Bonny Scotland: Home to men in kilts playing bagpipes, men in kilts tossing cabers around like twigs, and more men in kilts washing platefuls of haggis down with whiskey, for breakfast!

Should you find yourself in Scotland at some point in your travels, you may indeed spot a kilted man, or even a bevy of kilted men.

(And should a sudden gust of wind blow, you might discover what they really do wear beneath their tartan skirts!)

And you will undoubtedly be able to sample the delights of such traditional Scottish fare as haggis and whiskey.

But the country has fast become a popular tourist destination for many more reasons than this, and each year visitors flock to the capital city of Edinburgh to take in its unique sights and sounds.

Photo from www.freefoto.com

Scotland may not be famed for its tropical climate, but Edinburgh’s weather conditions are, in fact, far more favourable. What Scotland lacks in exotic weather conditions, Edinburgh more than makes up for in atmosphere.

There’s fun and frivolity at festival time, seriously spooky goings-on when the sun goes down and a history so rich you can almost feel it as you walk the city’s cobbled streets. Not only that, but the stunning natural heritage of Scotland’s capital city is now recognised as a World Heritage Site.

There are, in fact, a whole host of reasons why you should be saying ‘och aye’ to Edinburgh as a great holiday destination (which translates as ‘oh yes’ for those of you not familiar with Scotticisms!)

But for the many thousands of people who visit the city each year, The Edinburgh Festival is the main attraction, and it isn’t hard to see why.

Throughout the summer months the city’s streets, art house venues and even the historic Royal Mile are home to performers and artists from every walk of life, all trying to entertain, amuse and delight their audiences.

From household names to street performers, there is something to satisfy every type of festival-goer,with theatre performances, children’s shows, exhibitions, music and comedy.

The Edinburgh Festival is actually a collective term for several arts and cultural festivals that take place in the city each summer, and although each festival is unique and staged by a different organisation, they’re regarded by many as being part of the same event; the Festival Fringe being one of the most well known.

Put all of these festivals together and you have the world’s largest cultural festival. Pretty impressive, huh?

Not only has the festival helped to launch the careers of many stars (Billy Connelly, Eddie Izzard, Jude Law and Stephen Fry are but a few), every year sees a whole host of fresh and new talent on display, too.

Who knows whose rise to fame you might bear witness to, or what celebrity you might find yourself rubbing shoulders with?

There is even an excellent spinoff festival that wont cost you a penny. Last year there were 607 purse-friendly shows on offer.

But if festivals aren’t quite your bag, and if perhaps, like me, you’re a lover of all things spooky and supernatural and enjoy nothing more than a jolly good fright when you can get one, then you need look no further than Edinburgh.

It proudly holds claim to being one of the most haunted cities in the world and during its 1,000 year history Edinburgh has played host to the plague and bore witness to more than its share of other horrors, with witch-burning, body-snatching and torture being among the favoured pastimes of some of its historic inhabitants.

There are numerous guided tours of some of the cities hottest spine-chilling spook spots, from the aptly named Terror Tour to the Underground City of the Dead; these macabre tours and others like them are not for the faint of heart, but if you want to bring Edinburghs gruesome history to life, then there is simply no better way of doing it.

Photo from www.freefoto.com

It’s little surprise that Scotland’s most visited tourist attraction, Edinburgh Castle, has a gruesome history of its own, and as it looms imposingly over the city from high on a rocky crag, it is easy to imagine sinister goings on taking place behind its cold, grey walls.

Human habitation of the site where the castle now stands dates as far back as the 9th century BC, an unthinkably long time ago for the less historically minded among you!

The castle that was built there on volcanic rock was later to become an important fortress in the ancient Kingdom of Scotland and was involved in many historical conflicts over the centuries.

Free guided tours of the castle and its grounds bring to life its amazing history and importance as part of Scotland’s heritage, and with a little imagination, you can easily transport yourself back to the time of lavish royal gatherings, mounted knights, brutal wars, doom and dungeons.

Of course we all need a break from sightseeing and history lessons when we’re on holiday, and what better way to relax and unwind than with a spot of light retail therapy (or heavy, depending on the size of your wallet and the extent of your therapy!).

Edinburgh has shops to suit every need and every purse, but all that shopping can be hard work, as hardcore shoppers among you will know, and it’s crucial to stop at regular intervals to refuel.

Whether it be a pub, a café, or a fine dining experience that you’re looking for, Edinburgh has enough different eateries to refuel even the fussiest shopper.

So you see, brawny men in skirts and traditional Scottish delicacies are perfectly valid reasons for paying a visit to Edinburgh this year, but it will be the iconic castles, stunning scenery and historic city streets that provide you with the real inspiration to make bonny Edinburgh your next holiday destination.

Kate Blanchard
Kate is an English woman currently living in rural Morocco with her husband, Ben, and their mischievous mongrel, Douglas. They moved out there three years ago after Ben was offered employment as the manager of a large fruit farm, and although life can often be challenging for them both with cultural differences and language barriers, they see this as more of a reason to stay, than a reason to admit defeat and leave. Kate tries to find humour wherever possible in life, and finds herself blessed (or as her husband would say, ‘cursed’) with an irrepressible desire to see the beauty and the positivity in what others may see to be ugly and negative. Most of all though, she has a zest for travel and exploration and finds it incredibly satisfying to share her stories of adventure with others, even if it does nothing more than transport the reader to a distant land for a few minutes.

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