Edinburgh is the UK’s jewel in the North. Often overlooked by visitors in favour of better-known London, Scotland’s capital city is a hive of history and culture. Renting a car in Edinburgh is simple with easyCar, visitors can explore every nook and cranny in the densely packed city as well as dipping in and out of the thistle encrusted wilderness beyond the city’s borders.
Climb Arthur’s Seat
Looming above Edinburgh is Arthur’s Seat. The dormant volcano rises out of the urban sprawl; a Scottish giant carved out of the rock. Sitting within the 640 acre Holyrood Park, it offers stunning views of the city and a taster of the wild Scottish landscape that lies beyond the capital. Explore Arthur’s Seat by foot; drive to the Scottish Parliament to start your walk to the top. As you climb higher and higher, spot the river Forth, the wind turbines of Fife; the Pentland Hills and Edinburgh Castle. The best aerial view of the city by far.
Get lost in Edinburgh’s Medieval Heartland
Descend into the vaults and wynds – aka narrow lanes – of Edinburgh’s old town. The area stretches along a high ridge, leading to Edinburgh castle. The winding cobbled alleyways unveil hidden courtyards and reformation-era tenement buildings. Quaint shops, churches and early high rise buildings also line the streets. Visitors can even explore underground, as beneath the old town a warren of underground streets exists. Mary King’s Close was, in the 17th and 19th century, a bustling hive of activity – people lived, worked and died in its subterranean passageways. In the 1600s, the streets were open to the skies and traders would come here to sell their goods.
Now a tourist attraction, Mary King’s Close is rich with tales of plague, murder and ghost sightings. Its reputation for hauntings is thought to originate from its proximity to the old Nor Loch – once a heavily polluted marsh. Biogas from the marsh would escape into the close, creating an eerie light and sometimes causing hallucinations.
Visit Edinburgh Castle
Dominating the city’s skyline is Edinburgh Castle. Occupied since the iron age, it is a monument to Edinburgh’s rich history which fascinates tourists from all over the world. An important stronghold for the Kingdom of Scotland, it has played a role in many of the country’s conflicts – from the Wars of Scottish Independence to the Jacobite Rising. Recent research indicates that the fortress may be the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world; it has been involved in 26 sieges in 1100 years.
Inside the castle, find the Crown Jewels of Scotland (the Honours) and the Stone of Destiny – over the years this block of Sandstone has become a holy relic and a symbol of Scottish nationhood.
Feast on Scottish delicacies
If the Scots know one thing, it’s whiskey. Bars in Edinburgh revel in the opportunity to introduce visitors to Scotland’s favourite drink. One of the best is the Whiski Bar – a cosy spot on the Royal Mile, with its dark mahogany decor and a back wall dense with whiskey bottles. Its mission is to be as Scottish as possible and every evening, folk music rings out from the corner of the pub. Soak up the whiskey with Whiski Bar’s fish and chips or head down the road to the Royal McGregor for a taste of another Scottish delicacy: Haggis. Not recommended for vegetarians or fussy eaters, haggis is made of sheep’s or calf’s offal with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning. It may sound disgusting but it is in fact, delicious – particularly after a cold day climbing up and down the old town’s uncountable steps. Here, the haggis is served in a tower of neeps and tatties, drizzled in Rosemary gravy. If you’re not ready to commit to a whole plate of Haggis, try the Haggis Fritters or the highland burger with Haggis and Whiskey sauce.
Visit YouTube-famous pandas at Edinburgh Zoo
On the south slopes of the Corstorphine Hill, smugly overlooking the city, sits Edinburgh Zoo. World famous, thanks to its two giant pandas – swaggering male, Sunshine and cheeky female, Sweetie. Constantly in the news, these pandas are national celebrities and YouTube stars. The pair are often caught on camera doing ninja rolls or feasting on ice cream. Since they came to Edinburgh in 2003, they’ve captured Scotland’s hearts. Sunshine and Sweetie, however, are only on loan from a breeding centre in China, so make sure you see them before they return home. These are the UK’s only giant pandas and Edinburgh is also home to the UK’s only koalas. The zoo’s international reputation means it is Scotland’s second most popular tourist attraction after Edinburgh castle.
Make all of the above possible with your rental car in Edinburgh with easyCar.