Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland and the biggest tourist venue in the British Isles outside London. This is a city full of remarkable contrasts with so many sights and attractions to visit, so many wonderful restaurants to pamper your palate and pubs and clubs to intrigue and entertain you.

No matter what time of the year you visit Edinburgh there is always enough going on to give the city a tremendous buzz and because of its compact lay out, navigation is straight forward, bringing everything within easy reach.

The city established itself as the capital of Scotland during the mid to late 1300s. Since then it has witnessed much of the country's turbulent history. From being sacked by the forces of the English King, Henry VIII, being occupied by the French, being the hub of the Scottish reformation led by John Knox right up to the present day when it has recently become the seat of the new Scottish Parliament.

Every year, during the last three weeks in August, Edinburgh hosts the largest arts festival in the world. The first festival took place in 1947 and since then is has become a huge event with the Fringe alone attracting more that 500 acts. Over the years the "official" Festival has broadened its appeal by offering a wider cultural choice. However it still remains a fairly highbrow affair. The Fringe on the other hand never fails to shock visitors and locals alike with some of its more risqué performances.

The city also hosts an annual jazz festival and its book festival is growing in stature with each passing year. The latest event to establish itself is the immensely popular street party held every new year's eve to commemorate the old year and bring in the new. What started off as a semi organised, fairly chaotic, event has now become one of the biggest outdoor carnivals on earth. Plans have been put in place to ensure that Millennium celebrations in Edinburgh will outshine any similar event throughout the world.

The city is, of course, dominated by the castle. Perched high on an extinct volcanic outcrop it has witnessed Scotland's rich history from the Romans to Oliver Cromwell. The castle is home to the Scottish Crown Jewels, the oldest Royal Regalia in Britain. Displayed with the Crown Jewels is the stone of destiny, returned to Scotland after 700 years in England. Taken by Edward 1st in 1296, the Stone is a symbol of Scotland nationhood. It was the coronation stone for Scottish kings such as McBeth. Legend has it that it was "Jacob's Pillow" on which he dreamed of the ladder of angels from earth to heaven.

From the castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse stretches the world famous Royal Mile. This is actually a sequence of four streets which descends the sloping rocky ridge on which the medieval Old Town of Edinburgh was built. Scotland's story reverberates through every close and wynd of this living museum. A day could be spent exploring its many fascinating sites and attractions.

The area surrounding the city also provides the visitor with many insights into Scottish life both past and present. For instance, the Scottish Mining Museum at Newtongrange, allows the visitor to experience the life and times of a coal miner throughout history to the present day. The guides are all former miners and they regale their guests with wonderful tales of their working lives as they guide the visitor round the museum

Docked at Leith, The Royal Yacht Britannia, gives an insight into a totally different type of lifestyle. For over forty years the Yacht served the British Royal Family and traveled over one million miles to become the most recognisable ship in the world.

To her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family Britannia proved to be the perfect Royal residence for glittering state visits, official receptions, royal honeymoons and relaxing family holidays. And now that she has made Edinburgh's historic port of Leith her final home the visitor can discover her amazing story for themselves.

As recognisable throughout the world as the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building, the Forth Rail Bridge is well worth a close-up view. One of the engineering wonders of the world, the bridge was opened in 1890. The best views of this magnificent structure are undoubtedly from North or South Queensferry.

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