Scotland's capital city is associated with John Knox, Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexander Graham Bell, and Bonnie Prince Charlie. From the elegant Georgian homes of New Town to the medieval buildings of Old Town, this city lives up to its reputation as one of the "fairest cities in Europe". Walking around is a sheer joy. You don't even need a map; you can't go wrong. And somebody famous lived in almost any residence you pass. It's a pleasant city to visit.
The Royal Mile is the name given to the oldest part of the city, the road that runs downhill from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. The entire population of Edinburgh lived and worked, just off one of the streets along this section. It is absolutely filled with objects and sites of historic fascination... structures with turrets, gables, and chimneys. St. Giles Cathedral, which was founded in 1120 with its Thistle Chapel. John Knox's House, whose history goes back to the 15th century. Knox is the reformer who founded the Scottish Presbyterian Church. City Chambers/Parliament, where meetings were held from 1639 to 1707.
Edinburgh Castle: The history is vague but it is known that in the 11th century, Malcolm III and his queen, Margaret, occupied a castle on this spot. The present structure dates from the 12th century. Do visit: State Apartments, particularly Queen Mary's bedroom, where she gave birth to James VI, later James I of England. The Great Hall, with a hammer-beam ceiling... displaying armaments and armor. The Crown Chamber, which houses the Honors of Scotland, used at the coronation of James VI, along with the scepter and sword of the State.
Camera Obscura: Just east of the Castle. This is an Outlook Tower. Climb up the 98 steps and walk outside and you'll be on a rooftop terrace where a panorama of Edinburgh is depicted. It's very easy to pick out landmarks.
Holyrood Palace was built adjacent to an Abbey from the 12th century. The nave of that Abbey, now in ruins, still remains. James IV founded the first palace in the 16th century, but only the north tower of his palace is left. Much of what you see now was ordered by Charles II. In the Old Wing occurred the most epic moments in the history of Holyrood Palace, when Mary was in residence... numerous affairs, plots, intrigue, accomplices, and murder. Mary's old part of the palace still exists... her bedroom, supper room, and the lodge, known as Mary's Bath House, where she reputedly bathed in red wine. Guides, who take you through, spare you none of the gory details of Mary's rein. After Mary, the palace suffered long periods of neglect, but made a comeback in the 18th century with Bonnie Prince Charlie. The present Queen still lives here when her family visits the area. During those times, the palace is closed to the public. 9:30- 5 PM.
National Gallery of Scotland: Located in the center of Princes Street Gardens, this gallery is rather small, but the collection is not... and it was selected with great care. There are major works by Verrocchio, del Sarto, Tiepolo, E1Greco, Velasquez, Zurbaran, Rembrandt, Rubens, Holbein, Raphael, Titian, plus the outstanding Maitland Collection of Impressionism. 10 - 5 PM. A surprisingly good collection.
Scott Monument: This Gothic-inspired piece lies on East Princes Street Gardens and is Edinburgh's most famous landmark. Sir Walter Scott's heroes are honored by small figures on the monument, which is 200 feet tall.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: Located in an 18th century house in the Royal Botanic Garden. Includes works by Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Leger, Rouault, Miro, Magritte, Lichenstein, Pollock. 10 - 5 PM.
New Town: When Old Town became too small, this area was developed into beautiful squares, public gardens and homes. Two stops are highly recommended: Georgian house at #1 Charlotte Square, which is a prime example of Scottish architecture and interior design from the 18th century... and Gladstone's Land, an upstairs apartment of 4 rooms furnished as they might have been in the 17th century. This is the largest neoclassical area in Europe.
The Scottish Experience: Hourly shows are presented at this popular attraction, located at West End Princes Street. A 40-foot relief model of Scotland shows at the press of a button the well-known places associated with the history of the country.
Edinburgh International Festival: This world-famous festival takes place around mid August to mid-September. Artists in all fields - music, drama, opera, ballet, painting - contribute their talents. Very popular. Be sure and book well in advance.
Shopping: Big and beautiful stores along Princes Street, facing the gardens and the Castle... and also souvenirs along the Royal Mile (Scottish crafts).
Kelso Excursion - Floors Castle: Kelso lies at the point where the Teviot meets the Tweed. Kelso Abbey, now in ruins, was the earliest of the border abbeys. One visits here to see the home of the Duke of Roxburghe Floors Castle, which was built in 1721. Beautiful tapestries, French antiques, Chinese porcelain, and paintings by Gainsborough and Reynolds. Afternoon tea in the Courtyard Restaurant.
Jedburgh Excursion... Abbey... Mary Queen of Scots House: Jedburgh is 48 miles from Edinburgh and is famous for Jedburgh Abbey. The abbey, which was founded in 1147 by King David, is considered one of the finest in Scotland. In town on Queen Street, visit the Mary Queen of Scots House, where she resided in the year t566 from October 9 to November 9. After a long ride to Hermitage Castle where the wounded Earl of Bothwell was, the queen suffered a stomach hemorrhage, which nearly killed her.