Steeped in history and with an other-worldly charm, Edinburgh’s beautiful buildings and spectacular surrounding scenery make it the perfect destination for a long weekend break
Why choose Edinburgh?
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Scotland’s capital is very much a city of two halves – the Old Town and the New Town – each with its own distinct look and feel, separated by the lovely Princes Street Gardens and the Edinburgh Waverley railway station.
The Old Town is the City’s mediaeval quarter, home to the famed Royal Mile that connects Edinburgh Castle, perched high upon an extinct volcano, to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (itself in the shadow of another extinct volcano, Arthur’s Seat). A warren of mediaeval alleyways snake off this main artery, and the Old Town also encompasses the city’s quirky Grassmarket area. The New Town, by contrast, is the embodiment of Georgian gentrification, with row upon row of elegant, grey-stone terraced houses, charming squares and private gardens. It’s also where you’ll find the City’s main shopping thoroughfare, Princes Street.
Edinburgh has a strong literary history, with Sir Walter Scott and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle both closely associated with the city; the towering Scott Monument on the edge of Princes Street Gardens is testament to the writer’s strong ties to the Scottish capital. More recently, its influence can be felt in the Harry Potter series – rumour has it erstwhile resident JK Rowling took the names of some of her characters (McGonagall, Moodie, Thomas Riddell) from the gravestones of Greyfriars Kirkyard.
Edinburgh, with its atmospheric, romantic air, is a fantastic place to spend a long weekend with your partner – or equally, a relaxing sightseeing trip with your mum. With opportunities to explore this country’s Royal history, meet the UK’s only koalas and giant pandas, and hike up an ex-volcano, you won’t be short of things to do during an Edinburgh city break.
Edinburgh’s history in a nutshell…
Edinburgh’s early history was very much shaped by its royal patrons. King Malcolm II captured the city in 1018, but it was the construction of Edinburgh Castle, on the site of a former Bronze Age settlement, and Holyrood Abbey by David I in the 12th century that sparked the growth of the city – which became Scotland’s capital in 1437. It remained a hub of Scottish Royal power until 1603, when James VI became also King of England (as James I) and the Royal court moved to London. With the Acts of Union in 1707, the Scottish Parliament was dissolved and Edinburgh’s importance diminished.
By the 18th century, the Old Town had become overcrowded, with some 35,000 people crammed into its confines. This led to the City expanding beyond its mediaeval walls. The New Town took shape between the 1760s and 1830s, providing handsome accommodation for Edinburgh’s wealthier families. The new development was an enormous success and brought wealth and prosperity to the city, as financial firms, educational and legal institutions, as well as printing presses, set up shop in the city to make it one of the most influential centres in the UK.
When is the best time to visit?
The summer months bring the warmest weather – even in late spring, there’s often a nip in the air. However, if you’re looking for a quieter break from the crowds then spring and autumn, when it’s not too chilly, are great times to visit.
If you love festivals, head to Edinburgh during the month of August when the world-renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes over the city. The three-week extravaganza is the biggest arts festival in the world and last year featured thousands of performers at more than 3,000 events all across town. Theatre, cabaret, comedy, dance, opera, musicals and exhibitions are among the varied events, and in 2016 the festival welcomed the likes of poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and comedians Omid Djalili and Katy Brand.
Looking for somewhere to ring in the New Year? Look no further than Edinburgh! Its annual Hogmanay festival is a three-day celebration, with traditional Scottish music performed in the Old Town and choral singing in St Giles’ Cathedral. There’s no better way to celebrate the stroke of midnight than linking arms with those around you and joining in with the world’s largest rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
A word of warning, though, if you’re planning a weekend break here over August or the New Year, be sure to book your hotel in Edinburgh early.
Edinburgh is a compact city. Almost all the main sights are within walking distance, but if you are heading further afield, hop on a bus or tram. The City’s public transport systems are reliable, clean and easy to navigate. If you’re arriving in Edinburgh by air, the city’s Airlink 100 express bus service will take you from Edinburgh Airport to Waverley Bridge in the city centre in around half an hour. The service runs every 10 minutes.
So if Scotland’s capital sounds like the perfect weekend getaway, why not take a look at our hotels in Edinburgh.