Majestic castles, medieval history and pub-filled streets oozing with charm; Edinburgh will show you how to have a good time, the Scottish way.

Steeped in old-world charm, Edinburgh is easily one of the UK’s most beautiful cities. But beneath the enchanting medieval wynds and buildings of Old Town lies a dark history with secrets and stories waiting to be told. You can feel the history seeping out of the cobbled alleyways and sense that some serious things went down here. Edinburgh is also a melting pot for creatives and is home to the world’s largest arts festival, The Edinburgh Fringe. Our Edinburgh tours are a perfect mix of history and hedonism, and our guides will help you explore the local way. Step back in time at Edinburgh Castle, climb the rolling hills of Arthur’s seat for some fresh Scottish air and sweeping cityscapes, peek inside royal residences, and have a wee whiskey (or two) with the locals in centuries-old pubs – the Scots certainly know how to have a good time. When you’ve had your culture fix, soak up more of Scotland’s mythical magic in the Highlands or the Orkney Islands.

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Highlights of Edinburgh 

Edinburgh Castle in Scotland

Step back in time in Edinburgh Castle

Have you ever wondered what life was like for people living in Edinburgh during medieval times? Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline and fuses Old Town and New Town together. The castle protected the city from English invaders back in the middle ages, and it’s seen its fair share of bloody battles. Follow in the footsteps of kings and queens in the Great Hall where magnificent banquets took place, peek inside cells where prisoners of war were detained and watch a live reenactment to see Mary, Queen of Scots and other historical figures in action.

A view of Edinburgh City from Arthur's Seat

Climb Arthur’s Seat for splendid cityscapes

Fancy getting some epic snaps from one of the highest points of Edinburgh? One of the great things about Edinburgh is that that it’s full of gardens and grassy spaces to escape the hustle and bustle of the city (it’s one of the greenest cities in the UK). Arthur’s Seat is the remains of an extinct volcano and the peak jolts out of the rolling hills and grasslands of Holyrood Park. There are a few routes up to the summit depending on whether you fancy an easy stroll or a bit more of a climb. Either way, you’ll be treated to panoramic views that stretch across Edinburgh and beyond. 

People walking on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh City Centre

Soak up Edinburgh's vibrant culture on the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile (which is actually one mile and 107 yards, AKA a Scots mile) is the beating heart of Old Town that connects two royal residences: Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. It's brimming with top-notch eateries, lively bars, iconic medieval buildings, museums and shops. Get lost in the labyrinth of alleyways to discover pockets of history or stumble on hidden centuries-old pubs where the walls hold many secrets. You’ll also see some of Edinburgh most famous buildings including St Giles’ Cathedral, Parliament Square and Castle Esplanade. Grim fact: Castle Esplanade is where accused witches were once burned at the stake and you can visit the Witches' Well, a fountain to honour the people who were killed here. 

Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh

Get a glimpse of royal life in Holyrood Palace

Did you know Holyrood Palace is where the British monarchy reside when they’re in Scotland? Queen Elizabeth II visits every year for her summer holiday. It was built in 1678 and generations of kings and queens have lived here. Wander around this ever-so-grand palace to get a glimpse of what life was (and still is) like for the royals. It’s pretty massive with over 280 rooms and a spectacular garden that can host up to 8,000 people for royal events. The palace is brimming with regal relics and treasures. Make sure you don’t miss the Great Gallery, the Royal Dining Room, the Throne Room and the State Apartments. You can also peek inside the infamous room in Mary Queen of Scots’ chambers where her husband murdered her secretary in 1566.

A river view of Dean Village in Edinburgh

Explore the quaint cobbled streets of Dean Village

You might be wondering why a tiny village in the residential outskirts of Edinburgh is a must-do, but trust us, it is. It’s like walking through a fairy tale with narrow cobbled roads, pretty stone houses and colourful cottages that back onto the rippling Water of Leith. Dean Village was initially built as a settlement for milling grain and water from the river (dene means “deep valley” in Scots). This lasted for about 800 years and you’ll find remnants of this history scattered throughout the village. It’s a lovely place to simply meander the quaint passageways, sit by the river and watch the world go by. It’s so peaceful that you might even forget you’re just a stone’s throw from the city. 

The National Monument on Calton Hill in Edinburgh

Stroll up Calton Hill to the National Monument for sunrise

If you’re keen to make the most of your time in Edinburgh, it’s definitely worth waking up early and heading to Calton Hill to watch the sunrise and see the city slowly wake up. The National Monument is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was inspired by Athens' Parthenon and was built to commemorate Scottish soldiers who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. It was never finished (and some locals are pretty miffed about this) but it’s striking nonetheless and offers some stunning views of the city skyline where you can get some great photos for the ‘gram. Not an early riser? Calton Hill is a popular spot to lounge on the grass with a picnic. 

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Edinburgh FAQs

Everyone travelling on an Intrepid trip must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of carriage. 

All travellers are required to produce:  

  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccination
  • All children aged 5 to 17 years old must provide proof of vaccination (if eligible), proof of recovery or a negative COVID-19 test.
  • If you are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, you may apply for an exemption. Exemptions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. To apply, you must provide a medical certificate from a medical professional. 

In all cases, you must be fully inoculated. This means you must receive the full dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine and allow enough time for immunity to take effect. Each COVID-19 vaccine has different dosages and timeframes for inoculation, so please check the relevant medical advice associated with your vaccine.

Learn more about Intrepid's COVID-19 proof of vaccination policy

There are a number of transport options that go direct to Edinburgh. You can fly from various cities in the UK and Europe with airlines including Ryanair, EasyJet and British Airways. If you are travelling to Edinburgh from nearby cities such as Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool or Newcastle, the most convenient way to get there is by train with the National Rail. You can also take a bus or coach from major cities in the UK with National Express, Citylink and Megabus.

Learn more about how to get to Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a very easy city to get around with extensive bus routes, road and traffic-free cycling networks and a tram that runs from the Edinburgh Airport to York Place in the east side of the city centre. One of the best ways to get around the city is by walking. The city centre is compact and most of the main sights are within walking distance. There are also plenty of black cabs which you can hail on the street or jump in at one of the taxi ranks. It’s relatively easy to drive around the city if you have a car, but you’ll need to be aware of parking restrictions.

Learn more about getting around Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a lively city and that you can enjoy any time of year. In terms of weather, the best time to visit is during the summer between May and September when the days are longer and sunnier. Scottish summers can still sometimes feel a little chilly, especially if you’re from a hot place, so bring some warm layers and a rain jacket. If you love comedy, theatre and music, the best time to go is August when the Fringe Festival is on. There are festivals throughout the year in Edinburgh but the Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival and it’s pretty special. The city is packed at this time of year so be prepared for large crowds, more expensive accommodation and longer queues for attractions.

Learn more about the best time to visit Edinburgh

Most of Edinburgh’s main attracts are accessible including Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Museum of Scotland, the National Gallery of Scotland and St Giles’ Cathedral. The city rests on an extinct volcano and some streets are quite steep. There are also many cobblestone streets in the Old Town. It’s recommended to plan your day and work your way downhill where possible. The tram and several bus lines are also wheelchair accessible. Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. We’re always happy to talk to travellers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.

Learn more about Accessible Travel with Intrepid

Scotland is internationally recognised as an inclusive nation and Edinburgh is a very welcoming destination for LBTQI+ people. There are many safe and friendly bars, cafes, pubs and hangout spots for the LBTQI+ community. In February there is also the LGBT History Month with an amazing range of parties, activities and programs not just in Edinburgh but throughout the country.

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