Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is an intriguing city. Its famous Royal Mile is world-famous as a spectacular place to wander. The country itself is not large, so that many sights outside the city are accessible in a short day trip. Here are my choices for Edinburgh’s top ten sights, to be followed shortly by a photo album.
1. Edinburgh Castle – This ancient complex dates to the late 11th century and includes numerous buildings a s well as formidable fortifications. Crown Square within the walls contains the Royal Palace with its elaborate apartments and Crown Room (containing the Scotish Crown Jewels and other memorabilia), the Great Hall, and the Queen Anne Room, the former kitchens. St Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest building in the castle. Spectacular performances are held annually, in August, as part of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, on the esplanade at the front of the castle.
2. Holyrood Palace – The Palace of Holyroodhouse began its existence as a monastery but is much more famous as the residence of Scotish Kings and Queens since the 15th century. Any visit to the palace will enmesh the tourist in the life and times of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her attempts to ascend to the throne of England. She spent several years in residence at the palace.
3. St Giles Cathedral – The High Kirk of Edinburgh is located in the middle of the Royal Mile. Its distinctive hollow-crown tower is an integral part of the city’s skyline. The oldest parts of the building date to 1120 AD. It’s beautiful stained glass windows are particularly noteworthy.
4. Calton Hill – This dramatic hill which rises from one end of the Royal Mile provides the classic vista of Edinburgh’s skyline. It is the location of the Scottish Government as well as several monuments and buildings of note, including the National Monument and Nelson’s Monument. It is almost directly above Holyrood Palace (see above) and provides a panorama across the entire Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle (see above).
5. Play golf at or at least visit St Andrews – The city was once the mightiest in terms of religious power in the entire country, however, its great cathedral as well as its castle now lie in ruins. Nevertheless, it is still a golfing Mecca since it is the home of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, one of the two oldest golf courses in the world and one of the most respected.
6. Glamis Castle – Perhaps the most haunted castle in Scotland, Glamis is the subject of numerous legends. The Monster of Glamis still resides there, as the legend goes; another legend is related to the Ogilvie family who were buried alive in the Room of Skulls. Reportedly, Shakespeare’s famous play, Macbeth, took place here, since, historically, this was where King Malcolm II, mortally wounded in a nearby battle, died.
7. Princes Street Shopping – This street in what is known as Edinburgh’s New Town, is the principal shopping street of the city. It is bounded on the south by the Princes Street Gardens, an oasis of greenery which offers views to the Old Town. Within the gardens are numerous statues, including the Scott Monument (see below) and fountains.
8. Sleep in a Castle at Dalhousie – This castle, just outside of Edinburgh, has participated in Scottish history over the years. King Edward I (Longshanks) stayed here on his way to meet Sir William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk. Later, the castle withstood a siege of six months by King Edward IV of England. More recently, the castle became a hotel and it is a convenient and exciting place to stay while in Edinburgh.
9. Take a scenic drive into the Highlands – The Scottish Highlands are wild and beautiful, with craggy hills and verdant valleys. Just driving through gives the visitor the idea that the area is not only old but uncontrollable as well. Take a walk or hike up one of the many paths to truly experience the region.
10. Sir Walter Scott Monument in Princes Street Gardens East. This 200 foot-tall monument is located opposite Jenner’s Department Store. The tower was completed in 1844 and serves to honor one of Scotland’s most famous literati.