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Things to do in Edinburg not on RS tour?

My husband and I will be taking RS's Best of Scotland tour mid May. We like to arrive a few days early to get over jet lag and take in sights not part of the tour. do you have any recommendations? His tour includes: The Royal Mile, Grassmarket, and Greyfair cemetery.

Would you also go to Glasgow for the day? and if so, What would you see?
Thanks! Shelley

Posted by
600 posts

We went a couple days early and enjoyed walking up Arthur's seat and touring the Palace at Holyrood house. We took a bus to see Rosslyn Chapel, which was beautiful. We also took another short bus ride to see Craigmillar Castle which is near town and a really nice ruined castle that wasnt busy at all. Other people have enjoyed the Royal Yacht Britannia, but we haven't visited it. I hope you love the tour - it was our first RS tour and we got hooked!

Posted by
4543 posts

Tamara’s mentioned several things that immediately come to mind -- if you enjoy an outdoor climb, with a commanding view at the top, hike up Arthur’s Seat. And we really enjoyed exploring the Queen’s retired boat Britannia, now moored east of Edinburgh, by a shopping mall. Take a city bus to get there, and don’t miss seeing the sparkling clean engine room and the Rolls Royce onboard, which was used for shore excursions.

Back in town, if there’s music scheduled downstairs at the Royal Oak pub, don’t miss it. See who’s playing, and when! Outstanding Indian food right next door, too, at Mother India’s. Have a Scottish pork sandwich at Oink!, with 2 locations downtown. You can even get haggis with your fantastic, local, slow-roasted pork.

We’re going to Edinburgh this summer. On previous trips, we’ve never made time for the National Museum of Scotland, or the National Portrait Gallery. Plan to go this trip!

See Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow, with a side trip from Edinburgh. Its unique architecture is renowned. We took a walking tour that took in many of the architectural highlights. There’s also the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which we have visited. A wonderful collection in a fantastic old building - a big part of going there.

Posted by
4296 posts

Allow me the presumption that you're pronouncing Edinburgh in the same way that Pittsburgh is pronounced (presumption gained from your spelling of Edinburg).

Edinburgh is pronounced "Edinburr", a silent 'g'. I've heard so many Americans pronounce it with a "burg" so I thought I'd pre-empt some potential faux pas.

Posted by
1371 posts

I enjoyed walking up Calton Hill to see the monuments and enjoy the view.

Posted by
11246 posts

I don't know if your tour purchase automatically includes Rick Steves Scotland. If not, get it. It has very detailed chapters for both Edinburgh and Glasgow, which will give you enough ideas for many days on your own.

Some personal highlights in Glasgow were the People's Palace, Tenement Museum, and House for an Art Lover (this last is not in Rick's book), as well as his West End and City Centre walks. Some highlights for me in Edinburgh were the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Georgian House, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. But again, each city has lots of stuff to see and do, so plan based on your personal interests.

If you do go to Glasgow for a day, I'd recommend starting with one full circuit of the Hop On, Hop Off bus (HOHO). These run every 10 minutes and alternate between live and taped commentary; choose live for your first full circuit. Then, you can use the buses to get on and off at various attractions; the only one it doesn't go to is the House for an Art Lover, but it's a very convenient way to get to other neighborhoods and museums.

Finally, if you need a tie-breaker between the two, very different cities, note that attractions in Glasgow are either free or low cost (as in £3-5), while attractions in Edinburgh are either free or high cost (as in £15). Definitely see both if you have the time - they almost feel like different countries rather than cities less than an hour apart!

Posted by
3491 posts

Lots of good suggestions so far.

I took a public bus to and home from the Britannia and loved seeing the yacht. I was surprised at how modest the accomodations were for the royal family.

But for something entirely different, take a look at 1 day or shorter tours by the Hairy Coo. There are more options since I did one in May 2016, but I'm sure they're all great.

Posted by
4556 posts

My daughter spent a semester studying at the University of Edinburgh and she compiled this list of favorite places to visit:

  • The Castle is great to see from the outside and you get a great view
    of the city; however, I don’t think it’s worth it to pay to go inside.

  • The Royal Mile is another must. It is in the Old Town part of Edinburgh and consists of a ton of restaurants, tourist shops, coffee places and there are usually a lot of great vendors there as well. You have to visit the Royal Mile market, which is inside of an old church and is full of vendors.

  • The Grassmarket: a historic marketplace in the Old Town of Edinburgh that has a lot of different restaurants and shops (some great old book stores!). There’s a nice farmer’s market every Saturday.

  • Walking around Holyrood Park and climbing Arthur’s Seat is a must! It probably takes about 30 mins. to climb up, it’s not too strenuous and you have a great 360 view of Edinburgh. The Holyrood Palace is also right there/pretty cool to see. I didn’t get to go in it because they were preparing it for the Queen of England (since she stays there when she visits!)

  • Going up to Calton Hill is another must: it’s another place to see the entire city, as well as some great architecture.

  • Walking around the University of Edinburgh is really nice and you can also walk through the Meadows, the large park behind the main center (George Square) of campus.

  • The National Museum of Scotland is free and a nice place to stop by if it’s raining a ton. The museum is HUGE though, but full of really interesting stuff (not sure if she’s still there, but Dolly the sheep was there when I was!)

  • Princes Street is one of the main streets in the New Town part of Edinburgh: it’s really just a long street with a lot of shopping if you’re interested in that.

  • The Princes Street Gardens are right below Princes Street and is a great place to walk around and have a picnic.

  • Stockbridge is a super cute village-like neighborhood pretty close to Princes Street. There are boutique gift shops and a great little farmers market on Sunday mornings.

  • The Royal Botanical Garden is close to Stockbridge and is a great place to walk around (and it’s free!)

  • Dean Village is a cute neighborhood near Stockbridge/Princes Street that has a nice walkway near a little stream.

  • Random, but if you’re a Harry Potter fan there are free tours (you can google it, but they usually meet outside Greyfriars Church) that show locations include the graveyard where Rowling got inspiration for her characters’ names, a coffee shop where she wrote some of the books (The Elephant House), etc.

I added her list of favorite places to eat
here, if you’re interested.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1300 posts

"Allow me the presumption that you're pronouncing Edinburgh in the same way that Pittsburgh is pronounced (presumption gained from your spelling of Edinburg).

Edinburgh is pronounced "Edinburr", a silent 'g'. I've heard so many Americans pronounce it with a "burg" so I thought I'd pre-empt some potential faux pas."

I respectfully disagree.
Edinburgh is pronounced "Edin BURR-A.)
Not Edin BURR.

I lived there as a child, and for many years as an adult.

Posted by
90 posts

I think the Royal Yacht Brittania at Leith dock, is a top notch attraction, I wouldn't call it modest, it was a royal household and home that docked at countries around the world and all corners of the Empire. Surprised it's not on the RS radar.

They've added a Royal Deck tea room, this has a glass wall,,on a clear day you can see to Fife. The interior design is mid-century 50s retro, had a crew of 200+, and several decks, you see the crew and officers quarters, galley, engine room, state dining room, state drawing room, and bedrooms.

I like the Camera Obscura visit in Edinburgh too.

The Georgian House, Charlotte square.

Don't overlook walking around New Town, planned 200 years ago, fine streets and Crescents of Georgian properties, Moray Place/Ainslie Place/Randolph Crescent.

The Scottish Parliament building, a modern Scandi design, you can go inside, often there is an exhibition, or if not sitting, visit the chamber.

St. Giles Church (probably in RS tour)
Rabbie's single day trips. You can look up Rabbie's online for multiple options. Rabbie's is easy. Simply book the day tour that interests you. Go to the Rabbie's office on the Royal Mile (was across the street from Starbucks when I was there a number of years ago). Get on a van with a few other tourists. Enjoy a lovely day with a driver who will take you to various places and tell some fun stories along the way. Once at a sight - you have a couple of choices and can do "your thing." Then, meet back at the van and visit the next sight. Great way to see things. Note: Rabbie's provides the van and driver only. Sights that have admission fees - the admission fees are not included. You pay those directly upon arrival at the location. Same with food and drink. Rabbie's gets you there. Well worth it. My family and I did 2 single day trips with Rabbie's. A friend did a multi-day trip with a Rabbie's.

Posted by
4296 posts

I respectfully disagree.
Edinburgh is pronounced "Edin BURR-A.)
Not Edin BURR.
I lived there as a child, and for many years as an adult.

Some write is as Burra, some with as Burr, in writing 'Burr' I was trying to get across a rolling 'R' which does atually sound like 'Burra', there are many slight variations but the point I was making is that it's not prounced with a "burg/berg" which is an obvious difference.

There are many mispronounced cities, towns etc. I've heard Portsmouth pronounced with the emphasis on 'mouth' as is the part of the body whereas the correct pronounciation would be akin to "Portsmoof".

For years as a child I used to prounounce Arkansas as "Ar-Kansas" (as in Kansas). I recall arguing with my dad as to me it was clearly pronounced in the same way that Kansas was pronounced. I only accepted defeat when I heard it pronounced by an American.

Posted by
3882 posts

Just my little story about pronunciation - still remembering when our previous Prime Minister Stephen Harper was introducing the Duke of 'Edin-berg' - ughhhhhhhh. As a 'New Scotlander', I cringed so hard.

And I say Portsmouth - like - 'Portsmyth'...hmmmm

Posted by
2507 posts

as a native of Edinburgh and a person who has lived there for at least 50 of his 63 and a bit years it is definitely pronounced Edin-BURRA

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you to everyone for their generous suggestions! Another reason to love RS tours.......the people.

Posted by
993 posts

Don't forget the evening "haunted " tours- into the caves and basements under the town, accompanied by the myths and ghost stories......

Posted by
119 posts

Pat, I was thinking of going on one of these “haunted” Edinburgh tours. Is there a particular tour company which you can recommend?

Posted by
993 posts

I can't recall, but I believe we just checked Yelp & Trip Advisor reviews. It was quite worthwhile!

Posted by
119 posts

Pat, I’ll check tour reviews on a few sites. It sounds like fun.

I believe one is called "the underground." Night time tour. There are also pub crawls. RS recommends the literary "scripted" one.

Posted by
1733 posts

Pronunciation comment again. Now I have to wonder about Calgary on the Isle of Mull. My hometown in Calgary, Canada pronounce our city as CAL-gree, everyone else in the country tend to say CAL-gary, anyone know how the people of Mull call it?

Posted by
64 posts

Has anyone mentioned Stirling Castle? I had read a lot about Mary Queen of Scots and found the castle fascinating. The Royal Yacht Britannia was a highlight for me and an easy hop from Edinburgh.

Posted by
100 posts

Hi Shelley - I did this tour last fall, and you're going to have a fantastic time. There are lots of good suggestions for Edinburgh here, but I wanted to give a +1 for Glasgow. I did a day trip after the tour and wished I spent an overnight there. The Modern Art Gallery is great, you can do tea at the Willow Tea rooms, and I really enjoyed the Tenement Museum and the Kelvingrove. There are also nice walking tours of Glasgow in the Rick Steves book; I did the one of the West End and enjoyed it. Glasgow definitely has a different city vibe than Edinburgh, and the people are very friendly. It's an easy train ride from Edinburgh. Have a great time!

Posted by
2682 posts

Wow I just looked at RS itinerary and it hardly goes anywhere in Edinburgh! The National Museum and St. Giles should not be missed. I also enjoyed the Georgian House and National Gallery of Art. I found the HOHO bus to be useful in Edinburgh.

Posted by
21 posts

I echo Dean Village and the corresponding Leith walk - you can take this beautiful little riverside walk to Stockbridge, which in many ways we enjoyed more than Edinburgh proper. Please don't skip out on spending time in Leith, either! Wonderful restaurants, bars and places to walk around.

Additionally, if you would like to schedule a private day tour (to see sights outside of/around Edinburgh, gin tours, whisky tour, ECT) I highly recommend I Love Edinburgh Tours. Hazel did some customized itinerary's for my dad's 60th, and we had a wonderful time.