Days out in Edinburgh this autumn and winter
Edinburgh’s a city that doesn’t need any embellishment but bathed in autumn light and adorned with the yellows, reds and orange hues of the season it’s a real feast for the eyes. Pack your big coat and a sense of adventure and savour Scotland’s capital in low season, away from the masses.
Stay at Dalhousie Castle and you can be in the city centre in under 30 minutes* from the local train station. Explore the capital by day and return to the comfort of the castle, away from the hum of city life.
Here are some suggestions for your visit.
As one of the most haunted cities in Europe a trip to Edinburgh at this time of year can be hair-raisingly spectacular. There are myriad ways to discover Edinburgh’s eeriest legends if you dare. Mercat Tours, City of the Dead Tours and Auld Reekie Tours all offer highly regarded walking tours where you’ll learn and (possibly encounter) the darker side of the city. Be warned – they are not for the faint-hearted!
If you’re saving your legs why not try a spine-tingling journey through the city on a Ghost Bus Tour. Lasting around 1 hour 15 minutes this is a ‘comedy-horror theatre experience on wheels’ taking you through Edinburgh’s gory past.
Alternatively, head to the Edinburgh Dungeons for a fully immersive underground journey through the city’s darkest history: think live professional actors, theatrical sets, thrilling rides and audience participation. It’s dark, dingy and frankly terrifying!
Beneath the City Chambers on the Royal Mile lies Edinburgh’s deepest secret, a warren of hidden streets where real people lived, worked and died between the 17th and the 19th centuries: The Real Mary King Close. With a costumed character tour guide based on a one-time resident you can uncover the myths and mysteries surrounding the hidden closes in Edinburgh’s Old Town in an hour-long guided tour.
City Sightseeing Bus
If you’d prefer to stay above ground and discover the heritage and more wholesome characters of the capital, we’d recommend an open top City Sightseeing bus ride. If you’re short on time, it’s a great way to see the famous landmarks and tourist sites in 60 minutes, although you can hop on and off as many times as you like and make a day of it. It’s a fantastic way to capture your best holiday snaps of the cityscapes and architecture and it’s accompanied by informative audio commentaries (in 9 languages).
Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh
Crunch through the grounds of Edinburgh’s magnificent botanical gardens, cloaked in their picture-perfect autumn finery. It’s the perfect time to stroll around the 70 acres of beautiful landscaping taking in autumn’s vibrant colours. It’s free to visit and offers panoramic views of the city’s skyline. Stroll around the Rock Garden, the Alpine Houses, Chinese Hillside and the Arboretum and then try some seasonal offerings from the kitchen garden in one of the on-site dining spaces.
Christmas at the Botanics: Running on selected evenings from 16th November to 30th December this is an after-dark festival of flora at the capital’s Royal Botanical Gardens. Follow a trail of colourful light projections and dazzling displays of colour and grab yourself warming seasonal treats from the street food vendors onsite.
The National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland houses over 776,000 artefacts that take you on a journey through the history of Scotland, taking in nature, art, design and fashion and science and technology in multiple galleries housed on multiple levels. It’s the UK’s most popular tourist attraction outside of London – visit and you’ll see why. Open daily and free of charge to enter it’s the perfect way to spend a rainy day.
Scottish International Storytelling Festival
This annual festival runs from 13th – 29th October and celebrates the Scot’s “proud tradition of oral storytelling handed down through the generations, with audience involvement and shared experience”. Expect engaging expert storytellers, with a mix of music in various venues across the city.
Dominating the city’s skyline, ‘the fort on the hill’ also gives the city its old Gaelic name. Given its prominence it’s no surprise that Edinburgh Castle is one of the UK’s busiest attractions. Visiting in the quieter season is a bonus. Take in 1,000 years of Scottish history on a self-guided audio tour to uncover the castle’s past and view the Scottish Crown Jewels, the National War Museum, Great Hall and the One O’Clock Gun. You can also visit the small antechamber where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI of Scotland.
Castle of Light: Not to be missed, the Castle of Light festival takes place within Edinburgh Castle’s walls from 24th November to 3rd January. Now in its fourth year this is an outdoor spectacle of extraordinary light displays and projections cloaking the castle grounds in a veil of twinkling lights and colour. Sure to give you all the Christmassy feels, it’s the perfect run-up to Christmas event. Advance tickets only.
If whisky is your poison, you’ve come to the right place! And if you’re no aficionado you’ve still come to the right place! Whisky is soaked into the fabric of Scotland and there are whisky tasting bars all over the city (as well as our hotel) with carefully curated collections including single malts, rare and vintage, local and coastal, from distilleries around the country. Whilst in the capital make a beeline for The Scotch Whisky Experience on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile or pull up a stool in one of the many whisky tasting bars such as Amber Bar Scotch Whisky Experience and Teuchters Landing. A perfect way to while away an hour or two or dodge a rainstorm.
You’ve pounded the pavements and shopped ‘til you dropped and now it’s time for a lunch break. Whilst there are many cafes and eateries dotted around the city, you may want to pre-book a table at a Howies restaurant. There are three in the capital serving seasonal, authentically Scottish food. We recommend starting with dish of haggis, neeps and tatties and a dram of whisky on the side to keep away the winter chills!
Edinburgh Farmers Market
The city’s original award-wining farmers’ market takes place in Castle Terrace every Saturday from 9am to 2pm. Bring a shopping bag and stock up on fresh, home-grown produce, seasonal handcrafts and local delicacies.
*The easiest way to get to the city centre is by train.
The nearest train station: Newtongrange Station, 23 Murderdean Road, Midlothian, EH22 4PE, is a 5-minute drive (1.7 miles) from Dalhousie Castle. Turn left onto the B704 and then left again onto the A7.
Trains to the city centre stop at Edinburgh Waverley station. Journey time approximately 22 minutes, trains run every 30 minutes.