It seems the same seagulls have been following your train all the way from London, across the open green spaces of celtic countryside and past countless fairy tale towns nestled precariously over craggy sea cliffs. The gulls’ screeching mixes with the train whistles while echoing against the walls as you pull into Edinburgh’s busy Waverly Station on a perfect July afternoon. The scent of simmering roast beef hits you as you head into the windy streets of one of Europe’s most sophisticated captials where the population is well mannered in spite of a fast paced vibrant 21st Century momentum.There’s a lot to see and you might as well start with the famous Royal Mile. Be prepared for a steep climb because the narrow streets leading straight up the ancient volcano are more like staircases. But the shopping here in Old Town is worth the trip to this rival to Princes Street. Plus there’s the added bonus of a tour of Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh Castle will take several hours because you don’t want to miss the Stone of Destiny or the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI. The food is very good and reasonably priced in the castle restaurant and you can eat outdoors; weather permitting. Make sure you stay around for the 1 o’clock gun salute which is fired from the ramparts every day except Sunday.

Around the Royal Mile you can buy everyrthing from kilts to knitwear, puppets, and St. Andrews golf balls. Shops include the Royal Mile Woolen Milles, Designs on Cashmere, James Pringles, Celtic Knitwear and the Shetland Connection make over- packing your suitcases a pleasure. For a more moderate budget there’s Ness, where you can get Scottish authenticity without maxing out your credit card.

Princes Street is considered to be one of nthe most beautiful shopping districts in the world. With its nstunning panoramic view and Princes Street Gardens it has such highlights nas the Old Waverly Hotel, the Sir Walter Scott Monument, and the famous stores Jenners, Waterstone’s, and Hector Russell.

But plenty of mystery still envelopes Edinburgh’s streets of quaint Georgian and Victorian houses which strongly resemble well designed stage sets. This is after all, where former resident J.K. Rowling got the inspiration for her Harry Potter masterpieces. Better squeeze in that ghost tour quickly since dusk falls around 10 P.M. during the summer months. And nighttime will only last for a few.

If you’re a dog lover you will want to see Greyfriars Churchyard. Even the smallest Scottish child can recite the story of little Bobby, the Skye Terrier, who devotedly kept vigil there beside his master’s grave for fourteen years. While Lassie cornered the market for in brains and resourcefulness, the beloved Bobby wins for faithfulness. Expect a tearful trek to the monument for him near the churchyard.

Rounding out your trip you’ll want to visit the National Portrait Gallery, the Ocean Terminal where the Royal Yacht Britannia is docked, the Writers’ Museum, and the Edinburgh Photo Library. If you still possibly have any time left, stop by one of Scotland’s most popular attractions, the Edinburgh Zoo.

Copyright 2006 Karen Brown

About the Author

Karen Brown is a travel agent and web publisher.