Scotland has not been an independent nation for 300 years, but the country continues to sustain its own capital: Edinburgh. And all the attributes that one would expect from a capital city can be found here. One of the most visible is the Edinburgh Castle, visible from almost any part of this second-largest city in Scotland (Glasgow is larger).
Rendering the city a profile that could be described as dramatic, the castle towers high on a cliff. Resolute stone statues of the legendary Scottish Kings Robert the Bruce and William Wallace guard the walls that have witnessed centuries of Scottish history. Edinburgh Castle is one of the main tourist attractions in Britain.
The crown jewels are kept in the castle, as is the Stone of Scone. Used in connection with coronations of the monarchs of Scotland and, later, the monarchs of England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, the Stone of Scone was returned to Scotland in 1996 after being kept for 700 years in London’s Westminster Abbey.
The Scottish Parliament is also based in Edinburgh, situated in the Holyrood area. While it is unclear if the seven hills that surround the city have anything to do with the capital status, it is a fact that both Rome and Lisbon, the capital cities in Italy and Portugal, respectively, are also famous for being built on seven hills.
Scotland’s capital has a reputation for being an open-minded city – a repute that might have something to do with the more than 100,000 university students that call Edinburgh home. One of four universities, the University of Edinburgh is the fourth oldest in Scotland.
Home not only to The Royal Bank of Scotland, but also to Virgin Money and Tesco Bank, the city is also Scotland’s financial center. In fact, it is the second financial center in the UK after London.
Cruise ships dock in Leith, some 1.2 miles/2 kilometers from the city center. Taxis, shuttle services and tourist information are available quayside.
- An attraction that is almost impossible to miss – and one that you probably would not want to miss – is Edinburgh Castle. With more than 1 million visitors per year, the castle is a main attraction in Edinburgh. The crown jewels are kept here, as is the Stone of Scone – the famous coronation stone that was returned to Scotland in 1996 after being kept in London’s Westminster Abbey for 700 years. The castle also houses the National War Museum. Even though the historic importance of the castle is perhaps the main draw, the spectacular view of Edinburgh from the castle must certainly be considered a big plus.
- Almost as famous as the castle itself is the so-called Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s most important promenade. It starts at the Castle Esplanade, cuts through the Old Town, and ends at The Palace of Holyroodhouse. Once the home of Mary, Queen of Scots, the palace is now the official Scottish residence of the British Royal Family. The Old Town, as well as the Georgian New Town, are included on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
- For an overview of the past and present of Scotland (as well as other nations and cultures), visit the National Museum of Scotland. Located above the Museum of Scotland, The Tower is considered one of Edinburgh’s finest restaurants.
- The city is also home to a number of other quality restaurants, proving that there’s more to the Scottish kitchen than Haggis, the traditional dish.
- The principle behind Camera Obscura has been known for 900 years, but still fascinates people of all ages. From inside the Victorian rooftop chamber of Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura, visitors see live moving images of the city projected onto a viewing table through a giant periscope.
- Whisky is what many associate with Scotland – and quite rightly so. The country features a wide range of different whiskys, originating from various parts of Scotland. At The Scotch Whisky Experience, visitors can follow the process of making whisky in a replica distillery. Whisky tastings are also available.
- There are a number of organisers of both ghost- and history tours in Edinburgh, offering visitors an insight into the city’s past – and the myths surrounding it. Examples of tour organisers include Mercat Tours, The Cadies & Witchery Tours, and Auld Reekie Tours.
- Rosslyn Chapel might be a familiar name for readers of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code. Situated just outside Edinburgh, construction of the chapel started in 1446. Its extraordinary architecture and carvings have been admired for centuries.
- If you’re fortunate enough to visit the Scottish capital on the right date, you might experience one of the many festivals that take place here. One of the most well known is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August. Other examples include subjects ranging from science to film and books.
A range of shore excursions can be on offer in Edinburgh. Examples include:
- Tours of the city, by coach or private car, will take in many of the landmarks mentioned above, such as the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Edinburgh Castle.
- Stirling Castle can be featured on some shore excursions. Located some 40 miles/65 kilometers west of Edinburgh, the castle was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots and also featured in the movie Braveheart.
- At Falkirk, west of Edinburgh, experience the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first rotating boatlift that joins the Forth & Clyde Canal (running from Glasgow) to Edinburgh’s Union Canal.
- If you’re into golf, a tour to St. Andrews might rank high on your list. One of the world’s most well-known golf courses, some argue this is “the Home of Golf.” Tours to St. Andrews can also include a visit to the town of St. Andrews and the Cathedral.
The largest city in Scotland, Glasgow is located 52 miles/83.5 kilometers west of Edinburgh. The distance to London, capital of the UK, is 405 miles/652 kilometers.
Avid Cruiser Posts, Photographs and Videos Featuring Edinburgh.