Visiting Edinburgh means embarking on a voyage through fascinating mystery tales, dwelled by kings, princesses and pirates, and haunted by the spirits that the city brings to life. Take an online tour through the most captivating spots of Scotland’s Capital.
First stop: Castle Rock. The tour begins in Castle Rock, a magnificent fortress built at the peak of a rock, where millions of years ago, a volcano used to stand. When the Ice Age came, massive glaciers surrounded the volcano, which hardened and turned into basil. The crag crafted by those glaciers moved around the basil forming a tail behind it, where today stands the most famous avenue of Edinburgh: The Royal Mile, that stretches from Castle Rock to the Hollyrood Palace.
Second stop: The Royal Mile and Merkat Cross. The tour moves on to the Merkat Cross, the old main square that stands in the middle of the Royal Mile, where all merchants would gather. A treasure-chest of historic gems, the square had two main functions: public announcements and public punishments. According to popular tales, thieves were nailed in the ear to this door and obliged to stand for 24 hours, or else they would have to tear their ear off, carrying the scar as an eternal mark of disgrace.
Walk along the Royal Mile, explore the closes and courtyards that stem from it and get lost around the magnificent sloping alleys. This area, known as the Old Town, is full of museums that you can visit for free, including the Writers’ Museum, the Museum of Childhood, and the People’s History Museum.
Third stop: St. Gille’s Cathedral. Aside from its architectonic beauty, the church represents a paramount landmark in Scottish history. Saint Gille’s was the protagonist of a nation-wide revolt: the Covenanter movement, which broke out in the 17th Century, when the English Anglican church was imposed over the Presbyterian by the divine monarchy or Scotland. The revolt was triggered by Jenny Getty, a woman who started a riot leading to the creation of the National Covenant, a document that rejected the king of England as the divine monarch of the church.
After exploring the fascinating cathedral, move on to Greyfriar’s Cemetery, where Covenanters, accused of treason, where imprisoned, tortured, and murdered –and where you will find the most intriguing tales of their mysterious comeback.
Fourth stop: Carlton Hill and Greyfriar’s cemetery. Among the various cemeteries existing in a city where the dead outnumber the living, these are two most important ones. Aside from having the cells where covenanters where tortured out in the open, there are two famous creatures resting at Greyfriar’s Cemetery: Edinburgh’s most famous torturer, Mc Kenzie Poltergeist, whose spirit has haunted visitors for years; and Greyfriars’ Bobby, a dog so loyal to its master that stayed next to his grave until his own death.
Fifth stop: Hollyrood Palace. Founded as a monastery in 1128, the Palace is The Queen’s official residence in Scotland. It is closely associated with Scotland’s turbulent past, since Mary Queen of Scots spent most of her turbulent life in the Palace. She married two of her husbands in the Abbey and her private secretary, David Rizzio, was murdered there, in her personal rooms, by a group led by her husband Lord Darnley, who believed she was having an affair with him.
Sixth stop: Princess Street Gardens and the Georgian New Town. Under Georgian rule, a magnificent bridge was built spanning the deep valley to the south of the Royal Mile. Cross the North Bridge to see Edinburgh’s World Heritage site, the Georgian New Town, and discover an elegant face to the city, with neo-classical architecture that is among the best of its kind.
Seventh stop: Historic Vaults and ghost tours. With the building of the bridge and the extension of the city into the mysterious dark valley, an underground community began to thrive. Under its 19 enormous arches, in a catacomb of underground chambers, all sorts of business began to develop: Illegal Trades flourished and thieves turned into pirates as soon as darkness fell over the town.
Embark on a ghost tour and enter the Underground Vaults whose walls, as they said, have absorbed the tales of those who used to live there. It is a labyrinth of chambers and corridors unchanged in two hundred years, where today ghostly creatures frequently wander.
Eighth stop: Arthur’s seat. If you’re feeling energetic, join the Edinburgh tradition of climbing Arthur’s Seat in Hollyrood Park. It’s an extinct volcano (last active over 300 million years ago) and is one of the best vantage points over the city. From the silky prairie that carpets the hill, you can even see the North Sea far beyond, and amaze at the views of the city’s pointy buildings. There is a path going up the hill, so you can just walk as far as you feel like.
Ninth Stop: A taste of ‘scotch’. Rooftop restaurants and basement bars make eating and drinking in style an essential part of anyone’s visit. Indulge yourself to Edinburgh’s best known specialty, as you sample “haggis”, a very particular dish made from sheep’s offal that is extremely popular with locals.