Every August, the streets of Edinburgh fill with the bustle of tourists to watch variety acts, writers, artists, actors and comedians at the Edinburgh Festivals. Twitter has been buzzing with festival schenanigans and it’s made me really keen to visit again. I’ve been to Edinburgh twice and I absolutely love it. In fact I’d probably say it’s my favourite city in the UK and would recommend it to any visitors. There’s so much to do here and even after several visits there’s a lot to discover about this old capital. Instead of telling you about some of the most popular sights, which are well documented on any number of blogs and websites, I thought I’d show you some things that are a little more off the beaten track and that I intend to do next time I visit.
I believe that both of these amazing museums suffer slightly from the reputation of the more famous Scottish National Gallery and National Museum of Scotland. Situated in the New Town, both galleries are within walking distance of Princes Street. The National Portrait Gallery is a beautiful neo-gothic building which houses portraits of many famous Scots, both historical and current. It is home to portraits of the likes of Mary, Queen of Scots, Robert Burns, and Alan Cumming. The National Gallery of Modern Art is set in beautifully landscaped parkland in the midst of the city centre. It displays the work of modern European masters, such as Pablo Picasso and Oskar Kokoschka alongside Scottish artists such as JD Fergusson, Samuel Peploe and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. Admission to both museums is free, perfect to while away a rainy day.
Ceilidh the night away
Ceilidh (kay-lee) comes from the Gaelic word for ‘gathering’ or ‘party’, nowadays it refers to a night of folk music and traditional dances. They’re great social events where you can enjoy Scottish music and you needn’t know the dances to have a good time. At Hogmanay there’s an annual outdoor ceilidh, but they do take place all year round. Visit the Edinburgh Ceilidh Club website for event listings.
At the foot of Arthur’s Seat next to Holyrood Park lies the picturesque village of Duddingston. It lies next to a freshwater loch which is part of the Bawsinch and Duddingston Nature Reserve run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. This loch provided the setting for the famous painting of The Skating Minister by Henry Raeburn (which you can see in the National Gallery). It is home to many wildfowl and you might even spot the odd otter or two swimming around the loch. After you’ve walked around the loch, why not put up your feet for a time in the Sheep Heid Inn, rumoured to be the oldest pub in Scotland.
Portobello is a suburb of Edinburgh, approximately 3 miles outside of the city centre facing the Forth of Firth. Get a taste of Edinburgh’s seaside by walking down the promenade along the sandy beach.
Inchcolm Abbey is set on a small island in the Forth of Fife, north of Edinburgh. It was established by David I and is said to be the best-preserved monastic building in Scotland. The island is also a haven for its wildlife, especially seals. It’s open from April until October and is quite easily accessible from Edinburgh city centre. You can either get a direct bus link from Waverley Train Station with Forth Tours or take a train to South Queensferry/Dalmeny and walk a short distance to Hawes Pier at South Queensferry, where you can take a ferry to Inchcolm Abbey and Island.