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Edinburgh, United Kingdom Travel Guide
Last Updated: Jan-14-2012, Hits: 18,848, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Edinburgh, United Kingdom Travel Guide Restaurants (55)
Hotels and Lodging (52)
Bars and Nightlife (32)
Attractions (36)
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Additional Articles (7)
United Kingdom Travel Forum (2)
Location: Europe
Geography: Island, City
Vacation Type: Romantic, Cosmopolitan, Culture and History
Popularity: Moderate Tourism
Costs: Moderate
Attractions: Golfing, Nightlife, Historical Sites, Food Destination, Scenery, Cultural Attractions, Festivals, Shopping, Gardens

Facts and Stats:
City Population: 471,650
Metropolitan Population: 1,164,611
Land Area: 100 sq mi
Government: Constitutional Monarchy
Country Dialing Code: 44
Languages: English, Gaelic, Scots, Scots Gaelic
Electricity: 240V
Currency: Pound Sterling
Time Zone: GMT 0
Current Time:

Edinburgh is a vibrant and cosmopolitan capital city located in Scotland, UK. It is the second largest city after Glasgow, and is second only to London as the most popular tourist destination in the UK, attracting about 1 million visitors per year. Youthful and effervescent, Edinburgh is a fun and exciting city to visit and a world class golf destination. In fact, Edinburgh has one of the oldest golf courses in the world at St. Andrew's. The city also has 6 golf courses within the city limits, and 28 more courses close by.

Outside of the many happenings that take place here, Edinburgh is also a beautiful and elegant city. Most of the graceful older buildings are blackened by soot from coal fires, giving it a lowland Scots nickname of "Auld Reekie", or "Old Smoky". The blackened buildings lend a moody atmosphere to the city.

Make sure you check out the wonderful panoramic views of the city from the castle and from Arthur's Seat.

Edinburgh is located on the south side of the Forth of Firth (a fjord) which flows into the North Sea. Edinburgh castle sits on a volcanic crag and is an impressive constant in the horizon line of the city. This part of the city is considered Old Town. The Royal Mile extends from Edinburgh Castle down to Holyrood Palace, which is Queen Elizabeth's official residence when she visits Edinburgh. A city redesign by Georgians in the 18th century to solve overcrowding problems led to the city plan of what is still called New Town. Originally intended to be residential, today it is the hub of the main shopping areas, and home to museums and The Royal Scottish Academy.

A Not So Brief History:
Edinburgh is first mentioned in the late 6th century poems of the Gododdin as both Eidyn and Din Eidyn. It was also described as Eidyn ysgor or Eidyn gaer (the stronghold or fort of Eidyn). In the 7th century the English captured this part of Scotland and they called this place Eiden's burgh.

In the 10th century the Scots re-captured the area. King Malcolm III Canmore (died 1093) built his castle at Edinburgh, and his wife Queen (Saint) Margaret built a chapel within its walls - now the oldest building in the city. Her son, David I built the Abbey at Holyrood, a mile to the East along "The Royal Mile". Castle and Abbey became the anchor points of Edinburgh; a thriving town grew up along side the road between them, connected to Leith, Edinburgh's port and trade-link to the world. By the early 12th century Edinburgh was a flourishing community.

Edinburgh suffered in constant warfare between Scots and English. During the Wars of Independence Edinburgh Castle was captured by the English in 1296 until Robert the Bruce's nephew, Thomas Randolph recaptured it by climbing its steep sides during the night. The Scots regained control in 1322. Robert the Bruce granted Edinburgh a Royal Charter (a document granting the townspeople certain rights) in 1329.

In 1492 King James IV of Scotland moved the Royal Court from Stirling to Holyrood, making Edinburgh the national capital.

Between 1513 and 1560 a wall (known as the Flodden Wall) was built south of Edinburgh to keep out the English, however, the English attacked in 1547 and they sacked Edinburgh castle. They returned in 1547. Edinburgh was also besieged in 1571 during a civil war and there were major attacks in 1585 and 1645. Edinburgh managed to recover each time.

In 1603 King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English and Irish thrones, fulfilling his ambition to create a united kingdom under the Stuart Monarchy. Although he retained the Parliament of Scotland in Edinburgh, he marched to London to rule from his throne there. He ordered that every public building in the land should bear his family's emblem, the red lion rampant, and to this day the most common name for a public house in Britain is the Red Lion.

In 1639, disputes between the Presbyterian Covenanters and the Anglican Church led to the Bishops' Wars, the initial conflict of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. During the Third English Civil War Edinburgh was taken by the Commonwealth forces of Oliver Cromwell prior to Charles II's eventual defeat at the Battle of Worcester.

In 17th century Edinburgh the Flodden Wall still defined the boundaries of the city. Due to the restricted land area available for development, the houses increased in height instead. Buildings of 11 stories were common, an early version of the modern-day skyscraper. Many of the stone-built structures can still be seen today in the Old Town.

In 1707 the Act of Union was ratified by a narrow margin in the Parliament of Scotland, however many Scots had opposed it and the people of Edinburgh rioted at the news. It would be almost 300 years before the Parliament was reinstated.

During the early 18th century Edinburgh continued to grow. By mid century it was severely overcrowded.

In the 19th century Edinburgh did not become a manufacturing centre and so lost its position as Scotland's number one city to Glasgow. The only significant industries in Edinburgh were printing and brewing. Edinburgh remained a city of lawyers and bankers.

During the 20th century the old industries of insurance, banking, printing and brewing in Edinburgh continued to prosper. Then in the late 20th century tourism became an increasingly important industry.

In the 1960's he city was being torn down and rebuilt at an alarming rate , but fortunately the New Town Conservation Committee (formed in the 70's) put a stop to that. Buildings have been restored using traditional and sympathetic methods.

In 1999, a Scottish parliament was established in Edinburgh after a gap of 292 years.

Historically, Scotland has a rich tapestry of culture from proud and noble people. Bagpipes, dancing, highland games, golf, kilts, tartans, and whisky are just a few of the things Scotland is famous for. Gaelic or Scots as a language has been used less frequently over the years, but there has been a recent resurgence to not let the language fade away and is now taught in schools.

Modern Edinburgh is a thriving city attracting many young and creative types, largely due to the epic Edinburgh Festival held every summer. Edinburghians are friendly and warm, with a deep respect for their collective historical culture and independence.

The Protestant "Kirk" or "Church of Scotland" is recognized as the National church, but there are many types of churches and many types of religious views, as in all major cosmopolitan cities.

Edinburgh is famous for its annual festival, which is actually a series of separate events that take place at the end of June until the beginning of September. The oldest of the events is the Edinburgh International Festival which focuses on classical music, opera and dance. The Edinburgh Fringe takes place for 3 weeks in August, and was initially established as an alternative to the Edinburgh International festival. The Fringe is now the largest Arts festival in the world. Other festivals that are held in Edinburgh are the International Film Festival, Jazz Festival and International Book Festival. Every New Year is the Hogmanay, which is a street party of sorts, and is Scots for the last day of the year.

Historically, Scottish cuisine isn't necessarily known for being particularly healthy or gourmet. There are lots of starches, oats, smoked and salted meats, sausages, pies, chips and baked goods - and of these, many are served deep fried.

However, there has recently been an emphasis on a fusion or gourmet approach to cooking with the abundant natural resources, and as a result there are some very delightful and more healthy takes on traditional cuisine. Some dishes, though, are a point of pride and aren't undergoing any transformations. Haggis is definitely a famed Scottish dish that you will see on many menus. If you are not familiar with Haggis, it is a dish containing sheep's "pluck" (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach. It is a Scottish staple alongside oatcakes, shortbread, salmon, beef and whisky. If one is not already familiar with the type of food popular in the U.K, it can be a little bit intimidating, with all the savory meat pies and sausages. Remember, you never know what you might like until you try it. In any case, Edinburgh is a sophisticated city and you can definitely find a variety of restaurants readily available if you don't wish to partake in the local cuisine.

The UK currency is the pound sterling (£), with 100 pence (p) to a pound. 'Quid' is a slang term for pound. Euros are accepted at some places, but you are better off having pounds.

There are no two ways about it, Edinburgh is not a cheap city. It is only slightly cheaper than staying in London, and London is very expensive. Like all big cities, you can find cheap eats and hostels, especially if you get towards the outskirts of town. Downtown hotels will probably run more than $150 nightly, and pints of beer around $5.00. The exchange rate will also factor quite a bit, since the pound can be quite punishing to other currencies. Public transportation is reasonable, you can get an unlimited daily pass for the bus for less than $5 dollars per day. If you go during the Festival, expect prices to be at their highest, although you can catch a lot of cheap or free shows if you go during the Fringe. For the budget traveler, many museums are free, and climbing Arthur's seat is free and offers sweeping panoramic views of the city. Tipping is usually 10-15% in restaurants, and it is not expected in bars (although some leave the change from their pints). Rounding up to the next pound is standard tip fare for cabs.

Getting There and Around:
Edinburgh is a dense and compact city, and you will be able to see much of it on foot. Public buses are easily accessible and inexpensive. Day saver passes gives you unlimited use for the whole day. There will also be a tram available in 2011. Of course, there are always cabs readily available, and you can rent bicycles as well.

Traveling to and from Edinburgh can be done via bus, train, airplane or car. If you do choose to rent a car, bear in mind that petrol (gas) is expensive.

A little planning is neccessary in all of Europe to determine which mode of transportation is most cost effective. It will be contingent upon where and when you wish to travel to. Here is a general idea of one destination:
If you wish to drive from Edinburgh to London, which is approximately 700 miles round trip, petrol would cost about $350.00, plus the price of the rental car. A trip in a car is going to cost upwards of $500.00. You may want to hit many destinations along your way, and a car could prove to be a better choice than buying train tickets.

You can purchase a Scotland pass or a UK pass that offers unlimited travel within a time frame. If that fits your criteria, it would probably be cheaper than renting a car. A train ticket fluctuates a lot depending on dates and times, but the cheapest round trip ticket possible is about $50.00. An 8 day Scotland pass runs somewhere in the $250.00 vicinity. You can find more details at BritRail.

You can also fly, as there are lots of inexpensive airlines such as Ryanair. It will be difficult to find a round trip flight for under $75.00, and obviously that omits the cost effectivness of flying to multiple destinations.You can find cheap flights here

You can also take a bus, and the cheapest possible is about $50.00 round trip as well. Chances are probably better to find a cheaper bus fare than train fare, depending on the time and date you wish to travel. More information can be found at National Express.

Entry Requirements:
Most visitors to the UK will only need a valid passport for stays of 6 months or less. To find out if you need a Visa, go here.

Edinburghs weather is relatively warm and mild considering how far north it is (same latitude as Labrador, Canada). Having said that, this isn't a place you visit for good weather. It is typically cool even in the summer and there is often a fog called "haar". The city gets a fair amount of rain although it usually doesn't last too long. The current conditions in Edinburgh are below:

Below are the average temperatures and precipitation for Edinburgh:

Month Avg High Avg Low Average Rainfall
January 43 32 2.2"
February 43 32 1.7"
March 47 34 2.0"
April 52 37 1.6"
May 57 42 2.0"
June 63 47 2.0"
July 65 50 2.2"
August 65 50 2.6"
September 61 42 2.6"
October 55 42 2.6"
November 47 35 2.5"
December 44 33 2.3"

Important Contacts:
  • Police, fire, and medical emergency - 999
  • Confidential health advice - 08454 24 24 24
  • Edinburgh and Scotland Information Centre - 0845 225 5121

  • Tips:
  • Mid October to March is the cheapest time to visit, but the light is also lowest and the days are the shortest.
  • Edinburgh has a lot of cultural events which may make travel more expensive during those times. It is advisable to check the festival times against your travel dates.
  • Scotland loves pub crawls. You should try to partake in one while there. You can purchase tickets for an organized one, or you can plan one of your own. Be prepared to stand in many of the pubs on the weekends, and try to get the pubs on your route in before midnight as most pubs dont stay open later than that.
  • Visit St. Andrews, if not to play golf at least for the gift shop. It is the oldest golf course in the world. You must.
  • Hike Arthur's Seat to see the city view.
  • Wear layers. Temperate climates such as Scotland can fluctuate a great deal in temperature, so light layers are the best option to stay comfortable.
  • Pack something waterproof. You never know when it will rain.

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