Edinburgh Festivals 2014: the essential visitor attractions

This article is from 2014

Edinburgh Festivals 2014: the essential visitor attractions

Visiting Edinburgh for the Fringe? Make sure you don't leave without visiting these tourist hotspots

There’s so much happening in Edinburgh in August that it can be hard to tear yourself away from all the cultural excitement. But if you do find yourself craving some fresh air, or just can’t face another student production of Macbeth, it might be time to visit one of the city’s year-round blockbuster attractions to get a different perspective on Scotland’s capital

Edinburgh Castle

An obvious choice perhaps, but with good reason: the castle is an iconic part of the city’s history (not to mention skyline), steeped in stories of sieges, battles and generations of royal scandals. Best to make an afternoon of it, as there’s a lot to get through, from St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, to the Crown Jewels – and be prepared for the One O’Clock Gun, fired every day except for Sunday. Plenty of living-history events ensure an immersive visit that’s both educational and entertaining for kids big and small.

Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art

Comprising Modern One, Modern Two and the outdoor Sculpture Garden, the Modern Art Galleries are the place to go to satisfy all your contemporary art needs. Gallery One houses the collections, tracing the history of modern art from Picasso and Matisse to Gilbert & George and Tracey Emin. Gallery Two hosts ever-changing exhibitions, plus an extensive collection of Dada and Surrealist artworks and literature. The Sculpture Garden comes into its own on sunny days, so keep fingers crossed for good weather and the chance to discover Charles Jencks’ innovative ‘landform’ design.

Royal Botanic Garden

The bountiful gardens, spread over 70 acres, are best visited on those rare occasions when the planets align and Edinburgh is blessed with pleasant weather. They’re one of the world’s richest botanic gardens and leaders in plant science and education, and visitors can explore the exotic riches of the tropical glasshouses or check out the John Hope Gateway information centre which offers interactive activities for adults and kids, with a green and eco-friendly focus.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Experience what life was like for the royal family at sea on their former floating residence, now award-winning tourist attraction. Starting from the bridge, an audio tour guides you around the sumptuous interior, where you can take in the five decks, including the sick bay and laundry rooms as well as the state apartments and royal bedrooms. To add a little more posh to your visit, check out the onboard Rolls Royce Phantom V (no biggie) before grabbing some afternoon tea in the impressive Royal Deck Tea Room.

Edinburgh Zoo

It’s hard to visit Edinburgh without setting aside a day to explore the zoo. Set in over 80 acres of parkland, there are almost a thousand rare and endangered animals to spot. Highlights are the Budongo Trail, where you can watch chimpanzees hang out in a natural environment and, of course, the ever-celibate giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang. If you need a break from staring at cuteness, there are animal talks throughout the day, plus kids’ activities – and don’t forget the chance to get up close to some free-roaming tuxedoed waddlers in the regular Penguin Parade.