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"If you’re Scottish say ‘aye’, and if you’re English say, ‘I’m sorry.’"

Sitting in the sun, sipping wine at one of the many pavement cafes, I felt a little disorientated. Was I in Paris, Rome, Milan? No. I was on the Royal Mile in the trendy part of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. I had imagined Edinburgh to be cold, wet and full of ‘I see you Jimmy’ wigs and Nessie stuffed toys. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Edinburgh is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with a piece of history at every turn.

We stayed in a B and B in the district of Leith, which is close to the Royal Yacht Britannia. It was a 15 minute walk into the city centre, or a 5 minute bus ride, and with day passes only costing £2 this seemed like a good option.

The city houses many of the big name stores on Princes Street and in it’s many shopping malls, but if you are looking for something out of the ordinary, check out the smaller shops tucked away on the quiet little back streets and alleys.

It would be a shame to spend the whole weekend shopping without exploring some of the city’s history. We went on a pub tour, which offers the perfect combination of exercising your drinking arm and brain at the same time. Two eccentric guides argue about the merits of legendary writers, such as Burns, Wordsworth and Robert Louis Stevenson (to name but a few) whilst taking you around the drinking establishments that the authors used to frequent. It is certainly a change from those student pub crawls, and I actually learned something, too.

As Edinburgh is the home of stand up comedy, we decided to visit the famous Stand Comedy Club. It was a hilarious night but if you sit at the front, be prepared to take some serious stick, especially if you’re English. The first comedian came out and said, "If you’re Scottish say ‘aye’, and if you’re English say, ‘I’m sorry.’" It is well worth the abuse and £10 entry though. It stays open after the acts have finished until around 2 am, so there’s no real need to move on.

The next day we plucked up the courage to go on a ghost walk. I had gone on these in other cities and had never been scared before, so I wasn’t particularly worried. The guide dressed in a long black cape took us though Edinburgh’s dark, murky past, showing us grim sights, including the remains of a street that was sealed up after an outbreak of the Black Death leaving the residents to die. The most frightening part of the tour, however, was a trip down into the city’s vaults, which recently featured in a BBC programme on the paranormal. The guide told us of the presences that have been felt by psychics who have taken the tour, including a heavy breathing tramp and a little boy who likes to hold visitors hands. I was keen to make sure that I wasn’t at the end of the line in this part, as I was terrified. The tour was rounded off with the guide sharing more ghostly tales over a drink in a supposedly haunted inn. I didn’t get much sleep that night.

As well as discovering Edinburgh’s past, you might want to look to it’s future by visiting ‘Our Dynamic Earth.’ This museum shows how life has evolved on the earth from the time of the dinosaurs and explores what the future holds for the planet through a series of entertaining exhibitions. These include a trip to a rainforest with real rain and a ride on an earthquake simulator. However, the best bit is saved until last with the hands-on experiments at the end of the tour.
The Scottish capital certainly surprised me. The next time I feel like jetting off for a city break, I’m going to hop on the train and go back to Edinburgh, as one thing’s for sure- I haven’t seen the half of it yet.


email: Hinchley Heather"

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