The Royal Mile in Edinburgh is lined with must-see historical sights and tourist attractions, but there is much more beyond the Mile. Here’s a few of them:
To read about Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, please see the previous post, “Beneath the plaid in Old Town.”
The extinct volcano, Arthur’s Seat, towers over Edinburgh. I found a trailhead near Saint Margaret’s Loch on Queen’s Drive, one of the more difficult routes. (There’s a shorter easier path at Dunsapie Loch.) On the way, I stopped at the ruin of Saint Anthony’s Chapel. The view over Edinburgh and Leith improved with the elevation. Near the top, the going was rocky and the footing difficult. On the summit, the ideal weather conditions promoted quite a crowd. Trekkers lined up for their turn to pose for photos at the marker. The view was spectacular in every direction. Another popular hike is the rough trail just below the red cliffs known as the Salisbury Crags.
On the way down from the summit is a path leading into Duddingston Village. At the bottom of the trail, I passed through the iron gate and walked down the walled alley into town. The village and the church date to the 1100s. The Sheep Heid Inn stands in the spot of a previous tavern, dating to the 1500s. It’s a perfect spot for lunch after climbing Arthur’s Seat.
The Scottish National Gallery features an impressive collection of paintings by a who’s-who of artists: Da Vinci, Titian, Botticelli, Raphael, Van Dyck, Rubens, Rembrandt, Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and more.
Disney made a movie about the story of Bobby, a Skye terrier, who sat near his master’s grave for fourteen years until he himself died. Greyfriars Bobby is buried in the same graveyard at Greyfriars Kirk as his master. Bobby’s grave and statue are popular tourist sights.
J.K. Rowling worked on her first Harry Potter book while sipping tea at the The Elephant House.
The National Museum of Scotland houses many natural, industrial, and international displays. I focused on the Kingdom of the Scots exhibit, covering prehistoric to modern times. I also stopped to say hello to Dolly the cloned sheep and Jackie Stewart’s Formula One race car, a 1971 Tyrrell 003 that won eight Grand Prix races.
Climb Calton Hill on a clear day to see the National Monument, a half-finished Parthenon, as well as the Nelson Monument, the Dugald Stewart Monument, and the City Observatory. There’s a nice view in every direction, especially toward Leith, Arthur’s Seat, and the Palace at Holyroodhouse.
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery tells the story of Scotland through historical portraits. Highlights include portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots; Bonnie Prince Charlie, and Robert Burns. The entry hall features a 360-degree mural of Scotland’s most notable historic figures.
The restored Georgian House in New Town serves as an example of how the wealthy lived in the early 1800s in Edinburgh. (No indoor plumbing.)
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art featured an exhibit on American Impressionism while I was there, with works by Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeill Whistler.
Edinburgh erected the Scott Monument in 1840 to commemorate its favorite son, Sir Walter Scott. On a clear day, climb to the top for a scenic view of the city. (The steep spiral climb is not for the acrophobic or claustrophobic.)
The Princes Street Gardens lie in the hollow between Old Town and New Town. Once the site was a lake into which the sewage from Old Town emptied. Today, the gardens are popular for picnics and concerts. The world’s oldest floral clock is located there.
Conspiracy theorists will love the Rosslyn Chapel (a forty-five minute bus ride from Edinburgh). Built between 1446 and 1486, the chapel is featured in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, both the book and the movie, due to its connections to the Knights Templar and the Freemasons. Knights from the Crusades are buried beneath the chapel and their underground vaults are rumored to hold Solomon’s scrolls, the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Convenant, and any other treasures that are missing. The chapel is famous for its over-the-top ornamental and mysterious stone carvings, presenting many puzzles to solve.
The royal yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997 after serving the royal family for forty-four years. She’s moored in Leith (a fifteen-minute bus ride from Edinburgh) and serves to draw tourists to the town’s harborside makeover. The tour is interesting, less so because of the yacht’s opulence and more so because of the lack of it. No expense was spared when it came to throwing lavish dinner parties for kings, presidents, and celebrities, yet most of the 1950s-era furnishings look dowdy by anyone’s standards. The tour shares interesting details about life on board. The crew, for example, communicated with hand signals so as not to disturb the royal family. And the portholes were placed higher than normal so that crew members could not catch immodest glimpses of members of the royal family in their cabins.