Ex­pe­ri­ence Ed­in­burgh in just a day

Go­ing to Britain? Here’s how to make the most of a quick visit to the Scot­tish cap­i­tal

The New Paper - - LIFESTYLE - MAVIS TEO

Say Britain and you will im­me­di­ately think of London. Sure, it is the tried-and-true stopover for most Sin­ga­pore­ans who visit Europe. But the next time you are headed that way, plan for a short di­ver­sion to Ed­in­burgh.

The cap­i­tal of Scot­land is rich in his­tory and ar­chi­tec­ture, and Pot­ter­heads would know that J.K Rowl­ing got much of her in­spi­ra­tion for the mag­i­cal wizard­ing world af­ter she moved to Ed­in­burgh.

It is also a cultural play­ground that is home to 70 fes­ti­vals, in­clud­ing the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val Fringe, the world’s largest arts fes­ti­val that takes place ev­ery Au­gust.

Fly­ing to Ed­in­burgh from London is easy – it takes just one and a half hours by air.

And there is at least one flight de­part­ing ev­ery hour from one of the four London air­ports.

If you pre­fer to take it slow and savour the scenery, hop on the train.

The leisurely jour­ney will have you traips­ing Ed­in­burgh’s cen­tral streets in 5½ hours.

Here are the Ed­in­burgh must-sees that can be cov­ered in two days.

ON AR­RIVAL

WALK THE ROYAL MILE

The build­ings of Ed­in­burgh are worth rav­ing about, and it is home to Ge­or­gian and me­dieval mas­ter­pieces. Head to the Royal Mile, the his­toric heart of Ed­in­burgh’s Old City.

The 1.8km cob­bled street stretches from the iconic Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle (sit­u­ated on the base of an ex­tinct vol­cano) to Holy­rood Palace, the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of the Queen when she vis­its Scot­land.

You can spend the whole day ex­plor­ing the Royal Mile, which sets the tone for your jour­ney.

No doubt, it is touristy, but there is an ad­van­tage to that – there are many dif­fer­ent “quickie” guided ex­pe­ri­ences you can join.

Try Mer­cat Tours, where a guide pro­vides com­men­tary on the city’s hid­den spots and the sto­ries be­hind them.

An added bonus: You get to skip the long, me­an­der­ing queues to get into Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle.

Then there are tours that show you a darker, ghostly side of Ed­in­burgh.

In a city steeped in me­dieval his­tory, folk­lore abounds.

In the 17th cen­tury, Ed­in­burgh ex­pe­ri­enced a pop­u­la­tion boom.

Its hous­ing in­fra­struc­ture col­lapsed, and some of the im­pov­er­ished took to liv­ing in un­der­ground al­ley­ways that branch off from the Royal Mile.

The most fa­mous of these is the dark, dank Mary King’s Close. Its prox­im­ity to a marsh and the con­fined liv­ing con­di­tions meant that hy­giene was ter­ri­ble and many res­i­dents died in these quar­ters.

To­day, ghosts of those poor souls are said to haunt those places.

The Real Mary King’s Close is a one-hour tour that takes you through the preserved streets and gives in­sight into the lives of the peo­ple who lived and died there.

Af­ter that, you will prob­a­bly need a stiff drink.

Whether you are a whisky vir­gin or an afi­cionado, the Scotch Whisky Ex­pe­ri­ence is worth a try, of­fer­ing in­tro­duc­tory work­shops as well as mas­ter­classes.

For this whisky new­bie, the 50-minute Sil­ver Tour (£16, or S$28) was per­fect. I learnt ev­ery­thing from how Scotch whisky is made, to ap­pre­ci­at­ing the dif­fer­ent tastes that de­fine whiskies from dif­fer­ent re­gions.

There are Gold and Plat­inum Tours too, the main dif­fer­ence be­ing a wider range of whiskies to savour.

There’s also a Taste of Scot­land op­tion, where you get a din­ner fea­tur­ing Scot­tish pro­duce.

At £75, the three-hour ex­pe­ri­ence doesn’t ex­actly break the bank.

AT NIGHT

STAY IN A GREAT HO­TEL

There are plenty of op­tions for lodg­ing in buzzy Ed­in­burgh, from his­toric ho­tels to charm­ing apart­ments via Airbnb.

A ser­vice apart­ment in the city’s hottest new of­fer­ing, The Ed­in­burgh Grand, turned out to be a great choice.

Housed in a 19th-cen­tury build­ing and home to the Royal Bank of Scot­land un­til 2006, it is Ed­in­burgh’s most talked-about restora­tion project.

It is also cen­trally lo­cated. Ed­in­burgh’s main Waver­ley train sta­tion is just five min­utes away on foot, and a stone’s throw away from lux­ury depart­ment store Har­vey Ni­chols.

Much of the clas­sic ar­chi­tec­ture – which in­cludes solid wood pan­elling with carv­ings, preserved brass door han­dles and retro har­le­quin floors – has been beau­ti­fully re­stored.

Rooms are Mad Men-es­que, more New York loft than old­world busi­ness ho­tel, and mod cons like Bosch sound sys­tems and Ne­spresso ma­chines give that ex­tra luxe feel.

NEXT MORN­ING

CLIMB ARTHUR’S SEAT

It is time for more walk­ing. Hike from Holy­rood Park to the peak of Arthur’s Seat. There, take in the spec­tac­u­lar panora­mas of Ed­in­burgh.

If you hap­pen to be there on a Saturday, make your way down to Cas­tle Peak for break­fast at the weekly Ed­in­burgh Farm­ers’ Mar­ket.

This is where lo­cal pro­duc­ers ped­dle pies filled with hag­gis and peas and fish­mon­gers shuck fresh Scot­tish oys­ters on the spot.

Then it is time to head back to London, or wher­ever the wind blows you next.

But a day here would prob­a­bly whet your ap­petite enough for a re­turn to Auld Reekie or Scot­land as a whole – per­haps to the High­lands or the Loth­i­ans the next time.

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