Cheap flights to Edinburgh
The sea that skirts the north of Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth, is a pleasant place to try sea kayaking for the first time. Travel into the city centre from the airport by bus of taxi. You can then easily get down to the coast in Leith by the number 22 bus from Prince's Street. Guided trips and kayak rental are available (www.duneideannseakayaking.com) for your kayak outing. The nature of the equipment (and safety considerations) means that this isn't really a plan you can just turn up and do yourself.
As you explore the varied coastline you may even sea dolphins or seals. You'll certainly enjoy great views of the iconic Forth Road Bridge and, to the south, the city of Edinburgh with its castle and Arthur's Seat rising up above the skyline.
Level of Difficulty: Medium.
What to pack: Warm clothes (check the weather forecast!), woolly hat, raingear, food and water.
Best time to go: early summer.
Looking more like a film set than a city, Edinburgh is a picture postcard of Gothic and medieval streets that will impress even the most experienced traveller. Nicknamed the Athens of the North, Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful and atmospheric cities in Europe. It is certainly one of the most visited, seeing over a million tourists trampling its streets each year. They come for its snaking, medieval streets, Georgian architecture, popular festivals and the majestic Edinburgh Castle that has overlooked the city for centuries.
As the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is full of things to see and do, from its scary age-old dungeons and submerged and forgotten medieval streets to art-filled galleries and royal palaces.
There is so much for kids and adults in Edinburgh's Christmas, it's no wonder the event lasts over six weeks. Take to the sky for some cracking views from the Big Wheel, lose yourself for a while in the Christmas tree maze, explore Edinburgh's iconic buildings in 24 days of advent, do a spot (or a lot) of Christmas shopping at the market, glide gracefully across the ice at the skating rink in St Andrew Square, or just relax with a spiced hot chocolate and watch the world go by surrounded by fairy lights.
Run in the Dark, Wed 16 Nov 2016, 8pm, Holyrood Park
As darkness falls in Edinburgh on Wednesday 16 November, thousands of people will pull on their running shoes and red flashing armbands and head for Holyrood Park. They'll be taking part in Run in the Dark, a living light show, flowing through the capital's streets like lava. One of a series of pop-up events led by volunteers in over 50 cities worldwide, these 5 km and 10 km runs will raise money to help fast-track a cure for paralysis.
When the autumn nights start drawing in, it's time to look for cosy indoor activities. So why not head to Portobello, Edinburgh's seaside, for something a little different. One of only three Turkish baths still in operation in Scotland, the idea is to work your way through chambers of various temperatures on a repeat cycle as many times as you like before taking a bracing dip in the Frigidarium.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world, taking place every August for three weeks in Scotland's capital city. It's a massive celebration of theatre, comedy, music and the arts in general, covering everything from edgy stand-up comedy at 1am to midday organ recitals - and just about anything you could imagine in between.
Founded in 1978, Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival is a major player in the European jazz festival circuit, putting on over 170 concerts in ten days. With a programme covering everything from festival first-timers, to world-class jazz artists, plus all shades of blues from the Mississippi delta to Chicago, all music fans should find something to love here. From 15 - 24 July, http://www.edinburghjazzfestival.com/.
Whisky is more than just a drink in Scotland - there's a reason people call it the water of life' - but it's easy to get lost among the hundreds on offer. If you'd like to know your Speysides from your Islays, why peatiness' is much talked about, and how a humble grain becomes a potent spirit, then the Introduction to Whisky Tasting by the Whiski Rooms is a great way to demystify the mighty malt. (www.whiskirooms.co.uk/whiskytastings.html)
Edinburgh's Hogmanay is the capital's world-famous and enduringly popular New Year festival, attracting visitors from all corners of the globe. Taking place over three packed days, there are fireworks, ceilidhs, concerts, torchlit processions and - for serious outdoor enthusiasts - the annual loony dook' swim in the River Forth!
The Goldfinch, Scottish National Gallery, 4 Nov - 18 Dec 2016
A rare treat for art lovers in Edinburgh this autumn, as one of the world's most iconic paintings makes a flying visit to the Scottish National Gallery. The Goldfinch by 17th century Dutch painter Carel Fabritius has never before been shown in Scotland, and when it was last shown outside the Netherlands, at the Frick Collection in New York in 2014, it was seen by a record-breaking 200,000 people. This is your chance to see it up close, for free, and to see how this ground-breaking artist went on to influence the likes of Vermeer.
In the beautifully landscaped grounds of the Royal Botanic Garden, award-winning light show Botanic Lights returns in October to take night-time visitors on a magical trail of colour, light and projection. As darkness descends, light installations transform the Victorian Palm House and the Chinese Hillside, illuminating the rich collection of plants and turning the whole garden into a magical story. From 13 October.
Even from its early days, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been an international favourite: performers from over 48 countries have taken part over the years. These days, each Tattoo is very much a global gathering, showcasing the talents of musicians and performers from every corner of the globe, alongside a display of military prowess against the beautiful backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.
The Edinburgh International Film Festival will be exciting movie fans with cinema magic across the city in June. Pop-up screenings in parks and city squares bring the once rarefied festival to the masses, with live scores to popular classics breathing new life into much-loved films (this year ET gets the treatment) and a focus on comic-strip films and new Finnish cinema which promise an eclectic festival to dive right into.
Bringing together works from over 50 years of an innovative and hugely acclaimed career, Bridget Riley @ Modern Art Gallery One offers an insight into British artist Bridget Riley's method and practice. Rhythm and energy are watchwords of her paintings, which shifted from monochrome to grey and finally to colour over several decades. Still painting today, Riley has returned to a black and white influence once again. (www.nationalgalleries.org)
On the western outskirts of the city, it takes a bit of time and planning to get to Jupiter Artland but it's more than worth the effort. Wander through the woodland taking in specially commissioned sculptures by world-class artists as you go, and then marvel at the grassy land and water forms created by Scottish artist Charles Jencks. There's also an excellent cafe and shop on site. https://www.jupiterartland.org/
A significant investment has injected new life into the National Museum of Flight, just a short drive out of town in pretty East Lothian. Newly restored hangars showcase 100 years of military and civil aviation, with a world-class collection of aircraft alongside uniforms, documents and photographs. There are not many places you can go on board a Concorde these days, but here at least you can feel like part of the jet set, if only for a day.
In the middle of the East Lothian countryside and worth seeking out, the Archerfield Walled Garden has enough going on to make it a whole day trip from the city. There's a large, light-filled cafe, cosy bar area, deli, gift shop and long walks around the pretty grounds. Kids will love the wishing tree and outdoor play area, with deer roaming freely all around.