Packed with attractions and heritage, Scotland’s capital of Edinburgh is the perfect city in which to enjoy a culture-filled weekend.
Dominating the city’s skyline, no visit to Edinburgh is complete without a trip to the famous Castle. Centred around Crown Square, visitors can explore the Royal Palace – where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her only child – as well as the National War Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National War Memorial. A time signal, known as the One O’Clock Gun, is fired every day at 1pm precisely, but the panoramic views from the Castle Rock are stunning at any time of day.
From Edinburgh Castle, walking along the Royal Mile is a fine way to soak up the Old Town’s culture and vibrancy. Whisky lovers and souvenir hunters will find much to entice them, while St Giles’ Cathedral – dating from the 14th century, and capped by its famous crown spire – boasts a magnificent interior. For those with a taste for more modern architecture, Enric Miralles’ Scottish Parliament building provides the city with a new and truly iconic landmark at the Holyrood end of the Royal Mile.
A feast of festivals
The city is famous, of course, for its annual Edinburgh Festivals, a collection of separate arts and cultural festivals that bring the city’s streets and venues to life each summer. Of these, The Fringe has grown into the largest arts festival in the world, while the Edinburgh International Festival showcases world-class theatre, opera, dance and classical music.
Shop ’til you drop
Away from the more cultural pursuits, Edinburgh is also one of Britain’s top locations for shopping, with a great mix of big names and quirky independents. On the New Town’s famous Princes Street, Jenners department store is an Edinburgh institution, and worth a visit just to admire the stunning century-old Grand Hall. Running parallel to Princes Street, the imposing buildings of George Street host a rich array of cafes, bars and boutiques, while nearby St Andrew Square is home to the city’s branch of Harvey Nichols – an upmarket treat for retail therapy aficionados.
Arrive in style
Getting to Edinburgh for your weekend break couldn’t be easier. The city’s stations at Waverley (off Princes Street) and Haymarket are both on the high-speed East Coast Main Line, served by fast and frequent trains from London, Leeds and Newcastle. Alternatively, Edinburgh’s busy airport is located just 25 minutes’ drive from the city centre, and offers direct flights from locations such as London Heathrow, Manchester and Brussels.
A hotel stay you’ll remember
To make the most of your city break, you’ll also want to find yourself a relaxing but affordable place to stay, where you can enjoy a good night’s sleep and a hearty Scottish breakfast that will set you up for a day of urban exploring.
Apex Hotels operates four stylish hotels in Edinburgh, catering for a range of tastes and travellers, but all featuring the ‘contemporary luxury’ that has become its hallmark. In the very heart of Edinburgh, the 4*, 169-room Apex International Hotel boasts a stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, and its Grassmarket location is perfect for exploring the Old Town.
Further along the street, the 119-room Apex City Hotel is just as convenient, attracting guests with its contemporary 4* accommodation and AA rosette award-winning Agua Bar and Restaurant.
While the Apex International and Apex City Hotels are both conveniently situated for Edinburgh Waverley station, the 66-room Apex European Hotel is perfect for anyone seeking a value-for-money base close to Haymarket and the attractions of the city’s West End. After a long day of sightseeing, the hotel’s Metro Bar and Restaurant is the ideal spot to savour a relaxing meal and bottle of wine.
Those wanting a memorable place to stay in the New Town need look no further than the Apex Waterloo Place Hotel, above, a 4* deluxe boutique hotel housed in a lovely Georgian building. Purpose built in 1819 as one of Edinburgh’s largest and finest hotels, the property was turned into offices in 1898. More than a century later, in 2009, Apex Hotels reopened the building as a hotel, following an extensive £30m refurbishment.
Today, the restored Waterloo Place Hotel combines contemporary design with traditional Georgian features, and hosts 187 spacious rooms and suites. With Harvey Nichols and the St James shopping centre just around the corner, retail temptation is never far away, but any guilt about excessive shopping sprees can soon be worked off in the hotel’s luxurious pool, sauna and gym.
With a wealth of things to see and do, great transport connections, and hotels that offer the best in modern comforts, it’s little wonder that Edinburgh has such appeal as a city break destination. With the nights drawing in, now is the perfect time to take the plunge – book a stay in Edinburgh this autumn, and look forward to a vibrant and fulfilling weekend that you’ll never forget.
Photo credits: Tony Goff (castle) and Elaine MacCorkle (fiddlers)
For more ideas, check out the This is Edinburgh website.