Edinburgh is thought to be one of the most haunted cities in Europe – and well, you don’t get a reputation like that unless you have a long and diverse history. Wherever you look in Scotland’s capital, you are surrounded with gothic style architecture, cobbled streets and reminders of the city’s past, from industrial railway arches to Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood.

It can be hard to know where to start when visiting Edinburgh – so to help you get the most out of your trip, here are some of our favourite historical sites to add to your itineraries.

Palace of HolyroodHouse

Location: Royal Mile, Edinburgh

You’ll find the palace in the Old Town part of the city and is close to Arthur’s Seat and the Scottish parliament building. The palace dates back to the 1100s and served as one of the main residences of the Scottish monarchy for centuries. These days it is Queen Elizabeth II’s official residence when she is in Edinburgh, though it is most famously associated with Mary Queen of Scots and you can find  a plaque dedicated to her secretary who was murdered by her husband. In fact, her former apartments are open to the public throughout the year, except when the current Royal Family are visiting.

There is a great audio tour, so to really delve into the palace’s history, make sure to book one!

St Giles’ Cathedral

Location: High Street, Edinburgh

Located in the heart of Edinburgh, there has been a religious building on this site since the 9th century. The current cathedral has been there since the 1100s and is the mother of Presbyterianism. The stained glass is beautiful and you can also find the chapel of the Order of the Thistle, which was established in 1910 and is well worth a visit. If you dare, visit the crypt underneath the cathedral – just remember to ask about permits before whipping your camera!

Greyfriars Kirkyard

Location: Old Town, Edinburgh

It might sound strange to recommend visiting a graveyard, but this is one of the most tranquil and pretty historic sites in the whole city. Greyfriars Kirkyard is the name given to the cemetery that surrounds Greyfriars Kirk on the southern edge of the Old Town area of the city. The Kirkyard and its monuments are protected as listed buildings and over the years, over 80,000 people were laid to rest there. One of the most famous residents is Greyfriar’s Bobby, a small dog who refused to leave the grave of his owner and was cared for by locals until he passed. He is remembered by a statue just outside the entrance of the graveyard and brings people from all over the world to the site.

He isn’t the only notable resident though, Sir George MacKenzie is one you’ll hear about if you’re brave enough to do one of the city’s ghost walks through the graveyard. Also known as Bloody Mckenzie, thanks to his role in the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, he is said to haunt the area.
While it is a serene place and a great way to escape the bustle of the city if you need a moment’s peace, it does have a dark history. The church was the site of the signing of the National Convenant and the churchyard is home to the Covenanter’s Prison, where soldiers on the losing side of the Battle of Bothwell Bridge were executed by Bloody McKenzie.

The Underground Vaults

Location: Blair Street, Edinburgh

To visit these vaults you will need to book onto a walking tour, but it is a great way to find out more about ancient Edinburgh. The vaults at Blair Street are the city’s oldest and deepest vaults and the tours show you a world that hasn’t changed since the 18th century – so it is well worth a trip.

The Scott Monument

Location: Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh

One of the most iconic monuments in the city – and one that is definitely hard to miss is the Scott Monument which honours Sir Walter Scott. The monument is in a gothic style and was completed in 1844, it stands over 200 feet and has a tall spire that stretches across Edinburgh’s skyline.
Inside the spire is a statue of Scott and his dog Maida, alongside some of his characters. Visitors are welcome to climb to the top of the monument where you can enjoy a spectacular view across the city – make sure you’re up for it though, there are 287 steps and a spiral staircase. You can find out more about Scott and the monument by visiting the Museum Room, where you can hear excerpts of his writings and enjoy the audio tour of the site. This is also the best place to see the stained glass windows and is a good place to stop for a breather on your way up to the top.

Edinburgh Castle

Location: Old Town, Edinburgh

Home to the Scottish Crown Jewels and former residence of Scotland’s monarchy, this is a true hub of the country’s history. One absolute must see Is the traditional One o’clock  Gun fire which takes place every day except on a Sunday – though you can likely hear the time wherever you are in the vicinity!
As one of the city’s top attractions, you can’t miss a trip to the castle, built on top of a dormant volcano, it overlooks the entire city and can be seen for miles. The view from the castle ramparts is quite spectacular and the amount of history, staggering. It is the birth place of James VI / I and home to Mary Queen of Scots among others. There is also St Margaret’s Chapel, the most famous cannon in the UK, the Honours of Scotland and some French prisons to enjoy during our visit.
Being so popular among tourists, it can be difficult to see everything the castle has to offer in one trip, but an absolute must is visiting the Witches’ Well – the site of Scotland’s witch trials.

The Georgian House

Location: Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

Found within the New Town part of Edinburgh, the Georgian House is a fine example of Georgian Architecture which is managed by the National Trust for Scotland. The townhouse is a great way to learn more about Georgian Scotland, not only was the house designed by one of the most popular architects of the time, Robert Adam, but it stands in Charlotte Square, which at the time was one of the most exclusive addresses in the city.
Having been restored by the Trust, the home features influences from Greek and Roman traditions and all the furnishings are in the style of the time.

Find more heritage attractions in Edinburgh here.




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