Take a piece of Scotland home with you from the Victorian grandeur of the mile-long Princes Street. Here you’ll find the finest malt whiskies, tartan kilts with a PVC twist and warm woollies from elegant boutiques and old-fashioned department stores. Bargain hunters can take the shuttle bus 20 miles west to Livingston Designer Outlet, where huge discounts can be had on clothing, jewellery and kitchenware. Soak up the villagey feel in Stockbridge, home to tiny shops with vintage clothes and quirky handmade jewellery.
Whether you choose a cosy pint of Deuchars IPA in an Old Town wood-panelled tavern or a stylish cocktail bar in George Street, you’ll soon make friends on a night out in Edinburgh. There’s a festival almost every month, and you can watch edgy drama and live music at the Edinburgh Playhouse and copper-domed Usher Hall.
Savour local specialities haggis, neeps and tatties in top restaurants in the New Town, where Michelin-starred chefs put a neat twist on tradition. Taste the fruits of the Firth of Forth, and dine on a bowl of freshly steamed Shetland mussels in coastal Leith. Taste cuisines from around the world in quaint Grassmarket bistros as you gaze out on to the castle.
You’ll see Edinburgh Castle at every turn as it broods high above the city. Head inside to gaze at Europe’s oldest crown jewels in the Royal Palace’s Crown Room. Be prepared to be deafened if you find yourself in the courtyard at 1pm: that’s when the daily One O’Clock Gun goes off. Kids will love getting spooked as they follow costumed guides on ghost tours in the vaults and tunnels of the Old Town. Climb up the rugged paths in Holyrood Park to the dormant volcano known as Arthur’s Seat. You’ll soon be rewarded for your efforts with breathtaking panoramas of the city and even the Firth of Forth estuary.
Click here to see our guide to Christmas Markets along the East Coast route, especially the Christmas Markets in Edinburgh.