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How to spend 72 hours in Edinburgh this summer


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With the Fringe Festival finally here, there has never been a better time to visit Edinburgh.

Whether you are going to the Fringe or not, Edinburgh is an ideal destination to visit this summer. It's packed with history, culture and eye-catching sights, and there are some must-do activities for your time in this historic city.

Image credit: Rebecca Barnes

Soak in the history

For history lovers, Edinburgh castle is a must-see, with a multitude of military exhibitions on display, as well as the Scottish Crown Jewels. The Royal Palace is a particular highlight - guests are able to visit the room in which Queen Mary gave birth to James VI, who later became king of England.

Guided tours are provided for those who are interested, or those who want to go at their own pace can rent audio guides for a small price (£3.50 for adults, £2.50 for concessions, and £1.50 for children).

The Real Mary King’s Close might also appeal to those intrigued by Edinburgh’s history, providing a unique look at the city’s original streets. Visitors are led through a collection of homes, where they learn of the inhabitants and the fates they met, before entering the only preserved 17th Century street in Edinburgh. This family-friendly experience is both informative and fun, with actors bringing the 400-year-old history of the narrow streets to life.

There is also the Museum of Edinburgh and the National Museum of Scotland, both of which are free to enter.

Haunted histories

Those looking to experience the spookier side of Edinburgh's history will enjoy the many haunted history experiences available. For those with reasonable stamina, we recommend joining a walking tour, such as The Free Ghost Tour, which will guide you around the city to learn Edinburgh’s history and folklore. You will learn about the dark side of the city, including murders, torture and witch trials, before visiting the cemetery for an especially spooky experience.

For those who do not feel comfortable walking a great deal, there are alternative options, including the Edinburgh Ghost Bus Tour, which prides itself on showing you all the key tourist attractions in Edinburgh whilst entertaining you with the haunted history of the city. This experience differs from others in that it is also comedic, bringing a lightheartedness to the city’s somewhat gruesome history.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter fans will be pleased to know that there are plenty of activities for them, including an award-winning walking tour. Best of all, it is free. The Potter Trail is a highly-rated walking tour that asks visitors to pay what they thought the tour was worth at the end. It prides itself on offering a truly special experience, where actors bring the magic of Edinburgh to life.

Image credit: Rebecca Barnes

Visit Voldemort’s grave, wander through the real Diagon Alley and even see where J.K Rowling wrote parts of the first Harry Potter book, as well as much more. 

Of course, the tour is not the only Harry Potter attraction in the city. There is also the Department of Magic, which offers Harry Potter themed escape rooms, as well as themed cocktails and boardgames to amuse customers.

Meanwhile, those wishing to learn how to brew drinkable elixirs can visit The Cauldron, which offers one hour and 45-minute immersive classes in which customers can wear wizarding robes and try their hand at potion-making.

For fans hoping to visit some of the filming locations, there are also day trips available from Edinburgh.

Getting active

The more active-minded tourists will enjoy the hiking options available, such as Arthur’s Seat, which is located within the city, and the Pentlands, which is reasonably nearby. Both offer wonderful views from the top, although beginner hikers might want to start with one of the easier routes on Arthur’s Seat. North Berwick Law and Traprain Law are also nice hiking spots close to Edinburgh, whilst Cockleroy Hill is a great spot for those who want to enjoy picturesque views without too much of a workout. 

Edinburgh's walking tours provide a great alternative for those who wish to get active but cannot quite see themselves climbing up a great big hill.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s recently introduced cycle hire scheme means visitors can explore the city on two wheels rather than two feet if they so desire. To find out about locations and prices, follow the link here.

For culture vultures

Culture lovers will enjoy The Writers Museum, which is free (although donations are encouraged) and dedicated to celebrating the lives of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Whether or not you have heard of these renowned Scottish writers, you will not regret a visit to this small yet illuminating museum.

For those interested in hearing from more modern authors, a visit to the Edinburgh International Book Festival might be in order. The festival runs from 10th to the 26th August, and writers speaking this year include Malorie Blackman, Carol Ann Duffy and Alison Weir.

Image credit: Rebecca Barnes

A trip to Scotland would not be complete without sampling some whisky, so why not visit a distillery or museum while in Edinburgh? The Scotch Whisky Experience is easily located near Edinburgh Castle and provides a variety of tours. The Silver Tour is reasonably priced and includes a whisky barrel ride through the production of Scotch whisky, a presentation of the different locations where Scotch whisky is made and an introduction to the different aromas of Scotch Whisky. Moreover, visitors can sample one of the whiskies discussed and are gifted a whisky tasting glass on completion of the tour. 

Perhaps the most amusing attraction on our list is the Camera Obscura, a museum filled with the weird and whacky. Wander through rooms filled with illusions, question your sight as your eyes play tricks on you and witness just how little privacy the selfie-happy tourists at Edinburgh Castle actually have, preferably before you become one of them. Don’t forget to visit the roof, where you will find some of the best views in the whole city.

Edinburgh is a city bustling with life year-round, with endless attractions to fill your time. That being said, the summer months are a particularly great time to go, with plenty of daylight, warmer weather and some truly great festivals on offer. So pack your bags, book your transport and prepare to explore one of the UK’s greatest locations this summer.

Lead image credit: Rebecca Barnes

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