Start your Edinburgh short break in the medieval Old Town, a dense area of labyrinthine cobbled streets. Follow the Royal Mile where kings and queens rode between Edinburgh Castle and Palace of Holyroodhouse, opposite the adventurous, fragmented Scottish Parliament building. Look out for street performers in the narrow lanes and pick up souveniers in the quaint shops. Walk up to Edinburgh Castle, the sturdy fortress hunkering from volcanic crags. Inside, check out Scotland’s opulent crown jewels glittering alongside the Stone of Destiny, coronation seat of Scottish kings, and the Dog Cemetery. Be prepared for the booming One O’Clock Gun from Mills Mount Battery.
Start: Canongate, Royal Mile
When hunger beckons head for a Grassmarket café for lunch or, in fair weather, enjoy a picnic at peaceful Princes Street Gardens. Locals love to relax with a newspaper or stroll its monument-studded lawns, with the huge floral clock accurate enough to set your watch by. On a rainy day, dip into the neoclassical National Gallery of Scotland, showcasing top Scottish painters like Raeburn, Ramsay and Wilkie. Southeast lies Holyrood Park, once royal hunting ground and now a rural wilderness with the extinct volcano Arthur’s Seat, dormant for 350 million years. Climbing this 251 metre-high landmark rewards you with outstanding panoramic views of the city and sea.
After freshening up at your Edinburgh hotel, the city’s nightlife awaits. In the heart of the New Town, the shopping hub of Princes Street transforms into an area buzzing with evening activity. Sup on modern European cuisine and Michelin-star dining at Number One, which dishes up top Scottish ingredients like Borders beef, venison and local cheeses. If you have the energy, join locals for a wee dram and informal music sessions at Royal Oak bar.
Start: Number One, Princes Street
After a hearty Scottish breakfast, pay your respects to Scotland’s rich golfing heritage with a round at the Braids Hill Golf Course. Novices and experts alike will be bowled over by the dramatic views – although hitting into the surrounding gorse bushes is always a risk.
Start: Braid Hill. Bus 11 or 15 from Princes St/Lothian Rd
From Lothian Road, explore elegant Charlotte Square, a fine example of graceful Georgian architecture and town planning. Running east is George Street, the New Town’s main thoroughfare, a once-popular haunt for Edinburgh’s literary types. Relax over lunch in the Dome’s soaring interior, once a bank.
Start: Charlotte Square
If light and weather permit, it’s a tranquil walk from Stockbridge along the hidden-away Water of Leith to coastal Leith, overlooking the Firth of Forth. At this one-time shipbuilding area, spruced up in recent years, you can choose from informal fish restaurants or ethnically-diverse cuisine along the main promenade The Shore.