Why the best way to discover the beautiful city of Edinburgh is on foot

  • Edinburgh Guide
  • 16 February 2011
Walking in Edinburgh

A guide to the best walking tours of Scotland's capital

Edinburgh is a beautiful city and there’s no better way to discover it than by pounding the pavements

Wandering around a city without a map can either turn up serendipitous gems or leave you hopelessly lost and frustrated with none of your must-see list ticked off. That’s when it’s a good idea to enlist the help of a walking tour guide who’ll whisk you around the sights – and Edinburgh has a good range of helpful experts happy to lead you by the hand.

Roam Edinburgh is literally hands-on, with the capital’s only hand-held digital tour guide. Using palm-sized ‘Digi-guide’ devices, or downloadable to a GPS-enabled PDA mobile phone, Roam leads visitors through a selection of 12 walking tours, providing information, audio commentaries and suggestions as they go.

Edinburgh Tour Guides, meanwhile, covers the Old and New Town, Royal Mile, the Edinburgh of Robert Burns and the city’s darker side, and can be booked for an hour to a full day, with an expert guide to the city’s attractions.

And contrary to the adage that if it’s free it can’t be any good are the free tours operating in the capital. Two of the most popular are Sandemans New Europe and Edinburgh Free Walking Tours. Sandemans doesn’t charge for tours, which last for three and a half hours and are led by freelance guides who work for tips only. The tours mix history and storytelling with plenty of information, covering all the main sights of the Old and New Towns and don’t need to be booked in advance.

Sandemans offers paid-for tours too, including its New Edinburgh Ghost Tour, New Edinburgh Pub Crawl and New Edinburgh Parks and Palaces Tour. Private tours are also available and can be tailored to the particular interests of the group.

Edinburgh Free Walking Tours doesn’t charge either, although its guides are volunteers and are grateful for any remuneration at the end of the historical tour of Legends and Myths (lasting from two to two and a half hours). This covers part of the Royal Mile, where the costumed guides tell visitors about everything from the Witches’ Well to Deacon Brodie and the location of the last remaining sedan chair storage building.

Edinburgh Free Walking Tours
45 Niddry Street, 0131 557 4700, www.edinburghfreewalkingtours.com
Tours start from the Heart of Midlothian, in front of St Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile, every day at 12.30pm and 2.30pm, and are free (though guides appreciate any remuneration)

Edinburgh Tour Guides
0131 443 3200, www.edinburghtourguides.com
Prices vary from £12 to £125 for private tours

Roam Edinburgh GPS Walking Tours
07824 515 153, www.roamedinburgh.com
Digi-Guide, from £7 a day

Sandemans New Europe
The Free Tour begins every day at 11am, 1pm and 3pm in front of the Starbucks Café by the Tron Kirk on the High Street. The New Edinburgh Ghost Tour starts every night at 9.30pm in front of the Starbucks Café by the Tron Kirk on the High Street. £10 (£8); under-13s, free. The company also runs the New Edinburgh Pub Crawl, £12, and The New Edinburgh Parks and Palaces Tour.