Edinburgh & East Lothian is a region of iconic landmarks, world-famous festivals and exciting possibilities. Find excellent attractions, activities and entertainment in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, and take time to enjoy the beautiful, peaceful countryside and coast in East Lothian.
You'll find the best of both worlds in Edinburgh & East Lothian. Discover the vibrant, cosmopolitan and stunningly beautiful capital city of Scotland and the scenic countryside and coastline of East Lothian. Whether you’re looking for enthralling history and heritage, dramatic cultural landmarks, fascinating museums, fine food and drink or outstanding natural beauty, you’ll find it all in Edinburgh & East Lothian.
Edinburgh is a city of contrasts from the atmospheric cobbled streets of the Old Town to the beautiful Georgian avenues of the New Town. Great shopping blends with historic attractions, gardens and museums as well as plenty of award winning restaurants, cafes, bars and eateries where you can relax and enjoy.
East Lothian is an excellent base for exploring all there is to offer. There’s a wonderful coastline with sandy bays, rocky coves and fishing harbours to be explored at North Berwick, Seacliff, Dunbar, Port Seton and Cockenzie or further inland you can discover the beautiful, unspoilt countryside and woodlands of Binning, Pressmennan and Butterdean to name a few and the picturesque villages of Stenton, Garvald, Tyninghame & Dirleton many of which boast the quaintest coffee shops around. Then to the south extends the rolling hills of the Lammermuirs.
From historic properties and wonderful wildlife to world-class golf and exciting outdoor activities, there is so much to discover in East Lothian. Explore evocative ruins, spot distinctive species and play a round on an Open Championship course.
East Lothian is a region with a lot to offer visitors looking for an active adventure. From adrenaline-pumping water sports to hill walking, city and country cycling and world-class golfing, it’s little wonder the region is in big demand.
Skirting the great expanse of water that is the Firth of Forth, the region’s coastline is a buzz with water sports fanatics and newcomers to the sports. Lessons in surfing, diving, sea kayaking and sailing are readily available with the sheltered waters and pristine beaches of the Firth providing some of the best conditions in Scotland for all abilities.
East Lothian provides an inspirational setting for Golf and with 22 courses to choose from it may well be the highest concentration of links golf courses in the world!
Indeed eight of the Golf Courses feature in the National Club Golfer’s Top 100 Links in the UK and Ireland! It is clearly one of Scotland’s best regions for golf.
“This incredible corner of the Home of Golf features a depth, variety and quality of Golf Courses which can compete with any golf destination in the world.” (Scotland’s Golf Coast – Golf Guide).
Challenge yourself to a round like the pro’s at Muirfield, which has played host to many major international tournaments like the 2013 Open Championship. The city of Edinburgh itself boasts the fourth oldest golf society in the world. For more information on golfing in East Lothian, please visit www.golfeastlothian.com
Looking out to the Forth, the sea is dotted with islands of volcanic rock. The most famous of which is the Bass Rock, with its towering cliffs, this is home to over 150,000 gannets in peak of the season. The Gannets spend most of the year on the Bass until the end of October when they head to sunnier climes. Fidra, another of the islands off the coast of North Berwick, was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure island.
Boat trips to these and other islands and to view the wonderful wildlife of Gannets, Puffins, Shags, Guillemots, Razorbills and Grey Seals can be arranged at the harbour. Fishing and Deep Sea Diving trips can also be arranged. For more information on the Seabird Centre and to book your boat trips please visit www.seabird.org
East Lothian is home to many beautiful castles, steeped in history. Tantallon Castle perched on the cliffs looking out to the Firth of Forth and The Bass Rock, Direlton Castle with its magnificent draw bridge, dungeons and award winning Gardens and Hailes Castle hidden away along the banks of the River Tyne.
Pay a visit to the beautiful gardens of Dirleton Castle in East Lothian. Complete with a romantic ruined castle, this is an opportunity to see a garden with a difference.
The medieval fortress, now in the care of Historic Scotland, played many a part throughout Scotland’s turbulent history. Explore the arts and crafts-inspired garden and discover the world’s longest herbaceous border. To learn more about the castles in the area and how to visit please go to www.historicenvironment.sco
East Lothian also offers a great variety of walking and cycling landscapes with the coast line and cliffs to the north of the county, the Lammermuir Hills to the south with an expanse of arable farmland and woodlands in between. Many of the paths, tracks and country roads go to or pass by vantage points offering views of the surrounding countryside. It is now possible to walk or cycle the length of the East Lothian coast, almost 73km from Edinburgh to the Borders on the fantastic John Muir Way. There are a number of leaflets showing the various walking trails along the coast, the John Muir Way, around towns and villages. Please see www.visiteastlothian.org for more information and online leaflets.
Should you fancy a climb, there is of course North Berwick Law, the large lump of volcanic rock that presides over the town (613ft high), although steep in places the views from the top are, most definitely, the best in the area.
The capital plays host to many international events, not least many sporting occasions. Murrayfield Stadium, the home of Scottish Rugby located in Edinburgh’s west end, is the arena for regular clashes in the Six Nations tournament and international tests as well as attracting spectators to cheer on local side Edinburgh Rugby in Heineken Cup ties and league matches
Long before the coveted title was first coined, Edinburgh was known as a ‘City of Culture’ throughout the world. Today it remains a hive of cultural activity year-round, and nowhere is this better witnessed than during the city’s myriad of festivals. Spanning everything from the performing arts to music, visual art, comedy and literature, the outpouring of creativity during these festivals is second to none.
And the Lothians is no exception, with Highland games, local customs and unique festivals taking place throughout the year.
Find out what’s on in Edinburgh & East Lothian and peruse some of the events below. Although the festivals run all year-round, the summer months – and August in particular – are when festival fever reaches its height.
Festival season officially kicks off with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Almost a thousand musicians, pipers, drummers, singers and dancers from around the globe perform on Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. This unforgettable spectacle is brought to an emotional and poignant close each evening as a lone piper, high on the castle ramparts, plays a haunting lament.
The Edinburgh Art Festival is the UK’s largest annual celebration of visual art and attracts over 250,000 art lovers to the capital’s internationally renowned galleries, museums and artist-run spaces. Admire in specially commissioned public artworks created by both established and emerging artists and enjoy and take your pick from an innovative programme of events including late openings, live music, film screening, guided tours and family-friendly events.
The Edinburgh International Festival, founded in 1947, is the official centrepiece of Edinburgh’s festivals. Running for four weeks, this performing arts festival has world-class displays of theatre, dance and music. The Festival ends with a spectacular firework display at Edinburgh Castle.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs alongside the International Festival. The Fringe is the world’s largest art festival, with over 2,500 different shows last year. The Fringe has strong ties with comedy and drama, as well as featuring more unusual acts such as puppetry and circus performers. For those who want their money to go a little further, there are also hundreds of Free Fringe events.
In need of a multicultural fix, don’t miss out on the Edinburgh Mela. A dazzling carnival of colour, world music, dance, exotic food and drink, art exhibitions and more, the Mela celebrates the diversity of Scotland’s communities and cultures in the pleasant green setting of Leith Links.
Another August festival is the Edinburgh International Book Festival, staged in the elegant surroundings of the city centre’s Charlotte Square. The event regularly attracts a world-class selection of authors, with previous appearances from Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling and Ian Rankin amongst many others. With around 700 events each year, including free evening events, you’re sure to find the right genre to suit your literary tastes.
The fortnight-long Edinburgh International Science Festival is held at the end of March. With hands-on experiments, fascinating talks and many more family-friendly events and activities, this vibrant celebration of science and technology invites people of all ages and walks of life to delve into the mysteries of the world that surrounds them.
May sees the return of the Imaginate Festival, Scotland’s international festival of performing arts for children and young people. Bringing the very best in children’s theatre from around Scotland and the world to Edinburgh, the Imaginate Festival always delivers a programme to delight both the young and young-at-heart.
There are also festivals spread throughout the year. The Edinburgh International Film Festival is held in June, and shows a vast range of new films from around the world. With its glitzy premieres and cutting-edge independent films, the Film Festival brings a touch of Hollywood glamour to Edinburgh.
The Jazz & Blues Festival is also held in July. Opening with a Mardi Gras in the Grassmarket, this lively two-week festival brings some of the very best names in jazz and blues to venues across the city.
The Scottish International Storytelling Festival in October is Scotland’s annual celebration of traditional and contemporary storytelling. The festival brings together artists and audiences in entertaining and inspiring live storytelling performances, thought-provoking talks, workshops and discussions and fun family activities.
Nowhere else in the world throws a New Year’s Eve bash quite like Edinburgh. Celebrate the start of the New Year with three days of spectacular events held throughout the capital as part of Edinburgh’ Hogmanay.
Boasting programme of must-see events including the UK’s largest outdoor New Year ceilidh, a Candlelit Concert in St Giles Cathedral, a Torchlight Procession down the Royal Mile, and the Concert in the Gardens Hailed by the Discovery Channel as one of the ‘Top 25 World Travel Experiences,’ Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party is set against the dramatic backdrop of Castle Rock and attracts tens of thousands of revellers from around the world.
Join in the fun as live bands and DJs transform the city centre into one big party. Watch as the inky black sky becomes ablaze with a spectacular fireworks display on the stroke of midnight from Edinburgh Castle and carry on making merry into the wee hours.
In the summer, the Lothians boasts festivals such as Fringe by the Sea in North Berwick and the British Pipe Band Championships in Bathgate. Over the autumn and winter months, the Lothians host festivals including the Lennoxlove Book Festival and the Lammermuir Festival. You’ll find Highland games, local fairs and festivals throughout the summer in many of the towns and villages.
Visitors travel from all over the globe to see Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. So why not come and see the attractions for yourself?
Edinburgh Castle is the city’s defining feature and sits perched on an extinct volcano that overlooks the city. Inside the castle, some of which dates back to the 12th century, you will find treasures such as the Scottish Crown Jewels. The fascinating Scottish National War Museum is also within the walls, reflecting the castle’s long military history.
Edinburgh Zoo has always been popular but is now definitely worth a visit as it has just become home to two new star attractions, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the UK’s only giant pandas. Make sure you don’t miss out by going online to reserve a place to see the pandas before heading to the zoo. Other exotic residents include Asian lions, chimpanzees, penguins and zebras.
Step back in time at The Real Mary King’s Close to discover an underground world which shows Edinburgh life hundreds of years ago. Find out if plague victims really were sealed in their homes, and if ghosts haunt these ancient streets.
One of the most unique ways to learn about the history of the city is on a visit to Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, a Victorian observatory on the Royal Mile. Enter a darkened rooftop chamber and marvel as a 19th century device resembling a periscope projects a white beam of light onto a concave table to reveal incredible moving images of the city and its inhabitants. Hear colourful tales of Auld Reekie before exploring four floors of interactive exhibits where you’ll encounter fantastical optical illusions. Step inside a room where you can shrink or grow, get lost in a mirror maze and try to keep your balance in a swirling vortex tunnel.
The Royal Yacht Britannia, which took the British Royal Family around the world, provides a glimpse into the private lives of royalty. Once on board, you have the unique opportunity to see the state apartments and the engine room. Follow in the footsteps of Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela to explore the one place where the Queen said she could truly relax.
Witness the Forth Bridge, an engineering marvel which has spanned the Firth of Forth for 125 years, connecting Fife with Edinburgh. Comprised of 53,000 tonnes of mild steel, this immense red structure is an iconic part of the east coast skyline and has been named as Scotland’s sixth World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
In Midlothian, you can visit the gothic Rosslyn Chapel, made famous by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Further attractions in the Lothians include the Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World and the award-winning Scottish Seabird Centre, which will delight nature-lovers.
What could be better than world-class shopping in beautiful surroundings? Edinburgh & The Lothians are home to a wide range of shops, so whether you are a devotee of designer names or in heaven on the high street, the shopping won’t disappoint.
The city centre is the ideal place to start a shopping trip. You will find all the essential shops on Princes Street, as well as a grand old Edinburgh institution, Jenners, a quirky department store which has been a city landmark since it first opened in 1838.
For a modern shopping experience, visit the only Harvey Nichols in Scotland which sits on St Andrews Square just behind Princes Street and is full of luxurious treats.
On George Street, you will find an exclusive selection of high-end shops and top designer boutiques sitting alongside high street favourites, including some of the biggest names in fashion and jewellery. There are also several delicious eateries, where you can refuel and admire the street’s iconic architecture.
If you are looking for city centre shopping with a difference, the Royal Mile offers a shopping experience that you won’t find anywhere else. The Scottish shops on the Royal Mile offer perfect souvenirs alongside top-quality cashmere, whisky and delicious handmade fudge.
There is certainly no shortage of individual boutiques and charming shops in Edinburgh. The historic Grassmarket is a magnet for unusual shops, encompassing vintage clothes, contemporary jewellery and rare books.
The popular areas of Stockbridge, Bruntsfield, Morningside and the West End are also home to many unique shops and tearooms. While wandering around these shops, you will soon discover that each area has its own distinctive character.
In the Lothians, there are also great shopping opportunities. Named as one of the top 5 shopping outlets in the UK, there are over 70 designer brands to choose from at Livingston Designer Outlet, with discounts of up to 60 percent. Alternatively, visit Linlithgow, a Fairtrade Town, where you will find independent shops with a conscience.
Many of Edinburgh’s attractions, such as Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, are close to the shopping areas, so why not complete the perfect day out by combining shopping with a visit to some of Edinburgh’s showcase attractions?
Escape from the buzz of city life and relax in one of the many beautiful gardens found in Edinburgh & The Lothians from the city centre to countryside houses. The city was a gold award winner in the large city category of the 2013 Britain in Bloom Awards which celebrate the UK’s most stunning parks and gardens.
With 70 acres of beautiful gardens and plant species from around the world, no trip to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens. Discover a beautiful place for a walk, visit the greenhouses where chilli peppers grow or step inside the John Hope Gateway, an eco-friendly visitor centre where you can discover more about plants and the work carried out by the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.
Holyrood Park, at the foot of the Royal Mile, is also very central. From the park you can walk up the iconic Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano. It requires some exertion to reach the top, but the rewarding views of Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife make it all worthwhile.
Princes Street Gardens is a popular city centre garden surrounded by the beautiful cityscape of Edinburgh and home to some of the city’s most attractive landmarks, including the towering Scott Monument and the gloriously ornate Ross Fountain.
For an alternative city centre walk, take a stroll along the Water of Leith. The river was once an industrial hub, but it is now a scenic walkway where you can keep an eye out for local wildlife including brown trout and kingfishers.
Inverleith Park is an award-winning park, situated beside the Royal Botanic Garden, and is a beautiful place for a stroll with great cityscape views. Encompassing a lovely boating pond and bog garden, the park also contains a children’s play park, tennis courts and a basketball and petanque court.
Bruntsfield Links is a big open green area to the south of the main city centre. Play a round on the pitch and putt golf course or take on a friend at chess – Gulliver’s Toys and Gifts hire out large chess or draught pieces for use on the communal outdoor chess board.
Outside the city, you can enjoy the haven of Malleny Garden, a beautiful three acre walled garden only 10 miles from Edinburgh city centre. Enjoy a relaxing stroll around this old fashioned garden which houses the national collection of 19th century shrub roses and four ancient yew trees dating from the 17th century.
In June there’s an unprecedented opportunity to visit large private gardens on the East Lothian Garden Trail. Explore splendid plants in a mix of settings including coastal and inland gardens, both rugged and manicured, and you could even meet those who created the gardeners themselves.