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The Royal Mile Photo: Shutterstock
The Royal Mile Photo: Shutterstock

Places

What to do in Edinburgh

From walking the ramparts of its iconic castle to sampling the world's largest Scotch whisky collection, there is no shortage of wonderful experiences to be had in Edinburgh.

Photo: Shutterstock

Edinburgh Castle

You can't miss Edinburgh Castle - literally! It overlooks the whole city from its craggy mount and makes for a very imposing and domineering sight. One of the UK's most iconic and popular tourist attractions, the castle oozes history. The Rock has been inhabited since the second century, the castle itself was originally built in the 12th century and Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to a future king of England in the 16th century palace. As well as turrets and palaces, today's visitors can see the Scottish crown jewels and several big guns. Adult entry from £17. Open daily.

Edinburgh Castle

Castlehill, Edinburgh

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The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is one of the most impressive streets in the world. Every visitor to Edinburgh should take some time to stroll along it and get lost in its wonderful warren of medieval side streets and dead-end courtyards. Along it you will find a lot of tourist tat and a lot of people. But it's also a glorious historical architectural set piece with many of the city's key tourist sites and churches. The atmosphere, usually complimented by a bagpiper on a street corner, can't fail to win over even the most hardened anti tourist.

The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

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Literary walking tour

The world's first UNESCO city of literature, Edinburgh is a book lovers' dream destination. On one of the city's many literary walking tours you will see the homes, haunts and influences of some of the world's most famous literary icons such as Walter Scott and Arthur Conan Doyle. There are specialist tours that follow in the footsteps of Inspector Rebus or explore the backdrop to Trainspotting, while on the Potter Trail you can see where the boy wizard was born. See the many walks on offer at the city of literature website.

Literary walking tour

Photo: Shutterstock

The Scotch Whisky Experience

When in Rome right? The Scotch Whisky Experience is an unmissable tourist attraction for (adult) visitors to Edinburgh. The venue holds the world's largest collection of Scotch whisky and the basic tour includes a whisky barrel ride through a replica distillery, a wee dram of the water for life and a souvenir whisky glass. More advanced tours include guided nosing and comparative tasting sessions, so this is a great place for novices and pros. The Amber restaurant is also one of Edinburgh's best. Tours start from £15.50. Open daily.

The Scotch Whisky Experience

354 Castlehill, The Royal Mile

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Photo: Shutterstock

Arthur's Seat

Making the ascent to Arthur's Seat is a rite of passage for locals and visitors alike and when you see the view from the top you will understand why. The rocky summit, part of an eroded extinct volcano, is the highest point in Holyrood Park, a former royal hunting ground in the heart of the city. With crags, moorland and lochs, the park offers visitors a true taste of the famed Scottish wilderness all within walking distance from their city hotels.

Arthur's Seat

Holyrood Park

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Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Edinburgh's Camera Obscura has been a popular tourist attraction since 1853, offering visitors a birds-eye-view of the city and a sneak peek on people passing by outside. But today, the tower, in which the site sits, includes an exhibition that spreads over six floors of weird and wacky interactive optical illusions, which include a vortex tunnel and a mirror maze. It's not quite what you'd expect in the old town, but it's a lot of fun. Open daily. Adult entrance £15.50.

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

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Scottish Parliament building

Get up to date with history at the most controversial building to be erected in Scotland since World War II. The Scottish Parliament was re-established in 1999 after having been abolished in 1707, and its new building was completed in 2004. Designed by Catalan architect Enric Miralles, the modernist and abstract building was hailed as one of the UK's most innovative when it opened but it also drew a very mixed critical response. Tours focusing on the architecture and the Parliament's history are fascinating, especially in light of the UK's current political climate. Tours are free. Check website for schedules.

Scottish Parliament building

Holyrood Road, Edinburgh

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The Georgian House

Edinburgh is perhaps most famous for its old town's medieval layout and architecture. But the New Town, which itself is 200 years old, is an often overlooked architectural masterpiece that consists of one of the UK's greatest Georgian townscapes. The graceful grids and terraces reach their pinnacle of elegance at Charlotte Square where you will find the National Trust for Scotland's Georgian House. It's packed with period furniture and offers a sumptuous insight into life for the city's wealthiest 18th century residents.

The Georgian House

7 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

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Open daily from March-November. Entry £7.50.

Photo: Shutterstock

Calton Hill

Edinburgh has long been called the Athens of the North and at Calton Hill you may get an idea why. Sat atop one of the many volcanic crags surrounding the city, Calton Hill is adorned with many odd-shaped 19th century buildings and monuments, including the National Monument, which looks a little like the Parthenon. But people mostly come here for the views, which, as Robert Louis Stevenson noted, are the best in Edinburgh as you can actually see both the Castle and Arthur's Seat from here.

Calton Hill

Royal Yacht Britannia

Britannia rules the waves! Or at least she did. And the British Royal Family sailed the world's waves on the Royal Yacht Britannia from 1953 - 1997. The ship, one of the world's most famous, and on which Princess Diana and Prince Charles honeymooned, is now permanently moored in Leith, Edinburgh's main port. Victors can roam the decks, visit the state apartments and view the Queen and Prince Philip's cabins. Fans of the Netflix show The Crown will be familiar with the Royal Yacht Britannia as it featured in a key season two storyline. Open daily. Adult entry £16.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Ocean Terminal, Ocean Drive, Leith

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Last edited: February 15, 2018

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