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Exploring Edinburgh in 10 Epic Experiences

Exploring Edinburgh in 10 Epic Experiences

Exploring Edinburgh in 10 Epic Experiences

With a sequel to Trainspotting debuting later this month, Out’s editor in chief picks his favorite things to do in Scotland’s magical capital.


Variously dubbed Auld Reekie for the soot-filled smoke that once dominated its skyline (long banished thanks to clean air legislation), and as the Athens of the North for the hills on which it sits, Edinburgh is the kind of city that stops you in your tracks.

Its beauty is breathtaking, throwing up wonderful juxtapositions between architecture and nature, such as the Salisbury Crags, a dramatic backdrop to the domes and spires of this classical city. In the upcoming T2, the sequel to Trainspotting, Danny Boyle's visceral movie masterpiece, Ewan McGregor's Mark Renton surveys the city from atop the aptly-named Arthur's Seat, which rises more than 800 feet above Edinburgh, and is said to be a possible location for the court of Camelot.

Today's visitors have to use their imagination to summon the spirit of King Arthur, but a more contemporary seat of power needs no such effort. Scotland's Parliament, designed by the Spanish architect Enric Miralles Moya, sits just below Arthur's Seat, a shining example of contemporary architecture, described by Britain's The Guardian newspaper as resembling "a cluster of boats, a sweeping of leaves, a collection of seaside shells, a Pandora's box of architectural motifs laced together ingeniously, this side of pandemonium."

Better yet, the Parliament is open to the public six days a week, with no admission charge, and has a great cafe in which to refuel. Edinburgh is a place for walking, and once you've visited the Parliament, you are close to the famous Royal Mile, connecting the Palace of Holyroodhouse, one of Queen Elizabeth's official residences, to the castle that dominates the cityscape.

If the tourists thronging the Mile get too much, escape to the Royal Botanic Gardens, an oasis of beautifully-landscaped borders and lawns dominated by a Victorian palm house (the tallest in Britain). If you're lucky--or should that be unlucky--you might run into the so-called New Reekie--a titan arum, among the world's largest--and smelliest--flowers.

A Glimpse of Edinburgh in 10 Epic Experiences

01-arthurs-seat1. Take a stroll up the extinct volcano known as Arthur's Seat and pretend you are the legendary king's young lover, Merlin.

02-scottish_parliament2. Explore one of the world's youngest, and most transparent, Parliament buildings.

03-royal-botanic-garden3. Among the many reasons to visit Edinburgh's beautiful Royal Botanic Garden (founded in 1670), is the giant slate cone designed by environmental sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.

04-the-elephant-house4. In Celebration of the 20-year anniversary of the Wizarding World, join the pilgrimage to the place of Harry Potter's birth. The Elephant House is not only a great lunch spot, but it's where creator J.K. Rowling began plotting the story of the famous magician.

05-scottish-national-gallery5. Stroll the Scottish National Gallery, located on The Mound in the city center, best known for the Vaughan Bequest of 37 paintings by William Turner, Britain's greatest artist.

06-scott-monument6. Climb the 287 steps of the Scott Monument, designed to commemorate Sir Walter Scott, author of Rob Roy and Ivanhoe, among many historical novels that did more to immortalize Scotland than almost anything else in art.

07-national-museum-of-scotland7. Visit the Lewis Chessmen at the National Museum of Scotland--a medieval 78-piece chess set dating to the 12th century made of walrus tusk and found on the Hebridean island of Lewis in 1831.

08-stone-of-destiny-at-edinburgh-castle8. Find the storied Stone of Destiny at Edinburgh Castle, an oblong block of red sandstone used for centuries to crown the kings and queens of Scotland, and last used for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

09-leith9. Choose your lunch in Leith, and then return for dinner. Edinburgh's restored dockside neighborhood is a foodie haven and includes the Michelin-starred Martin Wishart, and Fishers Bistro, a standout seafood restaurant housed in a 17th-century tower. Follow it up with a dram of whiskey at Nobles, a wood-paneled Victorian cafe-bar in the heart of Leith with a nautical theme.

10-leith-walk10. Dance it off on in Edinburgh's "Pink Triangle" - a small section of pubs and bars at the north end of Leith Walk including the long-standing and unpretentious CC Blooms (named for Bette Midler character in Beaches), as well as The Street and The Regent Bar.

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