Edinburgh has a host of fabulous attractions, from iconic Edinburgh Castle to the National Museum of Scotland; great theatres offering excellent shows to the activity sport centres and outdoor attractions.
The world’s greatest party takes place on these streets in the month of August, plus a year round programme of festivals means the festivities never end. Peak season in Edinburgh for tourism runs from April to mid September and then December to January. Within these dates the two weeks across Christmas and Hogmanay, and the four weeks of August are the busiest periods, so hotel and other accommodation prices increase accordingly.
If you’re visiting the summer festivals, it’s never too soon to book a place to stay. Because there are seven festivals taking place in the month of August, demand is high, so we recommend booking accommodation at least six months in advance. Many of the festival programmes are not released until nearer August but don’t wait until then, the Festivals have been wowing audiences since 1947, so you are guaranteed a good time. Choose a place to stay first and then what to see. You’ll get better value accommodation and more places to choose from.
Visiting during another season? In Spring, you can catch the Edinburgh International Science Festival and the Imaginate Children’s Festival. In Autumn, you can listen to the soothing sounds of the Storytelling Festival, and in Winter, you can party the year away with Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, the best New Year’s party on Earth. You’ll have more choice of accommodations and access to better rates, but as ever, the best value deals are snapped up by the early birds. Throughout the year, general booking advice also applies, with midweek stays more cost-effective and deals available on longer stays.
To get the most out of your Festival experience, you’ll need is an adventurous spirit, a sturdy pair of shoes, a city map, some useful phone numbers and access to an oasis of calm to recharge those batteries.
At first glance, a trip to Edinburgh’s Festivals may not bare the markings of an outdoor adventure holiday, but for seasoned festival-goer, the experience is made better by making use of these useful tips, tricks and little extras.
1. Wear a good pair of walking shoes
As a walkable yet hilly city at times, you’ll often find yourself on foot. Whether it’s going from one festival performance to another or just getting to know Edinburgh, packing some decent footwear is a must.
2. Always carry the Edinburgh Festivals Map
The city is a mosaic of streets, parks and alleyways – X marks the spot and if you have the map, finding the treasure will be easy. Listing all the venues across seven summer festivals, the Edinburgh Festivals Map will show just how easy it is to get around town.
3. Buy the daily newspapers
Full of the latest reviews, previews and festival features, newspapers such as The Scotsman will have the latest information on the festivals’ hottest shows. Most papers rate shows with a 1-5 star rating system, with 5 star shows being the must see hits of the festival.
4. Keep an open mind
Enjoying the festivals is all about taking a chance, going with the flow, and talking to people about what’s worth seeing. Word of mouth makes a difference in Edinburgh and is the quickest way to find the next big hit, so say hello to a stranger and get talking!
5. Don’t forget to plan ahead
Festival pre-planning is time well spent – getting around Edinburgh is easy and made even easier by familiarizing yourself with timetables for Lothian buses (www.lothianbuses.co.uk) and having knowledge of cycle and walking routes (www.spokes.org.uk).
6. Recharge your festival batteries
Immersing yourself in Edinburgh’s festivals is intoxicating. Hours of screenings, shows, events, exhibitions and more can be tiring – make time for some down time, recharge your batteries, and be ready to do it all again. Our top tips to be kind and unwind include getting lost in the Royal Botanic Gardens, stretching your legs on Arthur’s Seat, or worshipping the sun by the seaside on Portobello beach.
Using Credit Cards in the United Kingdom
Avoid experiencing problems using U.S. credit cards in the United Kingdom…Problems can occur due to one of two things:
First, the failure to notify your credit card company of overseas travel may result in the credit card company declining a transaction due to concerns about the fraudulent use of the card.
Second is knowing that the United Kingdom uses credit cards with embedded microprocessor chips rather than the magnetic-strip technology used in U.S. credit cards. These cards, commonly referred to as chip and pin cards, requires the user to punch in a personal identification number instead of signing for the purchase.
How can you avoid the frustration of not being able to use your card when in the United Kingdom? By notifying your bank or credit card company prior to your departure that you will be travelling overseas.
When paying for a purchase, be sure to make the cashier aware that you are using a U.S. style credit card which requires them to swipe the card and for you to sign for the purchase. Although U.S. style credit cards are no longer issued in the United Kingdom, most cash registers are still equipped to process transactions this way.
You may, however, continue to experience problems with automated ticket booths such as those found at train and gas stations, as these will usually only accept chip and pin credit cards. A way around this would be to purchase the service on-line. Many companies now offer the consumer the opportunity to purchase services before arriving in a country. You may wish to consider checking this out before your departure to the United Kingdom.
See More of Edinburgh
Experience quick and hassle-free entrance to over 35 top attractions and save money at the same time with the Edinburgh Pass – the essential sightseeing pass for visitors to Edinburgh and the Lothians.
The Edinburgh Pass is a ‘smart card’ – like a credit card with a computer chip inside – which allows you completely CASH FREE entry to your choice of over 35 top attractions as well as many special offers, and a free Airlink return from the airport. In addition, you will receive a free comprehensive guidebook with plenty of special offers and discounts.
Use it to delve into Scotland’s most horrible history at the Edinburgh Dungeon, see the giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo, soak up spectacular 360° rooftop views at Camera Obscura & World of Illusions, and as darkness falls on the city, why not brave a tour of the city with Cadies & Witchery Tours?
You can also explore the National Museum of Scotland’s exhibition, discover the miners’ way of life at the Scottish Mining Museum and spend the afternoon playing paintball in Scotland’s only indoor paintball arena, Urban Paintball. However, regardless of how you choose to spend your additional time in Edinburgh, you’re guaranteed to see far more for a lot less with the Edinburgh Pass. It’s better than ever.
The Most Visited Attractions in Edinburgh and the Lothians
If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration about where to visit next in Edinburgh and the Lothians, have a browse through 2010’s most-visited attractions and see why they attract such big crowds.
The National Galleries of Scotland boasts four excellent galleries that contain some of the best Scottish and international art in the world. With a collection of more than 65,000 objects from Rembrandt to Picasso, children and adults will find something to interest them.
Scotland’s number one paid admission attraction, Edinburgh Castle sits proudly on its own volcanic rock overlooking the rest of Edinburgh.
The framed crown spire of St Giles’ Cathedral is one of the most recognizable features of the Edinburgh skyline and stands halfway down the Royal Mile.
Founded in 1670 and considered one of the finest gardens in the world, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh offers 72 acres of peace and tranquility.
Following a £46.4 million redevelopment, the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town reopened in the summer of 2011 and has 20,000 objects on exhibit across 36 galleries.
With over 1,000 animals from every corner of the globe, Edinburgh Zoo is a fantastic family day out. Meet the penguins at the famous Penguin Parade and get closer than ever before to the chimpanzees at the new state-of-the-art Budongo Trail.
Set within the magnificent setting of Edinburgh Castle, the National War Museum lets you relive the dark days of the World Wars and uncover the impact on Scottish history, identity and worldwide reputation.
The third most popular paid visitor attraction in Scotland, Edinburgh Bus Tours provide a selection of open top tours that offer great value for the money and ensures you make the most of your stay in Edinburgh.
Take a fascinating journey back through space and time at Our Dynamic Earth. Located at the bottom of Arthur’s Seat, near the Scottish Parliament, you will embark on a journey through the history of our planet and catch a glimpse into the future – great family fun.
The award-winning Scottish Seabird Centre has a range of state-of-the-art cameras that offer a fascinating insight into the lives of thousands of sea birds that nest in the area.
Improve your Scotch Whisky knowledge at the Scotch Whisky Experience, Scotland’s 5-star premier whisky visitor attraction. Take a ride through a replica distillery and find out how the ‘water of life’ is produced.
Step on-board the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Queen’s retired floating palace which is moored in Leith. Now a museum, this popular attraction gives a unique insight into the Royal Family and has played host to an array of historic figures such as Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
Discover the Museum of Childhood, a treasure-house packed full of childhood objects, both past and present. Often described as the ‘noisiest museum in the world’, the museum is very popular with adults and children alike.
Take a walk through Edinburgh’s deepest secret, the Real Mary King’s Close; a warren of hidden underground streets where people worked, lived and died between the 17th and 19th centuries. This world-class attraction provides tours around a number of underground closes – well worth a visit.
Check out the Fruitmarket Gallery at the back of Waverley Station. This former Victorian fruit and vegetable market is today one of the finest exhibition spaces for contemporary art in Edinburgh.
Explore the mysterious and beautifully decorated late-Gothic Rosslyn Chapel. This highly popular attraction was founded in 1446 and featured predominately in Dan Brown’s novel, ‘The Da Vinci Code.’
For a great family day out, you may wish to visit the Almond Valley Heritage Centre. Search for fossils, explore secret works, visit the farm animals or enjoy the seasonal tractor rides.
Witness the story of aviation, from the first military aircraft to supersonic flight across four hangars at the National Museum of Flight in East Lothian.
Meet a colourful array of tropical butterflies and creepy crawlies at Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World. Explore this rainforest paradise which gives you the chance to cure your phobias at the daily ‘meet the beasties’ handling sessions.
This Victorian Gothic monument was built to commemorate Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott, and stands 200 feet high. Located in Princes Street Gardens, take the 287 steps to the top of the Scott Monument for fantastic panoramic views across the city.
The Events & Festivals of Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the world’s Festival City and is what Edinburgh does best. Edinburgh Festivals take place throughout the year with a wide variety of great events including the International Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh Book Festival and the Film Festival, amongst others. It’s where people come together from across the globe to share their passion for arts, culture and ideas. Edinburgh enjoys a year-round programme of events, exhibitions and festivals. Their quality, quantity and rich diversity provide Edinburgh with a unique vibe and atmosphere – there really is something for everyone. Take part in some of the revelry from ceilidhs and rugby games to the spectacular Military Tattoo and world-famous Hogmanay celebrations.
1. The Edinburgh festivals are the world’s largest cultural phenomenon and the number of tickets sold is only exceeded by the Olympics and the World Cup.
2. Edinburgh annually hosts twelve major festivals which boosts Scotland’s economy by £261m (2010).
3. The Edinburgh International Festival was founded in 1947 and continues to bring quality theatre, opera, music and dance to Edinburgh on a grand scale – 2,300 international artists from across the globe joined 700 Scottish artists and tickets sales reached a record £2.67m.
4. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world with live theatre, outstanding events and performances.
5. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is set against the dramatic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle and celebrated 60 years as the world’s foremost military parade in 2010. The event is attended by an audience of 220,000 while another 100 million view on television.
6. The Edinburgh International Book Festival is the largest of its kind and hosts 200,000 attendees, with over 750 local and international authors including Booker Prize long-listed authors.
7. The Edinburgh International Film Festival celebrates 65 years with a programme which attracts audiences of over 55,000 and events which have included the UK premières of Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, Oscar nominated The Illusionist and world-wide favourite ET: The Extraterrestrial, as well as visits from Martin Scorsese, Sam Mendes and Steven Soderbergh. Hollywood stars Sir Sean Connery, Tilda Swinton and Robert Carlyle are patrons of the Festival.
8. The summer festival season ends with an explosive grand finale – A Concert in Princes Street Gardens orchestrated with a breathtaking fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle is enjoyed by an estimated 250,000 people.
9. Edinburgh International Science Festival is the world’s first science festival and Europe’s largest, with visitors numbering over 70,000. The 2011 Festival launched with a new Guinness World Record set by TV Scientist, Dr Bunhead, at the Usher Hall for the longest glow in the dark necklace (1071 feet or 326.44 metres).
10. Edinburgh hosts the biggest New Years street party in the world, “Edinburgh’s Hogmanay” with over 100,000 revelers enjoying music in Princes Street Gardens and dazzling firework displays across the city at midnight.
For more information on Edinburgh’s festivals, please visit www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk
Other Festivals Edinburgh
Since festivals are what Edinburgh does best here are other you shouldn’t miss out on…
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is one of Scotland’s most iconic events held every August. Experience the electric atmosphere which showcases the best military bands, pipers and drummers, dancers and display teams from across the world.
Combining magnificent music and military theatre set against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo really is a must-see. Each year, over 200,000 people from around the world attend the event, and since the first Tattoo in 1950, more than 12 million people have watched the spectacular show.
Enjoy thrilling performances from the massed pipe and drum bands, which usually include five or six military bands from the infantry battalions of the Scottish Division, along with one additional band from the Guards, Cavalry, Royal Air Force or the Ghurkhas.
Lively dancing, humorous routines, impressive lighting and fabulous fireworks complement the skillful musical performances throughout the 90-minute show. Every night, the Military Tattoo ends on a poignant note as the haunting Lone Piper is performed from high up on the castle ramparts.
In 2012, the Tattoo was set to be even more outstanding as it celebrated the Year of Creative Scotland and Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Highlights included a performance from one of the world’s most sensational percussion groups -Switzerland’s Top Secret Drum Corps – and remarkable drills from the Norwegian Armed Forces and talented pipe bands from Australia and New Zealand.
With over a thousand performers, the 2012 event was another sell-out show. Find out more about booking Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo tickets.
The Scottish International Storytelling Festival provides an array of story-telling performances, talks, workshops and discussions throughout Edinburgh.
The Scottish International Storytelling Festival is one of the many festivals held in Edinburgh throughout the year and is Scotland’s vibrant and enduring annual celebration of traditional and contemporary storytelling.
The Scottish International Storytelling Festival brings together artists and audiences from Scotland and beyond with a programme of entertaining and inspiring live storytelling performances, thought-provoking talks, workshops, discussions and fun family activities.
In the 200th anniversary year of the Brothers Grimm, the festival looked at folk tales both old and new and explored the worldwide fascination with fairy tales. The festival was based around the purpose-built Scottish Storytelling Centre in the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town, however you will also find a wide variety of programme events taking place in and around the city’s excellent art galleries, museums, libraries and schools.
The largest arts festival anywhere in the world, the magnificent and world-famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe hosts a range of outstanding events and performances.
The year 2010 was a record-breaking year with nearly 2 million attendees, a total of 2,453 events and over 20,000 performers across 259 registered venues and 662 acts performing free on The Royal Mile. The 66th Edinburgh Festival Fringe took take place from 3 – 27 August 2012, and once again thrilling thousands of spectators who gathered in Edinburgh’s famous cobbled streets and historic venues to experience it.
Edinburgh is the world’s festival city and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world, and one of several festivals which takes place in Scotland’s capital each August. In 2011, the Fringe featured 41,689 performances of 2,542 shows across 258 spectacular and varied venues. With just under 1.9 million tickets sold, there really is something for everyone here, and more.
From household names to street performances, the Fringe has everything from theatre to children’s shows, exhibitions, music and comedy. Throughout the summer, the Fringe completely takes over the city’s historic Royal Mile and art house venues, with ground-breaking performances and showcase events. You will soon discover that everything and everywhere in Edinburgh becomes a venue during the Fringe, taking in large theatres, bars, restaurants, churches and even the odd caravan!
Within the Fringe, you can uncover the excellent Free Fringe, a spin-off that reflects the tough economic times. With 607 shows in 2011 completely free, why not grab some great entertainment whilst giving your purse a rest?
Make sure you take the time to embrace the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a truly unique and remarkable experience that has launched the careers of many big stars including Eddie Izzard, Jude Law, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Billy Connolly to name but a very few.
Whether you prefer old school jazz or more contemporary styles, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival has something for everyone.
The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival originally started out in 1978 as a host of jazz events held in pubs, but it has since grown to become the longest running jazz festival in the country. Listen out for the sounds of jazz and blues permeating across the city as the Jazz and Blues Festival brings a number of unique collaborations, world premieres and UK exclusives to Scotland’s capital. The 2013 programme, which runs from 19 – 28 July, is set to once again attract a spectacular line-up of world-class musicians and vocalists.
Over the 10-day Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, you will encounter virtuoso concerts by big band orchestras, lively pub jam sessions and a whole host of fresh contemporary acts which, of course, provide plenty of opportunities to hear jazz and blues in all their wonderful glory. From the festival’s opening Mardi Gras parade that brings the vibrant sounds and colours of New Orleans to Edinburgh’s cobbled streets, to various performances and informal and interactive talks.
One of the many festivals throughout the year, come and celebrate all things jazz in Edinburgh’s pubs, parks and concert halls in the city’s most diverse festival to date.
The world-renowned Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), established in 1947, brings a touch of Hollywood glamour to Edinburgh’s famous cobbled streets.
If you’re looking to discover the very best in international cinema, look no further. This magnificent festival seeks to highlight the most exciting and innovative new film talent and notable premieres in recent years, which have included The Hurt Locker, Ratatouille, Little Miss Sunshine and Billy Elliot.
The 66th annual edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival took place from 20 June – 1 July 2012 and was just one of many Edinburgh Festivals held throughout the year. 2013 will bring another year of discovery and diversity to enlighten programme of films of all shapes and sizes, from all corners of the globe. Alongside multiple screenings that are held across the beautiful city at Edinburgh International Film Festival you will also find a number of cinema experiences, distinctive collaborations ‘cineconcerts’ and experimental events such as 24-hour debates and cinema recreations in public spaces.
If you’re into film and want to celebrate the art of cinema, Edinburgh International Film Festival is the one for you.
Head to the Edinburgh Mela Festival, one of Europe’s largest and most important multicultural events for a unique and truly unforgettable experience.
The Edinburgh Mela Festival is one of Europe’s largest and most important multicultural events, a unique and truly unforgettable experience. Edinburgh’s international community comes together during the Edinburgh Mela Festival to celebrate diversity with music and style in one of Europe’s largest and most important multicultural events. The Edinburgh Mela Festival offers a dazzling display of international and local talent.
Increasingly seen as a central part of Edinburgh’s Festivals, the Mela Festival, which ran from the 31st August to the 2nd September 2012, is normally held in Leith, just minutes from downtown Edinburgh. So stay a bit longer than Festival Fringe to get a taste of the diversity in Scotland and discover a whole programme of fabulous events, including various visual exhibitions, dancing, theatre and film performances. You may even wish to savour tastes from across the world at various food stalls, or peruse the many craft products offered. Similar to Asian community festivals, the word ‘mela’ means ‘gathering’ in Sanskrit and affords cultures from around the world the opportunity to celebrate their diverse communities together. During your visit to Scotland’s capital, the Edinburgh Mela Festival will undoubtedly provide you with a truly unique and unforgettable experience.
The Edinburgh International Festival is the official centrepiece of Edinburgh’s summer festival with a growing programme of dance, music, theatre and opera.
Part of the Edinburgh Festivals programme and official centrepiece of Edinburgh’s summer festivals, the Edinburgh International Festival was founded in 1947 and continues to go from strength to strength each year. This magnificent festival is quite possibly the most exciting, accessible, and innovative festival of the performing arts anywhere in the world. A whole host of dance, music, theatre and opera lies before you.
Every summer, millions of visitors head to Edinburgh for the International Festival – three unforgettable weeks of the very best in international opera, music, theatre, dance and visual arts. In 2011, the International Festival celebrated the vibrant and diverse cultures of Asia and attracted artists from China, India, Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam amongst others.
The Edinburgh International Festival will be back in 2013, celebrating its 67th year from 9 August to 2 September. Join this exciting journey through three weeks of the arts that transforms the city and brings people together from all corners of the globe.
Every August, for just over two weeks, the world’s largest celebration of the written word takes over Charlotte Square; the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival is a fortnight of fantastic events with writers from around the world. Where better to celebrate the written word than Edinburgh, the first city in the world to be named a UNESCO City of Literature?
Admire the cultural landmarks and atmospheric streets that have inspired literary greats such as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Arthur Conan Doyle and bestselling authors such as Ian Rankin and J.K. Rowling. With hundreds of author events, debates and workshops taking place, the book festival brings writers and intellectuals from across the world together. Part of the wider Edinburgh Festivals programme, the book festival is renowned for bringing in big names as well as uncovering the great poets, thinkers and novelists of tomorrow.
In 1997, Charlotte Square welcomed an unknown local author named J.K. Rowling, who read from her debut novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to 30 encapsulated children. The majestic Charlotte Square Gardens sit within the elegant Georgian New Town, a truly beautiful setting. The book festival converts the gardens into a magical tented village which welcomes around 220,000 visitors each year.
A highlight of the programme of events is the high profile debates and discussion series. Writers from across the world gather in this unique event to discuss and engage on the world’s most pressing issues. The Children’s Programme is also extremely popular with a range of workshops, panel discussions and author events. Perfect for the family, it is now the world’s premier books and reading event for young people. The 2013 festival will run during Fringe Festival in August.
If art is your passion, the Edinburgh Art Festival, Scotland’s largest visual arts festival, is simply unmissable, as it is home to a wide array of visual arts, exhibitions and events held throughout the city.
The Edinburgh Art Festival started off in 2004 and is home to a diverse and vibrant programme of visual art exhibitions and events that are held throughout galleries and museums across the city.
Edinburgh’s galleries and art spaces come alive during this festival and display some of the most intriguing modern and contemporary art in the world. The Edinburgh Art Festival combines new commissions, major solo exhibitions by the world’s leading contemporary artists alongside local and international artistic talent. 2011 saw the unveiling of The Scotsman Steps, a major new piece of public artwork by winner of the Turner Prize, Scottish artist Martin Creed. Reinventing the famous Scotsman Steps, each of the 104 steps that lead from the Scotsman Hotel on North Bridge to Waverley Station is finished beautifully in a different colour of marble.
From internationally renowned artists to those whose work is more experimental, the Edinburgh Art Festival presents a compelling mix of exhibitions and events sure to suit all tastes. And best of all – it’s free. The 2013 Edinburgh Art Festival, part of the wider Edinburgh Festivals programme is set to run from the 2nd of August to the 2nd of September.
2013 Festival Schedule
Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival: 20-29 July 2013
Edinburgh Art Festival: 1 August – 1 September 2013 (provisional)
Edinburgh Festival Fringe: 2-26 August 2013
Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo: 2-24 August 2013
Edinburgh International Festival: 9 August – 1 September 2013
Edinburgh International Book Festival: 10 – 26 August 2013
Scottish International Storytelling Festival: 25 October – 3 November 2013
The Spring festivals are focused around the theme of re-growth and re-birth. The Science Festival has a very strong children’s programme as well as an adults’ programme that has previously featured the likes of Richard Dawkins and ASIMO, the world’s first humanoid robot. The Imaginate Festival is the world’s premier festival for children and young people—and has a programme that will delight both young people and the older people who accompany them.
The Summer festival season is the ubiquitous ‘festival’ time that has made Edinburgh famous. Streets, church halls and thousand-seater venues all throng with the joy of art and culture. From the grand opera and theatre of the Edinburgh International Festival to the Fringe’s ground-breaking plays and the Jazz Festival’s unique never-to-be-seen again collaborations, to the grand masters and emerging talent of the Art Festival, there is more to see than can possibly be imagined.
In the Winter, Edinburgh sparkles with light and sound. Following the changing of the clocks, the Storytelling Festival springs into action with talent around the world engaging in the ancient art of Storytelling. In the build up to Hogmanay you can enjoy a mug of gluwein and a turn on the famous Ferris wheel in Princes Street Gardens, before joining the famous Torchlight Procession winding through the city, or partying until the new year before joining the world record number of people singing Old Lang Syne.
Edinburgh and the Lothians are blessed with all the fascinating museums you would expect from a major European cultural center. See T-Rex at the National Museum of Scotland, the Concorde at the National Museum of Flight and Steiff Bears at the world’s only dedicated Museum of Childhood.
Following a major refurbishment project, the newly reopened National Museum of Scotland now holds over 20,000 exhibits spread across 36 galleries. See the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, ancient Egyptian mummies, and specimens collected by Charles Darwin, all under one roof. Step inside the treasure house of the National Museum of Scotland to uncover stunning and surprising exhibits from around the world in its 16 new exhibition galleries, with 80% of objects being displayed for the first time.
Visit the Fascinating Mummies exhibition which combines treasures from two of the world’s greatest Egyptology collections which is showing exclusively from 11 February – 27 May 2012. The exhibition includes thousands of rare objects dating back as far as 4000 BC from the world-famous Egyptology collections of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden. See extraordinary items such as animal mummies, ancient death masks and elaborately decorated coffins. One of the highlights of this wonderful exhibition is the extraordinary mummy of Ankhhor, a high priest serving in the Temple of Montu in the ancient city of Thebes around 650 BC.
Other fascinating exhibitions taking place at the National Museum of Scotland are ‘A Sense of Place: New Jewellery from Northern Lands’ from May to September, ‘Sounds Global’ from June to September and ‘Dr Livingstone, I Presume?’ from November to April 2013. All three exhibitions are free.
The Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh is the world’s first museum which is dedicated to the history of childhood. See toys and games from across the generations, marvel at Teddy Bears and dolls and listen to the sounds of a 1930s schoolroom. Get hands-on with the dressing up costumes and games and make sure not to miss the brilliant collection of early Steiff Bears, Corgi cars and Barbie dolls.
The Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh sits in the historic Lady Stair’s House, which dates back to 1622, and celebrates the lives of three of Scotland’s great writers – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Hear all about these three great literary men at the Writers’ Museum: see portraits of Robert Burns, the fishing rod and smoking pipe of Robert Louis Stevenson and the actual printing press on which Sir Walter Scott’s famous Waverley novels were once printed.
Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh is the only place in Scotland where you can travel through time and across the planet! Journey to the centre of the earth, feel the tremor of an earthquake and wander through an amazing tropical rainforest. One of Edinburgh’s most popular family attractions is Dynamic Earth, opposite the Scottish Parliament. Embark on an incredible journey through the history of our amazing planet and get a fascinating glimpse of the future. The day begins with the Big Bang and the creation of the earth. End up face to face with extinct dinosaurs and go to the bottom of the ocean. Walk in a tropical rainforest with squawking birds and chattering monkeys, and fly over glaciers. This is a must-see and an experience like no other.
Discover the extraordinary story of how we took to the skies at the National Museum of Flight, uniquely located in a series of air hangars in East Fortune. Explore the four hangars and witness the story of aviation, from the first military aircraft to supersonic flight. Get up close to the magnificent Concorde and see this extraordinary aircraft just as she was when she last flew. Watch a film presentation about her epic final journey to East Lothian.
The East Fortune Airfield played a major role during both World Wars and you can enjoy a fascinating exhibition which brings this historic legacy to life alongside the National Museum of Flight’s 25 other hands-on activities – including the chance to try landing a plane successfully with the flight simulators! An exciting annual air show is held here every year with air displays, military jets, historic planes and family activities. Or relive the dark days of the World Wars and uncover the impact on Scottish history, identity and worldwide reputation.
Set within the magnificent setting of Edinburgh Castle, the National War Museum lets you explore over 400 years of the Scottish military experience. Uncover stories of courage and determination, victory and defeat, heroics and heartbreak and find out how war has left its mark on Scotland’s history, image and reputation abroad.
The Surgeons Hall Museum in Edinburgh is Scotland’s largest medical museum and is recognized as the best collection of national significance. The exhibitions follow the story of surgery in Scotland from its earliest days, through the Burke and Hare murders to modern keyhole surgery. Displays include early anatomical specimens and surgical instruments, a pocketbook made from the skin of William Burke, and a hands-on keyhole surgery training unit.
The National Mining Museum Scotland is a fantastic 5-star visitor attraction which is based at one of the finest surviving examples of a Victorian colliery in Europe, the Lady Victoria Colliery at Newtongrange, just 9 miles from Edinburgh. Visitors to the museum will enjoy a fascinating insight into the industrial communities and their work which has left its marks across the central belt. Marvel at the sheer size of the place, be astounded by the engineering brilliance behind all the machinery and retrace the footsteps and struggles of the thousands of miners and their families before them.
All the castles in Edinburgh and the Lothians have a different story to tell, whether it’s about the Stone of Destiny, the difficult life of Mary Queen of Scots, or one of Scotland’s most powerful families, the Crichtons.
Edinburgh Castle, one of Scotland’s most iconic visitor attractions, sits on its own volcanic rock at the top of the Royal Mile.
There’s much to see and admire at Edinburgh Castle, a mighty fortification and favoured residence of Scotland’s kings and queens. Make sure you look out for the Royal Palace, created in 1617 in honour of James VI, the Crown Room where the Scottish Crown Jewels are kept, and the Stone of Destiny where previous Scottish Monarchs were crowned. Listen out at 1pm as the One O’clock Gun is fired almost daily, and has been since 1861.
Craigmillar Castle, Edinburgh, is one of Scotland’s most perfectly preserved castles and was a retreat from a difficult life for Mary Queen of Scots. Built around 1400, the medieval castle lies 3 miles south-east of Edinburgh city centre. Craigmillar Castle has a tower house, courtyard and gardens, and offers stunning views out across the city and countryside. In 1566, Mary Queen of Scots sought the peace and quiet of Craigmillar after the murder of her private secretary.
Lauriston Castle, north-west of the city centre, was built around 1590 for Sir Archibald Napier and stands in 30 acres of peaceful grounds overlooking the Firth of Forth. The last owners, Mr and Mrs Reid, decorated and furnished the house between 1902 and 1926 in an Edwardian style and simplified the beautiful Victorian gardens. See inside the castle or enjoy a woodland walk with a visit to the award-winning Japanese garden.
The magnificent Tantallon Castle was a seat of the Douglas Earls of Angus, one of the most powerful baronial families in Scotland. Perched on the cliffs high above the sea in East Lothian, it would have been a stern test to conquer. In fact, it endured frequent sieges – but now has a more peaceful existence, having recently been used as a location for the children’s TV series, Shoebox Zoo.
Crichton Castle is a large and sophisticated castle situated in a commanding position in a tranquil valley of the River Tyne, south of the city of Edinburgh. Built between the 14th and 16th centuries, the courtyard includes a spectacular facade of faceted stonework in an Italian style. Mary Queen of Scots spent several nights at Crichton Castle, celebrating the marriage of her half-brother.
Built in the 15th century by one of Scotland’s most powerful families, the Crichtons, Blackness Castle was never destined to be a peaceful lordly residence. Thrusting out into the Firth of Forth like a ship setting sail, the castle is in complete contrast to its nearby neighbour Linlithgow Palace, and was more likely to hold prisoners than a royal banquet. See the tower prison for those who upset the reigning sovereign and enjoy the sweeping views down the Firth of Forth from one of the towers. You’ll soon understand why this port castle was an excellent place to prepare for invasion, hold foreign prisoners as soon as they arrived, and store ammunition as it entered the country.
East of Edinburgh in East Lothian lies the pretty and charming Dirleton Castle, which has an architectural history spanning around 700 years. Make sure you visit the gardens while here, which were first cultivated in the 16th century and are now featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s longest herbaceous border.
Churches & Cathedrals
Explore the churches and cathedrals of Edinburgh and the Lothians and you’ll discover beautiful buildings with their Gothic architecture and stunning stained glass windows – some so fascinating, they’ve even been featured in movies!
Founded in 1446, the mysterious, richly decorated late-Gothic Rosslyn Chapel featured heavily in Dan Brown’s novel, ‘The Da Vinci Code.’ It’s hardly surprising that the best-selling author was intrigued by Rosslyn Chapel. The outside bristles with pinnacles, gargoyles, flying buttresses and canopies while on the inside the foliage carving is particularly eye-catching.
These provide fairly convincing evidence that the founder’s grandfather, the daring sea adventurer Prince Henry of Orkney, did, as legend has it, set foot in the New World a century before Columbus. The rich and subtle figurative sculptures have given Rosslyn the nickname of ‘a Bible in stone’, with portrayals of the Dance of Death, the Seven Acts of Mercy and the Seven Deadly Sins.
Dan Brown is not the only literary figure to be inspired by Rosslyn. The great Scots writer Sir Walter Scott and renowned poet William Wordsworth, whose sister Dorothy described it as ‘exquisitely beautiful’ have all featured it in their works. A number of books have been published in recent years about Rosslyn Chapel, drawing on everything from the Freemasons and the Shroud of Turin to the True Gospels and regular sightings of UFOs over Midlothian.
St Giles’ Cathedral
The historic City Church of Edinburgh, St. Giles’ Cathedral is a grand building with a famed crown spire, which stands on the Royal Mile. St. Giles’ Cathedral was founded in the 1120s during a time when the Scottish Royal Family were making strong efforts to spread Catholic Christian worship throughout the Scottish lowlands. Few traces of the original building survive but what stands today is a Gothic-style building from the 15th century with many alterations.
St Mary’s Cathedral
St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, is the largest ecclesiastical building in Scotland, and boasts three spires which can be seen dominating the skyline from all around. Located on Palmerston Place in the West End, St. Mary’s Cathedral was consecrated in 1879 and was built by the great Victorian Gothic architect Sir Gilbert Scott, alongside work by his son John, and Sir Robert Lorimer. See the Paolozzi Window designed by the late Sir Eduardo Paolozzi on the theme of Ascension, Alfred Borthwick’s powerful painting, The Presence, which was painted in St. Mary’s in 1910 and hangs in the North aisle, and one of the finest organs in Scotland designed by ‘Father’ Willis in 1879.
Greyfriars Tolbooth & Highland Kirk
Between April and October, the visitor centre at Greyfriars Tolbooth is open to all visitors, so you can wander around this building and discover the unique historical heritage and the real story of Greyfriars Bobby. In the visitor centre, you can find out about how this was the first church built in Edinburgh after the Reformation, and how it now displays an American flag which once hung in the White House. Find out about the story of the little dog, Greyfriars Bobby, who waited by his master’s grave for years, and whose statue now sits proudly opposite the gates of the church.
We would like to acknowledge the following websites for their support in providing us information included herein for your convenience. Please be sure to visit their websites for much more information than we could possibly have included here, or simply follow their links (by clicking on them) to their websites. All photos related to their links have also been included with their information.