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Swap Glasgow for Edinburgh: exploring the history of Auld Reekie
- Arusa Qureshi
- 6 August 2017
From castle walks to monument spotting, step back in time for the day to explore Edinburgh's unique past
From its beginnings as a Roman fort to its role at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment, Edinburgh is renowned the world over for its fascinating stories and intriguing landmarks, which draw millions of visitors to the city every year.
With history seeping out of every nook and cranny, why not spend a day exploring the Athens of the North and discover for yourself what makes the city so special? Plus, Edinburgh Waverley Station is located right in the centre of the city, so getting around once you've arrived is simple. It couldn't be easier to swap Glasgow for Edinburgh for the day.
Just a short walk from Waverley and up the bustling Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle is the city's most iconic landmark. The oldest part of the castle, St Margaret's Chapel, dates back to the 12th century while the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny and the 15th-century gun Mons Meg are all housed within its walls.
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Three miles south-east of the city centre lies Craigmillar Castle, one of the most perfectly preserved castles in Scotland, known for its connection to Mary, Queen of Scots. For those feeling adventurous, the walk from the centre of town to the castle may take over an hour but will lead you through the stunning landscape of Arthur's Seat and along the Innocent Railway Tunnel, which was once Scotland's first public railway tunnel. You can also choose to take a detour through Duddingston to The Sheep Heid to experience some fine food and drink as well as an old fashioned bowling alley dating back to 1870, courtesy of what may be the oldest pub in Scotland.
A little further out, near Cramond, you'll find Lauriston Castle which is a true hidden gem by the sea, with Edwardian interiors well worth perusing and a magnificent garden, which was laid out by William Henry Playfair in the 1840s. Have a wander around the Japanese Friendship Garden for a moment of reflection and tranquility.
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As a City of Literature, Edinburgh has a variety of trails that you can take to follow the adventures of characters from Miss Jean Brodie to Inspector Rebus. But there are also a number of locations and landmarks that are worth a visit to see the inspiration behind your favourite stories.
Head north to Leith to get a taste of where the characters of Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting spent their time. Today, you'll find plenty of trendy drinking spots and chic shops and cafés, along with excellent arts spaces and venues.
Robert Louis Stevenson saw Edinburgh as a city with two sides, with his Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde based on this duality as well as on the real case of respected Edinburgh man and criminal Deacon Brodie. To find out more about the darker side of Edinburgh, visit the University of Edinburgh's Anatomical Museum, which houses the skeleton of murderer William Burke, along with anatomy teaching models, life and death masks and lots of other creepy and interesting artefacts.
The Scott Monument is a tribute to Sir Walter Scott which towers above Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh Waverley Station. Climb the 287 steps to the top to enjoy some breathtaking views of the city and surrounding countryside.
Architecture and heritage
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A short jaunt around the city centre will unveil some of Edinburgh's best examples of neoclassical architecture including buildings like Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery.
Head down to the bottom of the Royal Mile to visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse, originally the site of a medieval monastery but is used today as the Queen's official residence in Scotland. The ruins of the 12th-century Abbey are a unique site to explore alongside the Palace's 16th-century historic apartments.
Take a stroll up Calton Hill to see exactly why Edinburgh holds its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As well as the panoramic views of the city, you'll find the Parthenon-like National Monument of Scotland, the Nelson Monument, Dugald Stewart Monument and City Observatory, all elevated high above the city as a reminder of its many historical achievements.
After all that leg-stretching around town, it's time to put your feet up with a relaxing train journey home.