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Travel & Holidays in later life


Two big events loom every year in Edinburgh's tourist calendar - the International Festival in August and the 4-day Hogmanay new year party.

For the Edinburgh International Festival in August, the key is to reserve accommodation early as possible. The accent is on 'International', and the Festival, the Fringe and the Military Tattoo attract visitors worldwide. 

Like most other cities with a major interest in tourism, Edinburgh has made big efforts to develop year-round traffic. Otherwise, visitors would pack heavily into August, with slim pickings for the rest of the year.

Hence a target of stressing the numerous other attractions of the Scottish capital. All the splendours of Edinburgh are available year-round. 

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Travel to Edinburgh by train, arriving at Waverley Station on Princes Street, and alongside North Bridge for quick access to the Royal Mile. The bus station is equally handy. 

2009 dates for Edinburgh's  Festivals:

International Science Festival 6 -18 April. Tel: 0131- 558 7666.

Jazz & Blues Festival - 31 July to 9Aug. Tel: 0131-467-5200.

Fringe - 7- 31 Aug. Tel: 0131-226-0026.

Edinburgh International Festival - 14 August -6 September. The Hub, Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NE. 

Military Tattoo - 7-29 Aug. Tel: 08707-555-1188.

International Book Festival - 15-31 Aug. Tel: 0131-718-5666.

International Film Festival - 17-28 Jun. Tel: 0131 228 4051

More information and brochures (including all Scotland): Edinburgh & Lothians Tourist Board  : 0845-2255-121.  email:

VisitScotland, Ocean Point One
94 Ocean Drive
EH6 6JH Tel: 0131 472 2222

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Princes Street ranks among the great shopping avenues of Europe - lined with fine stores on the sunny side, with splendid gardens leading up to the dominating heights of Edinburgh Castle on the other. Simultaneously you can go shop-gazing and sightseeing. 

Shops offer huge choice of shortbread and Scotch whisky, woollens and Edinburgh rock, crystallised fruits and leather goods. Here is the place for Harris tweed sports jackets, cashmere knitwear, or to get measured for a kilt. Can't remember your clan? Local stores list over 700 surnames, to help you pick your correct tartan. 

Visiting Edinburgh without wandering round Jenners department store would be like going to London without goggling at Harrods. Jenners claims to be the world's oldest independent department store. Quite apart from all the designer names, the store features a big choice of authentic tartans, cashmeres and lambswool knits. 

Running parallel to Princes Street is an even more elegant thoroughfare, called George Street. This is the heart of Edinburgh New Town, built as a harmonious whole 200 years ago.

George Street offers many memories of a great, literary past. There are shops in the grand manner, with the accent on luxury. Even if you're not buying, just looking is a pleasure.

When the weather is kind, you can picnic in the Gardens and feed the squirrels. Or, midmorning, you can relax with coffee and a buttered scone, while you gather strength to climb the steep spiral staircase to the 200-ft pinnacle of the famous Scott Memorial. 

A corner of Holyrood PalaceStretching from the Castle to Holyrood Palace is the Royal Mile of old Edinburgh. Again the tourist can combine shop-gazing with sightseeing, or pause for drinks or a meal. 

Historical memories abound. In the John Knox house, where the great Calvinist reformer lived his last 11 years, the rooms are devoted to a small museum collection. 

Other literary men are well remembered: Robert Louis Stevenson (you can see the boots he wore in the South Seas), Robert Burns and (of course) Sir Walter Scott. These three share a museum in Lady Stair's House in Lawnmarket, just off the Royal Mile. 

The essentials of the sightseeing circuit are Holyrood Palace, where Mary Queen of Scots reigned for six years, now the Queen's official residence in Scotland and the new Scottish Parliament building. Both of these are at the bottom of the Royal Mile. At the top do not miss Edinburgh Castle where the floodlit Military Tattoo is staged on the Esplanade with massed pipes and drums for a nightly audience of 8,000. 

South side of Edinburgh Castle, overlook Usher Hall The Castle is actively in use, housing the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, a famous 15th century gun called Mons Meg and the 17th-century staterooms. Kilted soldiers guard the entrance, with throngs of visitors taking their photos. 

A lot of climbing is involved, but the panoramic views are wonderful. If it all makes you thirsty, the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre is right next door on Castle Hill, offering a lively view of another side of Scottish history.

The gleaming copper of a pot still The Centre includes a restaurant and tasting bar, and a shop offering choice of over 60 different malt and blended whiskies, besides decanters, dram glasses and a quaich (a kind of drinking cup with two handles). 

Many Edinburgh restaurants list haggis on the menu. Just for the experience, it's worth trying Scotland's most famous national dish. 


If you've now started thinking of popping up to Edinburgh for the Hogmanay razzmatazz, don't leave everything until November. Keep on track for Hogmanay The panoramic view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill by checking the website and registering now for regular updates by email.  

Admission to the hugely popular Street Party is strictly by pass only, limited to 100,000. Three-quarters of those passes are allotted to local residents, and the rest are allocated by a postal ballot. 

However, virtually everywhere else in Scotland has hotels which heavily promote the New Year Hogmanay traditions. You can book up any time. When the New Year arrives, you know you can reel back to bed without worrying about driving home, and then enjoy a hangover party a few hours later. 

Check out these other destinations in Scotland

GLASGOW - See Glasgow in true style

HEBRIDES - Hopscotch to the Western Isles

SCOTLAND - Explore the wild Highlands

SCOTLAND-NORTH - coach tour from Dornoch 

"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

AA Essential Edinburgh by Sally Roy - In the standard AA pocket format, focuses on the ten most essential sites and walks around the city. 

Edinburgh Insight Guide - Apart from the gruesome cover, an excellent and detailed introduction to the local sites and culture.

"Time Out" Edinburgh, Glasgow, Lothian and Fife - A good choice if you're planning to stay longer in the region, with everything easily reached from an Edinburgh base.

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