Edinburgh & Lothian
Edinburgh Must See 3 Day Must See
Edinburgh has such a high number of attractions that it is hard to prioritise what to see, especially if you only have a limited amount of time in the city. The attractions listed in our must see itinerary represent a good variety of the best attractions in the city. The castle is the most visited attraction in Scotland, the museum of Scotland is the most visited free attraction in the city and you cant visit Edinburgh without taking at least one ghost tour (there are numerous tours available all offering an atmospheric and spooky experience!)
Total Cost: £38.40 (Adult)
Day 1: Edinburgh Castle / Camera Obscura
The first day of our literary starts at the iconic Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile. It is best to arrive at the caste early as it can get quite crowded during the day with bus tours especially popular here. There are free tours available, these leave from just inside the castle and run throughout the day, They are quite informative and well worth taking advantage. The castle will take quite a while to explore as there are numerous rooms and viewpoints and a couple of museums inside. The main things not to miss are the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny.
If you are at the castle for lunchtime there is a good café inside with fantastic views of the city and you can also see and hear the 1 o’clock gun going off (this happens every day except Sunday).
The next stop for today is just outside the castle at Camera Obscura, its impossible to miss as you walk out the castle it is on your left hand-side. This is one of the most interactive and unique attractions in the city and it can be equally enjoyed by both children and adults.
The starting point is on the top floor where the Camera Obscura show takes place, this show involves looking at the city via a pinhole camera which give a fantastic panoramic view. The guides usually give you some basic information about the city and point out numerous landmarks. After the show you can go outside to the observation deck and get some nice views of all around Edinburgh. Then you work your way day the levels with each level offering a different collection of objects to view or interact with. These include optical illusions, 3D holographic artwork and on the bottom level a Vortex Tunnel which you have to try and walk through without holding onto the railings (not as easy as it sounds!).
Depending on the time of day when you exit Camera Obscura you may also have time to visit the Whisky Experience which is across the road. This has a whiskey tour which is suitable for all ages and it takes you through the whisky making process via a fun barrel ride and then offers you the chance to sample some whisky (soft drink available for the kids)
Day 2: National Museum of Scotland / Scottish National Gallery
Today begins at the most visited free attraction in the country, the National Museum of Scotland. The museum is only a short walk from the royal mile (walk down bank street, past the Missoni Hotel and the museum will be on your left.) and it has a massive seven floors of exhibits to explore.
It is advisable to take one of the complimentary maps on arrival as its easy to get lost inside as the layout is quite open and at times difficult to find what you are looking for! There are a massive amount of exhibits and information inside which cover a variety of topics including Scotish History, Technology past and preset, science and nature.
There are many highlights inside and if you are traveling with children there is a play area for young kids and a very fun science section where children can play with robots or race in a formula one simulator. The best way to not miss anything is to study the map and see what interests you, it is easy to spend most of the day inside the museum if you want to see everything. If you want to have a meal while at the museum it is worth noting that one of the top restaurants in the city is on the top floor. The Tower Restaurant has a fantastic menu and also some spectacular views of the city.
When you have finished your tour of the museum the next stop is one of the top art gallaries in Scotland at the National Gallery. This is around a 15 minute walk from the museum and is easy to find, just walk back up Bank Street past the royal mile and follow the road left until you come to the Mound. Then walk down Playfair Steps and the National Gallery will be on your left.
The Scottish National Gallery has a fantastic collection of art works which include some of the most famous artists in the world such as Sandro Botticelli and Rembrandt and also a great collection of Scottish art works by some of the county’s best known artists.
The building itself is also worth seeing with the high ceilings meaning that the larger art works can be both accommodated and displayed appropriately. There are actually three interconnected building which you can explore and it will take probably a couple of hours at least to see everything.
Day 3: Calton Hill / Scottish Parliament / Real Mary Kings Close
For this day it is important to pre-book a tour at the Scottish Parliament the day before, the tour is free but it has to be booked in advance and it can be easily done by going to the official Scottish Parliament website. The Itinerary begins in the city centre at one of the most underrated areas of the city Calton Hill. The site is only a few minutes walk from Princes Street (walk past the Balmoral Hotel away from Princes Street and after a couple of minutes the steps to Calton Hill will be on your right hand-side) and it has so much to see and do.
The area is filled with monuments and it is also one of the oldest public parks in Britain. There are a couple of walks which take you around the site (Hume Walk and Regent Walk) and along the way you will get some fantastic views of Old Town, New Town and Leith.
There are numerous monuments on Calton Hill and the only paid attraction is Nelson Monument which after you climb the 143 steps gives you one of the best panoramic views of Edinburgh. The best way to see Calton Hill is to walk around and to find the name and significance of each monument there are small information cards next to the monuments.
The next stop is a tour of the Scottish Parliament which is around a 25 minute walk from Calton. Simply walk back towards the Balmoral Hotel and then take a left onto North Bridge and keep walking until you reach the Royal Mile (high street) then take a left again and keep walking down the hill until you come to the Parliament which will be on your right. If you have some time between the beginning of your tour and when you finish at Calton Hill then there are a few museum on the Royal Mile which you can visit, these include the Peoples Museum, Museum of Childhood and Museum of Edinburgh all of which are free.
The tour at the Parliament building takes one hour and it is quite an informative tour, taking you through the main lobby, debating chamber and a Committee Room. A brief insight into Scottish politics and into the unique design of the building are given by the guide.
The final attraction is a ghost tour at Real Mary Kings Close which lasts for one hour, it is again best to book this in advance with tours running all day (picking a evening tour is advisable for a better atmosphere). The tour is one of the many ghost tours in the city and as well as learning about some more gruesome elements of Edinburgh you get to visit an extremely atmospheric underground city (not advisable if you are claustrophobic).