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Although Edinburgh is one of those magical places you could frequent for all eternity, life sometimes has other plans. Yet you can still fulfil all your wanderlust dreams, experience the true essence of Scotland’s capital city and explore our whistle-stop tour guide of Edinburgh in 24 hours. Ready, steady, GO!
To help jumpstart the day, feel all fresh and spritely with a dose of high quality coffee and homemade breakfast at Castello Coffee Co. on Castle St, a braw wee independent coffee house with fab cakes. Once injected with caffeine, hop on over to Princes St and walk through the Gardens set in the shadow of the Castle.
Stop at Scott Monument, the largest ever monument in honour of an author, and scale all 287 steps (they are frightfully narrow and not for the faint hearted). Once at the summit, take in the spectacular city views and grasp the essence of Edinburgh: ‘piled deep and massy, close and high, mine own romantic town’, Sir Walter Scott.
After pinching yourself to see if the beauty is real (it is), admire the Balmoral Hotel and Waverley Train Station (named after Sir Walter Scott’s work) and head back towards the Scottish National Gallery. Take a brief tour of the exquisite fine artworks, some stunning, some humorous, and make your way up the Mound. Remember to look back and soak up the cityscape falling into the distance. Climb the steps up to Makar’s Court and read the inspiring sea of quotes from Scotland’s most prolific writers on this evolving monument. Those that feel inclined can hit up the Writers’ Museum.
Experience a real Edinburgh close (alleyway) and walk through Lady Stair’s Close to find the Royal Mile. This ancient cobbled street, lined with curiosities a plenty, spans from the Castle to the Palace. Just a few brisk strides away lies the eyes and ears of the city, Edinburgh Castle.
Either head on in and take a tour — make sure to see Mon’s Meg, the soldiers’ dog graveyard, the prison and the Honours Of Scotland — or snap the mandatory ‘castle-selfie’. Those interested in holograms and ancient modes of photography can nip into Camera Obscura, Edinburgh’s oldest purpose-built visitor attraction, while foodies can drool over The Witchery, perhaps Edinburgh’s most esteemed eatery.
Exploring can work up an appetite, so settle that hunger with a bite at one of the many great restaurants along George IV Bridge. For fresh Scottish seafood and panoramic windows made for people watching, try Ondine — it also has a cool oyster bar. Trendy and relaxed, opt for The Outsider, a perennial prime pick with its first class menu and castle views. Cucina is a contemporary Italian infused restaurant with a potion of colours and character, whereas Villager is a chilled lounge bar with hip music, cocktails and quirky bar grub.
Once fed and watered, get back on the adventure train and walk along the bridge until you come across an adorable dog statue and Edinburgh’s smallest listed building — that’s Greyfriars Bobby, Scotland’s beloved famous pooch who guarded his master’s grave for 14 years. Bobby makes for another necessary photo op.
Next, explore the Chambers Street Museum. Be sure to take in the stunning main hall, Dolly The Sheep, the mammal collection and the Arthur’s Seat Coffins — all will give you a great taster of Scottish and worldly history.
Meander back towards the Royal Mile and swing by St Giles’ Cathedral, a 14th-century maze of ethereal beauty and intricate craftsmanship. Look for the angel playing bagpipes in the Chapel Of The Order Of The Thistle.
From there, stroll down the Royal Mile, nipping into the quintessential tartan and cashmere shops as you go, until you reach the Scottish Parliament Building (designed by Spanish Catalan architect Enric Miralles) and Holyrood Palace. Delight in the wondrous mix of architecture and history before setting eyes on Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh’s historic mountain peak.
Next, the New Town. Congregate at George St, explore the fancy shops if you wish, and venture on over to Bramble Bar & Lounge on Queen St. This snug subterranean hideaway is the perfect place for absorbing the day’s events while sipping on innovative craft cocktails.
For the pièce de résistance of activities, there’s no better way to end a whistle-stop tour of Scotland’s capital than tucking into a mouth-watering meal made from the finest local ingredients. Standing out from Edinburgh’s glistening restaurant scene is The Gardener’s Cottage. A stone’s throw away from Bramble, this divine eatery is located in Royal Terrace Gardens in – yep you guessed it— the former gardener’s cottage built in 1836. Food wise, it’s all delicious, seasonal and local, featuring seven dreamy courses and different menus each day. Adding to the intimate and exclusive atmosphere are the communal tables and cosy feel. Pure magic.
Strategically placed at the foot of Calton Hill, end the night with a post-dinner amble up the top of the Hill (it’s not far) and prepare for a breathtaking nighttime view of Edinburgh. The half-finished Parthenon inspired National Monument makes the perfect perch.