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A Tale of Two Cities

Enjoy Edinburgh, Scotland Like a Local

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle is the most famous of sites, but there is much more to the city.

Edinburgh has so much to offer, from the biggest castle to the smallest pub, that sometimes it feels like two cities: one for the tourists and another for the natives. Here are six Scottish secrets that may not be in your guidebook.

1. The Dean Gallery. Although not as large or well known as the National Gallery of Scotland, the Dean Gallery houses dramatic works of art by many distinguished artists, including Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. While the National Gallery adorns its walls with traditional works of art, the Dean Gallery leans toward the unconventional. One exhibit I visited had various photographs of one man holding huge slabs of meat, and it was amazing. Don’t rule anything out just because it sounds strange; you can always find something you’ll like.

2. World’s End Pub Crawl. To dive into Scottish culture, join the locals for a drink! It’s important to visit several pubs in order to find one that suits you, and the best way to sample several places is to pub crawl: go to the first pub (in this case, the World’s End) and they’ll give you a card with the names of the other pubs on the route. You then go to each place and buy at least one drink. After you buy a drink, the bartender will stamp your card, and then you are free to move on to the next pub. This continues for seven pubs. When your card is full, you return to the World’s End (if you can still find it) and claim your prize—a well-deserved T-shirt.

It’s best to start early; the pubs are spread out, so you’ll do a fair amount of walking. But you’d be surprised at how many people you meet when you have to keep stopping to ask for directions.

3. Arthur’s Seat is not quite a mountain, but to call it a hill would be insulting. This beautiful fusion of rock and grass, located on the outskirts of Edinburgh, towers above the city. It allows you to escape from the bustling city life without actually leaving the city. Dozens of routes take you to the top, and the view from the peak constantly changes, depending on the weather and time of day.

4. Gregg’s. Walking around to all the different sites is bound to make anyone hungry. Gregg’s is a small pastry chain that offers a delicious assortment of donuts, danishes, and cream puffs. It also has a wide variety of sandwiches and, my personal favorite, “pasties”—a sort of potpie-to-go. Not only is the food delicious, it’s also cheap: nothing costs more than one or two pounds.

5. Rugby. Crowds flood the streets on the day of a big rugby match, singing, drinking, and flaunting their country’s colors with pride. The stadium is enormous, yet you can hardly squeeze through to your seat. Once you’re there, whether you want to or not, you’ll get quite friendly with the people on either side of you.

6. Craigmillar Castle, located just outside the city, stands high upon a hill, almost hidden from sight. Compared to the well-known Edinburgh Castle, Craigmillar is relatively small, consisting of only one building. But Edinburgh Castle, although magnificent, has been refurbished to appear the way it did centuries ago. Craigmillar is different. Nothing has been restored; yet it has weathered the centuries extremely well. Also, no areas are restricted. Although it is not a large castle, it is easy to get lost in the winding stairwells, numerous levels, and varying rooms.

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Reserve Apartments are holiday apartment specialists for Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Related Topics
Independent Travel
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Travel and Study in Edinburgh, Scotland

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