One day itinerary: A One Day Stand

‘Diana and Actaeon’ by Titian

‘Diana and Actaeon’ by Titian

Paul Mitchell explains how to spend a day in Edinburgh without opening your wallet.

It's one of Britain's most expensive cities and to hard-up new arrivals, Edinburgh could seem impossible to enjoy without a six-figure bank balance. But we say, why buy a cow when you can get the milk for free? Scotland’s capital positively heaves with things to see and do and lots of them will cost you the sum total of nothing – apart from time and effort. We call this our Open Mind/Closed Wallet itinerary, although we do suggest you bring a packed lunch.

Early morning nature walk
Spoiled for choice is what you are. Watching the sunrise in the rarefied air at the top of one of Edinburgh’s seven hills will shake away those cobwebs. Arthur’s Seat is the highest, but Blackford Hill also provides exceptional views. Calton Hill is smaller, but very central, sitting a couple of minutes’ walk from the East End of Princes Street. Just beyond Stockbridge, pretty Inverleith Park is neighboured by the Royal Botanic Gardens, with over 70 acres of beautifully landscaped horticulture.

Lunchtime culture break
Sensory overload time in the National Museum of Scotland or perhaps the National Portrait Gallery, the Writers’ Museum, the Museum of Childhood, the Fruitmarket Gallery … the list really does go on. The National Gallery’s Bridgewater Collection contains works from masters including Raphael, Poussin and Rembrandt, but the big show in town right now is the £300m pair of ‘Diana and Actaeon’ and ‘Diana and Callisto’ paintings by renaissance artist Titian. £50m needs to be raised by year’s end to keep them in Scotland - so hurry before it’s too late. Or, with all the money you’re saving, perhaps you can help out?

Early afternoon leg stretch
Edinburgh’s a wonderful city in which to wander aimlessly, If you’ve got a pair of comfy shoes, you could see all the major sights of the Old Town in one day. There’s lots to see, including the Castle, St. Giles Cathedral, Greyfriars Kirkyard and the National Museum. Several tour companies will do the hard work for you and take you on a trip around the city. Taking an organised tour is probably the best way to learn about the city,

Fun on the meadows
Edinburgh has over 100 parks suitable for lounging purposes, but by far the most active spot is the Meadows. If you’re still feeling energetic after all this culture and fresh air, you can easily join in the inevitable football games being played or try some pitch and putt golf up at Bruntsfield Links. There are also organised games of touch rugby, Frisbee and rounders, each with their own Facebook group.

Into the night
Sitting in a pub with nae cash is bound to result in nae craic. However, in lots of places (Sandy Bells, the Royal Oak) you can splash out on a half pint and watch live, traditional music. Best bet, though, is heading over to the Forest Café where everything from theatre, poetry, exhibitions and live music goes down. Better still, it’s BYOB. If you have energy left, some clubs allow free admission, particularly mid-week (multi-levelled, student-friendly Espionage is always free to get in, but will you get out?). Our favourite is Tuesdays or Thursdays at Cabaret Voltaire, great music, great crowd, and great fun.

Paul recommends

Royal Botanic Garden
20a Inverleith Row, 0131 552 7171,

National Galleries of Scotland
The Mound, 0131 624 6200,

The Forest Café
3 Bristo Place, 0131 220 4538,

The National Gallery
The Mound, 0131 624 6200,

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