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Edinburgh – a brief overview
Arguably one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and almost certainly the most architecturally arresting in the UK, Edinburgh is a multi-levelled marvel. Climb up to the top of the castle, wander the Royal Mile and spend a day exploring the UNESCO-protected Old and New Towns. Duck into a whisky
tasting, clamber up Arthur’s Seat for a taste of rural Scotland on the city’s doorstep or just kick back in any one of the town’s superb pubs. Visit in August and you’ll be treated to one of the world’s biggest cultural events, the Edinburgh Festivals, when comedy, literature and film fans are in raptures.
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Top 10 sights in Edinburgh
EH1 2NG Edinburgh
Tel: (0131) 225 9846
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High up on Castle Rock, this Edinburgh fortress dates back to the second century. Most of the current buildings were constructed in the 16th century, although the 12th-century St Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest building in the city. It’s Scotland’s most popular tourist attraction, and for good reason.
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A masterpiece of Georgian town planning, Edinburgh’s New Town was developed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Today its gorgeous townhouses play home to the city’s great and good, as well as a string of superb bars and restaurants.
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Medieval and early modern architecture proliferates in this UNESCO-listed part of Edinburgh. Wander the narrow, winding alleys and take in majestic St Giles’ Cathedral and the long sweep of the Royal Mile.
EH12 6TS Edinburgh
Tel: (0131) 334 9171
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Daily 0900-1800 (Apr-Sep)
0900-1700 (Oct and Mar)
Edinburgh’s zoo has always been popular. But visitor numbers have boomed since the arrival in 2011 of Tian Tian and Yang Guang, a pair of giant pandas. Keenly watched during mating season and beyond, they’re the star attraction of this superb menagerie.
National Museum of Scotland
EH1 1JF Edinburgh
Tel: 0300 123 6789
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Head here to get a grip of Scottish culture throughout the ages. The vast Grand Gallery plays home to excellent modern art, while the international collections look at how this small country has brought its influence to bear all over the world.
EH8 8HG Edinburgh
Tel: (0131) 652 8150
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Situated just outside the city centre, this hulking hill is well worth climbing for tremendous views back across town. It can be strenuous, so make sure you wear appropriate footwear and take a bottle of water. It’s well worth the effort though.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
EH4 3DR Edinburgh
Tel: (0131) 624 6200
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Daily 1000-1700 (Sep-Jul)
daily 1000-1800 (Aug)
Opened in 1960, this superb space is home to the Scottish national collection of modern art. Masters including Picasso, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon rub shoulders with some of Scotland’s finest 20th-century artworks.
EH8 8DX Edinburgh
Tel: (0131) 556 5100
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Daily 0930-1800 (Apr-Oct)
At the end of the Royal Mile, this stunning palace is the Queen’s official residence north of the border. A masterpiece of 16th- and 17th-century architecture, today the palace houses a huge collection of royal art. The guided tours are comprehensive and fascinating.
Scottish Parliament Building
EH99 1SP Edinburgh
Tel: (0131) 348 5000
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Mon and Fri-Sat 1000-1700
Beside Holyrood Palace, this modernist marvel opened for business in 2004. The debating chamber and unique offices of each MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) make this a unique take on how parliament buildings are usually designed.
Greyfriars Kirk and Kirkyard
EH1 2QQ Edinburgh
Tel: (0131) 225 1900
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check the website, as the church closes for special events
One of the finest churches in Edinburgh, this brooding building was first opened in 1620 and is renowned as being a key site in the continued independence of the Church of Scotland. The adjoining Kirkyard, or cemetery, is worth spending some time exploring too.
Few places cram in as much scenery, history and culture as the United Kingdom. England’s southwest is dominated by a rugged shoreline and swathes of open national parkland, while its sprawling and vibrant capital London dominates the southeast. Hillwalkers can take some serious hikes in the Scottish Highlands or England’s Lake District. True British wilderness remains – stark, sometimes stunning and often inaccessible, particularly in the far north of Scotland.
Historic Edinburgh is a fascinating city to explore, while Glasgow explodes with nightlife options. Visitors to Wales can meander from the urban highlights of Cardiff to Snowdon’s jagged peaks in the north. Across the water, Belfast is reviving as a tourist destination, and Northern Ireland’s countryside is green and rolling.
The British landscape can be divided roughly into two kinds of terrain – highland and lowland. The highland area comprises the mountainous regions of Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England and North Wales.
The English Lake District in the northwest contains lakes and fells. The lowland area is broken up by sandstone and limestone hills, long valleys and basins such as the Wash on the east coast. In the southeast, the North and South Downs culminate in the White Cliffs of Dover.
The coastline includes fjord-like inlets in the northwest of Scotland, spectacular cliffs and wild sandy beaches on the east coast and, further south, beaches of rock, shale and sand sometimes backed by dunes, and large areas of fenland in East Anglia.
Note: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Although they form one administrative unit (with regional exceptions), they have had separate cultures, languages and political histories.
The United Kingdom section consists of a general introduction (covering the aspects that the four countries have in common) and sections devoted to the four constituent countries. The Channel Islands (Alderney, Guernsey, Jersey, Sark and Herm) and the Isle of Man are dependencies of the British Crown. These are included here for convenience of reference.
More detailed geographical descriptions of the various countries may be found under the respective travel guides.
Population Density (per sq km): 261
English. Welsh is spoken in parts of Wales, and Gaelic in parts of Scotland. The many ethnic minorities within the UK also speak their own languages (eg Cantonese, Greek, Hindi, Mandarin, Turkish, Urdu, etc).
See the individual Money sections within the Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Northern Ireland sections for information on currency specific to these regions.
Pound (GBP; symbol £) = 100 pence. Notes are in denominations of £50, 20, 10 and 5. Additional bank notes issued by Scottish banks (including £1 notes) are accepted in all parts of the UK, although some smaller shops outside Scotland may prefer English banknotes. Coins are in denominations of £2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 pence.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs are standard.
General business opening hours
Mon-Fri 0900-1700/1800. However, business hours in London can be much longer.
Below are Public Holidays for the January 2014-December 2015 period.
Note: Holidays falling on the weekend are observed the following Monday.
New Year’s Day: 01. January 2014
Good Friday: 18. April 2014
Easter Monday (except Scotland): 21. April 2014
Early May Bank Holiday: 05. May 2014
Spring Bank Holiday: 26. May 2014
Summer Bank Holiday (except Scotland): 25. August 2014
Christmas Day: 25. December 2014
Boxing Day: 26. December 2014
New Year’s Day: 01. January 2015
Good Friday: 03. April 2015
Easter Monday (except Scotland): 06. April 2015
Early May Bank Holiday: 04. May 2015
Spring Bank Holiday: 25. May 2015
Summer Bank Holiday (except Scotland): 31. August 2015
Christmas Day: 25. December 2015
Boxing Day: 26. December 2015
Scotland – wild at heart
The highland escapades in the lastest James Bond movie Skyfall may have boosted Scotland’s popularity, but the country has long been a dream destination thanks to its natural landscapes, time-honored golf courses and smoky scotch. We start our trip in Aberdeen and travel around the northwest, encountering loads of fish, sled dog mushers, ancient settlements built on the water and rangers who make money off of 007.
Lufthansa offers three daily services to Aberdeen (ABZ) and two daily services to Edinburgh (EDI) from Frankfurt, as well as one flight daily to Glasgow (GLA) from Dusseldorf. Starting in April 2014, Germanwings will serve Edinburgh six times weekly from Cologne. To calculate how many miles you can earn on a round-trip flight, visit meilenrechner.de. lufthansa.com
Margot Brodie sits in a small garret room at the Alex Scott & Co. kilt factory amid photos of her collie dog, lengths of cloth, an array of bobbins and her thimble. Over in the corner, there’s a sewing machine. Outside the window, helicopters hover like seagulls above the granite-gray port as they carry their regular deliveries of workers to the oil rigs out in the North Sea.
The sprightly senior is just back from lunch, which she takes punctually at eleven o’clock every morning. At 75, she is not only Aberdeen’s oldest kiltmaker, but also one of the best in the country. It takes her roughly 13 hours to complete a traditional Scottish kilt; a complete set can cost anything up to 1400 pounds. She began her five-year apprenticeship in 1954, learning her craft from an army kiltmaker. Today she is still passing on what she learned.
“Ay, ay, it’s an industry with a secure future,” she says with a mischievous grin, “I’m not planning on retiring.” Her reputation extends far beyond the city’s limits. “People from all over the kingdom order my kilts,” she tells us with visible satisfaction, “I never get bored, I really enjoy the work.”
As if to prove her point, she takes out her measuring tape, which is 60 inches long, roughly a meter and a half. “Once someone came to me for a kilt. He was such a fatty, I had to use two tapes to measure all the way round his middle!” she laughs. She just has one regret, namely not having emigrated to Australia 40 years ago! She does fly out there regularly on winter vacation, though.
“130 yards ist not bad for your first day,” says Neil Marr, 47, my golf instructor. In front of him, a laptop displays my tee-off performance data, and later Marr analyzes on video every error in my posture – and there are quite a few. Scotland is considered
to be the cradle of the time-honored game, and Meldrum House Club, one of Scotland’s most exclusive golfing establishments, honors its traditions to the letter. The course is over 7000 yards long (roughly 6400 m), and club membership is limited to 400 to minimize waiting times. A stone’s throw from the first tee, there’s a stately old manor house that’s been converted into a luxury hotel.
Head coach Marr also trains the Scottish national youth team, but today he has me to contend with. A qualified sports psychologist, he keeps his true thoughts about my golfing potential to himself. “The main thing a good golfer needs in additionto mental strength, technique, physical fitness and a good diet,” says Marr, “is patience.” Wanting to do too much too soon often ends in failure. “I play less but I still improve my game,” he says,a look of surprise momentarily crossing his face. Marr seems a paragon of composure, and looks ten years younger than he is. We trundle across the extensive course in the cart, enjoying the view of endless green hills. The sun is out, the birds are singing. We would be happy to stay for another couple of days but it’s time to move on.
We plan to end the day at tiny Knockdhu Distillery, which was founded in 1894 and is hidden away in Knock, on the fringes of the Whisky Trail, a concentration of famous distilleries inthe northeast of the country. The air here is fragrant with the smell of malt.
Master distiller Gordon Bruce, 49, takes us straight to the large wooden washbacks and copper stills. “We are very traditional in the way we produce our whisky, and we haven’t really changed our method in the past hundred years,” he says. “The fact that it’s not mass produced is what makes our scotch so special.” To prove his point, he holds up a calculator with huge buttons and mischievously says: “May I show you our latest computer?”
The ground outside is peaty, ideal for growing barley, and fresh, clear water bubbles from several springs. These are ideal prerequisites for an excellent scotch. Next door, the different “vintages” are maturing under the roof of a large barn in some 1200 oak barrels brought over especially from Spain or the United States. “They were originally used to store sherry or bourbon,” Bruce explains, tenderly running his fingers over one of them, “the flavor rubs off.” The warehouse is his great treasure, and as he man strides between the long rows of barrels in the gloom, his face suddenly takes on a blissful expression. “I love my work because it’s not something you can plan. Conditions change constantly and that constantly creates new challenges,” he explains. In his free time, Bruce likes to travel occasionally, “but only to cold places.” Otherwise he spends his time experimenting with whisky, blending different single malts – as you can see, for him the job really is a “vocation.” Also, he lives right across from the distillery, his workplace always within sight and reach. His eldest daughter is a master distiller at Chivas and one of very few women in the profession His other two children aren’t quite there yet. “But I’m working on it,” says Bruce with a wicked grin. Sláinte!
“One dog is enough to take you for a walk,” says Nici Nardini, 36. Sled dog Pandora strains so hard on her leash you know immediately what she means. And listening to the barks and feral howls of the remaining 39 huskies outside their wooden kennels, you quickly realize why the Stewarts have no neighbors. Their cottage is in a clearing in the middle of nowhere, and their only regular visitor is a stork. Alan and Fiona Stewart are in the dog sled business, and Nardini helps them out of love for the animals. Asa dog handler, she travels all over the world. The Stewarts’ son, John, earns his living as a diver on an oil platform, but he’s alsoa professional “musher” (a person who drives a dog sled team) and competes in races. That’s why he spent the last three winters in Canada. He even survived Alaska’s Iditarod, the world’s most grueling dog sled race. “You must have the animals under control at minus 50 degrees because a tumble can be fatal,” says mother Fiona, 51, who herself raced for seven years.
In a race, a team of 16 dogs is harnessed to a sled and has to cover up to 100 miles a day. Training begins in September, and for this the Stewarts have specially designed carts with rubber wheels that the dogs pull through the woods. Few mushers can survive from their prize money alone; the races are mostly about prestige and the thrill of competition and taking part. “If I had known what I was letting myself in for when my husband brought a husky home…,” says Fiona, laughing. But on a serious note, she adds, “Living with the dogs is very different, very special. You have to devote your whole life to them.” Standing besideNici, she surveys the barking pack. Both women beam.
Since Skyfall, ranger Scott McCombie has often stood right on what is now a famous spot in Glen Etive. In the movie, Bond and his boss, M, break their journey here, and later the Highlands provide the backdrop for a showdown. The last time McCombie was here, he traded his ranger’s gear for a pinstriped suit and struck a cool 007 pose. Photos of the occasion now form part of the Skyfall exhibition the national park which opened soon after the blockbuster’s release in order to attract new visitors. McCombie is quite happy to cash in on Skyfall’s success, as the proceeds will help preserve the beautiful natural scenery here. Lone campers put up their tents beside the streams and hikers lose themselves in the vast glens. “It’s just a pity we don’t have any bears,” says McCombie. At least they have an undaunted agent.
In the afternoon, we meet Barrie Andrian, 57, an underwater archeologist from the United States, who runs the national Crannog Center. In case you didn’t know: For reasons not yet entirely clear, back in around 500 BCE the ancestors of today’s Scots lived in wooden settlements called crannogs, which they erected as artificial islands in a lake. They likely chose this form of dwelling for protection, but possibly as a status symbol. Andrian and her team have spent many years reconstructing such a crannog – using only original parts and the then customary tools. The result is an impressive exhibit people can step inside and touch. “It’s only wood, but it is so much more, too,” says Andrian. “We are the first people to have touched this wooden floor in 2500 years. To me, it feels like we are touching our ancestors – it’s like a connection with our past.”
This is what tranquility feels like. It’s early morning and we are in waders, standing in the fast-flowing waters of the Dee River as the first rays of the sun reach the riverbank. “It always takes about 20 minutes for people to say, “Wow, this is so peaceful,” says Ian Murray, 50, following up with: “Don’t lose my late grandmother’s handmade fly!” With three elegant swishes of his 15-foot rod, he casts his line. Soon we can see the bright bait being carried along on the surface by the current. Ian has about 100 different flies in his SUV, dozens of them homemade. He is one of the most experienced rangers in the region and takes people from all over the world to the right spots to fish. Right now, all we lack is a proper catch. What was his biggest so far? “My girlfriend!,” says Murray with a laugh. It doesn’t seem to be his lucky day today, though, not a single a salmon bites. Even if one did, this is the closed season, so we would have to throw it back. And anyway, it can also be wonderfully relaxing to catch nothing at all.
Our last stop is Stonehaven, a pretty fishing village near Aberdeen. When we arrive, skipper Brian Wilkinson, 63, is already waiting to cast off, the engine of the Lady Gail II turning over impatiently. From the sea, we get the best view of the coast and the Dunnottar Castle ruins, and hope to glimpse a passing dolphin or whale. “Photographers usually go overboard first!” is our skipper’s greeting. We see numerous penguins waddling along the shore in front of the camera, but no mammals this time, not even out at sea. The sense of peace that follows a day spent outdoors stays with us even as we travel home. But we will certainly miss the Scottish sense of humor.
Nightlife in Edinburgh
Late night partying is a way of life in Edinburgh. The pubs are open well into the early hours, while clubs pump out tunes for just as long.
There are also a growing number of excellent cocktail bars, serving Scottish-made liquor that’s worth staying out for.
EH2 1JE Edinburgh
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Chic New Town basement bar serving the very best Scottish gin and whisky, straight up or as part of its amazing cocktails.
The Drawing Room, 21212
Edinburgh, Midlothian EH7 5AB
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Head into the Drawing Room at this stunning hotel for sweeping city views and a chance to taste a huge array of whisky.
EH1 1QR Edinburgh
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A subterranean club with loads of nooks and crannies, live music and alternative nights, making this one of the city’s premier nightspots.
EH1 2EX Edinburgh
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Spread over five floors, Espionage hosts the best local and international DJs, spinning different tunes on different levels to suit every age and mood.
EH2 2PR Edinburgh
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Slip into this traditional basement boozer for a few quiet local ales and some impressive bar food.
Restaurants in Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s restaurant scene has grown massively in recent years, with creative chefs moving in and shaking up the status quo.
The result is a slew of excellent places to grab a bite, from cosy cafés to high-end, Michelin-starred joints perfect for an end-of-holiday blow-out meal.
EH7 5AB Edinburgh
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French-focused, the menu here changes daily, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients – go for the full five-course experience.
EH1 1AD Edinburgh
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Just steps from the Royal Mile, this restaurant specialises in Scottish-sourced seafood.
EH2 3ES Edinburgh
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The colourful dining rooms and superb Italian food make this award-winning spot one of Edinburgh’s most memorable restaurants.
The Grain Store
EH1 2JW Edinburgh
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Scottish produce, including venison, pheasant and wild mushrooms, dominates the menu of this top-notch restaurant.
EH2 1DY Edinburgh
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Beautiful spicy Thai food that can only be matched on the streets of Bangkok, served by attentive staff.
Calendar of events
1 May – 30 September 2014
Venue: Royal Scots Club.
The dinner show that brings Scotland alive!.
A Scottish Evening bringing fun and fine dining in the beautiful surroundings of Edinburghs’ New Town. Suitable for all ages and with a multi-lingual cast, it is a show for all the worlds visitors to see.
Rat Race City to Summit
7 June 2014
Venue: South Queensferry
In 2013, 300 brave athletes took on the inaugural City to Summit and 95% of them conquered this epic course that took them on a stunning journey from sea to the summit of Ben Nevis. 2014 entries are now open and now it’s your turn to take on the UK’s toughest triathlon, with a brand new Expert Duathlon category that allows you to skip the swim and complete the bike and run stage in one day.
Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival
18 July – 27 August 2014
Venue: Various indoor and outdoor venues in Edinburgh.
This is the longest-running jazz festival in the country and every year a wide range of jazz musicians perform here. Top artists have previously included Dr John, Sugar Blue, Bruce Katz, Humphrey Lyttleton, Larry Adler and Courtney Pine. As well as indoor concerts, there are free outdoor events, including the highly popular Mardi Gras in the Grassmarket on the first Saturday.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
1 – 23 August 2014
Venue: Edinburgh Castle.
Against the spectacular backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, performers from across the globe provide an abundance of entertainment on the floodlit esplanade of the city’s top attraction. The action-packed programme features exciting contributions from the Massed Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, highland dancing, the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the stirring music of the world-famous Massed Pipes and Drums. A new £16 million arena was built in 2011.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
1 – 25 August 2014
Venue: Various venues in central Edinburgh.
The largest arts festival in the world, the Edinburgh Fringe has over the years even outgrown its parent event, the Edinburgh International Festival, which runs in tandem. The Fringe has expanded to immense proportions, and with many organised and impromptu events, it often gives unknown artists their first break. The organisers sell well over a million tickets each year for exhibitions, theatre, music and, the largest category of all, comedy acts.
Edinburgh International Festival
8 – 31 August 2014
Venue: Various in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh’s showpiece cultural event brings a rich programme of classical music, theatre, opera and dance to the city. From its inception in 1947, the festival inspired people to put on shows of their own outwith the official festival, and soon these grew into the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Since then half a dozen or so more festivals have grown up around it in August and early September, and collectively these are often known as the ‘Edinburgh Festival’.
Edinburgh International Book Festival
9 – 25 August 2014
Venue: Charlotte Square Gardens.
The city’s vibrant literary festival attracts authors from Scotland and around the world along with around 220,000 visitors. Hundreds of writers and thinkers participate in over 700 events, from ‘Meet the author’ sessions to animated discussions and debates on global affairs. The excellent children’s programme presents top children’s authors and illustrators, featuring storytelling, writing workshops and book signings.
1 – 31 October 2014
Venue: National Museum of Scotland
The AniMotion show will bring together artists and musicians to create a unique opportunity to witness Scottish and Russian tradition and art and music simultaneously.
Fresh from her performance at the London Olympics opening ceremony, world-renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie will take to the stage with cellist Philip Sheppard and vocal consort Canty. This will be accompanied by Russian artist Maria Rud as she paints a narrative piece on a lightbox. The performance will be the world premiere of the music written by Evelyn Glennie and Philip Sheppard.
A ticket also includes a free drink in the interval and entry to the ‘Catherine the Great: An Enlightened Empress’ exhibition.
Men's Health Survival of the Fittest Edinburgh
19 October 2014
Venue: West Princes Street Gardens
Only the Fittest Will Survive!
Packing a colossal 10k urban assault course in each host city, the Survival series will see 25,000 participants take on these totally unique challenge events this year. Want to join them? Survival is for all comers: Men, women, teams and solo contenders. It’s as much fun as you can have in a run and the camaraderie is served up with lashings of Survival Spirit.
30 December 2014 – 1 January 2015
Venue: Various streets and venues in Edinburgh.
Scotland celebrates the New Year like nowhere else and Edinburgh’s own Hogmanay is billed as the biggest and best in the world. Over three days there is a relentless succession of fun events, including a torchlit procession, Concert in the Gardens with top groups, outdoor ceilidh (The Keilidh), street party, and a spectacular Seven Hills firework display on the stroke of midnight, 31 December on the heights of Edinburgh Castle and six other prominent positions across the city.
The Loony Dook
1 January 2015
Venue: South Queensferry.
For a quarter of a century, brave swimmers have been bringing in the New Year with a bracing dip in the Forth. Participants join a grand parade along South Queensferry’s High Street before plunging into chilly water beneath the historic Forth Bridge. The event raises enormous sums for charity, attracts large crowds of amused onlookers and is now officially part of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations. Register in advance from late September.
25 January 2015
Venue: Various venues.
Robert Burns was the poet who used Scottish dialect at a time when this was frowned upon in genteel society. Now he is the much loved National Bard, and Scotsmen everywhere celebrate his life and work on the anniversary of his birth in 1759. Traditionally this takes the form of a Burns’ Night supper, an evening meal where Burn’s poetry (‘To a Haggis’, ‘Tam O’Shanter’ etc) is recited and haggis, neeps (mashed swede) and tatties (mashed potatoes) are consumed.
Six Nations Rugby
1 February – 31 March 2015
International rugby teams from Scotland, Wales, Ireland, England, France and Italy meet each spring to compete in the Six Nations tournament. Even if you don’t bag a ticket, the atmosphere in Edinburgh during match weekends is electric, especially when Scotland and England are battling to win the Calcutta Cup. Two or three Scotland games take place in the city each year, attracting hordes of supporters both to Murrayfield stadium and most of the city’s pubs.
Rat Race The Mighty Deerstalker
14 March 2015
Venue: Traquair House
Known as the toughest off-road run in the UK, ‘Rat Race–The Mighty Deerstalker’ requires participants to plough through mud filled trenches, scramble up scree slopes, and navigate the night–usually dressed in kilts, tweed, or other “appropriate” athletic apparel. After crossing the finish line, runners can stumble over to the legendary Beerstalker party tent and limber up for a bit of crowd surfing.
Edinburgh International Science Festival
4 – 19 April 2015
Venue: Many venues across Edinburgh.
To disprove the notion that science is not fun, this two-week festival of science covers most things from big bang to body language in an enjoyable format. Past topics have included new powers to control human behaviour, why 70% of Americans believe in angels, and a taste test to spot the difference between basic and premium wine. The event draws around 75,000 visitors, and there is something for all levels and age groups, including plenty of hands-on stuff for kids.
Beltane Fire Festival
30 April 2015
Venue: Calton Hill.
Before the Romans divided the seasons into a calendar of 12 months, the Celtic year was marked by four Quarter Days: Beltane, Lughnasadh (‘Luna-sa’), Samhuinn (‘Sa-wain’) and Imbolc. The arrival of each season was reason for a great celebration and Beltane – which marks the coming of spring in a Celtic calendar – was the biggest of the four celebrations. The Beltane Fire Society celebrate each of the four seasons but especially Beltane which is marked with a fire-and-costume spectacular evoking the mystic rites of ancient Britons. It is pretty serious stuff but great to watch, with drummers and dancers in a fire-lit procession around Calton hill, led by the May Queen and her white-clad warrior women. Including a fabulous cast of lurid and flamboyant pagan devils, sprites, goddesses all spiced up by a cacophony of drums and blazing pyrotechnics – this is devilishly different from your average festival. It’s a popular event that each year attracts upwards of 8,500 visitors.
Edinburgh International Film Festival
1 – 30 June 2015
Venue: Various venues.
This dynamic festival has been running since 1947, showcasing both new talent and established directors. The programme is usually packed with British and international feature films, documentaries, star-studded premieres, glitzy gala screenings and interviews with leading actors and directors. ‘Under the stars’ is a free outdoor cinema created for the festival in St Andrew Square showing a mix of classic Hollywood blockbusters and kids’ films.
13 – 21 June 2015
Venue: Various venues in Leith.
Leith, Edinburgh’s port on the banks of the Firth of Forth, puts on a big show with a parade, walks, talks, exhibitions, sports, drama and theatre, music and dancing, literature and poetry. The scope is varied and so are the venues, from church halls and theatres to pubs and car parks. This is essentially a community festival made possible by Leithers themselves. The organisers are determined to make sure that the emerging Leith is one that encompasses both old and new. After all, they say, ‘being a Leither is not a postal address – it’s a state of mind’.
Royal Highland Show
18 – 21 June 2015
Venue: Royal Highland Centre.
Beef cattle, dairy cattle, heavy native horses and ponies, light-legged horses and ponies and goats are among a cast of over 5,000 livestock at Scotland’s premier agricultural show – one that attracts more than 180,000 visitors over four days. The livestock competitions take place in a vast covered area, but there are many stalls and stands besides on this extensive site at the edge of Edinburgh. Competitions are numerous and varied, from show jumping to farriery; from honey, cheese and butter to sheep shearing. There is a Scottish food exhibition, a giant flower display and numerous arts and crafts.
All information subject to change. Please check the dates on the relevant event organizer’s website.
Hotels in Edinburgh
Edinburgh has loads of hotels, but you’ll need to keep a sharp eye for affordable options, as decent budget stays are few and far between.
Luxury townhouses and boutique spots are plentiful, but if you’re planning on coming during the Fringe and International festivals in August, be sure to book well in advance.
Twelve Picardy Place
EH1 3JT Edinburgh
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Old Town Chambers
Edinburgh EH1 1LW
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The Old Waverley
EH2 2BY Edinburgh
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Novotel Edinburgh Centre
EH3 9DE Edinburgh
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Travelodge Edinburgh Central
EH1 1TA Edinburgh
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Best time to visit
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Climate & best time to visit United Kingdom
Owing to it being an island, the UK is subject to very changeable weather. Extremes of temperature are rare but snow, hail, heavy rain and heatwaves can occur. For detailed descriptions, see Climate in the respective country sections.
|absolute max||absolute min||Ø absolute min||Ø absolute min||relative humidity||Ø deposit||days with deposit > 1mm||sunshine duration|
|Jan||13 °C||-17 °C||6 °C||0 °C||84 %||57 mm||12||1.5 h|
|Feb||14 °C||-17 °C||6 °C||0 °C||82 %||42 mm||9||2.3 h|
|Mar||20 °C||-10 °C||8 °C||1 °C||79 %||51 mm||11||3.2 h|
|Apr||22 °C||-5 °C||11 °C||3 °C||77 %||41 mm||8||4.4 h|
|May||26 °C||-3 °C||14 °C||5 °C||77 %||51 mm||10||5.4 h|
|Jun||29 °C||0 °C||17 °C||8 °C||77 %||51 mm||8||5.7 h|
|Jul||28 °C||2 °C||18 °C||10 °C||78 %||57 mm||9||5.2 h|
|Aug||31 °C||1 °C||18 °C||10 °C||79 %||65 mm||10||4.7 h|
|Sep||26 °C||-2 °C||16 °C||8 °C||81 %||67 mm||11||3.7 h|
|Oct||22 °C||-4 °C||13 °C||5 °C||83 %||65 mm||12||2.8 h|
|Nov||19 °C||-9 °C||8 °C||2 °C||84 %||63 mm||12||2.0 h|
|Dec||14 °C||-15 °C||6 °C||0 °C||85 %||58 mm||11||1.3 h|
|year||31 °C||-17 °C||12 °C||4 °C||81 %||668 mm||123||3.5 h|
Phone calls & Internet
Dialing Code: +44
There are numerous public call boxes. Some boxes take coins, others phonecards or credit cards.
Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone operators. Coverage is mostly good, but can be patchy in rural areas. It is possible to buy a pay as you go sim card from any phone shop or booth.
There are internet cafés and centres in most urban areas. Some multimedia phone booths, often located at main railway stations and airports, offer touchscreen access. Most hotels also offer Wi-Fi, although this may be less likely in more rural areas. The City of London now has free Wi-Fi covering 95% of the Square Mile, whilst London Underground now offers Wi-Fi at station platforms across the network.
Shopping in Edinburgh
The Grassmarket is the place to head for those who want something beyond the usual high street stores. There’s the lovely Helios Fountain (7 Grassmarket) with its kaleidoscopic array of beads and craft materials, and Just G (44 West Port) for those after boutique clothing. The Royal Mile is chock-full of whisky shops, perfect for anyone wanting to take a tipple home.
Farmer’s markets are a big deal in Edinburgh, and with good reason. Scottish produce is heaven for foodies. The Tram Stop Market (corner of York Place) and Stockbridge Market (Jubilee Gardens) are both worth checking out for fresh ingredients and gorgeous treats if you’re planning lunch on the move.
George Street is the place to go for luxury shops such as Harvey Nichols. For those who prefer to do it all under one roof or can’t face traipsing in the infamous Edinburgh drizzle, Ocean Terminal in Leith is crammed with all the biggest global brands.
The monarchy, though now only symbolic politically, is a powerful and often subconscious unifying force. Members of the Royal Family are the subject of unceasing fascination, with their every move avidly followed and reported by the popular press, both in the UK and abroad.
Handshaking is customary when introduced to someone for the first time. One kiss on the cheek is gaining popularity for close friends. Normal social courtesies should be observed when visiting someone’s home and a small present such as flowers or chocolates is appreciated. It is polite to wait until everyone has been served before eating.
Some nightclubs and restaurants do not allow jeans and trainers, otherwise casual wear is widely acceptable. For business, a suit and tie should be worn, although in some workplaces an open neck is acceptable.
Use of public places
Topless sunbathing is allowed on certain beaches and tolerated in some parks. Smoking is banned in all enclosed public places, including stations, pubs and restaurants, throughout the UK.
Main emergency number: 112
Food & Drink
Food within the UK is generally safe to eat, with health and safety standards monitored by various government agencies. Tap water is considered safe to drink but bottled water is widely available. If you’re camping, always boil, filter or purify water from streams.
The UK is not a risky destination but travellers should still take appropriate precautions. Summer temperatures in England rarely reach above 30°C but on hot days there is still risk of sunstroke and it’s advisable to wear sunscreen, as well as appropriate clothing. The same goes for winters, during which weather can be very changeable. Waterproofs (or at least a strong umbrella) are mandatory at any time of year. Those hiking in the mountains should come prepared, with appropriate gear and maps if needed but the biggest danger comes from those who disregard warning signs or poor weather.
Although the risk remains low, travellers are advised to ensure they are fully vaccinated against measles, as cases have risen in the past few years. Travellers visiting the UK during the winter may also wish to consider being vaccinated against flu.
If you’re planning to walk in wooded or heath areas such as in the Scottish Highlands, it’s worth taking precautions against tick bites: ensure you wear long-sleeved tops, tuck your socks into your trousers and wear insect repellent. Ticks are known to spread Lyme disease which, although fairly rare in the UK, can affect your skin, joints, heart and nervous system. Symptoms include: a pink or red circular rash which develops around the bite up to 30 days after a person is bitten; flu-like symptoms; headaches; and muscle or joint pain. If left untreated, symptoms can become more serious.
Midges are a hiker’s and camper’s nemesis, especially in the northwest Highlands during the summer. While they’ll do no worse than cause a multitude of unbearably itchy bites, it’s definitely worth covering up and dousing yourself in insect repellent to ward off these persistent beasties.
The weather in Scotland can change in an instant. If you’re walking, skiing or climbing in the hills, it’s vital to be prepared for all weathers. It’s not at all uncommon to go for a walk on a beautifully sunny day, only to find yourself surrounded by mist and drizzle with little warning. Make sure you’re equipped with a map, compass, extra food, layers and waterproofs, and always tell someone where you’re heading before you set out. Scots and visitors alike also find themselves unexpectedly caught out by the sun – you might not need it often, but pack some sunscreen.
Contractual physician of LufthansaWilliam A. Dr. Campbell
Murrayfield Medical Practice
Please note that Lufthansa accepts no responsibility for the treatment nor will it bear the cost of any treatment.