Charm and drama — that's what the Scottish capital is all about. Edinburgh's layers of history are best seen on the Royal Mile, with the 12th-century Edinburgh Castle at one end and the 21st-century postmodern-style Scottish Parliament building at the other. Other eye candy includes the dark Gothic spires of Scott Monument, the tidy Georgian mansions of New Town, and the view from high atop Arthur’s Seat. The city also pleases the palate with whisky tastings and an increasingly innovative food scene offering everything from traditional fish and chips to creative tasting menus at Michelin-starred restaurants.
What We Love
Its Split Personality: Edinburgh has two distinct districts, the hauntingly medieval Old Town with its tangle of narrow lanes and the meticulously planned New Town with its rows of manicured 18th-century town houses. Exploring both on foot is the best way to compare and contrast.
Tartans & Kilts: Tartans are a big deal in Scotland, with each clan claiming a specific pattern and colors. If you have Scottish blood, it's great fun to find your family tartan; if not, just pick up a cozy wool or cashmere scarf in the color and plaid combo that strikes your fancy.
National Museum of Scotland: The building that houses this eclectic museum — a Victorian stunner constructed in 1866 — is as memorable as the exhibits, which range from exquisite examples of art and design to dinosaur skeletons and Dolly the sheep (of cloning fame).
Best Known For
Edinburgh Castle: Sitting high atop Castle Rock, this landmark is the symbol of the city and is home to remarkable bits of Scottish history, including Mons Meg (one of the greatest medieval cannons), the Stone of Destiny (used in every royal coronation since the 13th century), and Scotland’s crown jewels (the oldest in the British Isles).
Whisky Tasting: From touristy tasting rooms along the Royal Mile to small pubs hidden amid labyrinthine alleys, it’s easy to find a spot to toss back a dram (or two or three) of single-malt whisky.
Festivals: The streets come alive in August as both the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival get under way.
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Who It's Best For
History Buffs: With so much royal and literary lore to explore, aficionados of both can dig deep.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It Might Rain on Your Parade: Scottish weather can be fickle — and blustery — so tote along an umbrella and a light jacket just in case.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.