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Edinburgh--What to do before the tour starts at 4PM

Hello all,

Our Best of Scotland Tour starts on a Wednesday at 4PM. We'd like to take advantage of the recommendations RS lists in the guidebook (for spots the tour won't cover). Our choices are:

National Gallery
National Portrait Gallery
Scottish Parliament
Holyrood House (Queen's Gallery only--as castle is closed for a private event)
Royal Yacht Britannia
National Archives
Rosslyn Chapel

Would love to hear everyone's thoughts on what is doable/not doable (time constraint of 4PM) and/or not to miss.

Thank you!

Posted by
3614 posts

If you enjoy art, you should go to the National Gallery. It's near the train station.

Posted by
90 posts

We went to all of these except for the Royal Yacht. I work for the government, so the Parliament was high on our list. We didn't book a tour (which I regretted), but we did take a shortened tour and enjoyed that very much. They are very open about what is happening (or not) with Brexit and the push (or not) for Scottish independence. The tour and visit is free.

I LOVED the National Gallery. It is small - much smaller than the London Nat Gal (or even our own DC if you have been there).

If Holyroodhouse is closed, don't pay the steep entrance fee for the gallery only. I saw a wonderful Canaletto show there last fall but it's small compared to the castle.

Do you visit the National Museum of Scotland on your tour? We loved that. Not to throw in another choice, but it's a great place to see. And also free!

Posted by
12 posts

You will love this tour ! Rosslyn Chapel is a reasonable taxi ride away and well worth a visit, perhaps in the morning. They provide a short guided tour so call ahead to find out the times. Then I recommend seeing the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street. Although you stop there briefly on the tour, to really enjoy the exhibits a visit on your own is time well spent. It's free, and I suggest you have lunch in their cafe then see the Scottish History and Archaeology galleries. Wonderful artifacts and history. Have fun!

Posted by
718 posts

I will put in a vote for the Royal Yacht. We were amazed at how modest the accommodations are. Nothing like the type of Super Yacht that today's billionaires swan about in. You can easily get a bus down to Leith where the yacht is moored.

The National Gallery and Portrait Gallery are fun too.

Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
8293 posts

I loved the National Gallery, the perfect art gallery for people who don't usually like art galleries. I imagine kids would have fun there. Very people-oriented.

Posted by
2603 posts

I second the Museum of Scotland. Close to the Royal mile and it’s free. There is a great exhibit on Scottish history. Then you could wander over to Grayfriars Kirkyard, which is very close by. A very cool cemetery and you can see the statue of Bobby.

Posted by
32 posts

I was considering the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Britannia the day after I arrive (day before the tour starts), as I will be jet lagged and wanted something gentle and quiet to do. And, well, I love Gardens. Has anyone been to the Royal Botanic?

Posted by
634 posts

We went to the Royal Botanic Gardens and enjoyed it. There was a wonderful cafeteria (best scone we had in Scotland). We were there in early September so not a lot was in bloom. But there was one area with student gardens, and experimental gardens that we loved. Much of the gardens is forest-like. It was a nice change from the bustle of the Royal Mile.

Posted by
661 posts

I liked both Rosslyn and the royal yacht, but if I had to pick one I would go to Rosslyn.

Posted by
5675 posts

Okay, I too enjoyed the National Gallery. I saw the National Portrait Gallery that I had forgotten it! I loved my tour of the Scottish Parliament. For me, it helped me understand more about Scotland today. A lot of the tour will be focused on history which is great. But I do like learning about what is happening in a place today as well as the history. I've seen an exhibition at the Queen's Gallery. It' s a nice gallery, but I believe that the exhibition changes from time to time, so check out what's showing and see if it interests you. We had a lot of fun visiting the Royal Yacht last June. I had before, but now they have a tea room which was just what we needed on a rainy day. It's a fascinating tour. I've not been to Rosslyn Chapel but would like to some time.

Posted by
475 posts

You don't say what day you're arriving in Edinburgh. I took this tour in 2017 and it was wonderful. I strongly suggest arriving in Edinburgh at least one day before the tour starts. I arrived 2 days before the tour started and am so glad I did.
I only went to three places on your list: National Portrait Gallery on my arrival day - enjoyed it very much even though I had major jet lag. The next day I went to Holyrood House and walked most of the Royal Mile. I would not go to Holyrood if the actual castle is closed. The Queen's Gallery there was OK, but not very big. I went to the National Gallery the morning of the day the tour started at 4:00. It was very good as well. I like art museums a lot, so that's why I concentrated on those. Have a great time, Scotland is wonderful!

Posted by
11294 posts

You haven't specified what time you're arriving in Edinburgh, and from where (i.e., will you be jet lagged or not).

I loved the Royal Yacht Britannia, but it takes time to get there and back from the center, as well as time to see (and with the admission price and the very detailed audio guide, you won't want to rush it). So, only go if you have enough time to do it justice. It's also something I wouldn't want to do jet lagged (too much time indoors).