Edinburgh, Scotland

Guide for the rail traveller

Information

CurrencyPound Sterling
Local languageEnglish
Country Scotland

Introduction

Located in the Lothians in eastern Scotland, Edinburgh is nestled on a series of volcano cones and rocky crags. Known as ‘the Athens of the North’ the city has been inhabited since about fifteen hundred BC and has been the capital of Scotland since the end of the fifteenth century. Although Scotland and England have been united in a single kingdom since 1603, Scotland and therefore Edinburgh has its own political and social characteristics. The legal and educational systems of the two countries are very distinct and since 1999 Scotland has its own Parliament making further divergence between the two likely in the future. Moreover, largely as a result of the wealth of natural minerals around the city, business is booming so making Edinburgh the most important financial center in Britain after London.

Although described by some as conservative, Edinburgh has much to offer including an array of art galleries, museums, theatres and a year-round calendar of international festivals such as the renowned Edinburgh International Festival. Most tourists flock to Edinburgh between July and September, or over New Year’s for the Hogmanay Festival. Edinburgh has now also been granted the World Heritage Site status due to its medieval Old Town, the Edinburgh Castle dating back to the twelfths-century and eighteen-century Georgian New Town. Luckily it isn’t all buildings though as this beautiful city has many green areas and parkland as well as a cultural program of theatre, music and dance unrivalled in the UK outside of London.

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Things to do

When viewing Edinburgh the main districts are the Georgian New Town, the Medieval Old Town and the Port of Leith. The main thoroughfares are Princes, George and Queen streets. Princes Street in the New Town has been described as one of the most beautiful streets in the world, New Town itself is mostly residential, but with its elegant squares and wide streets it is a beautiful area to wander along. Its centerpiece is Charlotte Square, which houses the elegant Georgian House.

Meanwhile in the Old Town there is the Royal Mile, which consists of a number of streets starting from Edinburgh Castle (see below) leading to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This has been the royal quarter of Edinburgh since 1128 and the palace remains the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. For many of you, a further point of interest along the Royal Mile is likely to be the Scotch Whiskey Heritage Center!

Edinburgh houses many of Scotland’s national galleries and museums including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Museum of Scotland, both worth exploring. Scotland’s most famous tourist attraction is Edinburgh Castle which is in fact built on the core of an extinct volcano, it holds amongst other things the Scottish Crown Jewels. Further information can be obtained from the Edinburgh tourist office. Lastly a visit to Leith docks will lead you to an array of stylish waterfront bars, pubs and restaurants to round off each day.

Local transport

Driving in Edinburgh is not advisable instead walk, cycle or use public transport. Within the city the public transport system is essentially the bus service, which flows fairly problem-free. There are a number of passes offering reduced fares such as a Day Saver Ticket allowing unlimited one-day travel on the city’s buses. Edinburgh’s taxis, which are mostly black hackney cabs, are safe but quite expensive. Alternatively, if you wish to hire a bicycle visit www.biketrax.co.uk.

Day trips

Glasgow, Scotland’s other main city is often described as far less conservative than Edinburgh and also has much to offer. Situated only one hour away by train it is well worth visiting for a day. For something altogether different the Scottish Seabird Center gives a unique opportunity to view the Firth of Forth’s bird life. Situated near the charming seaside town of North Berwick both make lovely day-trip destinations and can easily be reached by train.

Recommended places and events to visit in Edinburgh

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