Edinburgh: A beautiful city whichever way you look at it

The statue of Greyfriars Bobby
The statue of Greyfriars Bobby

One of the first things anyone notices upon arrival in Edinburgh is how beautiful the city is.

One of the first things anyone notices upon arrival in Edinburgh is how beautiful the city is - both architecturally and in terms of its natural surroundings.

With flights to Scotland at a competitive and affordable level, there really has never been a better time to pop north of the border without having to suffer a gruelling drive the length of England in order to get there. Now, anyone living in the south of England can jet to Edinburgh to enjoy a haggis and wee dram in less time than it takes to cook a Sunday roast.

And there are plenty of reasons why a short break in the Scottish capital is worth booking.

While Glasgow has enjoyed a spell in the international spotlight recently, due to the Commonwealth Games, Edinburgh has long been a favourite destination for visitors - largely due to its outstanding cultural offer and eye-catching architecture.

If you don’t take time to look around you in Edinburgh, you really are missing out on much of what is so appealing about the city.

If, however, you want a more all-encompassing view of the city, a trip to Arthur’s Seat is definitely for you. One of four hill forts dating back more than 2,000 years, Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park is a comfortable walk away from Edinburgh Castle and offers unrivalled stunning panoramic views of the city.

Described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design”, a visit to Arthur’s Seat is a perfect way to relax and breathe in the delights of Edinburgh from a relatively easy-to-reach vantage point.

For a different but equally-impressive look at Edinburgh, Camera Obscura and World of Illusions offer 360-degree panoramas, alongside a host of interesting exhibitions set over five fun-filled floors. Among the hands-on optical exhibits are an apparently shrinking room, a vortex tunnel straight out of a science fiction film, and a mirror maze. It might be Scotland’s oldest purpose-built attraction, dating back to 1834, but it has been regularly and impressively updated and remains a relevant and interesting way to spend an afternoon.

The Scottish Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile is another must-visit for anyone wanting to experience a full taste of Edinburgh. Not only are visitors shown the whisky-making process up close, but they will also be given a glimpse inside the vault that contains the biggest collection of Scotch whiskies in the world. It isn’t just for the connoisseur either. Experts are on hand to help visitors select the perfect tipple for tasting, as well as offering a tutorial on nosing and tasting different variations.

Anyone needing an afternoon of fresh air to recover from any impromptu whisky sessions should look no further than Edinburgh Zoo. Not only does the zoo boast a breeding pair of pandas alongside an array of exotic and rare animals, it also stages one of Edinburgh’s most iconic events: the penguin parade.

Once a day, for as far back as anyone can remember, the zoo’s penguins are allowed to leave temporarily their award-winning enclosure for a quick stroll around parts of the park. It started decades ago, when a keeper accidentally left the door open and found himself being stalked by a gang of penguins while he went about the rest of his work. They enjoyed it so much it has become tradition, with all the park’s penguins given the option of stretching their legs every afternoon.

And, on the subject of adorable animals, no trip to Edinburgh would be complete without a visit to Greyfriars Church in the city’s Old Town.

Legend has it that a loveable Skye terrier was so attached to his 19th-century owner that he spent the 14 years after his death guarding the grave until he himself passed away.

As a result, Greyfriars Bobby has become one of Edinburgh’s most-loved sons and a statue of the dog, just a stone’s throw away from his master’s final resting place, is an attraction in itself, with locals and tourists queueing up each day to rub his nose for luck.

It might not be a particularly exotic holiday destination, but Edinburgh has charm, culture and history in abundance. And a penguin parade. How many other cities can say that?