Destinations

24 hours in... EDINBURGH

Scotland’s stunning capital is surely the perfect city, combining scenic beauty, endless buzz and fascinating historical layers.
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Nicknamed the Athens of the North in the eighteenth century, it remains a pinnacle of design and free thinking, small enough to feel like you can really get to know it, yet full of surprises. Ringed by rugged hills and crags, its jumble of medieval Old Town, Georgian splendour, Victorian monoliths and neoclassical landmarks offers views and vistas at every step. Over centuries, it has enjoyed a reputation as a hotbed of philosophic, literary, artistic and scientific thought and such lofty traditions are kept alive every summer when it plays host to the world’s biggest arts festival. The city and its many alleyways, bridges, nooks, crannies and pubs famously explode with visitors and happenings. And it’s a pattern repeated in Edinburgh’s famous Hogmanay celebrations. So while this city’s head may be in the cultural clouds, Auld Reekie’s beating heart is proudly down-to-earth and a visit here any time of the year is bound to have you hooked in a heartbeat.

8:00AM - RISE AND SHINE WITH A FULL BREAKFAST AT THE BONNY BEST WESTERN PLUS BRUNTSFIELD HOTEL

Featuring Ayrshire bacon, haggis and potato scones. Grab a cappuccino to go from the city’s leading coffee house, Artisan Roast, up the road then walk out onto Brunstfield  Links and across to The Meadows. This huge grassland park just south of the city centre gifts you a sneak preview of Edinburgh’s Old Town skyline as you weave east with the lines of joggers, cyclists and commuters through open lawns, tree-lined avenues and beds of bursting wildflowers.

8:45AM - AT ITS EASTERN EDGE THE IMPOSING ARTHUR'S SEAT TOWERS ABOVE YOU

The peak of a former volcano, it is 250m above sea level with panoramic views that are the best way to get your bearings. And it’s a relatively easy climb. Cut through to its footpath via Holyrood Park Road, past the impressive Royal Commonwealth Pool building, then follow the track up onto the hill. The views are instantly breath-taking but they only get better as you ascend. With the North Sea at your back, Edinburgh looks like a toy town, its castle sitting majestically in the distance. Drop down and join up with the path running north for a mile along the jutting drama of Salisbury Crags, descending as you go to reach the architectural finery of the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

10:00AM - THE OFFICIAL ROYAL RESIDENCE IN SCOTLAND IS A FORMIDABLE PALACE AT THE EAST END OF THE CITY'S ROYAL MILE

a grand high street bookended at the other end by Edinburgh Castle. Regularly visited by Her Majesty, and featuring an audio intro from the Prince of Wales himself, Holyroodhouse Palace is probably best known as the sixteenth-century home of Mary, Queen of Scots. Her turbulent and tragic life is revealed here in much detail via a self-guided audio tour through grand apartments and historic rooms. Take in too the Great Gallery with Charles II’s indulgent series of 89 regal portraits that supposedly trace his unbroken lineage back to Scota – an Egyptian Pharaoh’s daughter said to have discovered Moses in a basket in the reeds. Outside there’s also the palace’s gardens and the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, the monastic powerhouse that stood on this spot.

11:30AM - POTTER UP THE ROYAL MILE PAST THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT BUILDING

Peer down historic alleyways and vistas left and right and browse a dizzying range of shops that sell everything from hand-woven tartan to artisan fudge and whisky. Then turn left onto South Bridge and then right onto Chambers Street to reach the National Museum of Scotland for midday. You’ll be hungry after the walking, so head straight up to its 5th floor Tower Restaurant. Brunch (until 12:30pm) or a two-course lunch here is a cut above any other museum restaurant, which makes it a firm favourite among the city’s A-listers. Refuel with a local wild mushroom omelette and a cup of coffee while drinking in this restaurant’s incredible views.

12:40PM - THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SCOTLAND (FREE TO ENTER) DESERVES ALL THE PLAUDITS IT RECEIVES    

especially since 10 new galleries opened last year with a focus on art, science, fashion and technology. A staggeringly beautiful mix of Victorian and modern architecture, it now contains over 10,000 jaw-dropping objects, ranging from a full T-Rex skeleton and suspended-from-the-ceiling aeroplanes to stuffed pandas and a sample of penicillin inscribed by Alexander Fleming. Few places could carry off collections as diverse as this: the stuffed body of Dolly the Sheep, 11 of the Lewis chessmen, flags from the battle of Culloden and the tomb of Mary, Queen of Scots, all in one space. Be sure to stop by the Scotland galleries for a whistle-stop tour of the country from prehistory to the present.

The National museum of Scotland

15:00PM - CUT BACK UP TO THE ROYAL MILE AND HEAD WEST

dropping into High Kirk of St Giles – or St Giles Cathedral – on the way. This brooding, magnificent fourteenth-century Gothic masterpiece is one of the Royal Mile’s standout buildings and a mesmerising mix of carvings, ornate chapels and beautiful stained and painted glass windows. It was here that John Knox, whose house you will have already passed, preached his sermons, heralding the Reformation in Scotland. Then, if you’re in the mood for a quick snifter, The Devil’s Advocate down the alleyway opposite the cathedral has an incredible list of single malt whiskies. Alternatively, for the more shopping minded, cut down St Giles’ Street and along The Mound into Edinburgh’s New Town to that famous retail hotspot, Princes Street.

16:00PM - EDINBURGH CASTLE NEEDS LITTLE INTRODUCTION.

This bastion fortress bristling with cannons dominates the skyline; perched like an eagle on Castle Rock, it surveys the city. With origins dating back millennia, today it houses the twelfth-century Margaret’s Chapel, the National War Museum of Scotland and the Great Hall built by James IV in 1510. Within its walls you can also see The Honours (the Scottish Crown Jewels), the massive siege canon Mons Meg and the antechamber where Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to the king who’d become the first to rule a united Britain, James VI.

bagpipes piper in edinburgh

18:00PM - A MILE FROM THE CASTLE, CHECK-IN FOR THE NIGHT AT TEN HILL PLACE, BW PREMIER COLLECTION.

A wonderful Georgian building smartly re-styled inside, Ten Hill Place, BW Premier Collection is owned by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and all profits go back into training surgeons worldwide. As well as being AA-rosette awarded, chef Alan Dickson has just scooped Chef of the Year at the Scottish Hotel Awards and his menu is an incredible reward after a day on your feet. Try the lobster bisque with lobster tail and saffron mayo followed by the five-course tasting menu (if you can fit it in) or the Scotch beef sirloin with shallots and chips cooked in dripping. Finish with salted caramel mousse with whisky jelly and banana ice cream.


20:00PM - DRINKS AT THE BOW BAR ON VICTORIA STREET.

If you want a feel for real Edinburgh, the Bow Bar is your ticket. No-nonsense and down-to-earth, it’s an old creaky bar that’s usually standing room only, rammed with dedicated punters drawn by an awesome collection of whiskies and great beers. The menu promises close to 250 malts to pick from. Ask for recommendations and try some of Scotland’s finest firewaters.

21:00PM - GRAB A CAB TO CAMEO CINEMA

Back in Bruntsfield. Quentin Tarantino once called this vintage picture house his favourite cinema in the world and as soon as you step into its 1914 interiors, you understand why. Add to its authentic décor a hip bar serving craft beers and a sterling list of blockbuster and art-house films and it’s undoubtedly one of the best movie-watching experiences you can have in the country.

23:00PM - IF THERE'S ANYTHING LEFT IN THE TANK

Round off your day with a ghost walk close to the hotel on South Bridge. Join a sinister ghoul-stroll through Edinburgh’s cavernous and spooky underground vaults, dating back to the 1700s, with Auld Reekie Tours. Walk departs at 11pm from The Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile.

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