Best Places to Visit in Scotland – Edinburgh and The Lothian Region

Best Places to Visit in Scotland – Edinburgh and The Lothian Region

Panoramic View of Edinburgh


  • Edinburgh is both Scotland’s capital and Scotland’s cultural capital, although Scot’s would say that it also wears Europe’s cultural crown.  It is a delightful city to visit, but a day or two will cover most of what there is to see. During the Festival at the end of summer, the city is alive with music, plays, ballets and symphonies.

Edinburgh Castle sits above the city and is Edinburgh’s most visible attraction

Edinburgh’s leading attractions are

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

  • Sitting majestically above the city on a sheer, volcanic bluff, Edinburgh Castle is the  most popular attraction in Scotland.  Dating from the 12th century (parts added in the 16th and 17 centuries), the Castle houses the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny (Stone of the Scone – Scotland’s coronation stone), the National War Museum of Scotland and numerous antique cannons, including the oversized Mons Meg.
  • This is the castle where in the mid-16th century Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her only child, James, who later became the first king of Scotland and England.
  • The Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a world famous event featuring military drum and marching squads, is held in August.  See this site for more information.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

  • The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of the British Monarch in Edinburgh.  The complex was originally a monastery (12th century)  before it was converted to a royal palace. For a time, Holyroodhouse was the home of Mary Queen of Scots.  In addition, Bonnie Prince Charlie led the unsuccessful  Jacobite siege of Edinburg Castle from here in 1745. Click on this site for information on visiting.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Royal Mile

  • The “Royal Mile” runs east from the Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.   It is an interesting street and one of the most walked lanes in Scotland.  Some of the shops are  quaint, including more than one selling custom kilts.
  • The streets signs for the Royal Mile carry many names.  It starts as Castle Hill, then changes to Lawnmarket, High Street and, finally Canongate.

In Edinburgh, you will find both an “Old Town” and a “New Town” though both are old by present day standards.

    • The Castle and The Royal Mile serve as a buffer for the old town, which extends to the south.  The Old Town has a crowded, disorganized look featuring curved lanes, many alley ways and the streets are crowded during the weekend with locals and visitors.
    • The GrassmarketCowgate and Candlemakers Roware filled with shops and good quality restaurants attractive to many tourists.  The University is in this area.
  • To the North of the Royal Mile is the Georgian “New Town” marked by a regular grid pattern of streets and elegant buildings.
    • Princes Street along the south edge of the “New Town” is the main “shopping” street in Edinburgh.
  • Holyrood Park in Edinburgh
    Holyrood Park in Edinburgh

    The National Gallery of Scotland is quite impressive and a pleasant way to spend an hour or two.  It has several paintings by the Masters but its real strength, of course, is its coverage of Scottish painters.

      • The National Gallery sits between the New and Old Towns in Edinburgh.  Details on visiting  can be found here .
  • Many tour books recommend a visit to Carlton Hill for a grand view of the city and to see the monuments the area has to offer.  Although the trip is short, we advise you to skip it, unless you want a panoramic photo of Edinburgh.  If you have the energy and want a great photographic view of Edinburgh, head for Arthur’s Seat, instead, which is part of the hills around Holyrood Park It’s a modest climb but the view is worth it. Local lore ties the hill to King Arthur, but this seems a bit of a stretch.
  • The Queen’s former Royal Yacht, the Britannia, is permanently on display at the docks in nearby Leith (two  miles from the city center). Visit the official website  to see if this is a stop for you.  The Britannia is docked next to the Ocean Terminal, which can be accessed by bus from Edinburgh’s City Center.
Linlithgow Palace
Linlithgow Palace

Edinburgh and its surrounding area is a part of Scotland’s Lothian region.  The region includes many interesting attractions that can be combined on a day trip from Edinburgh.

    • The ruins of Linlithgow Palace (in Linlithgow off the M-9 west of Edinburgh) mark the ancestral home of the Stewarts from James I to James VII, including Mary, Queen of Scots who was born at the palace in the 16th century.  The building the remains today is only a shell, but is in relatively good shape and has many interesting features.  Informative plaques have been placed throughout the palace for those interested in self-guided tours.
      • See Historic Scotland (a website produced by the Scottish government) for details on the amazing history of Linlithgow Palace.
  • Those who are fans of the DaVinci Code book/movie might want to visit Rosslyn Chapel in the town of Roslin, less than ten miles south of Edinburgh.  Although the chapel has interesting, even mysterious ornamentation, its links with the Knights Templar, not to mention the Holy Grail, are tenuous and misplaced by centuries.  It is, however, a beautiful, well-preserved and ornate little gem that is worth visiting.  See the official Rosslyn website  for details.
  • Tantallon Castle
    Tantallon Castle

    The ruins of Dirleton Castle  and Tantallon Castle can be found along the coast, east of Edinburgh. Follow the A-198.  The castles bracket North Berwick.

    • Tantallon Castle has a beautiful setting overlooking  a particularly fine area of the coast and a small island called Bass Rock.  The castle is famous for its massive, well-preserved walls.  See Historic Scotland’s website for more detail on Tantallon Castle.
    • Dirleton Castle, is less crowded than Tantallon, but has an interesting layout and more areas to explore. The British attacked the castle on several occasions and it shows considerable damage, but  remains an attractive and evocative site.   Click here for Historic Scotland’s page on Dirleton Castle.
    • Several small towns in the area are fun to visit for shopping or a bite to eat. You might combine a stop at the castles with a tour of the Borders
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