The top 6 experiences in Edinburgh - according to Lonely Planet

As a tourist there's so much to choose from in Edinburgh, from innovative restaurants and lively local pubs to intriguing museums and history laden structures.
The Royal Yacht Britannia is featured highly on the Lonely Planet list of top experiences in Edinburgh (Photo: Shutterstock)The Royal Yacht Britannia is featured highly on the Lonely Planet list of top experiences in Edinburgh (Photo: Shutterstock)
The Royal Yacht Britannia is featured highly on the Lonely Planet list of top experiences in Edinburgh (Photo: Shutterstock)

The choice can be overwhelming for those visiting for a limited amount of time. Travel experts Lonely Planet, however, have whittled down a list of six essential experiences for indecisive tourists staying in Auld Reekie.

1. Edinburgh Castle

Unsurprisingly, a visit to the city's imposing castle, propped precariously atop an extinct volcano tops Lonely Planet's list of experiences to immerse yourself in Edinburgh.

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The iconic structure has played a crucial role in Scotland's history, seeing military action during the '45 Jacobite rebellion.

The travel guide proclaims: "the brooding, black crags of Castle Rock, rising above the western end of Princes St, are the very reason for Edinburgh's existence."

"This rocky hill was the most easily defended hilltop on the invasion route between England and central Scotland, a route followed by countless armies."

Entry to Edinburgh Castle ranges from £10.20 to £17.00

2. Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia, is Lonely Planet's second recommendation for visitors in the city. Launched in 1953, the regal vessel was the transport mode of choice for the Royal Family for the second half of the 20th century. Today it rests by Ocean Terminal in Leith.

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"Britannia is a monument to 1950s decor, and the accommodation reveals Her Majesty's preference for simple, unfussy surroundings," notes Lonely Planet. "There was nothing simple or unfussy, however, about the running of the ship. When the Queen travelled, with her went 45 members of the royal household, five tonnes of luggage and a Rolls-Royce that was carefully squeezed into a specially built garage on the deck."

Visitors can marvel at the Queen's former floating residence for £16 per adult.

3. Arthur's Seat

It's hard to ignore this colossal mound of volcanic rock plonked just east of the city's centre.

Those unsure of whether to climb the 251 metre viewpoint, however, are implored to do so by Lonely Planet.

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"The rocky peak of Arthur’s Seat, carved by ice sheets from the deeply eroded stump of a long-extinct volcano, is a distinctive feature of Edinburgh’s skyline," explains the guide. "The view from the summit is well worth the walk, extending from the Forth Bridges in the west to the distant conical hill of North Berwick Law in the east, with the Ochil Hills and the Highlands on the northwestern horizon."

4. Sandy Bell's

To those who haven't visited this Forest Road pub it might seem odd that a folk music bar features so highly on the Lonely Planet's recommendations. However, those who have stepped over the bar's threshold, supped on the fine ales and whiskys on offer and nodded their head along to the resident music acts will agree that Sandy Bell's is worthy of its lofty place.

Lonely Planet states: "This unassuming pub is a stalwart of the traditional music scene (the founder's wife sang with the Corries). There's music almost every evening at 9pm, and from 3pm Saturday and Sunday, plus lots of impromptu sessions."

5. Ondine

Edinburgh is rich with world-class restaurants specialising in food from both near and far. Lonely Planet's top recommendation for food in the city is Victoria Street seafood specialist Ondine.

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Lonely Planet recommends diners "take a seat at the curved Oyster Bar and tuck into oysters Kilpatrick, smoked haddock chowder, lobster thermidor, a roast shellfish platter or just good old haddock and chips (with minted pea purée, just to keep things posh)."

6. Real Mary King's Close

If you can pluck up the courage, the Real Mary King's Close is a fascinating snapshot of the capital's dark and haunting past. Frozen in time since the 17th century, this underground close is an experience unique to the city and highly recommended by the Lonely Planet.

The travel guide highlights the apparent presence of several resident ghosts at the abandoned residence.

"In one of the former bedrooms off the close, a psychic once claimed to have been approached by the ghost of a little girl called Annie. It's hard to tell what's more frightening – the story of the ghostly child, or the bizarre heap of tiny dolls and teddies left in a corner by sympathetic visitors."

The Real Mary King's Close can be visited for £15.50 per adult.