Edinburgh and Lothian Tourist Guide

Submitted by George Farquhar on Sun, 2011-04-17

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland as well as the main financial centre of the country. The Old Town is famous for its 16th and 17th century buildings interspersed with narrow alleyways called “wynds”. The New Town, the northern part of the city, was designed around 1770 and consists of fine Georgian buildings.

Edinburgh is famous for the Edinburgh Festival, which is held the last 3 weeks of August – the Festival is both an International and Scottish festival of arts and culture, and there is also the Military Tattoo at the Castle and a Fireworks Festival at the end of the Edinburgh Festival. There is also the Fringe Festival (started in 1947), which includes TV, Film, Book and Jazz festivals.

  • Edinburgh Airport: 6 miles west of the city centre, with coach services to the centre of the city (0131 333 1000)
  • Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board: Find a place to stay, city & area guide, edinburgh festivals etc. 3, Princes Street (Waverley Market), Edinburgh EH2 2QP (0131 557 1700), Web: http://www.edinburgh.org/
  • Edinburgh: Scotland’s Capital City: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/ (Official site of Edinburgh City Council )

Museums and Art Galleries

Edinburgh has some excellent museums and art galleries, including the National Museums of Scotland:

  • Museum of Childhood: A collection of toys and childhood memorabilia. Situated at 42, High Street. Open all year Mon – Sat, and Sun afternoons in Aug. For further details: Tel 0131 529 4142 Fax 0131 558 3103.
  • National Gallery of Scotland: situated next to the Royal Scottish Academy. Built in the 1840s. Houses a wide collection of art by artists such as Velázquez, El Greco, Rembrandt, Poussin, Turner, Van Gogh. Scottish painters include Henry Raeburn and Allan Ramsay. Open Mon – Sat and Sun afternoon. Wheelchair access. For further details: Tel 0131 529 4142 Fax 0131 558 3103.
  • Royal Museum of Scotland: south-side of Chambers Street. There is a wide variety of Scottish exhibits, including the ivory chessmen from Lewis. For further information: Tel 0131 225 7534 Fax 0131 220 4819.
  • Royal Scottish Academy: situated at the foot of the Mound. Annual exhibition between April and July.
  • Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: Bedford Road. Contains 20th century paintings and sculptures.
  • Scottish National Portrait Gallery: eastern end of Queen Street. Contains portraits of famous Scottish people and artefacts. For further details: Tel 0131 556 8921 Fax 0131 558 3691.
  • Writers’ Museum: 17th century house with memorabilia belonging to Scott, Burns and Stevenson. Situated in the Lawnmarket. Open Mon – Sat and Sun afternoons in August. Telephone 0131 225 2424.

Places to Visit

  • Calton Hill: Provides excellent views over the city. There are some strange monuments and the unfinished Parthenon, started as a monument in the Napoleonic Wars.
  • The Camera Obscura and World of Illusions: projects a panoramic view of the city onto a screen. Situated in the Outlook Tower just off the Lawnmarket. Open daily. For further details: Tel 0131 226 3709 Fax 0131 225 4239
  • Deep Sea World: North Queensferry. Large aquarium, with underwater viewing tunnel. For further details: Tel 01383 411411 Fax 01383 410514.
  • Edinburgh: Canongate Tollbooth and Huntly House Museum: Originally a 16th century Tollbooth, the building is now houses the “People’s Story”, an exhibition about the life of ordinary Edinburgh people from the 18th century onwards. Huntly House, built in 1570, has exhibitions on Scottish pottery, silver and glass. Both are in the Canongate, and are open all year, Mon – Sat; Sun afternoon during the festival. Telephone 0131 225 2424.
  • Edinburgh Castle: The oldest surviving part of the castle is the 12th century St Margaret’s Chapel. The Crown Room contains the Scottish Regalia. Open daily, Apr – Sept 9.30 – 6pm; Oct – Mar 9.30 – 5pm; £5.50. Telephone 0131 244 3101.
    • The Esplanade: this is the 18th century parade ground where the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is held. St Margaret’s Chapel; the oldest surviving part of the castle. This chapel was restored during the early part of the 20th century. The chapel was probably built by King David I around 1120 as a memorial to his mother.
    • The Palace: this building bears the castle’s main flagpole. Building was started in the 1430s by King James VI, with additional building being done by Mary, Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley. Mary gave birth to King James Vi here. The last time the palace was used as a royal residence was 1617.
    • The Crown Jewels: these magnificent crown jewels are stored in the Crown Room of the Palace. They are the only pre-restoration crown jewels in the UK, and were last used for the Scottish-only coronation of Charles II. The jewels consist of a sceptre, a sword and a crown. The Stone of Destiny is now also housed in the same room.
  • Edinburgh Zoo: Murrayfield. Scotland’s largest zoo, with around 1,500 animals. Noted for its penguins. Open daily. For further details: Tel 0131 334 9171 Fax 0131 316 4050.
  • Forth Bridges: The Forth Rail Bridge was built between 1883 and 1890, and is one of the greatest engineering feats ever performed. It is well over a mile long and 360 ft (108m) high, with a clearance for shipping of 150 ft (45m). It takes 3 years to paint the 135 acres of steel. The Forth Road Bridge, completed in 1964, has a central span of 3300 ft (990m) and the suspension towers are 512 ft (153m) high. There are excellent views of the Rail Bridge from Inchcolm Island (reached by ferry), where there are the remains of St Columba’s 12th century abbey.
  • Holyrood Palace: The Palace was built around 1500 by James IV, then replaced by a larger building for Charles II. This is the Queen’s official residence when she is in Edinburgh, and it is closed to visitors during state functions (late June/July). The palace is where Mary Queen of Scots’ private secretary, David Rizzio, was murdered, and where Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed.
  • Holyrood Park: just south of Holyrood Palace is Holyrood Park, with Salisbury Crags, Arthur’s Seat and Duddingston Loch. You can drive round the outskirts of Holyrood Park via Queen’s Drive, or walk along Salisbury Crags and up to the summit of Arthur’s Seat. Salisbury Crags provides excellent views of Holyrood Palace and Abbey. The ascent of Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano approximately 823 ft above sea level, is on grassy paths with rocky paths nearer the summit. There are excellent views of Edinburgh from the summit.
  • Hopetoun House: 18th century house, built by the Adam family. The house has a fine art collection, with paintings by Canaletto and Titian. As well as the house there are exhibitions, nature trails and a deer park. The house is situated near Linlithgow, and is open Apr – Sep, daily. Phone 0131 331 2451.
  • House of the Binns: 17th century house, home of the Dalyell family and now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Contains relics of the 17th century general Tam Dalyell. The house is situated near Linlithgow, and is open May – Sep, daily, except Fridays, afternoons only. Telephone 01506 834255. The parkland is open daily, and there is wheelchair access
  • Linlithgow Palace: This 15th century palace was the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots. The beautiful fountain in the grounds of the castle was given by James V (Mary’s father) as a wedding present to his wife, Mary of Guise. The palace is open all year, Mon – Sat and Sun afternoons. Telephone 0131 244 3101.
  • Old Royal High School: below Calton Hill, this Grecian building will house the new Scottish Parliament.
  • Preston Mill: Situated south of North Berwick and the Bass Rock, this 16th century watermill, restored by the National Trust for Scotland, is the last working mill on the River Tyne. The mill itself is quaint and the setting is picturesque. The mill is open Apr – Sep, Mon – Sat and Sun afternoons, Oct weekends only. Wheelchair access. Telephone 01620 860426.
  • Princess Street Gardens: excellent views to the Castle and Old Town.
  • Register House: designed in the 1770s by Robert Adam for Scotland’s historical records, this is where genealogical records are held to this day. Situated at the far north-eastern end of Princes Street, near North Bridge.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens: Inverleith Row Edinburgh. Enter from Inverleith Row or Arboretum Place. 70-acres of gardens and hothouses, with plants from all over the world, including rhododendrons. For further details: Tel 0131 552 7171
  • Royal Mile: this is the road that runs from the Castle to Holyrood Palace.
  • Scott Monument: this 200-ft tower in Princes Street Gardens was built in 1846. From the top of the tower you get excellent views of the old town.
  • Statue of Greyfriars Bobby: statue of the Skye Terrier who maintained a 14-year vigil on the grave of his owner. Situated in Greyfriars Kirkyard on the southwestern corner of George IV Bridge.The monument reads: Greyfriars Bobby, Died 14 January 1872, Aged 16 years, Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.
  • Tantallon Castle: Situated near the Bass Rock, this castle has a spectacular position, with cliffs on 3 sides and excellent views of the Bass Rock. The castle was built in 1375 by the Douglas family, and was destroyed by Cromwellian cannons in 1651. The castle is open Apr – Sep, Mon – Sat and Sun afternoons, Oct – Mar, Mon – Wed and Sat: Thurs and Sun afternoons. Telephone 0131 244 3101.
  • Thirlestane Castle: Situated near Lauder and the Lammermuir Hills, this castle has exhibitions on toys and country life. Children can dress up and play with the toys in the nursery. The castle is open Easter, May – Sep, Mon, We, Thur, Sun; plus July – Aug, Tues and Fri. Afternoons only. Telephone 01578 722430.


  • Grassmarket: arts and crafts shops, antiques, antiquarian books.
  • Princes Street: the main shopping area in Edinburgh.
  • Rose Street: lane behind Princes Street, containing small jewellery and clothes shops.
  • Royal Mile: mainly souvenir shops.
  • Waverly Market: specialist shops.

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