Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK, drawing millions of visitors a year – and not just for its world-famous arts festival in August. As the poet Hugh MacDiarmid famously put it, “Edinburgh is a mad god’s dream,” where streets, bridges, gardens and towers overlap in ways that seem beyond architectural sense. It makes Auld Reekie a fantastic place to explore – especially in the city’s Old Town, where the streets that rise and fall away from the Royal Mile (the long road that leads sharply upwards to imposing Edinburgh Castle) are quaint and confusing in equal measure. Though, of course there’s always a fantastic pub around the corner for when the walking, or the weather, drives you towards a seat in a cosy drinking nook.
By contrast, the New Town is a masterpiece of regimented Georgian architecture, with excellent shopping. And beyond that, stunning Dean Village is set in a leafy gorge near the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Also worth exploring is the port of Leith – home to two of the city’s Michelin-starred restaurants, The Kitchin and Restaurant Martin Wishart.
History practically radiates from Edinburgh’s sandstone; the pull of authors and explorers, Iron Age settlers and Jacobean kings can be felt in plenty of places, but these five sites especially.
How many cities have an extinct volcano slap-bang in the middle of it? Well, Edinburgh has two, including this haunched hill in Holyrood Park just to the east of the city centre (the other has the castle on it). A brisk climb to the top will give you a spectacular panorama of the city, and there are up-close views of the sandstone crags where local scientist James Hutton made important discoveries about the age and movement of the Earth in 1788. In Edinburgh, history can be measured in geological time.