australian, Cuban, and chic cocktail bars. In more rural areas options may be fewer, but the quality of the experience, which may include pub quizzes or local folk bands, may be better. There isn’t a pub in Scotland that doesn’t sell whisky, but if you seek to sample a wee dram of the more obscure malts, ask someone to point you in the right direction. Fans of whisky will want to go beyond the pubs and head for a distillery or two for a tour and a tasting—you will find these in many areas of the country.


				Listening to Scots talk about football—please don’t call it soccer—gives a fine insight into the national temperament. “Win, lose, or draw, you go home to your bed just the same,” sang Scottish singer Michael Marra, and the Scots will try to make you believe it’s only a game. But go to a match or be in a pub when a game is on the TV, and you can see plenty of grown men (and women) having a vigorous emotional workout. Since the Rangers were relegated to the Third Division, the main league, the Scottish Premiership, has opened up a little, although Celtic still dominate. The state of the national team is debated everywhere, but although Scotland loses out in collecting trophies, the Tartan Army is consistently applauded as the most agreeable and entertaining of traveling fans.

Baked Goods

				Although the treats may not perhaps be as elegant as those produced in an Italian panificio or a French patisserie, Scots love their bakeries. Go beyond shortbread and oatcakes and sample local favorites during your travels. From the Aberdeen buttery (a melting, salty bap, or roll) to the Selkirk bannock (a sweet, raisin-strewn scone, perfect when buttered and served with tea) to Forfar bridies (an Angus specialty, similar to a meat pasty), regional specialties are abundant. Most areas have their own interpretations of the popular Scotch pie (with beef mince, mutton, bean, and macaroni among the varieties available). There’s even a Scotch Pie Championship each year. The rise of large supermarkets is putting many establishments out of business, but it’s worth seeking out an independent bakery and trying the delicacies.

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				Whether a jumble of stones or a fully intact fortress, whether in private ownership or under the care of a preservation group, Scotland’s castles powerfully demonstrate the country’s lavish past and its once-uneasy relationship with its southern neighbor.

				Caerlaverock. This triangular 13th-century fortress with red-sandstone walls in Dumfries was a last bastion in the 17th-century struggle for religious reform.

				Castle Trail. Along Royal Deeside, west of Aberdeen, the Castle Trail has an eclectic group of castles all within a 100-mile radius. There’s stirring Drum, stately Crathes, baronial Balmoral, memorabilia-packed Braemar, Corgarff, Kildrummy, and windswept Dunnottar.

				Edinburgh Castle. This royal palace dominates the capital’s history and skyline.

				Eilean Donan. A ruin on the edge of several lochs in the Western Highlands, this is the most photogenic of Scottish castles and inspiration for the castle in the animated movie Brave.

				Floors Castle. On the Duke of Roxburghe’s estate outside Kelso, this castle has grand turrets, pinnacles, and cupolas.

				Glamis Castle. Northeast of Dundee, Glamis Castle connects Britain’s royalty from Macbeth to the late Queen Mother.

				Hermitage Castle. This dark and foreboding place south of Hawick, near the English border, is where Mary, Queen of Scots, traveled to visit her lover, the Earl of Bothwell.

				Stirling Castle. Beautifully restored Stirling Castle is the childhood home of Mary, Queen of Scots, and one of the finest Renaissance palaces in the United Kingdom.

Mountains and Lochs

				For the snowcapped mountains and glassy lochs (lakes) for which Scotland is famous, you have to leave the south and the cities behind you—though some Lowland lakes are beautiful. Wherever you go in Scotland, nature is at your fingertips.

				Ben Nevis. Looming over Fort William is dramatic Ben Nevis. No matter when you visit, you’ll probably see snow on the summit.

				Cairngorms National Park. The Great Glen is home to half of Scotland’s highest peaks, many of them in Cairngorms National Park. This is an excellent place for hiking, skiing, and reindeer sightings.

				Glen Torridon. East of Shieldaig in the Northern Highlands, Glen Torridon has the country’s finest mountain scenery.

				Loch Achray. This pretty loch is where you set out for the climb to Ben An, a sheer-faced mountain with fabulous views of the Trossachs.

				Loch Katrine. In the heart of the Trossachs, this lake in the Central Highlands was the setting of Walter Scott’s narrative poem The Lady of the Lake. In summer you can take the steamer SS Sir Walter Scott.

				Loch Leven. Located in Fife, this loch is famed for its birdlife. It was also where Mary, Queen of Scots, signed the deed of abdication in her island prison.

				Loch Lomond. Among Scotland’s most famous lakes, Loch Lomond’s shimmering shores, beautiful vistas, and plethora of water-sport options are 20 minutes from Glasgow.

				Loch Maree. One of Scotland’s most scenic lakes, Loch Maree is framed by Scots pines and Slioch Mountain in the Northern Highlands.


				Scotland’s rich history and the varied passions of its people provide a wealth of material and artifacts that fill museums and galleries across the land, from metropolitan art collections to small themed collections, many of them free.

				Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Perennially popular, this grand Victorian palace in Glasgow houses Botticelli and Monet canvasses to interactive Scottish history exhibits.

				McManus Galleries. Dundee’s major civic collection encompasses fine and contemporary art and Dundonian life and history, and hosts world-class visiting exhibits.

				National Museum of Scotland. In Edinburgh, the recently renovated Victorian grand hall is a dramatic setting for exhibits that trace the nation’s history from geologic deep time to contemporary life.

				Riverside Museum. Scotland’s Museum of Transport and Travel, set within a striking Zaha Hadid–designed structure alongside Glasgow’s River Clyde and the handsome Tall Ship at Riverside, displays a dizzying array of vehicles.

				Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. This interactive museum in Alloway explores the passions and poems of the much-loved poet and complex “man o’ pairts.”

				Scottish Fisheries Museum. Buildings facing Anstruther Harbor in Fife house an absorbing collection of exhibits that illustrate the life of Scottish fisherfolk.

				Shetland Museum. A suitably sail-like tower greets visitors to Lerwick’s Hay’s Dock and this wonderful museum, which tells many a salty and piquant tale of Shetland’s way of life down the centuries.

Whisky Tours

				Whisky tours are a great way to appreciate the varied flavors of Scotland’s signature drink. Many distilleries are in lovely settings, and tours explore the craft that transforms malted barley, water, and yeast. In-depth tours and special tastings are available at some places, but it’s best to check ahead and reserve if needed. Here’s a sampling of distilleries around the country.

				Edradour. This small distillery near Pitlochry makes a fine single malt and offers an informative and fun tour.

				Glenfiddich. An entertaining visitor center enhances the tour of this Dufftown distillery; it also has an art gallery.

				Glenlivet. Tours at the first licensed distillery in the Highlands include not only whisky making but also the fascinating story of the founder.

				Highland Park. If you make it north to Orkney, visit Scotland’s northernmost distillery and try its smoky but sweet malt.

				Lagavulin. Among Islay’s whiskies, this one has the strongest iodine scent; the distillery offers a number of special tours.

				Laphroaig. Its distinctively peaty, iodine-and-seaweed flavor has earned this Islay whisky many devoted followers.

				Macallan. There’s a choice of two tours at this distillery in the northeast that matures its whisky in sherry and bourbon casks.

				Talisker. The single malt from the Isle of Skye’s only distillery has a peaty aroma; tours are popular.

Island Havens

				A remote, windswept world of white-sand beaches, forgotten castles, and crisp, clear rivers awaits you in the Scottish isles. Out of the hundreds of isles, only a handful are actually inhabited, and here ancient culture and tradition remain alive and well. Each island has its own distinct fingerprint; getting to some might be awkward and costly, but the time and expense are worth your while.

				Arran. With activities ranging from golf to hiking, this island has everything you’ll find on the mainland but on a smaller, more intimate scale.

				Bute. One of the more affordable and accessible islands, Bute draws celebrities to its estates for lavish weddings and Glaswegians to its rocky shores for summer holidays.

				Iona. This spiritual and spectacular island was the burial place of Scottish kings until the 11th century.

				Islay. Near the Kintyre Peninsula, this island is where you go to watch rare birds, purchase woolen goods, and sample the smoothest malt whiskies.

				Northern Isles. Orkney and Shetland, two remote island groups collectively known as the Northern Isles, have a colorful Scandinavian heritage. Both have notable prehistoric artifacts and rollicking festivals. The green pastures of Orkney are an hour from the mainland, and wind-flattened Shetland will suit those who want a more remote feel.

				Skye. With hazy mountains, hidden beaches, and shady glens, the Isle of Skye is unsurpassed for sheer beauty. It also has a good selection of hotels, B&Bs, and restaurants.


				People who have hiked in Scotland often return to explore the country’s memorable rural landscapes of loch-dotted glens and forested hills. From Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat to Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest peak, the country holds unsurpassed hiking possibilities, no matter what your ambitions. Keep in mind that weather conditions can and do change rapidly in the Scottish hills, even at low altitude. The best time for hiking is from May to September.

				Fife Coastal Path. This seaside trail is 116 miles long but can be done in chunks. It skirts along golden beaches, rocky inlets, and picturesque fishing villages.

				Glen Nevis. Home of the magnificent peak of Ben Nevis, Glen Nevis has a number of moderate hikes with footpaths leading past waterfalls, ruined crofts, and forested gorges. There are also some more challenging climbs.

				The Grampians. In the northeastern part of the country, this mountain range offers walks through some of the country’s most varied terrain. The eight-mile route around Loch Muick, which passes Glas-allt Shiel, Queen Victoria’s holiday home, is beautiful in any weather.

				Southern Upland Way. The famous 212-mile coast-to-coast journey from Portpatrick to Cockburnspath is an undertaking, but it can be tackled in sections.

				Trossachs National Park. In the Central Highlands, this vast area includes everything from quiet country strolls to ambitious climbs up craggy cliffs.

				West Highland Way. From Milngavie to Fort William, this well-marked and well-trodden 95-mile trek follows a series of old coaching roads.

Megalithic Monuments

				Scattered throughout the Scottish landscape are prehistoric standing stones, stone circles, tombs, and even stone houses that provide a tantalizing glimpse into the country’s remarkable past and people. If you’re interested in ancient remains, leave the mainland and head for the isles, where many of the most impressive and important sites are found.

				Calanais Standing Stones. On the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, this ancient site is reminiscent of Stonehenge. The impressive stones are believed to have been used for astronomical observations.

				Jarlshof. A Bronze Age settlement dating from 2500 BC, Shetland’s Jarlshof has been called the most remarkable archaeological site in the British Isles.

				Machrie Moor Stone Circles. On the Isle of Arran these granite boulders and reddish-sandstone circles have a startling setting in the middle of an isolated moor.

				Maeshowe. An enormous burial mound on Orkney, Maeshowe is renowned for its imposing burial chamber.

				Mousa Broch. Accessible by boat on Shetland’s South Mainland, this beautifully preserved fortified Iron Age stone tower is now a bird sanctuary.

				Ring of Brodgar. Between Loch Harray and Loch Stennes on Orkney sits this magnificent circle made up of 36 Neolithic stones.

				Skara Brae. Orkney’s Neolithic village, first occupied around 3000 BC, was buried beneath the sand until its discovery in 1850. The houses are joined by covered passages, and with stone beds, fireplaces, and cupboards are intriguing remnants from the distant past.

Retail Therapy

				No longer is Scotland simply the land of whisky and wool. International names from Louis Vuitton to Vivienne Westwood have all set up shop here, and top British department stores like John Lewis, Harvey Nichols, and Debenhams, as well as stylish boutiques, pepper the major cities. Rich chocolates (often with whisky fillings), marmalades, heather honeys, and the traditional petticoat-tail shortbread are easily portable gifts. So, too, are the boiled sweets (hard candies).

				Aberdeen. If trying and buying malt whisky is on your itinerary, you won’t find a much better spot than Aberdeen.

				Central Highlands. Bristling with old bothies (farm buildings) that have been turned into small craft workshops, the villages in this region sell handmade crafts.

				Dundee. Topped with a rich fruit mixture and almonds, Dundee cake is among the prize edibles on sale in the city they’re named after.

				Edinburgh. Jenners, Scotland’s most prestigious department store, is a must-see in Edinburgh. Head toward the New Town for clusters of antiques shops.

				Glasgow. Scotland’s biggest city claims the best shopping in Britain, outside of London’s Oxford Street. Start at Buchanan Street with Princes Gardens and Buchanan Galleries before heading to the West End for clothing boutiques and antiques shops.

				Perth. A shopper’s paradise, Scotland’s former capital city offers a wide array of crafts, including fine china, exquisite jewelry, and freshwater pearls.

				Shetland. Traditional crafts such as tartan blankets, Celtic silver, and pebble jewelry are among the big draws.

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Locally Sourced, Seasonally Inspired

				A new focus of culinary interest, in Scotland as elsewhere, is on local and seasonal foods. Whether restaurants are riding the green wave or just following good food sense, they are trying their best to buy from local suppliers; many proudly advertise their support. Farmers’ markets, too, seem to be popping up on every other street corner.

				From meats and fish to fruits and vegetables, most urban and many country restaurants are now designing their menus around seasonal foods. In winter, look for Angus beef, venison, rabbit, and pigeon on menus; in spring, summer, and fall, langoustines (small lobsters with slender claws), crab, halibut, and trout appear. The rotating array of (often organic) blackberries, brambles, raspberries, strawberries, apples, and rhubarb offers choices so fat and flavorful that the fruits themselves could make any meal memorable. When in season, asparagus and green beans are tender, but fresh enough that you can actually taste their snap. Scottish pies, puddings, and jams are also inspired by the land and time of year.

Superb Fish and Seafood

				Some of the most coveted fish and seafood in the world lives in the rivers and lakes, as well as off the coasts, of Scotland. Fortunately, restaurants and markets all around the country showcase this local bounty. Treats not to miss include wild salmon, trout, haddock, mackerel, herring (often served as cold-smoked kippers), langoustines, scallops, mussels, oysters, and crabs.

				Fish is prepared in a tantalizing variety of ways in Scotland, but smoked fish is the national specialty—so much so that the process of both hot and cold smoking has developed to a fine art. Scots eat smoked fish for breakfast and lunch, and as an appetizer with their evening meal. The fish is often brushed with cracked pepper and a squeeze of lemon, and accompanied by thin slices of hearty bread or oat crackers. Places like Arbroath as well as the isles of North Uist and Skye have won international praise for locally smoked haddock, salmon, and trout, which are synonymous with delicacy.

				Other seafood to try includes the traditional fish-and-chips, the Scottish favorite not to be overlooked. The fish is either cod or haddock, battered and deep-fried until it’s crispy and golden. Another classic preparation is cullen skink, a creamy fish stew thick with smoked haddock, potatoes, and onions. It’s perfect on cold winter nights as a tasty hot appetizer. For a special treat, grilled, sautéed, or baked langoustines offer the ultimate seafood indulgence, succulent and tasty.

Tempting Baked Goods

				The Scots love their cakes, biscuits, breads, and pies. There’s always something sweet and most likely crumbly to indulge in, whether after a meal or with a nice cup of tea. Bakeries are the perfect places to sample fresh goodies.

				Some of the local favorites range from conventional butter-based shortbreads, empire biscuits (two shortbread cookies with jam in between, glazed in white icing and topped with a bright red cherry), whisky cake, mince pies (small pies filled with brandy, stewed dried fruits, and nuts), and scones. Treacle tarts, gingerbread, butterscotch apple pie, and oatcakes (more a savory cracker than a sweet cake) with local cheese are also popular as late-morning or early-afternoon temptations.

				Not to be missed are the many treats named after their place of origin: Balmoral tartlets (filled with cake crumbs, butter, cherries, and citrus peel), Abernethy biscuits (cookies with extra sugar and caraway seeds), Islay loaves (sweet bread with raisins, walnuts, and brown sugar), and Dundee cake (full of cherries, raisins, sherry, and spices). Home bakers are much celebrated, and the catering tents at Highland games are worth seeking out to sample a community’s finest.

Traditional Scottish Fare

				Food in Scotland is steeped in history, and a rich story lies behind many traditional dishes. Once the food of peasants, haggis—a mixture of sheep’s heart, lungs, and liver cooked with onions, oats, and spices, and then boiled in a sheep’s stomach—has made a big comeback in more formal Scottish restaurants. If the dish’s ingredients turn you off, there’s often an equally flavorful vegetarian option. You’ll find “neeps and tatties” alongside haggis; the three are inseparable. Neeps are yellow turnips, potatoes are the tatties, and both are boiled and then mashed.

				Black pudding is another present-day delicacy (and former peasant food) that you can find just about everywhere, from breakfast table to local fish-and-chip shop to formal dining establishment. It’s made from cooked sheep’s or goat’s blood that congeals and is mixed with such ingredients as oats, barley, potato, bread, and meat. Black pudding can be grilled, boiled, or deep-fried. The Scottish prefer it for breakfast with fried eggs, bacon, beans, square sausages, toast, and potato scones. These fried, triangular-shape scones have the consistency of a dense pancake and are an intimate part of the Scottish breakfast, aptly called a fry-up because—apart from the beans and toast—everything else on the plate is fried. Another popular breakfast dish is porridge with salt instead of sugar, cinnamon, or honey. Sweet porridge doesn’t go down well in Scotland.

Whiskies and Real Ales

				“Uisge beatha,” translated from Scottish Gaelic, means “water of life,” and in Scotland it most certainly is. Whisky helps weave together the country’s essence, capturing the aromas of earth, water, and air in a single sip.

				Whiskies differ greatly between single malts and blends. This has to do with the ingredients, specialized distillation processes, and type of oak cask. Whisky is made predominantly from malted barley that, in the case of blended whiskies, can be combined with grains and cereals like wheat or corn. Malts or single malts can come only from malted barley.

				The five main whisky regions in Scotland produce distinctive tastes, though there are variations even within a region: the Lowlands (lighter in taste), Speyside (sweet, with flower scents), the Highlands (fragrant, smooth, and smoky), Campbeltown (full-bodied and slightly salty), and Islay (strong peat flavor). Do sample these unique flavors; distillery tours are a good place to begin.

				Real ales—naturally matured, cask-conditioned beer made from traditional ingredients—have arrived in the United Kingdom. These ales are not, at present, as popular as whisky, but are quickly making their mark on the Scottish beverage scene. Good brews to try include Arran Blonde (Arran Brewery), Dark Island (Orkney Brewery), White Wife (Shetland), Duechars (Caledonian Brewery), and Red Cuillin (Skye Brewery).

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				 				There are some 550 golf courses in Scotland and only 5.3 million residents, so the country has probably the highest ratio of courses to people anywhere in the world. If you’re visiting Scotland, you’ll probably want to play the “famous names” sometime in your career.

				So by all means play the championship courses such as the Old Course at St. Andrews, but remember they are championship courses. You may enjoy the game itself much more at a less challenging course. Remember, too, that everyone else wants to play the big names, so booking can be a problem at peak times in summer. Reserving three to four months ahead is not too far for the famous courses, although it’s possible to get a time up to a month (or even a week) in advance if you are relaxed about your timing. If you’re staying in a hotel attached to a course, get the concierge to book a tee time for you.

				Happily, golf has always had a peculiar classlessness in Scotland. It’s a game for everyone, and for centuries Scottish towns and cities have maintained courses for the enjoyment of their citizens. Admittedly, a few clubs have always been noted for their exclusive air, and some newer golf courses are losing touch with the game’s inclusive origins, but these are exceptions to the tradition of recreation for all. Golf here is usually a democratic game, played by ordinary folk as well as the wealthy.

Tips About Playing

				Golf courses are everywhere in Scotland. Most courses welcome visitors with a minimum of formalities, and some at a surprisingly low cost. Other courses are very expensive, but a lot of great golf can be played for between about £30 to £100 a round. Online booking at many courses has made arranging a golf tour easier, too.

				Be aware of the topography of a course. Scotland is where the distinction between “links” and “parkland” courses was first made. Links courses are by the sea and are subject to the attendant sea breezes—some quite bracing—and mists, which can make them trickier to play. The natural topography of sand dunes and long, coarse grasses can add to the challenge. A parkland course is in a wooded area and its terrain is more obviously landscaped. A “moorland” course is found in an upland area.

				Here are three pieces of advice, particularly for North Americans: (1) in Scotland the game is usually played fairly quickly, so don’t dawdle if others are waiting; (2) caddy carts are hand-pulled carts for your clubs and driven golf carts are rarely available; and (3) when they say “rough,” they really mean “rough.”

				Unless specified otherwise, hours are generally sunrise to sundown, which in June can be as late as 10 pm. Note that some courses advertise the SSS, “standard scratch score,” instead of par (which may be different). This is the score a scratch golfer could achieve under perfect conditions. Rental clubs, balls, and other gear are generally available from clubhouses, except at the most basic municipal courses. Don’t get caught by the dress codes enforced at many establishments: in general, untailored shorts, round-neck shirts, jeans, and sneakers are frowned upon.

				The prestigious courses may ask for evidence of your golf skills by way of a handicap certificate; check in advance and carry this with you.

Costs and Courses

				Many courses lower their rates before and after peak season—at the end of September, for example. It’s worth asking about this. TIP Some areas offer regional golf passes that save you money. Check with the local tourist board.

				For a complete list of courses, contact local tourist offices or VisitScotland’s official and comprehensive golf website golf.visitscotland.com. It has information about the country’s golf courses, special golf trails, regional passes, special events, and tour operators, as well as on conveniently located accommodations. U.K. Golf Guide (www.uk-golfguide.com) has reviews by recent players.

Best Bets Around Scotland

				If your idea of heaven is teeing off on a windswept links, then Scotland is for you. Dramatic courses, many of them set on sandy dunes alongside the ocean, are just one of the types you’ll encounter. Highland courses that take you through the heather and moorland courses surrounded by craggy mountains have their own challenges.

				Boat of Garten Golf Club, Inverness-shire. With the Cairn Gorm Mountain as a backdrop, this beautiful course has rugged terrain that requires even seasoned players to bring their A game. As an added bonus, a steam railway runs alongside the course.

				Carnoustie Golf Links, Angus. Challenging golfers for nearly 500 years, Carnoustie is on many golfers’ must-do list. The iconic Championship Course has tested many of the world’s top players, while the Burnside and Buddon courses attract budding Players and Watsons.

				Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness-shire. A more recent addition to Scotland’s world-class courses offers cliff-top hazards, sprawling bunkers, and rolling fairways overlooking the Moray Firth.

				Cruden Bay Golf Club, Aberdeenshire. This challenging and enjoyable links course was built by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company in 1894. Its remote location beside a set of towering dunes makes it irresistible.

				Gleneagles, Perthshire. Host of the 2014 Ryder Cup championship, Gleneagles has three 18-hole courses that challenge the pros and a 9-hole course that provides a more laid-back game. It’s also home to the PGA National Golf Academy.

				Machrihanish Golf Club, Argyll. A dramatic location on the Mull of Kintyre and some exciting match play make these links well worth a journey.

				Royal Dornoch Golf Club, Sutherland. Extending across a coastal shelf, Royal Dornoch has fast greens, pristine beaches, and mountain views. In spring yellow gorse sets the green hills ablaze.

				St. Andrews Links, Fife. To approach the iconic 18th hole in the place where the game was invented remains the holy grail of golfers worldwide.

				Trump Turnberry, Ayrshire. Along the windswept Ayrshire coast, Turnberry’s famous Ailsa Course pits golfers against the elements and, on one hole, a stretch of ocean.

				Western Gailes Golf Club, near Glasgow. This splendid links course is a final qualifying course for the British Open. Sculpted by Mother Nature, it’s the country’s finest natural links course.

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				Highlights of Scotland in 10 Days

Highlights of Scotland in 10 Days

				Scotland isn’t large, but its most famous cities and most iconic landscapes take time to explore. This itinerary packs in many national icons: Edinburgh’s enormous charm and Glasgow’s excellent museums; a castle or two; lochs, mountains, and an island. It’s a busy pace, but you’ll still be able to fit in a whisky distillery visit and even a round of golf. You can do parts of this trip by public transportation, but beyond the cities, a car allows more flexibility.

Days 1 and 2: Edinburgh

				The capital of Scotland is loaded with iconic sights in its Old Town and New Town. Visit Edinburgh Castle and the National Gallery of Scotland, and take tours of the National Museum of Scotland and the modern Scottish Parliament building. Walk along Old Town’s Royal Mile and New Town’s George Street for some fresh air and retail therapy. Later on, seek out a traditional pub with live music.

				Logistics: Fly into Edinburgh Airport if you’re flying via London. If you’re flying directly into Glasgow from overseas, make your way from Glasgow Airport to Queen Street Station via taxi or bus. It takes an hour to travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh by car or bus, about 45 minutes to an hour by train. Explore on foot or by public transportation.

Day 3: Stirling to St. Andrews

				Rent a car in Edinburgh and drive to the historic city of Stirling. Spend the day visiting Stirling Castle and the National Wallace Monument. If you’re eager to tour a distillery, make time for a stop at the Famous Grouse Experience at the Glenturret Distillery in Crieff. For your overnight stay, drive to the seaside town of St. Andrews, famous for golf.

				Logistics: It’s 35 miles or a one-hour drive to Stirling from Edinburgh, and 50 miles and 90 minutes from Stirling to St. Andrews. You can easily take a train or bus to these destinations.

Day 4: St. Andrews to Aviemore

				Spend the morning exploring St. Andrews, known for its castle and the country’s oldest university as well as its golf courses. If you’ve booked well in advance, play a round of golf. After lunch, drive to Aviemore. Along the way, stretch your legs at one of Scotland’s notable sights, Blair Castle (just off the A9 and 10 miles north of Pitlochry). Head to Aviemore, gateway to the Cairngorm Mountains and Britain’s largest national park, for two nights. The town is a center for outdoor activities and has many choices for accommodations, dining, and shopping, but you can also consider the more attractive surrounding villages and towns such as Kingussie for your stay.

				Logistics: It’s 120 miles from St. Andrews to Aviemore via the A9, a drive that will take 2½ hours. You can also take a train or bus.

Day 5: The Cairngorms

				For anyone who enjoys outdoor pursuits or dramatic scenery, the arctic plateau of the Cairngorms is a must. Hiking, biking, and climbing are options (Glenmore Lodge is a renowned outdoor sports centre), but so is visiting attractions such as the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre and Highland Folk Museum.

Day 6: The Isle of Skye

				Leave Aviemore early and head to Inverness, which has a busy center suited for a wander. Inverness Castle and the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery are worth seeing. The drive south to Skye is peaceful, full of raw landscapes and big, open horizons. Stop at Eilean Donan Castle on the way. Set on an island among three lochs, the castle is the stuff postcards are made of. Explore Skye; Glen Brittle is the perfect place to enjoy mountain scenery; and Armadale is a good place to go crafts shopping. End up in Portree for dinner and the night.

				Logistics: It’s 30 miles (a 40-minute drive) via the A9 from Aviemore to Inverness, and then it’s 80 miles (a two-hour drive) from Inverness to Skye. Public transportation is possible but connections take time, so a car is best.

Day 7: Oban via Ben Nevis

				Leave Skye no later than 9 am and head for Fort William. The town isn’t worth stopping for, but the view of Britain’s highest mountain, the 4,406-foot Ben Nevis, is. If time permits, take a hike in Glen Nevis. Continue on to Oban, a traditional Scottish resort town on the water, to overnight. Outside Oban, stop by the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary. At night, feast on fish-and-chips in a local pub.

				Logistics: It’s nearly 100 miles from Skye to Oban; the drive is 3½ hours without stopping. Public transportation is challenging.

Days 8 and 9: Loch Lomond and Glasgow

				Enjoy a waterfront stroll in Oban. Midmorning, set off for Glasgow via Loch Lomond. Stop in Balloch on the loch for fresh oysters and a walk along the bonnie banks. Arrive in Glasgow in time for dinner; take in a play or concert, or just relax in a pub on the first of your two nights in this rejuvenated city. Spend the next day visiting the sights: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic buildings, and the Riverside Museum are a few highlights.

				Logistics: It’s 127 miles (a three-hour drive) from Oban to Glasgow via Balloch. Traveling by train is a possibility, but you won’t be able to go via Balloch. Return your rental car in Glasgow.

Day 10: Glasgow and Home

				On your final day, stow your suitcases at your hotel and hit Buchanan and Sauchiehall Streets for some of Britain’s best shopping. Clothes, whisky, and tartan items are good things to look for.

				Logistics: It’s less than 10 miles (15 minutes) by taxi to Glasgow’s international airport in Paisley but more than 30 miles (40 minutes) to the international airport in Prestwick.

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				December 29–January 2


Scotland’s ancient, still-thriving New Year’s celebration, Hogmanay takes place over several days. In rural areas, neighbors “first foot” each other’s houses—thereby ensuring the good luck of the household—and toast the new year with a dram. | Edinburgh | www.edinburghshogmanay.com.

January 25

				Burns Night.

Burns Night dinners and other events are held in memory of poet Robert Burns on his birthday, January 25. Haggis and mashed turnips, whisky, and poetry readings are familiar elements of the supper. | www.scotland.org/whats-on/burns-night.

Last Tuesday in January


Every year, Shetlanders celebrate their Viking heritage and torch a replica Viking longship. The biggest Up-Helly-Aa is in Lerwick on the last Tuesday in January. | 01595/693434 | www.uphellyaa.org.


				Celtic Connections.

Glasgow’s immensely popular celebration of Celtic music, Celtic Connections hosts national and international musicians during the last two weeks of January. | Glasgow | 0141/353–8000 | www.celticconnections.com.


				Late April–Early May

				Shetland Folk Festival.

This festival is one of the biggest folk gatherings in Scotland, and musicians from all over the world stay up for four days of fiddle frenzy. It normally falls at the beginning of May. | 01595/694757 | www.shetlandfolkfestival.com.

April 30

				Beltane Fire Festival.

This festival celebrates the rites of spring according to the traditional Celtic calendar on April 30. You can witness displays of pyrotechnics and elaborately costumed mythological creatures at Calton Hill in Edinburgh. | Edinburgh | www.beltane.org.

Late May

				Orkney Folk Festival.

This annual festival brings the folkies back up to the remote Far North by the hundreds. Festivities take place over several days in late May or early June. | 01856/851635 | www.orkneyfolkfestival.com.



				Highland Games.

Held annually in many Highland towns, the Highland games include athletic and cultural events like hammer throwing, caber tossing, and highland dancing. The fun takes place from May through September. | www.visitscotland.com/highland-games.


				Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Concentrating on the best new films from all over the world, Edinburgh International Film Festival screenings are held over two weeks in June. | Edinburgh | 0131/228–4051 | www.edfilmfest.org.uk.

				St. Magnus International Festival.

Orkney’s weeklong St. Magnus International Festival is a feast of classical and modern music each June, often showcasing new vocal or orchestral compositions. | 01856/871445 | www.stmagnusfestival.com.


				Merchant City Festival.

Glasgow’s transformed mercantile district–turned–cultural quarter stages nine days of pop-up performances and various artsy gatherings in late July, including comedy, dance, music, markets, fashion and design, family events, tours, heritage walks, and food and drink. | Glasgow | 0141 /287–8985 | www.merchantcityfestival.com.


				Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The rowdy, unofficial counterpart to the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes over the city during the last three weeks of August. | 0131/226–0000 | www.edfringe.com.

				Edinburgh International Festival.

The world’s largest festival of the arts, the Edinburgh International Festival takes place during the last three weeks of August. | 0131/473–2000 | www.eif.co.uk.

				Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

A stirring, colorful show of marching bands and military regiments, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place during the last three weeks in August. | Edinburgh | 0131/225–1188 | www.edintattoo.co.uk.

Early September

				Braemar Royal Highland Gathering.

Kilted clansmen from all over Scotland get together for the Braemar Royal Highland Gathering on the first Saturday in September. Bagpipe bands, dancers, and athletes join in the fun and games. | 013397/41098 | www.braemargathering.org.



				Royal National Mòd.

This weeklong Gaelic festival includes speech competitions and theatrical performances, in addition to piping, choir, and Highland dancing exhibitions. The location changes each year, but it’s generally held in mid-October. | Inverness | 01463/709705 | www.acgmod.org.

				Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival.

This festival concentrates on two of the most popular instruments of folk musicians in Scotland during five days in mid-October. | 01595/693162 | www.shetlandaccordionandfiddle.com.

Late November-December

				Glasgow Loves Christmas.

From late November through December, George Square in Glasgow is transformed into a winter wonderland: sparkling ornaments and an impressive palace facade tower over a gigantic ice rink. Festive markets and other seasonal events are part of the program, too. | Glasgow | www.glasgowloveschristmas.com.

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Main Table of Contents

				 				Welcome to Edinburgh and the Lothians

				Exploring Edinburgh

				Where to Eat

				Where to Stay

				Nightlife and Performing Arts


				Sports and the Outdoors

				Side Trips from Edinburgh

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				Getting Oriented | What’s Where | Planning

				 				Updated by Jack Jewers

				Edinburgh is to London as poetry is to prose, as Charlotte Brontë once wrote. One of the world’s stateliest cities and proudest capitals, it’s built—like Rome—on seven hills, making it a striking backdrop for the ancient pageant of history. In a skyline of sheer drama, Edinburgh Castle watches over the capital city, frowning down on Princes Street’s glamour and glitz. But despite its rich past, the city’s famous festivals, excellent museums and galleries, as well as the modern Scottish Parliament, are reminders that Edinburgh has its feet firmly in the 21st century.

				Nearly everywhere in Edinburgh (the burgh is always pronounced burra in Scotland) there are spectacular buildings, whose Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian pillars add touches of neoclassical grandeur to the largely Presbyterian backdrop. Large gardens are a strong feature of central Edinburgh, while Arthur’s Seat, a child-size mountain of bright green-and-yellow furze, rears 822 feet up behind the spires of the Old Town. Even as Edinburgh moves through the 21st century, its tall guardian castle remains the focal point of the city and its venerable history.

				Modern Edinburgh has become a cultural capital, staging the Edinburgh International Festival and the Festival Fringe in every possible venue each August. The stunning National Museum of Scotland complements the city’s wealth of galleries and artsy hangouts. Add Edinburgh’s growing reputation for food and nightlife and you have one of the world’s most beguiling cities.

Top Reasons to Go to Edinburgh

Kaleidoscope of culture: Edinburgh covers it all, from floor-stomping ceilidhs to avant-garde modern dance, from traditional painting and sculpture to cutting-edge installations, from folksy fiddlers to the latest rock bands. The city’s calendar of cultural festivals, including the famous Edinburgh International Festival, is outstanding.

The Royal Mile: History plays out before your eyes in this centuries-old capital along the Royal Mile. Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse were the locations for some of the most important struggles between Scotland and England.

Awe-inspiring architecture: From the Old Town’s labyrinthine medieval streets to the neoclassical orderliness of the New Town to imaginative modern developments like the Scottish Parliament, the architecture of Auld Reekie spans the ages.

Food, glorious food: Edinburgh has a burgeoning restaurant scene that attracts celebrity chefs serving up dishes from around the world. Perhaps the most exotic, however, is genuine Scottish cuisine, with its classic dishes like cullen skink and haggis with neeps and tatties.

Handcrafted treasures: Scotland has a strong tradition of distinctive furniture makers, silversmiths, and artists. Look to the “villages” of Edinburgh—such as Stockbridge—for exclusive designer clothing, edgy knitwear, and other high-end items.

				Today the city is the second most important financial center in the United Kingdom, and regularly ranks near the top in quality-of-life surveys. In some senses showy and materialistic, Edinburgh still supports learned societies, some of which have their roots in the Scottish Enlightenment. The Royal Society of Edinburgh, for example, established in 1783 “for the advancement of learning and useful knowledge,” remains an important forum for interdisciplinary activities.

				Take time to explore the streets—peopled by the spirits of Mary, Queen of Scots, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson—and enjoy candlelit restaurants or a folk ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee, a traditional Gaelic dance with music), but remember that you haven’t earned your porridge until you’ve climbed Arthur’s Seat. Should you wander around a corner, say, on George Street, you might see not an endless cityscape, but blue sea and a patchwork of fields. This is the county of Fife, beyond the inlet of the North Sea called the Firth of Forth—a reminder, like the mountains to the northwest that can be glimpsed from Edinburgh’s highest points, that the rest of Scotland lies within easy reach.

Getting Oriented

				For all its steep roads and hidden alleyways, Edinburgh is not a difficult place to navigate. Most newcomers gravitate to two areas, the Old Town and the New Town. The former funnels down from the castle on either side of the High Street, better known as the Royal Mile. Princes Street Gardens and Waverly Station separate the oldest part of the city from the stately New Town, known for its neoclassical architecture and verdant gardens. To the north, the city sweeps down to the Firth of Forth. It is here you will find the port of Leith with its trendy pubs and fine restaurants. The southern and western neighborhoods are mainly residential, but are home to such attractions as the Edinburgh Zoo.

What’s Where

				Old Town. The focal point of Edinburgh for centuries, the Old Town is a picturesque jumble of medieval tenements. Here are prime attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and the newer symbol of power, the Scottish Parliament. Amid the historic buildings you will find everything from buzzing nightclubs and bars to ghostly alleyways where the spirits of the past often make their presence felt.

				New Town. Built in the 18th and 19th centuries to prevent the residents of overcrowded Old Town from decamping to London, the neoclassical sweep of the New Town is a masterpiece of city planning. Significant sights include the National Gallery of Scotland and Calton Hill, which offers some of the best views of the city from its summit. The city’s main shopping thoroughfares, Princes Street and George Street, are also found here.

				Leith. On the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, Edinburgh’s port of Leith is where you’ll find the former royal yacht, Britannia. These days it’s also filled with smart bars and restaurants.

				Side Trips: West Lothian and the Forth Valley, Midlothian and East Lothian. The historic houses, castles, towns, and museums in the green countryside outside Edinburgh—Midlothian, West Lothian, and East Lothian, collectively called the Lothians—can be reached quickly by bus or car, welcome day-trip escapes from the festival crush at the height of summer.


				When to Go

				Scotland’s reliably variable weather means that you could visit at the height of summer and be forced to wear a scarf. Conversely, conditions can be balmy in early spring and late autumn. You may want to avoid the crowds during July and August, but you’d also miss the famed Edinburgh International Festival and other summer celebrations. May, June, and September are probably the most hassle-free months in which to visit. Short days and grim conditions make winter less appealing, but Edinburgh’s New Year celebrations are justly renowned.

Planning Your Time

				One of Edinburgh’s greatest virtues is its compact size, which means that it is possible to pack a fair bit into even the briefest of visits. The two main areas of interest are the Old Town and the New Town, where you’ll find Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Parliament, Princes Street Gardens, and the National Gallery of Scotland. You can cover the major attractions in one day, but to give the major sights their due, you should allow two. You can also choose between the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the important museums of Edinburgh, as well as entertaining sights such as the Real Mary King’s Close, or explore the Royal Botanic Garden and Holyrood Park. Head down to leafy, village-like Stockbridge, then immerse yourself in the greenery along the Water of Leith, visiting the Gallery of Modern Art along the way.

				Getting out of town is also an option for stays of more than a few days, depending on your interests: hop on a bus out to Midlothian to see the magnificent Rosslyn Chapel at Roslin (it’s of interest to more than Da Vinci Code fans), and visit Crichton Castle, parts of which date back to the 14th century. Consider spending another half day traveling out to South Queensferry to admire the Forth rail and road bridges; then visit palatial Hopetoun House, with its wealth of portraits and fine furniture.

				TIP Don’t forget that some attractions have special hours during the Edinburgh International Festival. If you want to see something special, check the hours ahead of time.

Getting Here and Around

				Air Travel

				Airlines serving Edinburgh, Scotland’s busiest airport, include Air France, Aer Lingus, American, British Airways, Delta, easyJet, flybe, Iberia, Jet2, KLM, Lufthansa, Ryanair, and Virgin Atlantic.

				American and United both fly direct to Edinburgh from New York’s JFK airport. United also flies direct from Newark, and has a handful of direct flights per week from Chicago O’Hare. Otherwise your airline is likely to require a change somewhere in Europe. You could fly into Glasgow Airport, 50 miles away, or the smaller Glasgow Prestwick, another 30 miles south, but it’s hard to see why you would bother.


				Edinburgh Airport is 7 miles west of the city center. Flights bound for Edinburgh depart virtually every hour from London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports.

				Airport Information

Edinburgh Airport. | Glasgow Rd. | Ingliston | 0844/448–8833 | www.edinburghairport.com.

Transfers from Edinburgh Airport

				There are no rail links to the city center, so the most efficient way to do the journey on public transport is by tram; the service runs every 8 to 12 minutes and takes about half an hour. Tickets cost £5. By bus or car you can usually make it to Edinburgh in a half hour, unless you hit the morning (7:30 to 9) or evening (4 to 6) rush hours. Lothian Buses runs an Airlink express service to Waverley railway station via Haymarket that usually takes around half an hour, depending on traffic. Buses run every 10 minutes (every 30 minutes throughout the night); tickets cost £4.50 and are available from the driver or at the airport information desk. Local buses also run between Edinburgh Airport and the city center every 15 minutes or so from 9 to 5, and roughly every hour during off-peak hours; they’re cheaper—just £1.50 one-way—but can take twice as long.

				You can arrange for a chauffeur-driven limousine to meet your flight at Edinburgh Airport through Transvercia Chaffeur Drive, Little’s, or W L Sleigh Ltd., for upwards of £50.

				Taxis are readily available outside the terminal. The trip takes 20 to 30 minutes to the city center, 15 minutes longer during rush hour. The fare is roughly £25. Note that airport taxis picking up fares from the terminal are any color, not the typical black cabs.

				Airport Transfer Contacts

Little’s. | Paisley | 0141/883–2111 | www.littles.co.uk.

Transvercia Chaffeur Drive. | Leith | 0131/555–0459 | www.transvercia.co.uk.

W L Sleigh Ltd. | Edinburgh | 0131/339–9607 | sleigh.co.uk.

Bus Travel

				National Express provides bus service to and from London and other major towns and cities. The main terminal, Edinburgh Bus Station, is a short walk north of Waverley Station, immediately east of St. Andrew Square. Long-distance coaches must be booked in advance online, by phone, or at the terminal. Edinburgh is approximately eight hours by bus from London.

				Lothian Buses provides much of the service between Edinburgh and the Lothians and conducts day tours around and beyond the city. First runs buses out of Edinburgh into the surrounding area. Megabus offers dirt-cheap fares to selected cities if you book in advance.

				Bus Contacts

First. | 0871/2002233 | www.firstgroup.com.

Lothian Buses. | 0131/554–4494 | www.lothianbuses.com.

Megabus. | 0900/160–0900 | www.megabus.com.

National Express. | 08717/818181 | www.nationalexpress.co.uk.

Travel Within Edinburgh

				Lothian Buses is the main operator within Edinburgh. You can buy tickets on the bus. The Day Ticket (£3.50), allowing unlimited one-day travel on the city’s buses, can be purchased in advance or from the driver on any Lothian bus (exact fare is required when purchasing on a bus). The Ridacard (for which you’ll need a photo) is valid on all buses for seven days (Sunday through Saturday night) and costs £17; the four-week Rider costs £51. TIP Buses are great for cheap daytime travel, but in the evening you’ll probably want to take a taxi.


Lothian Buses. | Waverley Bridge, Old Town | 0131/554–4494 | www.lothianbuses.com.

Political Power in Scotland

Three centuries after the Union of Parliaments with England in 1707, Edinburgh is once again the seat of a Scottish Parliament. A modern Parliament building, designed by Spanish architect Enric Miralles, stands adjacent to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, at the foot of the Royal Mile.

Some first-time visitors to Scotland may be surprised that the country still has a capital city at all, perhaps believing the seat of government was drained of its resources and power after the union with England—but far from it. The Union of Parliaments brought with it a set of political partnerships—such as separate legal, ecclesiastical, and educational systems—that Edinburgh assimilated and integrated with its own institutions.

In a hard-fought 2014 referendum, Scottish voters rejected full separation from the United Kingdom. However, the ensuing debate led to even further powers being transferred from London to Edinburgh, and Scotland now has significantly more control over its own affairs than at any time since 1707. The 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), of whom almost half are women, have extensive powers in Scotland over education, health, housing, transportation, training, economic development, the environment, and agriculture, and limited control over taxation. Foreign policy, defense, and economic policy remain under the jurisdiction of the U.K. government in London. As for the future, it seems clear that this is still a period of political discussion and change for Scotland.

Car Travel

				Driving in Edinburgh has its quirks and pitfalls, but don’t be intimidated. Metered parking in the city center is scarce and expensive, and the local traffic wardens are a feisty, alert bunch. Note that illegally parked cars are routinely towed away, and getting your car back will be expensive. After 6 pm the parking situation improves considerably, and you may manage to find a space quite near your hotel, even downtown. If you park on a yellow line or in a resident’s parking bay, be prepared to move your car by 8 the following morning, when the rush hour gets under way. Parking lots are clearly signposted; overnight parking is expensive and not always permitted.

Taxi Travel

				Taxi stands can be found throughout the downtown area. The following are the most convenient: the west end of Princes Street; South St. David Street and North St. Andrew Street (both just off St. Andrew Square); Princes Mall; Waterloo Place; and Lauriston Place. Alternatively, hail any taxi displaying an illuminated “for hire” sign.

Train Travel

				Edinburgh’s main train hub, Waverley Station, is downtown, below Waverley Bridge and around the corner from the unmistakable spire of the Scott Monument. Travel time from Edinburgh to London by train is as little as 4½ hours for the fastest service.

				Edinburgh’s other main station is Haymarket, about four minutes (by rail) west of Waverley. Most Glasgow and other western and northern services stop here.

				Train Contacts

National Rail Enquiries. | 08457/484950 | www.nationalrail.co.uk.

ScotRail. | 0344/811–0141 | www.scotrail.co.uk.

Tram Travel

				Absent since 1956, trams returned to the streets of Edinburgh in 2014. The 14-km (8.5-mile) stretch of track runs between Edinburgh Airport in the west to York Place in the east. Useful stops for travelers include Haymarket, Princes Street, and St. Andrew Square (for Waverley Station). Tickets are £1.50 for a single journey in the “City Zone” (which is every stop excluding the airport), or £5 to get to or from the airport. Day tickets, allowing unlimited travel, cost £4 in the City Zone and £9 including the airport.

				Tram Contact

Edinburgh Trams. | 0131/555–6363 | www.edinburghtrams.co.uk.


				Orientation Tours

				One good way to get oriented in Edinburgh is to take a bus tour. If you want to get to know the area around Edinburgh, Rabbie’s Trail Burners leads small groups on several different excursions.

				Edinburgh Bus Tours.

The company’s highly popular Mac Tours are conducted in vintage open-top vehicles to the city’s main attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Palace of Holyroodhouse, and museums and galleries. Buses depart from Waverley Bridge, and are hop-on/hop-off services, with tickets lasting 24 hours. | 0131/220–0770 | www.edinburghtour.com | From £14.

				Lothian Buses.

The 60-minute Majestic Tour, in an open-top bus, operates with a professional guide and takes you from Waverley Bridge to the New Town, past Charlotte Square, the Royal Botanic Garden, and Newhaven Heritage Museum until it reaches the royal yacht, Britannia, moored at Leith. Tickets are available from ticket sellers on Waverley Bridge or on the buses themselves. | Waverley Bridge, Old Town | 0131/554–4494 | www.lothianbuses.com | From £14.

				Rabbie’s Trail Burners.

Strike out farther afield on day trips run by this cheerful Edinburgh company. You can get a surprisingly long way and back in a few hours on one of their minibuses—options include Loch Ness and Glencoe, Loch Lomond National Park, Rosslyn Chapel and the borderlands, and a Highland whisky tour. Groups are kept to a guaranteed maximum of 16, giving these a less impersonal feel than some of the big enterprises. TIP Book online for a discount. | 207 High St. | Edinburgh | 0131/226–3133 | www.rabbies.com | From £31.

Personal Guides

				Scottish Tourist Guides.

This organization can supply guides (in 19 languages) who are fully qualified and will meet clients at any point of entry into the United Kingdom or Scotland. They can also tailor tours to your interests. | 01786/451953 | www.stga.co.uk | From £120.

Walking Tours

				Cadies and Witchery Tours.

Spooky tours tracing the steps of Edinburgh’s ghouls, gore, and mysteries commence outside the Witchery Restaurant at 352 Castlehill. The Cadies and Witchery Tours, a member of the Scottish Tourist Guides Association, has built a reputation for combining entertainment and historical accuracy in its lively and enthusiastic Ghosts & Gore Tour and Murder & Mystery Tour, which take you through the narrow Old Town alleyways and closes. Costumed guides and other theatrical characters show up en route. | Edinburgh | 0131/225–6745 | www.witcherytours.com | From £9.

				Scottish Literary Pub Tours.

Professional actors invoke Scottish literary characters while taking you around some of the city’s most hallowed watering holes on these lively and informative tours. The experience is led by “Clart and McBrain,” self-styled “bohemian and intellectual,” who regale you with tales of the literary past of Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns. The experience is so witty and fun that you might even forget you’re learning something along the way. Tours run daily in summer, Thursday to Sunday in fall and spring, and Friday only in winter. | 18–20 Grassmarket | Edinburgh | 0800/169–7410 | www.edinburghliterarypubtour.co.uk | £14.

Visitor Information

				The VisitScotland Information Centre, next to Waverley Station (follow the “tic” signs in the station and throughout the city), offers an accommodations-booking service in addition to the more typical services. Complete information is also available at the information desk at the Edinburgh Airport.

				Visitor Information

VisitScotland Information Centre. | 3 Princes St., East End | 0131/473–3868 | www.visitscotland.com.

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				Old Town | New Town | Leith | Haymarket | West End | South Side

				 				Edinburgh’s Old Town, which bears a great measure of symbolic weight as the “heart of Scotland’s capital,” is a boon for lovers of atmosphere and history. In contrast, if you appreciate the unique architectural heritage of the city’s Enlightenment, then the New Town’s for you. If you belong to both categories, don’t worry—the Old and New towns are only yards apart. Princes Street runs east–west along the north edge of the Princes Street Gardens. Explore the main thoroughfares but don’t forget to get lost among the tiny wynds and closes: old medieval alleys that connect the winding streets.

				Like most cities, Edinburgh incorporates small communities within its boundaries, and many of these are as rewarding to explore as Old Town and New Town. Dean Village, for instance, even though it’s close to the New Town, has a character all its own. Duddingston, just southeast of Arthur’s Seat, has all the feel of a country village. Then there’s Corstorphine, to the west of the city center, famous for being the site of Murrayfield, Scotland’s international rugby stadium. Edinburgh’s port, Leith, sits on the shore of the Firth of Forth, and throbs with smart bars and restaurants.

Old Town

				East of Edinburgh Castle, the historic castle esplanade becomes the street known as the Royal Mile, leading from the castle down through Old Town to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The Mile, as it’s called, is actually made up of one thoroughfare that bears, in consecutive sequence, different names—Castlehill, Lawnmarket, Parliament Square, High Street, and Canongate. The streets and passages winding into their tenements, or “lands,” and crammed onto the ridge in back of the Mile really were Edinburgh until the 18th century saw expansions to the south and north. Everybody lived here, the richer folk on the lower floors of houses, with less well-to-do families on the middle floors—the higher up, the poorer.

				Time and progress (of a sort) have swept away some of the narrow closes and tall tenements of the Old Town, but enough survive for you to be able to imagine the original profile of Scotland’s capital. There are many guided tours of the area, or you can walk around on your own. The latter is often a better choice in summer when tourists pack the area and large guided groups have trouble making their way through the crowds.

						Next Map | Scotland Maps

Top Attractions

				Arthur’s Seat.

The high point of 640-acre Holyrood Park is this famously spectacular viewpoint. You’ll have seen it before—the covers of countless guidebooks, brochures, and postcards have been snapped from this very spot. The “seat” in question is actually the 822-foot-high plateau of a small mountain. A ruined church—the 15th-century Chapel of St. Anthony—adds to its impossible picturesqueness. There are various starting points for the walk, but one of the most pleasant begins at the Scottish Parliament building. Follow the signposts for Volunteer’s Walk; at a moderate pace the climb takes around one hour each way, and is easy so long as you’re reasonably fit. However, a much faster (though far less beautiful) way to reach the summit is to drive to the small parking area at Dunsapie Loch, on Queen’s Road, then follow the footpath up the hill; this walk takes about 20 minutes. | Queen’s Dr., Old Town.

				Craigmillar Castle.

This handsome medieval ruin, only three miles south of the city center, is the archetypal Scottish fortress: forbidding, powerful, and laden with atmosphere. Built as a rural hideaway for the Scottish elite, the castle is best known for its association with Mary, Queen of Scots. During her second stay here, in 1563, her courtiers (successfully) hatched a plot to murder her troublesome husband, Henry Stuart. Rumors that Mary was involved were never substantiated, though they contributed to her ultimate downfall. Today Craigmillar is one of the most impressive ruined castles in Scotland. The 15th-century tower and courtyard are in excellent condition, including a well-preserved great hall. Climb the tower for a superb view across the city. Look out for the unusually ornate defensive arrow slits, shaped like inverted keyholes. | Craigmillar Castle Rd., South Side | 0131/661–4445 | www.historic-scotland.gov.uk | £5.50 | Apr.–Sept., daily 9:30–5:30; Oct.–Mar., Mon.–Wed. and weekends 10–4. Last admission 30 mins before closing.

				Fodor’s Choice | Edinburgh Castle.

The crowning glory of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh Castle is popular not only because it’s the symbolic heart of Scotland but also because of the views from its battlements: on a clear day the vistas—stretching to the “kingdom” of Fife—are breathtaking. You probably need at least three hours to see everything it has to offer (especially if you’re a military history buff). However, an hour or so is enough for a decent wander and a look at some of the main highlights.

				You enter across the Esplanade, the huge forecourt built in the 18th century as a parade ground. The area comes alive with color and music each August when it’s used for the Military Tattoo, a festival of magnificently outfitted marching bands and regiments. Heading over the drawbridge and through the gatehouse, past the guards, you can find the rough stone walls of the Half-Moon Battery, where the one-o’clock gun is fired every day in an impressively anachronistic ceremony; these curving ramparts give Edinburgh Castle its distinctive appearance from miles away. Climb up through a second gateway and you come to the oldest surviving building in the complex, the tiny 11th-century St. Margaret’s Chapel, named in honor of Saxon queen Margaret (1046–93), who had persuaded her husband, King Malcolm III (circa 1031–93), to move his court from Dunfermline to Edinburgh. Edinburgh’s environs—the Lothians—were occupied by Anglian settlers with whom the queen felt more at home, or so the story goes (Dunfermline was surrounded by Celts). The Crown Room, a must-see, contains the “Honours of Scotland”—the crown, scepter, and sword that once graced the Scottish monarch. Upon the Stone of Scone, also in the Crown Room, Scottish monarchs once sat to be crowned. In the section now called Queen Mary’s Apartments, Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to James VI of Scotland. The Great Hall displays arms and armor under an impressive vaulted, beamed ceiling. Scottish Parliament meetings were conducted here until 1840.

				Military features of interest include the Scottish National War Memorial, the Scottish United Services Museum, and the famous 15th-century Belgian-made cannon Mons Meg. This enormous piece of artillery has been silent since 1682, when it exploded while firing a salute for the Duke of York; it now stands in an ancient hall behind the Half-Moon Battery. Contrary to what you may hear from locals, it’s not Mons Meg but the battery’s gun that goes off with a bang every weekday at 1 pm, frightening visitors and reminding Edinburghers to check their watches.

				TIP Avoid the queues by buying tickets online. You can pick them up from one of the automated collection points at the entrance. | Castle Esplanade and Castlehill, Old Town | 0131/225–9846 Edinburgh Castle, 0131/226–7393 War Memorial | www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk | £16.50 | Apr.–Sept., daily 9:30–6; Oct.–Mar., daily 9:30–5; last entry 1 hr before closing.

Edinburgh’s Castle Fit for a King

Archaeological investigations have established that the rock on which Edinburgh Castle stands was inhabited as far back as 1000 BC, in the latter part of the Bronze Age. There have been fortifications here since the mysterious people called the Picts first used it as a stronghold in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Anglian invaders from northern England dislodged the Picts in AD 452, and for the next 1,300 years the site saw countless battles and skirmishes.

In the castle you’ll hear the story of how Randolph, Earl of Moray and nephew of freedom fighter Robert the Bruce, scaled the heights one dark night in 1313, surprised the English guard, and recaptured the castle for the Scots. During this battle he destroyed every one of the castle’s buildings except for St. Margaret’s Chapel, dating from around 1076, so that successive Stewart kings had to rebuild the castle bit by bit.

The castle has been held over time by Scots and Englishmen, Catholics and Protestants, soldiers and royalty. In the 16th century Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth here to the future James VI of Scotland (1566–1625), who was also to rule England as James I. In 1573 it was the last fortress to support Mary’s claim as the rightful Catholic queen of Britain, causing the castle to be virtually destroyed by English artillery fire.

				Quick Bite: Redcoat Café.

You can have lunch or afternoon tea with panoramic views of the city at the Redcoat Café. Cakes, sandwiches, soups, and drinks are all available at reasonable prices. Also within the castle grounds, the Tea Rooms at the top of Crown Square offer a fancier afternoon tea. | Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Old Town | 0131/225–9746.

				High Kirk of St. Giles.

Sometimes called St. Giles’s Cathedral, this is one of the city’s principal churches. However, anyone expecting a rival to Paris’s Notre Dame or London’s Westminster Abbey will be disappointed: St. Giles is more like a large parish church than a great European cathedral. There has been a church here since AD 854, although most of the present structure dates from either 1120 or 1829, when the church was restored.

				The tower, with its stone crown towering 161 feet above the ground, was completed between 1495 and 1500. The most elaborate feature is the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle, built onto the southeast corner of the church in 1911 for the exclusive use of Scotland’s only chivalric order, the Most Ancient and Noble Order of the Thistle. It bears the belligerent national motto “nemo me impune lacessit” (“No one provokes me with impunity”). Inside the church stands a life-size statue of the Scot whose spirit still dominates the place—the great religious reformer and preacher John Knox, before whose zeal all of Scotland once trembled. The church lies about one-third of the way along the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle. | High St., Old Town | 0131/225–9442 | www.stgilescathedral.org.uk | Free; suggested donation £3; photography permit £2 | May–Sept., weekdays 9–7, Sat. 9–5, Sun. 1–5; Oct.–Apr., Mon.–Sat. 9–5, Sun. 1–5. Also for services, year-round.

				High Street.

Some of Old Town’s most impressive buildings and sights are on High Street, one of the five streets making up the Royal Mile. Also here are other, less obvious historic relics. Near Parliament Square, look on the west side for a heart set in cobbles. This marks the site of the vanished Tolbooth, the center of city life from the 15th century until the building’s demolition in 1817. The ancient civic edifice housed the Scottish Parliament and was used as a prison—it also inspired Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Heart of Midlothian.

				Just outside Parliament House is the Mercat Cross (mercat means “market”), a great landmark of Old Town life. It was an old mercantile center, where in the early days executions were held, and where royal proclamations were—and are still—read. Most of the present cross is comparatively modern, dating from the time of William Ewart Gladstone (1809–98), the great Victorian prime minister and rival of Benjamin Disraeli (1804–81). Across High Street from the High Kirk of St. Giles stands the City Chambers, now the seat of local government. Built by John Fergus, who adapted a design of John Adam in 1753, the chambers were originally known as the Royal Exchange and intended to be where merchants and lawyers could conduct business. Note how the building drops 11 stories to Cockburn Street on its north side.

				A tron is a weigh beam used in public weigh houses, and the Tron Kirk was named after a salt tron that used to stand nearby. The kirk itself was built after 1633, when St. Giles’s became an Episcopal cathedral for a brief time. In this church in 1693, a minister offered an often-quoted prayer for the local government: “Lord, hae mercy on a’ [all] fools and idiots, and particularly on the Magistrates of Edinburgh.”|Between Lawnmarket and Canongate, Old Town.

The Building of Edinburgh

Towering over the city, Edinburgh Castle was actually built over the plug of an ancient volcano. Many thousands of years ago, an eastward-grinding glacier encountered the tough basalt core of the volcano and swept around it, scouring steep cliffs and leaving a trail of matter. This material formed a ramp gently leading down from the rocky summit. On this crag and tail would grow the city of Edinburgh and its castle.

Castle, Walled Town, and Holyroodhouse

By the 12th century Edinburgh had become a walled town, still perched on the hill. Its shape was becoming clearer: like a fish with its head at the castle, its backbone running down the ridge, and its ribs leading briefly off on either side. The backbone gradually became the continuous thoroughfare now known as the Royal Mile, and the ribs became the closes (alleyways), some still surviving, that were the scene of many historic incidents.

By the early 15th century, Edinburgh had become the undisputed capital of Scotland. The bitter defeat of Scotland at Flodden in 1513, when Scotland aligned itself with France against England, caused a new defensive city wall to be built. Though the castle escaped destruction, the city was burned by the English Earl of Hertford under orders from King Henry VIII (1491–1547) of England. This was during a time known as the “Rough Wooing,” when Henry was trying to coerce the Scots into allowing the young Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–87), to marry his son Edward. The plan failed and Mary married Francis, the Dauphin of France.

By 1561, when Mary returned from France already widowed, the guesthouse of the Abbey of Holyrood had grown to become the Palace of Holyroodhouse, replacing Edinburgh Castle as the main royal residence. Mary’s legacy to the city included the destruction of most of the earliest buildings of Edinburgh Castle; she was eventually executed by Elizabeth I.

Enlightenment and the City

In the trying decades after the union with England in 1707, many influential Scots, both in Edinburgh and elsewhere, went through an identity crisis. Out of the 18th-century difficulties, however, grew the Scottish Enlightenment, during which educated Scots made great strides in medicine, economics, and science.

Changes came to the cityscape, too. By the mid-18th century, it had become the custom for wealthy Scottish landowners to spend the winter in the Old Town of Edinburgh, in town houses huddled between the high Castle Rock and the Royal Palace below. Cross-fertilized in coffeehouses and taverns, intellectual notions flourished among a people determined to remain Scottish despite their Parliament’s having voted to dissolve itself. One result was a campaign to expand and beautify the city, to give it a look worthy of its future nickname, the Athens of the North. Thus was the New Town of Edinburgh built, with broad streets and gracious buildings creating a harmony that even today’s throbbing traffic cannot obscure.

				John Knox House.

It’s not certain that Scotland’s severe religious reformer John Knox ever lived here, but there’s evidence that he died here in 1572. Mementos of his life are on view inside, and the distinctive dwelling gives you a glimpse of what Old Town life was like in the 16th century. The projecting upper stories were once commonplace along the Royal Mile, darkening and further closing in the already narrow passage. Look for the initials of former owner James Mossman and his wife carved into the stonework on the marriage lintel. Mossman was goldsmith to Mary, Queen of Scots, and was hanged in 1573 for his allegiance to her. | 45 High St., Old Town | 0131/556–9579 | www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk | £5 | Sept.–June, Mon.–Sat. 10–6; July and Aug., Mon.–Sat. 10–6, Sun. 10–6; last admission 30 mins before closing.

				Fodor’s Choice | Kirk of the Greyfriars.

Greyfriars Church, built circa 1620 on the site of a medieval monastery, was where the National Covenant, declaring that the Presbyterian Church in Scotland was independent of the monarch and not Episcopalian in government, was signed in 1638. The covenant plunged Scotland into decades of civil war. Informative panels tell the story. Never mind all this, though—the real attraction here is the sprawling, hillside graveyard, surely one of the most evocative in Europe. Its old, tottering, elaborate tombstones mark the graves of some of Scotland’s most respected heroes and despised villains. Some of the larger tombs are arranged in avenues; a few are closed off, but others you can wander. It’s a hugely atmospheric place to explore, especially at twilight. Look out for two rare surviving mortsafes, iron cages erected around graves to prevent the theft of corpses for sale to medical schools, a grisly nuisance in the early 1800s. Nearby, at the corner of George IV Bridge and Candlemaker Row, stands one of the most photographed sites in Scotland: the Greyfriars Bobby statue. | Greyfriars Pl., Old Town | 0131/225–1900 | www.greyfriarskirk.com | Free | Church: Easter–Oct., weekdays 10:30–4:30, Sat. 11–2; Nov.–Easter, Thurs. 1:30–3:30. Graveyard: daily during daylight hrs.

				Fodor’s Choice | National Museum of Scotland.

This museum traces the country’s fascinating story from the oldest fossils to the most recent popular culture, making it a must-see for first-time visitors to Scotland or anyone interested in history. One of the most famous treasures is the Lewis Chessmen, 11 intricately carved 12th-century ivory chess pieces found in the 19th century on one of Scotland’s Western Isles. An extensive renovation of the basement has created a dramatic, crypt-like entrance. Visitors now rise to the light-filled, birdcage wonders of the Victorian grand hall and the upper galleries in glass elevators. Highlights include the hanging hippo and sea creatures of the Wildlife Panorama, a life-size cast of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, beautiful Viking brooches, Pictish stones, Jacobite relics, and Queen Mary’s clarsach (harp). TIP Time your visit to be in the Discoveries gallery on the hour to see the magnificent Millennium clock tower come to life. The two-story structure (which plays a Bach concerto as its chime) is filled with elaborate and fanciful animatronics, representing the highest and lowest points of the 20th century. | Chambers St., Old Town | 0300/123–6789 | www.nms.ac.uk | Free | Daily 10–5.

				Our Dynamic Earth.

Using state-of-the-art technology, the 11 theme galleries at this interactive science gallery educate and entertain as they explore the wonders of the planet, from polar regions to tropical rain forests. Geological history, from the big bang to the unknown future, is also examined. Save on the ticket price by booking online. | Holyrood Rd., Old Town | 0131/550–7800 | www.dynamicearth.co.uk | £12.50 | Apr.–June, Sept., and Oct., daily 10–5:30; July and Aug., daily 10–6; Nov.–Mar., Wed.–Sun. 10–5:30; last admission 90 mins before closing.

				Fodor’s Choice | Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Once the haunt of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the setting for high drama—including at least one notorious murder, several major fires, and centuries of the colorful lifestyles of larger-than-life, power-hungry personalities—this is now Queen Elizabeth’s official residence in Scotland. A doughty and impressive palace standing at the foot of the Royal Mile in a hilly public park, it’s built around a graceful, lawned central court at the end of Canongate. When the Queen or royal family is not in residence you can take a tour. The free audio guide is excellent. There’s plenty to see here, so make sure you have at least two hours to tour the palace, gardens, and the ruins of the 12th-century abbey.

				Many monarchs, including Charles II, Queen Victoria, and George V, have left their mark on its rooms, but it’s Mary, Queen of Scots, whose spirit looms largest. For some visitors, the most memorable room here is the little chamber in which David Rizzio (1533–66), secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots, met an unhappy end in 1566. Mary’s second husband, Lord Darnley (Henry Stewart, 1545–65), burst into the queen’s rooms with his henchmen, dragged Rizzio into an antechamber, and stabbed him more than 50 times; a bronze plaque marks the spot. Darnley himself was murdered the next year, which made way for the queen’s marriage to her lover, the Earl of Bothwell.

				The King James Tower is the oldest surviving section, containing the rooms of Mary, Queen of Scots, on the second floor, and Lord Darnley’s rooms below. Though much has been altered, there are fine fireplaces, paneling, tapestries, and 18th- and 19th-century furnishings throughout. At the south end of the palace front, you can find the Royal Dining Room, and along the south side are the Throne Room and other drawing rooms now used for social and ceremonial occasions.

				At the back of the palace is the King’s Bedchamber. The 150-foot-long Great Picture Gallery, on the north side, displays the portraits of 110 Scottish monarchs. These were commissioned by Charles II, who was eager to demonstrate his Scottish ancestry—but most of the people depicted are entirely fictional, and the likenesses of several others were invented and simply given the names of real people. The Queen’s Gallery, in a former church and school at the entrance to the palace, holds rotating exhibits from the Royal Collection. There is a separate admission charge.

				Holyroodhouse has its origins in an Augustinian monastery founded by David I (1084–1153) in 1128. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Scottish royalty, preferring the comforts of the abbey to drafty Edinburgh Castle, settled into Holyroodhouse, expanding the buildings until the palace eclipsed the monastery. You can still walk around some abbey ruins, though.

				After the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when the Scottish royal court packed its bags and decamped for England, the building fell into decline. It was Charles II (1630–85) who rebuilt Holyrood in the architectural style of Louis XIV (1638–1715), and this is the style you see today. Queen Victoria (1819-1901) and her grandson King George V (1865-1936) renewed interest in the palace, and the buildings were refurbished and again made suitable for royal residence.

				 | Abbey Strand, Old Town | 0131/556–5100 | www.royalcollection.org.uk | £11.60, with Queen’s Gallery £16.40; with garden tour £20.20 | Apr.–Oct., daily 9:30–6; Nov.–Mar., daily 9:30–4:30; last admission 1 hr before closing. Closed during royal visits.

				Fodor’s Choice | The Real Mary King’s Close.

Hidden beneath the City Chambers, this narrow, cobbled close, or lane, named after a former landowner, is said to be one of Edinburgh’s most haunted sites. The close was sealed off in 1645 to quarantine residents who became sick when the bubonic plague swept through the city, and many victims were herded there to die. After the plague passed, the bodies were removed and buried, and the street was reopened. A few people returned, but they soon reported ghostly goings-on and departed, leaving the close empty for decades. In 1753 city authorities built the Royal Exchange (later the City Chambers) directly over the close, sealing it off and, unwittingly, ensuring it remained intact, except for the buildings’ upper stories, which were destroyed. Parts of the close were still inhabited until the early 20th century, when the last sections were finally covered over. Today enthusiastic, costumed guides take you around the claustrophobic remains of the shops and houses. People still report ghostly visions and eerie sounds, especially the crying of a young girl. Over the years visitors have left small offerings for her, such as ribbons, toys, and dolls; all are neatly arranged in what has become the close’s creepiest room, which many visitors find too disturbing to enter. The spookiness of the close may be its best attraction, and aside from a few harmless jump scares orchestrated by the guides, nothing here is explicit or nasty. Still, it’s not for the youngest ones, and children under five are not admitted. | Writers’ Court, Old Town | 0131/225–0672 | www.realmarykingsclose.com | £15 | Apr.–July, Sept. and Oct., daily 10–9; Aug., daily 9:30–9; Nov.–Mar., weekdays 10–5, weekends 10–9.

A Good Walk in the Old Town

A perfect place to start your stroll through the Old Town is Edinburgh Castle. After exploring its extensive complex of buildings and admiring the view from the battlements, set off down the first part of the Royal Mile. The Camera Obscura’s Outlook Tower affords more splendid views of the city. The six-story tenement known as Gladstone’s Land, a survivor of 16th-century domestic life, is on the left as you head east. Near Gladstone’s Land, down another close, stands the Writers’ Museum, in a fine example of 17th-century urban architecture called Lady Stair’s House. Farther down on the right are the Tolbooth Kirk (a tolbooth was a town hall or prison, and kirk means “church”) and Upper Bow.

Turn right down George IV Bridge to reach the historic Grassmarket, where parts of the old city walls still stand. Turn left up Candlemaker Row and you can see the Kirk of the Greyfriars, and the little statue of faithful Greyfriars Bobby. On Chambers Street, at the foot of George IV Bridge, are the impressive galleries of the National Museum of Scotland.

Returning to the junction of George IV Bridge with the Royal Mile, turn right (east) down High Street to visit the old Parliament House; the High Kirk of St. Giles; the Mercat Cross; and the elegant City Chambers, bringing a flavor of the New Town’s neoclassicism to the Old Town’s severity. Beneath the chambers is the eerie Real Mary King’s Close, a lane that was closed off in the 17th century when the bubonic plague struck the city.

A short distance down Canongate on the left is Canongate Tolbooth. The Museum of Edinburgh stands opposite, and the Canongate Kirk and Acheson House are nearby. This walk draws to a close, as it started, on a high note, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, full of historic and architectural interest and some fine paintings, tapestries, and furnishings to admire, in Holyrood Park.


This walk can expand greatly in length depending on how often you stop to explore different sights, so plan accordingly. You can walk the Royal Mile in an hour, take a day to stop and visit points of interest, or even spend a couple of days exploring the area.

				Scottish Parliament.

Scotland’s somewhat controversial Parliament building is dramatically modern, with irregular curves and angles that mirror the twisting shapes of the surrounding landscape. The structure’s artistry is most apparent when you step inside, where the gentle slopes, forest’s worth of oak, polished concrete and granite, and walls of glass create an understated magnificence. It’s worth taking a free tour to see the main hall and debating chamber, a committee room, and other areas. Specialist tours focus on history, literature, and the building’s art collection; tour reservations must be made online. Call well in advance to get a free ticket to view Parliament in action. Originally conceived by the late Catalan architect Enric Miralles, who often said the building was “growing out of the ground,” the design was completed by his widow, Benedetta Tagliabue, in August 2004. | Horse Wynd, Old Town | 0131/348–5200 | www.scottish.parliament.uk | Free | Mon.–Sat. 10–5:30.

				Fodor’s Choice | Scottish Storytelling Centre.

The stripped down, low-fi, traditional art of storyt