A UNESCO World Heritage site, Edinburgh Old Town is as varied as its history. Between an ancient castle and an elegant palace, you will find iconic buildings, quirky shops and enticing cobbled lanes. So set aside plenty of time and this beautiful, fascinating city is yours for the walking.
Perched majestically over a rugged outcrop, Edinburgh Castle is a must for everybody. Towering over the city, the views alone are worth the hike up to the walls of the ancient fortress.
Inside, there are great rooms of state as well as gloomy dungeons, ancient canons and sparkling crown jewels (known as The Honours). You will also find the old Royal Palace in the historic building as well as St Margaret’s Chapel, said to be the oldest building in the city. Make sure you see the famous Stone of Destiny where all the kings of Scotland were enthroned.
Tucked away below Edinburgh Castle is the Grassmarket. The market and meeting place has a bohemian buzz and is full of colourful independent shops and artisan outlets. It’s a lovely place to browse before having a reviving cup of tea in one of the trendy cafes.
The Grassmarket was originally a horse and cattle market and trade centre. Look out for Greyfriars Bobby, a bronze sculpture of a sky terrier in nearby Candlemaker Row. Legend has it that the dog pined for years at its owner’s grave. And make sure you see the pretty painted shop fronts in Victoria Street: they said to be the most photographed terraces in Edinburgh Old Town.
The Royal Mile<o:p></o:p>
The Royal Mile is the main route between Edinburgh Castle and the Holyrood Palace, which sits at the bottom of the hill. Whether you are interested in Robert Burns or Robert the Bruce, it is a fascinating stroll through Edinburgh’s history. The thoroughfare (which is in fact just over a mile, at one mile and 107 yards), is broken into distinct sections. Lawnmarket, close to the castle, has some of city’s oldest homes. The High Street, roughly in the middle, is where you’ll find St Giles Cathedral as well as Parliament House – now used by the Scottish supreme courts. As well as pubs and restaurants there are several woollen clothing shops selling typical Scottish jumpers, which make terrific souvenirs for your city break in Edinburgh.
Continue down the Royal Mile and you reach The Canongate, sometimes known as the Holyrood district.
Formal and elegant, The Canongate was once popular with wealthy families who moved here for the quieter surroundings and the elegant homes, such as Old Moray House built in 1625. Look out for The Canongate Tolbooth – the distinctive building was a meeting house, then a prison, and now houses The People’s Story museum. A great photo opportunity can be found under the Tolbooth’s impressive clock.
At the very end of the Royal Mile is Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Every July The Queen moves in for a week to undertake a number of royal engagements, covering a period known as “Holyrood week”.
When not used by HRH, Holyrood Palace is open to the public. Dating back to the fifteenth century, one of its most famous residents was Mary Queen of Scots.
The café at the Palace serves an elegant afternoon tea if you need a pick-me-up, perfect before taking a look at the new Scottish Parliament opposite. And if you want something a bit greener, have a stroll around Holyrood Park. Right next to the palace, the royal park is made up of 650 acres including Arthur’s Seat – a short, steep climb that’s well worth it to enjoy the best view in town. <o:p></o:p>