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Edinburgh, Scotland is the second-largest city in Scotland and its capital city. It is situated on the east coast of Scotland's central lowlands on the south shore of the Firth of Forth and in the unitary local authority of City of Edinburgh.
Like much of the rest of Scotland, Edinburgh has a temperate maritime climate, which is relatively mild despite its northerly latitude.
Built on extinct volcanoes atop an inlet from the North Sea (the Firth of Forth) and enveloped by rolling hills, lakes (lochs), and forests, Edinburgh invites exploration. This is a city of elegant streets, cobbled alleys, and incomparable sunsets.
Edinburgh (pronounced Edin-burra) is also a busy, noisy place with a spectacular landscape of hills and crags. The buildings of this vibrant capital city , from the historic houses of the Royal Mile to the elegant Georgian terraces and crescents of the New Town, offer the perfect complement to the natural setting. The city's layout is linear, in a pattern set by Castle Rock and Castle Ridge, down which the Royal Mile descends to the palace of Holyroodhouse. North of this lies a shallow valley holding the lovely Princes Street Gardens, with Waverley Station, the city's main railroad station at the eastern end. Above the gardens, and to the north is Edinburgh's main street, Princes Street. This is an ideal vantage point from which to view the castle and Old Edinburgh.
Edinburgh's famous castle is especially beautiful. Upon entering the city, it commands immediate attention. The eye of the visitor is drawn to the impressive structure rising high above everything else on its sheer granite cliffs. There are incredible panoramic views from the upper stories of the castle, including a clear view of the distant sea. The castle sits high on the huge rock formation that juts out as if in defiance of any who would seek to invade Edinburgh. Castle Rock, as it is known, is inaccessible on three sides, and has a long, descending ridge on the fourth side.
Studded with volcanic hills, Edinburgh has an incomparable location on the southern edge of the enormous Firth (River) of Forth. From the west end, beyond craggy Arthur's Seat and over the waters of the Firth of Forth, can be seen the Old and New Towns. Most of the city's sights are contained within these two districts: The Old Town is crowded with multistoried tenements dating from the 15th century and has ancient winding streets dotted with closes (entrances) and wynds (alleyways) on either side. The New Town, on the other hand, presents an orderly arrangement of Georgian buildings and a symmetrical grid of streets.
The effect of sightseeing in these two areas is that of stepping back in time, while still being in the present. At the same moment, you are in a totally intact medieval city, with all the original buildings, yet the people around you are from the modern day, and stores as we know them are functioning within the ancient structures. The contrast is incredible.
To the north of the city center is Leith, Edinburgh's main port, which has shed its rough, waterfront image to become a fashionable area of pubs and restaurants. Leith Links is a favorite with golfers. The Links claim to be one of the earliest sites of the great game, in fact, dating from 1593 when the first set of the official rules was formulated there.
Portobello to the east is where Edinburgh's citizens and summer visitors spend time on the beach. To the west, medieval South Queensferry sits in the shadow of two large bridges that span the Firth of Forth. To the south, near Holyrood Park, is picturesque Duddingston. The attractive streets of Duddingston run down to a loch which is part of a bird sanctuary. It is always thronged with geese and other interesting waterfowl.
Edinburgh is a fine destination for a family vacation. Small children will delight in just running up and down the Royal Mile. A ride on the double decker bus is also a treat. Older children will rise to the challenge of climbing the steps to Arthur's Seat, and exploring what remains of the castle. The important things to keep in mind are to vary the activities of the day and to move at a leisurely pace. As long as children have ample opportunities to exercise and play, and have meals at regular intervals, they can tolerate and even enjoy many of the museums and exhibits that are of interest to adults. Plan the day and then cross off about half of that ambitious schedule, and add time to "run in the park" or "watch the geese on the pond", and you have the basic ingredients for a day of smiles and good humor.
Edinburgh is filled with historic and literary association: John Knox, Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson), Alexander Graham Bell, Sir Walter Scott, and Bonnie Prince Charlie are all part of its past.
Many visitors entering into the ongoing debate over which is the best tasting malt whisky served in Edinburgh. The contenders are many: Highland malts, Lowland malts, Campeltown malts, Islay malts, to name a few. Many other nations have tried to replicate Scotch whisky, but none has succeeded. There is no way to authentically reproduce the Scottish combination of damp climate and soft water flowing through the peat at just the right temperature to produce the malt that forms the basis of the beverage.
Edinburgh's close proximity to England, and its multicultural, sophisticated population set it apart. Its vibrant pub and club scene, its college population combined with the ever-growing Edinburgh International Festival and action packed list of cultural events, make this a city that is truly cosmopolitan and renowned world-wide.