Day 1 – Get a grip
The best way to acquaint yourself with a new city is to spend your first couple of hours there simply strolling around. And there’s no better city in which to do so than Edinburgh. Any former visitors to the city will agree that it is best seen on foot and they’re absolutely right.
The two main routes are Princes Street, which encapsulates the New Town with its high street shops, department stores, bars and restaurants; and the Royal Mile which penetrates the very heart of the Old Town. We recommend kicking off on Princes Street to begin with.
After checking out the more modern side of things, cross Waverley Bridge and make your way to Edinburgh Castle. You won’t have any problems finding this omnipresent attraction as its position at the top of a rocky cliff looking over the New Town makes it visible from all over that side of the city. The climb to the castle looks more daunting than it actually is and you can always break it up by stopping off in any of the number of shops selling traditional Scottish paraphernalia along the way.
Take plenty of time to see the castle and definitely avail of the taped accompaniment when paying your entrance fee. It’s an excellent way to ensure that you don’t miss out on any aspect of the castle but you can take it entirely at your own pace. The building itself is very impressive but so too is the collection of artefacts on display there – a variety of cannon including the 500 year old Mons Meg, the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny.
Of course, if you don’t feel like working your feet too hard on your first day you could always avail of the number of hop-on hop-off bus services. These will whisk you to all the main attractions in no time at all allowing you to spend as long (or as short) as you want at each one.
Don’t stray from the old town for your evening as you will find a wealth of restaurants, pubs and clubs to keep you occupied. Make your way to Grassmarket which lies just south of the castle which offers lots of culinary variety – local treats including the famous ‘haggis’ as well as those from right around the globe. This area of the city is also one of the city’s liveliest areas at night, while nearby Cowgate, which is probably the best part of the city for the clubbers among you, runs parallel to the Royal Mile.
Day 2 – Scotland in a day
Scotland is a funny country in some days. It isn’t the biggest country in the world (its other main city, Glasgow, is under an hour away on the train. Also not too far away from Edinburgh are the famed Scottish Highlands, Loch Ness which is (apparently) home to the famous Loch Ness Monster (known as ‘Nessie’ to friends) and the Pass of Leny, land of the MacGregor clan, best known for Rob Roy MacGregor.
Leaving just after 8am from Edinburgh city centre, and continuing for 12 hours, Timberbush’s tour takes in as much of Scotland in one day as possible. Along with the afore mentioned attractions, the day tour also visits other lochs such as Loch Tulla, the sea loch of Loch Leven and also cuts through the Mamlorn Mountains.
Returning to Edinburgh through Inverness, crossing over the River Ness, the tour also visits a couple of ancient castles before setting back down in the city centre that evening.
Day 3 – Out of town
More walking required today folks as we hit the Royal Mile. Running between the Castle and Holyrood House, the street is the oldest in Edinburgh. It actually runs for just over one mile and is made up of four different sections – Canongate, High Street, Lawnmarket and Castlehill. Now while you might think a whole morning is a lot to dedicate to walking a mile, rest assured that there’s quite a bit to catch your eye along the way. Aside from the host of shops selling tacky tartan and the like, the buildings which line the street on either side are well worth a look.
Head out of the city for the afternoon and pay a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia which is anchored at Leith, Edinburgh’s main port. You can get there by catching the X50 bus at Waverley Bridge. This amazing ship served the British Royal Family for over four decades and travelled over one million miles. It has actually become one of the country’s main attractions and has greatly added to the rejuvenation of Leith and its surrounds. Give yourself at least a couple of hours on the ship because until you get there, you really can’t begin to comprehend just how impressive it is.
After your tour of the Royal Britannia, spend some time checking out Leith while you are there. While it might not have had a very good name ten years ago, it has improved in leaps and bounds over the past decade and is now home to a really good selection of bars and restaurants. Don’t stray too far off the beaten track, however, as it hasn’t been completely transformed just yet.
Day 4 – Glasgow
While you could easily spend a three days there, Glasgow is less than an hour away from Edinburgh via train. There may not be a castle in sight, but the city is home to some of the most impressive architecture in the country. In fact, Glasgow attracts architectural students from all over the world who come to study and admire the wealth of Victorian and Georgian structures on offer.
Some of the highlights you should try not to miss are Glasgow School of Art, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and (weather permitting of course) Kelvingrove Park.
As well as the architecture, however, the city is one of the liveliest in all of Britain and has a magnetic appeal which you will find difficult to avoid during your stay. The best way to see the city is to join one of the many walking tours which take place from June to September.
Day 5 – Look out behind you!
Start your final day with a leisurely stroll through Princes Street Gardens. With the castle towering overhead, it’s a really nice park in which to while away a couple of hours. It’s also an excellent picnic spot (weather permitting, of course). Unfortunately it’s usually not permitting at all. It also provides the perfect starting point for your afternoon.
Back to Princes Street for some retail therapy. Most of the shops are confined to the main street, and only to one side of it too which makes it even easier. But it is worth wandering off the main shopping strip. Princes Street Mall lies on Waverley Bridge towards the east end of the street and is home to a good mix of shops while further down you will find the James Centre which houses the renowned John Lewis department store. There are also some shops sneakily tucked away on side streets off Princes Street too so put plenty of time aside for this.
No visit to Edinburgh would be complete without participating in one of the countless haunted tours of the city. You will see these advertised everywhere. Advance bookings are not usually necessary, although it could be worthwhile during summer as they are really popular with tourists. Now while most of the tours won’t even raise a goose bump there are others which will raise every hair on your head.
The most famous one sees a poltergeist by the name of Sir George MacKenzie joining it every now and again. It’s the City of the Dead tour and MacKenzie usually makes his appearance in the black mausoleum at the Convenanter’s Prison in Greyfriar’s Cemetry so if you do this tour, keep an eye out for old George. He’s not the most friendly of spooks by all accounts. The tour is a good way to end your visit as you get to see the city in a completely different light and will have a memory to take with you that you won’t forget in a hurry too.