Thursday, July 12, 2012

Edinburgh - Scotland's Winter Jewel

Edinburgh is second only to London in the UK tourist destination stakes and winter is perhaps the most inspiring time to visit this most romantic of cities.

Renowned for being one of Europe's most beautiful cities and the 'Athens of the North', Edinburgh is many things to many people. To some it's a historic jewel and a rich tapestry in which the past and present combine; to others Edinburgh is a cultural hotpot of festivals and galleries, while for others still it's a bustling modern metropolis of eclectic shops, cafes and bars.

A city alive with history

One attraction that's hard to miss is Edinburgh Castle, which not so much dominates the city skyline as is integral to it. Some parts of the castle have been around since the 12th century and the central role it played in the city for hundreds of years make it a first stop on any historic itinerary.

Anyone visiting in August will be treated to the added spectacle of the world-famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. 31st December meanwhile sees the skies above the castle light up with spectacular Hogmanay fireworks.

Edinburgh's medieval Old Town (an UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Royal Mile are also highlights for history lovers. While there, be sure to visit the Real Mary King's Close for an eerie look back at the city's squalid past in an authentic underground 17th century street. Then there are world-class museums such as the National Museum of Scotland, the Museum of Childhood and the Scottish National Gallery - perfect for those extra-cold winter days.

Fun and festivities

Edinburgh wouldn't be Edinburgh though without its many festivals and festivities, such as the upcoming Burn's Night celebrations on 25th January. The culmination of the Winter festival season sees venues around the city come alive with traditional food, drink and verse in honour of Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns. Highlights later in the year include Edinburgh International Film Festival in June, and August's Edinburgh Fringe - the world's largest performing arts festival.

Winter though is a particularly special time to visit Edinburgh, with the frost-covered ground only adding to the magic and romance of the city. From ice skating close to the castle and sampling the delights of the traditional Christmas Market to dancing the night away at Hogmanay, Edinburgh has a way of warming the cockles and the spirits even during the long Scottish winter.

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