Extraordinary Edinburgh has Scot the lot

by BenRoberts

Step back in time in the historic castle, take a spooky ghost tour, visit the Da Vinci Code chapel and chomp on a deep-fried Mars Bar. Here's why Edinburgh is one of Britain's most exciting cities

Most visits to the Scottish capital begin with a wide-eyed walk around its number one attraction - Edinburgh Castle, sat on top of an extinct volcano overlooking the city. Have your camera handy as the panoramic views from Castle Rock are superb and you will certainly want to capture the moment.

Entrance fee for the castle is £13 for adults and £6.50 for children and can be purchased in advance from www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk

From one end of the Royal Mile to the other, the next must-see attraction is Holyrood Palace, which has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scotland since the 15th century. Visitors can enjoy an audio tour of the palace and learn about the various monarchs that have resided there, most notably the infamous Mary, Queen of Scots, who witnessed the brutal murder of her secretary by her second husband, Lord Darnley.

Although it may be a little unnerving for some, Edinburgh is also famous for its ghost tours. Mercat Ghost Tours provide a five-star scare factor, sharing ‘all the dark secrets of Edinburgh’s past’. The tour certainly takes you off the typical trail. If you feel up for the challenge tours can be booked online at www.mercattours.com.

Found at the top of Castle Hill, a personal favourite of mine is the Scottish Whisky Experience, where you can taste a variety of regional whiskies, with experts on hand to help you select the perfect one to suit your individual taste. Parents can visit with their children as the latest tour includes one for youngsters to follow their own tour guide, Peat the cat. Whilst the children can learn some fun facts about the whisky-making process, the parents can enjoy the whisky bar and choose from over 300 single malts, liqueurs and cocktails.

For sports fans, it is definitely worth visiting Murrayfield Stadium, the home of Scottish rugby. Even if you aren’t one of the 67,000 fans packed into the ground watching a Six Nations fixture, it is worth visiting to take part in one of the stadium tours which are conducted Monday to Friday. Tours cost £6 for adults and £3.50 for children.

Where to stay
Edinburgh has numerous central hotels to choose from regardless of your budget. For those wanting to splash out, The Balmoral or Caledonian Hotel, both situated on Princes Street, provide you with a five-star experience. If you have shallower pockets there are a number of hostels available to you – Smart City Hostel claims to have ‘the most comfortable beds in Edinburgh, and also has a desirable location just off Nicholson Street, close to the Royal Mile attractions. To search for hotel availability, the Edinburgh official tourist board has a useful facility found at www.edinburgh.org/accom

Where to eat
Located on Leith Walk on the way out of the city centre, the stylish Massimo Restaurant is highly recommended, with reasonable prices and a superb selection of Italian cuisine. Alternatively The Witchery, located at the gates of Edinburgh Castle, provides a unique dining experience if finances allow. The impressive menu and spectacular surroundings are matched only by the celebrity diners, which often includes the likes of Ewan McGregor, Catherine Zeta Jones and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Many Edinburgh fish and chip shops serve battered Mars Bars or Crème Eggs. Not to my liking but you don’t know until you try…

If you are willing to venture outside the city centre for entertainment then there are various other attractions worth a visit. The Royal Yacht Britannia is berthed in Leith, two miles from the city centre. Lothian buses travel to Ocean Terminal frequently from the city centre, and a tour of the Queen’s historic vessel is highly recommended. Ocean Terminal also has a huge shopping complex which also includes a cinema, play centres and a spa, so all needs are covered.

Nine miles out of the city stands the impressive Forth Railway Bridge. At 2.5km in length, the bridge connects Edinburgh with Fife, connecting the north-east and south-east of the country and is considered an engineering marvel.

Built in 1446, Rosslyn Chapel is another historic Scottish landmark that should make it onto your to-do list. As well as attracting visitors with its extraordinary architecture and carvings, the chapel has received much interest after featuring in the 2004 movie The Da Vinci Code.