Edinburgh the capital city of Scotland popular for its historical and cultural attractions also hosts several festivals which attract more than a million visitors every year. A visit to the wonderful city of Edinburgh is one of the top things to do in Scotland. Exploring the best things to do in Edinburgh Scotland and Hogmanay Festival was on cards for the new year during our year end UK trip for Christmas.
As planned to visit Edinburgh for the New Years Eve we reached Edinburgh on the evening of 31st December and checked into the apartment in Great Kings Street amidst the Georgian grandeur of the New town. The lavish and spacious apartments are at least 200 years old. A stroll through the medieval streets of the marvelous town lined with the centuries-old grey stone buildings and abundance of monuments will create an aura of the bygone times.
Edinburgh Hogmanay originally an informal street party is one of the largest New Year celebrations in the world with the street party, live music and grand midnight fireworks on the castle ramparts.
With the fall of dusk, the celebration was in the air. The youngsters and the old alike were starting to head towards the Princes street garden where the live concerts were organized. The city was lively and vibrant with more crowds on the streets than were seen during the daylight. We had our dinner in a lovely restaurant and enjoyed the spectacular display of the fireworks at midnight on the castle.
We had planned to begin the first day of our new year with the sightseeing of awe-inspiring town of Edinburgh. We decided to start with the iconic landmark of the city, the Edinburgh Castle.
We climbed the hill past the Princes street gardens and the Scottish National Gallery.
Things to do in Edinburgh Scotland – Edinburgh Attractions
Scottish National Gallery
Scottish National Gallery is a neoclassical building containing some of the country’s most renowned artworks from Renaissance up to the 20th century. The gallery is open all around the year and exhibits some of the outstanding masterpieces of art with free admission to the gallery.
Things to do in Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle perched with splendor on the hilltop overlooking the city of Edinburgh is one of the top places to visit in Edinburgh.
At the entrance of the castle is the Esplanade which was laid out as a parade ground and provides with some of the remarkable views of the city and Arthur’s Seat.
The gatehouse at the head of the Esplanade houses the ticket offices where one can get the pre-booked online tickets printed from the machines on the day of the visit.
One can discover the castle’s amazing past with a guided tour included in the ticket price or with the aid of an audio guide that can be collected from the audio booth. We collected a map of the castle from the information office and set out to explore on our own.
We visited the gloomy vaults where prisoners of war and pirates were held in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The vaults provided an insight into the life of the prisoners with recreated hammocks, fireplace and the graffiti left over by the prisoners on the wooden doors. Also displayed were the art pieces and the forged currency notes showcasing their skill level.
National War museum showcased Scotland’s military history through an outstanding collection. Scottish National War Memorial housed some of the finest art collection to commemorate the dead of world wars and military wars.
Sculptures and the stained glass depict the sacrifices of the soldiers during the World Wars.
The castle is also home to the Scottish Crown jewels, which were first used together for the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots. The chapel is the oldest building in the castle with interior decorated with ornate arches. The beloved pets of British Army officers have been buried in the Dog Cemetery.
Finally, we gathered to witness the world-famous One O’clock Gun, which has been successfully fired since 1861 as a time signal for ships in the harbor. The 105mm field gun is fired every day at 1 pm, except Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Walk the Royal Mile
Once out of the castle grounds visit the Scotch Whisky Experience tour for the history of Scotland’s national drink.
Not really an Edinburgh tourist attraction but Royal Mile a cobblestone street that runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace exudes its own charm. The old wooden houses, historical monuments, pubs and restaurants on the beautiful Boulevard make the stroll worthwhile.
We came across a huge 9ft statue of David Hume with a strikingly visible big toe of his right leg, which shined in golden color. Every passerby would rub his toe and pose for pictures. The reason for this being the belief that rubbing the toe would bless them with some wisdom and knowledge of the great philosopher.
St. Giles Cathedral
Our next stop was the imposing 900 Yrs. old St. Giles Cathedral with its famed crown spire. It has some remarkable stained glass windows illustrating Bible stories.
Take breaks every now and then if it’s too much of walking. Here are some best coffee shops to try with free wifi.
The street ends at Holyrood Palace that remains the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II. One can explore Queen Mary’s historic chambers, magnificent state apartments, 12th-century ruins of the abbey and the royal gardens. The palace rich in Scottish history is open to the general public most of the year.
The Scottish Parliament opposite to the Holyrood Palace is open to the visitors to discover the public areas like Debating Chamber and the Parliament’s Shop, Cafe and permanent exhibition.
Hike the Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in Edinburgh, is at the center of the Holyrood Park adjacent to Holyrood Palace. Climb up to Arthur’s Seat is an easy and popular walk offering wonderful views over the city.
The hill is the location of several iconic monuments like the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, the Robert Burns Monument and the Political Martyrs’ Monument.
We followed the same route back towards the old town through the Waverley station and Scott monument. The Scott Monument with 200 feet high tower was built to commemorate the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott and is the largest monument to a writer in the world.
We walked to the entrance of the Christmas Market, which is a popular highlight of Edinburgh’s Christmas. The huge festive market in Princes Street Gardens hosts the Big Wheel, charming carousel, and an ice rink.
Visitors can enjoy delicious food and drink and shop from a variety of traditional crafts. Kids can have their share of fun in Santa Land with fun rides and a market full of gifts and toys.
Discover the life on board of British monarch on a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia, spend some leisure time in the glorious Royal Botanic Garden or join an expert guide on spooky tours to experience the darker side of the city with the stories of ghosts and the paranormal activities.
The countryside of Scotland is teeming with some of the breathtaking landscapes so while you are in Scotland do plan for a weekend getaway to the picturesque Isle of Skye.
The Waverley train station located in the city center has a good frequency of trains to other eminent cities like London and Glasgow. There is definitely a lot to explore in this historical city with pompous Edinburgh festivals, age-old buildings, gardens and stunning architecture and ubiquitous monuments.
Have you been to Edinburgh? Do you think we have missed on something interesting? Share with us your experiences in comments.
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