Edinburgh is one of the UK’s most visually stunning cities, with historical architecture combining with contemporary designs to set the scene for a vibrant, modern metropolis. And with a vast array of events taking place during the next twelve months, the time has never been better to visit the jewel in Scotland’s crown.
While most visitors to the city head straight to popular tourism hotspots such as Edinburgh Castle or the zoo, scratching at the surface of this diverse location reveals a wealth of unique attractions designed to suit the desires of even the most hard to please tourist. Exploring the depths of Edinburgh’s past and present may at times require stepping off the beaten tourism track, but once you start on the journey there will most certainly be no looking back.
1. Mary King’s Close
Without a doubt, one of the most historically pertinent tourism activities in Edinburgh is taking a tour of Mary King’s Close. The subterranean attraction has been shrouded in mystery since the 17th century when stories of hauntings, murders and walled-up plague victims left to die first began to establish the notoriety the complex enjoys to this day. After being closed to the public for many years due to the construction of the Royal Exchange, Mary King’s Close re-opened in April 2003 and to this day attracts lovers of the macabre along with those interested in Edinburgh’s varied history. Contrasting sharply with the nearby luxury of Edinburgh Castle, Mary King’s Close illustrates the reality of life for the average Edinburgh citizen in the 17th to 19th centuries and helps to form a true impression of Edinburgh’s past.
2. The Scottish Parliament Building
The Scottish Parliament Building has proven to be one of the most controversial political projects undertaken in the UK to date, with the construction process repeatedly dogged by delays, rises in cost and scathing criticism by both the public and architectural experts from around the world. However, since its opening in 2004, it has become known as one of the most innovative commercial property designs in Europe and thus is definitely worth a visit on your next trip to Scotland. Not many visitors to the city tend to realise that the building is in fact open to the public, but it is entirely possible to take a free guided tour around the complex on days when Parliament is not in session. As the Parliament Building is located in central Edinburgh it is easily accessible for anyone with a base in the Scottish capital city, and is surrounded by a variety of restaurants and cafes to enjoy upon completion of the tour.
3. Walk on the Wild Side
If architecture turns you to stone and ghost stories leave you cold, it may be worth considering an exploration of Edinburgh which allows you to take in the spectacular views of the city itself. By far the best way of obtaining some spectacular panoramic photos is by taking a walk up Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park – and even if views aren’t your idea of a city thrill, it’s worth the climb to be able to say you have climbed the world’s only volcano found within the limits of a city. Taking a picnic lunch to enjoy in the park is a wonderful way to spend an hour or so, perhaps followed by a trip to Our Dynamic Earth located a short distance north-west from Arthur’s Seat itself. The popular scientific exhibition is highly interesting for those interested in learning a little more about the geological processes which shaped Edinburgh’s landscape today, and is an ideal attraction for groups with young children thanks to its stimulating and interactive capabilities.
4. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Of course, no visit to Edinburgh during the summer season is complete without catching a show or two at the Fringe. Running from the 1st to the 25th of August this year, the iconic festival brings together lovers of comedy, drama and music from around the world to celebrate the performing arts in the heart of Scotland’s capital of culture. Many shows are free, but it is advisable to plan ahead as the most popular exhibitions become fully booked weeks in advance – with millions of visitors flocking to Edinburgh during festival season, both tickets and available accommodation tend to be in short supply.
With fabulous scenery and a friendly population, it is easy to see why Edinburgh’s tourism industry remains one of the most stable in Europe. Perhaps 2014 will be the year you join the masses in seeing what the city has to offer – the only problem, in fact, may be making yourself leave at the end of your stay!
Blog by Susie Jenkinson