Every summer Edinburgh becomes an explosion of arts, entertainment and fun and it can be hard to choose what to do first. The last thing you want is to waste any more of your precious holiday time queueing than you have to. So here are some brilliant insider tips from under the bonnet of the tourism industry that give ideas of the best times to visit and hidden gem alternatives…
When to visit – Generally, later in the day is slightly quieter for Edinburgh Castle, but there is a trick for enjoying a more peaceful visit even at a busy time of year. Book in advance online for the 09:30 entrance and on admission head straight up to Crown Square to visit the crown jewels, ahead of most visitors who will gradually end up there later in their visit.
Hidden gem alternative – Hidden well from the busy city centre Craigmillar Castle is very easy to travel to by bus followed by a 15 minute walk. It is full or character and intrigue with a fascinating history and exceptionally evocative views across to Edinburgh Castle – idea for exploring,
Scotch Whisky Experience
When to visit – First thing in the morning when your senses are at their best. It may seem like an unusual choice, but the 10am Morning Masterclass takes advantage of the fact that you can tune in to the favours and characteristics far better earlier in the day, before your senses have had the chance to be bombarded. This visit also gets you into the world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky before the tours start for the day so you can marvel at the amber glow.
Hidden gem alternative – Amber whisky bar is tucked beneath the tour entrance and shop of the Scotch Whisky Experience adjacent to Amber restaurant and boasts over 420 different Scotch whiskies. The selected whiskies of the month and tasting flights will help if the rage seems too bewildering to consider and coffees, cake and Scottish tapas, platters and cheese are served alongside the malts, blends and liqueurs. No need to book just pop in and pull up a bar stool.
National Museum of Scotland
When to visit – Start from the top down. Most visitors start with the closest galleries to the lower ground floor entrances and never make it to the furthest reaches so simply start at the furthest point and make your way back. You can download a map in your language to work out your route in advance. Alternatively, visit out of hours by attending one of the Museum Lates events if it suits your schedule in Edinburgh.
Hidden gem alternative – In just over an hour from the city centre you can enjoy a trip through East Lothian by train and bus to the National Museum of Flight where the cavernous hangars and vast airfields will make you feel you have Scotland’s countryside to yourself. The museum is open April to October.
Scottish National Gallery
When to visit – The slightly quieter last hour of the day is the best time to come along. The gallery’s permanent collection is free of charge to visit and it is incredibly central, so why not pop in more than once for a short hour-long visit from 4-5pm to avoid a the dreaded art fatigue! Thursday is late-night opening until 7pm which is perfect for an indoor art stroll before drinks or dinner.
Hidden gem alternative – Edinburgh’s Modern Art Galleries – Modern One and Modern Two are 15 minutes from town by foot, but will leave you feeling as though you are in the countryside. Peaceful lawns accommodate the sculpture gardens and lead to Edinburgh’s water of Leith for a stroll with some otter and kingfisher spotting.
The Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
When to visit – at the moment you can take advantage of late evening opening and enjoy the long daylight. This unexpected late treat means you can miss the daytime rush and have fun throughout the world of illusions and the evening shows in the Camera Obscura.
Hidden gem alternative – Explore the Camera Obscura’s original home of Calton Hill, home to incredible Georgian structures and some of the best views in the city, particularly of Arthur’s Seat and the Royal Mile, right up to Edinburgh Castle.
Images courtesy of:
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
National Gallery of Scotland