5 Castles to visit in or around Edinburgh

  1. Edinburgh Castle

Perched high up on an ex-volcano (here’s hoping!) is Edinburgh’s second prime tourist attraction. With wonderful views over the city and the surrounding countryside as far as the Pentland Hills in the south and the Lomond Hills in the north, it is rather windy. Step inside to visit sparkling jewels and powerful weapons. Make sure you are nowhere near at 1pm unless you have your earplugs in – that is when they fire the enormous canon. Tip: book online to get a small reduction.

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Edinburgh Castle, Scotland.

2. Lauriston Castle

Set amongst spectacular grounds and with a peaceful Japanese Zen Garden, Lauriston Castle is on the banks of the Firth of Forth. There are daily tours to show off the sumptuous Edwardian interiors, and special events at Easter and Christmas. With free entry to the grounds, and castle admission being relatively cheap compared to Edinburgh Castle (adult £8, concession £6 (under 5 free)), it is worth taking the bus there and enjoying this elegant landmark. Tip: it is occasionally closed for functions so check before you travel.

Lauriston
Lauriston Castle, near Edinburgh, Scotland.

3. Craigmillar Castle

This ruined castle was once a place where Mary Queen of Scots was sequestered for her own safety. Set a little way outside the city centre, you will need to take a bus (number 49 from the Bridges or Leith Walk, with a 13 minute walk at the other end). There are events in the grounds such as Medieval archery between July and September. Free to Historic Scotland members and children under 5; otherwise £3.60 (5-15 years) / £6 (adults). Tip: there is nothing much else in the area, so take your own sandwiches.

Craigmillar Castle
Craigmillar Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland.

4. Tantallon Castle

Tantallon is a semi-ruined, 14th century fortress in a spectacular setting featured in the film ‘Under the Skin’ with Scarlett Johansson. Walk the battlements and admire the Bass Rock, an island nearby which is a haven for seabirds, including puffins (you can take a boat trip there from the Sea Bird Centre in North Berwick). The quickest way is to take the train from Waverley Station to North Berwick and then get the 120 bus (from Dunbar to Edinburgh) with a 4 minute walk when you get off. Otherwise, this castle is best visited if you have the use of a car (it is an easy hour’s drive eastwards -very close to the A198 main road). Tip: make it a day out and visit North Berwick for fish and chips in the fresh sea air.

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Tantallon Castle and the Bass Rock in the North Sea, East Lothian, Scotland.

 

5. Aberdour Castle

The hall-house part of Aberdour Castle was built in stone in the 1100’s, and you will discover it alongside later architectural additions (including a gorgeously painted wooden-beamed ceiling), a walled garden, and gay terraces. Located in Easter Aberdour, a pretty village in the Kingdom of Fife, this is a half day-trip from Edinburgh taking 30 minutes by train from Waverley Station, costing approximately £6 (Scotrail) and crossing the Forth with a fine sight of the new road bridge.

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Aberdour Castle walled Garden, Scotland.

Or if you fancy a smart seafood lunch in the Room with a View restaurant followed by a walk along Aberdour beach for your digestion, you can make a whole day of it. Tip: St Fillan’s Norman church is close by and also worth a visit.

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A rather dark view of the new Forth road bridge and North Queensferry, Scotland.

Wondering what the best Scottish visitor attraction is? Apparently it is the Royal Yacht Britannia at Ocean terminal in Leith, Edinburgh.

Craigmillar Castle is at Craigmillar Castle Road, Edinburgh, EH16 4SY. 0131 661 4445.

Tantallon Castle Opening times 1 Apr to 30 Sept: Daily, 9.30am to 5.30pm. Last entry 5pm.
1 Oct to 31 Mar: Daily, 10am to 4pm Last entry 3.30pm

 

6 things to do in Edinburgh when it rains

Scotland has a bit of reputation when it comes to the weather! If you live here, you know that there can be gloriously sunny, crisp days when it is a pleasure to be alive. However, it does rain sometimes, even in the summer, so here are some of my favourite places to go on those wet days!

  1. The National Museum of Scotland

This magnificent building is on Chambers Street, just 15 minutes walk from Princes Street in the city centre. Free entry.

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There are interactive things for kids (and big kids!) including machines and massive stuffed animals; fascinating Scottish historical artefacts displayed in creative ways; original temporary exhibitions; plus it is warm; there is a decent cafe; free wifi ….

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Atalanta and Hippomenes.

…. jewellry, spacecraft, dinosaurs, Buddhas, death masks and the bizarre and wonderful Millennium Clock made by Tim Stead and others, which clatters and whirrs every hour, plays Bach and is just a must-see.

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2. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Whilst being equally grand and beautiful, in contrast the inside of this building is made of darker wood with a silent sweep of staircase. Look up in awe at the iconic painted panels of Scottish queens and kings all around its walls.

Do not miss the shrunken heads in the bijou library; the originally flavoured scones in the cafe; or the modern portraits such as the brooding Naomi Mitchison (novelist), sexy Michael Clark (dancer) and David Mach’s collage of Gavin Hastings (Rugby player). Free entry.

3. The Filmhouse

Home of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, you can view the best of independent cinema here on Lothian Road. With 3 screens showing work from around the world, and a lively cafe where there is often a very interesting art exhibition, you can also browse and buy from the idiosyncratic film shelves, and the tickets are affordable,

3. The Dovecot cafe by Leo’s

In the old Infirmary Street swimming baths, in the same building as a small gift shop with original ware and the amazing viewing gallery where you can watch the Master Weavers at work, this cafe serves delicious cakes, yummy savouries and good coffee.

4. Glenogle Swimming Baths

These restored Victorian baths have a modern sauna and gym with Pilates and yoga classes. Located in the crook of the Water of Leith, among the attractive colonies housing area which is very near the trendy Stockbridge part of Edinburgh, you can exercise and relax, with or without children, calming your nervous system as you float, and emerging clean and sparkling afterwards.

5. Waterstone’s bookshop

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Skillfully written essays about the Scottish landscape and wildlife.

Sadly Edinburgh does not have one of those original bookshops like Paris (Shakespeare and Company), Alnwick (Barter Books), or Dumfries (the dog-friendly Kings Coffee and Books). But this shop, part of a chain, is quite grand in its own way, the initial flight of stairs splitting to take you right and left to the different departments and the mezzanine floor to the cafe which has a great view of Edinburgh Castle. You can cosy down in a warm carpeted corner and transport yourself into the world of Trainspotting (Irvine Walsh’s gritty novel set in Edinburgh’s Leith) or Hogwarts of course (Harry Potter’s story, written in part at the Elephant House cafe by J.K. Rowling).

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Plan your next trip to the Scottish isles.

6. St Mary’s Cathedral

Get away from the noise and crowds for some quiet contemplation in St Mary’s Episcopalian Cathedral. See the sweet stained glass – especially the Paolozzi window, and the painting – ‘The Presence’ by the Edinburgh artist A.E. Borthwick from 1910.

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St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh.

7. Central Library

Funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, look out for the stunning ceiling of the George Washington Browne room, the hidden Fine Art library (wooden tables and chairs as you would imagine from your childhood), and a substantial local history / Scottish section. Downside: the toilets are in the basement, but, upside, you get to see some lesser known art as you wind your way there.

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On the wall of the stairs of the Central Library, Edinburgh.

And, finally, I know when I am travelling I need to keep in contact with friends and family and if I am having trouble with my phone I need wifi: Try the Fruitmarket Gallery cafe where you can also see contemporary art exhibitions of the highest calibre.

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Edinburgh Castle after the rain.

The National Museum of Scotland is at Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF. Tel: 0300 123 6789. Link above.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery: Open daily, 10am-5pm. Free admission (Charge for some exhibition). 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD enquiries@nationalgalleries.org

Filmhouse. 88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh EH3 9BZ. Box Office: 0131 228 2688. Open from 10am – 9pm daily.

Dovecot Studios Ltd 10 Infirmary Street EH1 1LT +44 (0)131 550 3660
info@dovecotstudios.com Gallery & Shop open Mon-Sat: 10.30am – 5.30pm.Tapestry Studio Viewing Balcony open Mon-Fri 12-3pm and Sat 10.30am-5.30pm https://dovecotstudios.com/tapestry-studio/