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Edinburgh: Wild kayaking in the Firth of Forth

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.


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)

The Real Mary King's Close You don't need a TARDIS to go back to 17th century Edinburgh: just pop into this labyrinth of underground streets off the Royal Mile for a tour. Lively actors dressed in period costume guide you through the forgotten neighbourhood that's now hidden beneath the city streets, and explain the astonishing story of the people who lived there 500 years ago. www.realmarykingsclose.com

Edinburgh Gin Distillery Scotland might be famous for its fabulous whiskies, but the recent gin renaissance has captured the public imagination and there are now a number of varieties of the spirit distilled in Scotland. At this gin palace in the west end you can go on a guided tour of Edinburgh Gin's distillery and even get a lesson in the botanical magic with their gin-making experience. http://www.edinburghgindistillery.co.uk/

The Six Nations rugby tournament kicks off this month and it's England's turn to take on Scotland on their home turf at Murrayfield Stadium. If you can't make the match itself you can sneak a look backstage at the impressive ground and take a guided tour through the decades of Scottish Rugby, with tales from the first international rugby match in 1871 to the present day.

Burns Night Robert Burns may have died 220 years ago, but the Scottish bard is still widely celebrated for his poems and songs as well as his less than wholesome lifestyle. There are many events taking place across the city to celebrate Burns Night on 25 January, but a good place to start would be a full-on Burns supper at the atmospheric Contini Cannonball (356 Castlehill, EH1, +44 131 225 1550) or an informal ceilidh at the Counting House (36 West Nicolson Street, EH8, 0131 667 7533), complete with tasty buffet.


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. (www.edfilmfest.org.uk)

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)

Celts Exhibition, National Museum of Scotland The National Museum Of Scotland showcases an impressive range of artefacts, objects and oddities in its permanent collection, and this March it plays host to one of its most ambitious exhibitions yet. In conjunction with the British Museum, ‘Celts' explores 2,500 years of Celtic heritage told through 200 items of adornment, feasting, religion and warfare, brought together for the first time. www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-scotland/whats-on/celts/

Tearing up the traditional histories of the Scottish art scene, the important and timely exhibition 'Modern Scottish Women' celebrates work by women painters and sculptors between 1885 and 1965. It includes work that has rarely seen but which was vital to the development of modern art in Scotland. For more information visit https://www.nationalgalleries.org/whatson/on-now-coming-soon/modern-scottish- women/.

Turner in January The annual display of Turner's watercolours has been gracing the Scottish National Gallery every January for over 100 years, thanks to the stipulations of the paintings' bequest. The low winter light protects the colours for future generations to witness, and what's more it's always free to view.

Don't miss an intriguing exhibition of images recording Picasso's relationship with American socialite and war photographer Lee Miller. He painted her six times, she snapped him rather more. "Lee Miller and Picasso" contains over 100 prints, many chosen from Miller's archive (Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, EH2 1JD).

Key Areas

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. (www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-flight)

Sat beneath the suburb of Gilmerton is Gilmerton Cove, an underground network of 300-year-old passages and rooms hand-carved from sandstone. Nobody knows what they were used for, but you're welcome to guess on the compulsory tour. Make sure to book in advance, and take good footwear, the floors are slippery. For more information visit gilmertoncove.org.uk.

Mr Wood founded this outlet for his local discoveries in 1987. The current owner also imports fossils, meteorites and minerals from all over the world (5 Cowgatehead, Grassmarket, EH1 1JY, mrwoodsfossils.co.uk).

Day Trips

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. http://www.archerfieldwalledgarden.com/

Stirling, an hour by train from Edinburgh, once laid claim to be Scotland's capital and was the seat of James V. His Renaissance residence there has been restored to its original (1545) vivid colours, complete with the lost unicorn tapestries. visitscotland.com

Had enough off-off West End entertainment? Escape the fringe in Portobello, a 20-minute bus ride east of the city. There's a lovely sandy beach, an esplanade to stroll down and bracing winds off the Firth of Forth to blow the cobwebs away. visitscotland.com

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