There are so many great things to do in Edinburgh that providing you with my top five recommendations has taken much thought. Royalty, world class views and amazing history all feature.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Where: Ocean Drive, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ
When: January to March First Admission 10.00 Last Admission 15.00
April to August First Admission 09.30 Last Admission 16.00
September First Admission 10.00 Last Adminssion 1600
October First Admission 10 Last Admission 15.30
November to December First Admission 10.00 Last Admission 15.00
Family (two adults and up to 3 children):£50
Child Under 5: Free
The Royal Yacht Britannia was the former floating palace of our late Queen Elizabeth II for over 40 years and is now berthed beside Ocean Terminal in Leith, Edinburgh. It is Scotland’s best visitor attraction. No visit to Edinburgh is complete without a visit here.
However, please be aware that – as at 18th January 2024 – no tickets are available for March, April and June. I plan to update this information for you as soon as the official website for Royal Yacht Britannia updates their site, upon release of this news.
Learn about the Royal Family’s most famous guests over the years and take a glimpse into the privilege and class structure from the Royal residences down to the crew’s living quarters. See how the other half live why the queen shed a tear at the demise of this jewel in the Royal crown.
My Top Tip:
I recommend that you enjoy refreshments afterwards in the recently refurbished Royal Deck Tea Room to round off this unique and memorable Royal experience. You will also enjoy a private tour through Canongate on your Mary Queen of Scots tour, the Royal section of the Royal Mile, so often overlooked. I find it mystifying why, not least as it is a fascinating area and you have the awe-inspiring Royal palace of Holyroodhouse at the very bottom of Canongate.
Where: Queens Drive, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh EH8 8HG
When: Any time (weather permitting)
Arthur’s Seat is a now extinct volcano 251 metres above sea level. It offers unparalleled views across the city and dominates the landscape within Holyrood Park and for miles around. If you have climbed Arthur’s Seat, what was your favourite part of the view?
Holyrood Park is a scenic 640 acre park at the bottom of the Royal Mile. It is no secret that Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert’s hearts belonged here. We have one of Queen Victoria’s favourite statues to Prince Albert in Edinburgh. If you have seen it, what did you think of it? Queen’s Drive is aptly named as Prince Albert created this so his wife Queen Victoria could enjoy the views from a gilded carriage.
I highly recommend you take a stroll around Holyrood Park. It will enable you to fully appreciate Prince Albert’s thoughts for his queen for yourself! You can even enjoy the wildlife on St Margaret’s Loch.
My Top Tip:
Wear some sturdy walking shoes, warm clothes and bring some refreshments.
Where: Calton Hill, Edinburgh EH7 5AA
Calton Hill is literally just a short walk from Princes Street along Waterloo Place, which was created in the same year as the Battle of Waterloo.
Nearby is Old Calton burial ground. It is the home of some interesting memorials including a bronze of Abraham Lincoln. This was created in honour of the Scottish soldiers who fought in the American Civil War (1861 – 1865). Also nearby is New Calton Burial Ground, there you will find the resting place of Abraham Lincoln’s favourite poet, William Knox. The name of Abraham Lincoln is even carved into the stone!
Calton Hill features various monuments including Old Observatory House, the National Monument, Dugald Stuart Monument and Nelson Monument.
My Top Tip:
The Nelson Monument was built in 1807 and resembles a telescope. I recommend a climb up its spiral staircase – not too difficult as it is wide and flat – for nominal fee to enjoy some of Edinburgh’s most spectacular views.
Where: 153 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN
When: Between May and September volunteers keep the kirk open as much as possible
The Canongate Kirk – a Scottish word for a church – nestles near the bottom of the Royal Mile and serves the Parish of Canongate in Edinburgh’s Old Town. It is also the parish church of not only Holyroodhouse but Edinburgh Castle. The Queen worships here when residing in Holyroodhouse. Marvel at the interior of the kirk, which comprises of detailed embroidery explaining the origins of the church. If you have ever sinned – haven’t we all! – you will even find your sin listed one of the walls.
My Top Tip:
Take time to walk around the kirkyard – a Scottish word for a graveyard. It contains many Greats of Edinburgh’s past, including the body of a secret lover of Mary Queen of Scots, David Rizzio! If you have visited where he was killed, did you see his bloodstain upon the floor? Amongst the biggest names now resting in Canongate kirk are the economist and philosopher. He has a footpath that will easily lead you to his final home. Wear sturdy shoes and beware of your own health and safety. Like all our historic kirkyards, health and safety was not much considered when many people were laid to rest here.
Experience Canongate on your Mary Queen of Scots private tour with me to discover yet more of its wonders.
Where: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG
When: 1st April – 30th September 09.30 – 18.00 Last Entry 17.00
1st October – 23rd December) 09.30 – 17.00 Last Entry 16.00 – be aware however last entry is 15.00 24th December
25th & 26th December – closed
27th – 31st December 09.30 – 17.00 Last Entry 16.00
1st January 11.00- 17.00 Last Entry 4pm
2nd January – 31st March 09.30 – 17.00 Last Entry 16.00
Prices vary, plus there are partner organisation deals. Your best option is to check the Edinburgh Castle tickets section of their website for more specifics.
Planning your visit
I cannot recommend strongly enough that you prebook your ticket on the Edinburgh Castle website. You will be offered windows of entry times for your chosen date. In high season – June, July and August – do so three weeks in advance. In April, May, September and October do so two weeks in advance. In the months of November to April inclusive – except for thw eeek between Christmas and Nerw Year and the Easter school holidays, you should be safe booking one week in advance.
Why do I recommend such strong forward planning? Prebooking guarantees your entry. There is many a time I have visited the castle and noticed that anyone hoping to buy a ticket on the day has no such option, as all the entry time windows are sold out.
I further advise that you allow up to 2 hours to fully appreciate the history, highlights and views. I also strongly recommend purchasing a Castle guidebook. It will enable you to name your many photographs when you return home. I always do that whenever I visit an attraction anywhere in the world.
Our Castle was built on an extinct volcano. The little sister as I like to refer to it, of Arthur’s Seat. The former main volcano of Edinburgh. The Castle has changed hands many times between the English and the Scots for centuries. Join me on a private Edinburgh Castle tour to learn of one man with very close Royal connections who took the Castle with just 30 men!
You will also hear about one particular nationality of prisoners we held in the Castle prisoner of war camp in the 1700s. One of them even carved something very special into a door. I’ll tell you where within the Castle that item is on display. You will also hear about the Jacobite Risings and Bonnie Prince Charlie’s attempt to capture the Castle.
My Top Tips:
Wear sturdy footwear. The uneven landscape of the Old Town does not stop at the entrance to Edinburgh Castle! Also wear warm clothing. You are at one of the highest points in Edinburgh. Make every effort to time your entry for around 11.30. That way, you can enjoy the lower section of the castle, then grab a place at a perfect viewing point for the firing of the famous one o’clock gun – the hour the gun fires from the right hand side of the Red Coat Cafe – from a higher position beside Mons Meg canon. To get that never to be forgotten experience, you must be sure to manouvre yourserlf into position no later than 12.30, and wait patiently.
Experience one of the best visitor attractions in Scotland with me on a private Edinburgh Castle tour.
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