Day trip from Edinburgh or an Overnight Stay
A first visit to Edinburgh is not complete without joining many other tourists on a walk up the Royal Mile, popping into St Giles Cathedral (free but they ask for a 2 £ donation), Mary Kings Close (ticket required), and Deacon Brodies for a beverage while you look for kilt-wearing musicians playing their bagpipes for tips. Your goal is Edinburgh Castle (ticket required).
Tip: The Royal Mile is most quiet after sundown.
There is more to Edinburgh, of course, including the Carlton Hill and the Walter Scott Memorial but they are usually not as congested as the Royal Mile.
If you have more than one night in Edinburgh, consider a day trip or an overnight stay in Stirling. In fact, if you must make time for the side trip to Stirling, consider skipping Edinburgh Castle for a visit to Stirling Castle.
Stirling Castle has a long and fascinating history that the Historical Society takes great effort to teach. In addition to guides stationed at key locations, there are costumed interpreters in the royal apartments, a full size display of kitchen activities, and a section designed for children and young adults where they can see period musical instruments and clothes.
The unicorn tapestries in the Royal Apartments are authentic reproductions. A team of weavers worked 13 years to recreate them. You can see an exhibit about the making of the reproductions at the castle.
There is also food available at a reasonable price. The Unicorn Cafe provides lunch and snacks. On my last visit, I enjoyed a shortbread bar topped with carmel and chocolate and a cappuccino.
The Castle Wynd is the narrow street that leads to Stirling Castle. A few of the Historic buildings lining it are the Old Town Jail, Holy Rude church (still in use) and Cowane’s Hospital. I’ve already written about the Castle Wynd in this post: Stirling and historic Stirlingshire Scotland.