The centre for education, culture, festivals and the arts, and situated in the central ‘belt’ of Scotland, it’s easy to see why Edinburgh is such an inspiring capital city.
Edinburgh combines stunning landscape with a city centre that boasts a hub of activity. The Old Town of the city hosts medieval courtyards, cobbled, narrow streets and alleyways and an insight into the Reformation-era along the Royal Mile. This stretch leads from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and is particularly spectacular in August during Edinburgh Fringe, with performers lining the street. Holyrood Park is a short walk from the Royal Mile, adjacent to Holyrood Palace, and is a fantastic place to enjoy a walk through nature. The Royal Park is 640 acres in size, with a 251 metre tall hill and dormant volcano, Arthurs Seat, as its core feature, which was described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design”. Arthurs Seat, if you’re brave enough to climb it, provides an excellent panoramic view over the city.
The New Town contrasts the Old Town with elegance and grandeur. Here you’ll see plenty of Georgian architecture; a variety of perfectly preserved buildings from the 18th and 19th century. In Charlotte Square, you will find the Georgian House, which is an exquisite example of ‘how the other half lived’ in the 18th century – open from March to November.
Edinburgh’s museums and galleries all tell the story of Scotland’s and the city’s heritage and rich artistic past, present and future. The National Portrait Gallery exhibits some of the most magnificent paintings and photographs of a selection of Scotland’s most iconic figures, for example, Mary Queen of Scots and Sean Connery.
The centrepiece of the city, Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline with its opulence. The castle is home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, dates back to 850 BC and is the most popular tourist destination in Edinburgh. Visit in the late morning or at midday to make the most of experiencing the one o’clock gunfire from the castle walls. The gardens below the castle, on Prince’s Street, are a lovely place to have a stroll in, and perhaps also have a picnic if it’s good weather. An exciting attraction also nearby the castle is the Camera Obscura, World of Illusions with five floors packed with optical illusions and perception manipulations.
Edinburgh is the world’s leading festival city, with 12 major annual festivals bringing talents from more than a third of the world’s countries to the Scottish city’s streets and stages.
Edinburgh Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival, running for three weeks from 7th till 31st August. This is an ideal time to visit Edinburgh, as long as you don’t mind the crowds, as it oozes cultural diversity, creative spirit and the essence of Edinburgh as a whole.
The stages and tents all over the city show a huge range of entertainment such as comedy, theatre, dance, singing, circus, operas, musicals, exhibitions, cabaret and children’s shows. Performers – big and small – and well-known and unknown names pining to build their career, all congregate at this festival. In 2014, there were 49,497 performances in 299 venues, making it the largest arts festival in the world. This year, Edinburgh Fringe 2015 will see 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows from 49 countries in 313 venues across the city.
The festival itself began in 1947 with eight theatre groups who turned up to perform at the International Festival in order to enrich European cultural life in the wake of World War II. Year on year more and more performers followed their example and in 1958 the Festival Fringe Society was created in response to the success of this growing trend.
However, other festivals are also packed into the summer in this city, including the likes of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Jazz & Blues Festival, Edinburgh Art Festival, Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the International Book Festival, and the International Festival.
Festival dates for 2015 to keep in mind:
Edinburgh Art Festival: 30th July – 30th August
Edinburgh Fringe Festival & Edinburgh International Festival: 7th – 31st August
Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo: 7th – 29th August
Edinburgh International Book Festival: 15th – 31st August
Edinburgh Mela: 29th – 30th August
Scottish International Storytelling Festival: 23rd October – 1st November