Rich with history, full of dark and mysterious corners, and home to some of the UK’s most lively nightlife, Edinburgh is a city just waiting to be discovered. The dramatic landscape is evident no matter where you are in the city, from castles teetering on hilltops to the shadows of imposing cliffs in the distance. This paired with the stunning gothic architecture that the city is so known for makes it a truly characterful and intriguing destination.
Edinburgh is also a global hub of culture, with numerous music, comedy, and drama festivals being held in its streets every year. For centuries the city has been a pioneer of the creative arts, spawning countless poets, authors, and playwrights. Yet there is an unpretentiousness to this city that has become synonymous with heavy drinking, expletive comedians, and a rough and ready attitude.
Scotland is routinely recognized as one of the best countries in Europe to be LGBT+ in, with a host of protection and discrimination laws, as well as a thriving gay population. Edinburgh is no different, the open and welcoming atmosphere here is palpable and the local gay community need not hide their presence, with numerous gay clubs and bars dotted throughout the cobbled streets.
Royal Botanic Garden
The Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden is the second oldest of its kind in the UK and is home to one of the finest collections of tropical plant species in the country. Set within lush green surroundings, the highlight of the garden is the victorian tropical greenhouse. The building itself is an astounding display of innovative and creative architecture that dates back to the 19th century and houses a truly diverse array of flora from around the world. Many of the rare plant species that can be seen in the greenhouse were collected by the early founders of the garden.
Asides from the perfectly manicured outside gardens, visitors can also experience botanic science and biological wonder at the John Hope Gateway. The John Hope Gateway is a modern and innovative visitor center that houses a shop and cafe as well as an immersive and educational biology lab and multiple learning spaces. Numerous exhibitions and events are held at the center throughout the year and there is always something new to discover.
Being known as one of Europe’s most gay-friendly cities, it’s only fitting that Edinburgh is home to a lively, vibrant and hedonistic gay scene. There is a no-frills approach to nightlife in the city and the gay scene follows this trend, with more casual gay pubs and reliable bars than booming superclubs. The majority of the gay nightlife venues in the city can be found in the gay district of “The Pink Triangle”, a name of affection coined by the local LGBT+ community.
Situated slap-bang in the heart of Edinburgh’s bustling gay village, The Street is a well known and much loved gay bar and restaurant. Catering to the local gay population both during the day and at night, the venue has become a staple of the gay scene in the city. The Street hosts numerous parties and club nights throughout the week, and regularly draws in large and diverse crowds. The venue was also home to Scotland’s first street art gallery. There is plenty to explore here.
Few buildings are as significant to the history of Scotland as Edinburgh Castle. Home to multiple monarchs and a working military base for much of its existence, the castle has been at the forefront of Scottish politics, military events, and national culture for more than 900 years. The castle casts an ominous silhouette with its multiple turrets, clifftop location, and grey brick walls, and inside is no different. The vast and cavernous rooms of the castle are largely tourable today and visitors can view artifacts, artworks, and relics that reflect the history of the building and those who have occupied it.
One of the most popular locations in the castle is the vaults- throughout history, these subterranean rooms have been used for a variety of purposes, ranging from bread storage to housing prisoners. The vaults can be toured and graffiti carved by French and American prisoners being held in the cells here can still be seen today. Edinburgh Castle is high up on most travelers Edinburgh itineraries and there is a good reason for this.
Once a massive and bubbling volcano, today all that remains is a grassy hill where lava used to run. The 882-foot hill is now known as Arthur’s Seat and is the highest point in Edinburgh. The sheer height of the hill means that from its rocky peak you can appreciate views of the city in its entirety as well as the nearby mountains and ocean. The area in which Arthur’s Seat sits is known as Murder Acre and is home to a number of crags and pits that are named after the civilians who were executed there in the 16th century.
The hill’s spooky reputation was further solidified when two boys who were playing on the hill in 1863 found 17 coffins filled with fully-clothes wooden figurines nestled on the cliffside, no one knows who or what put them there. Despite its dark past, Arthur’s Seat remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Edinburgh and is a breath-taking and awe-inspiring location.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
You’d be forgiven for assuming that Camera Obscura and World of Illusions was a new addition to Edinburgh’s entertainment scene, however, this wacky and bemusing experience has been a firm favorite in the city since 1835. Edinburgh’s oldest tourist attraction is an Alladin’s cave of optical illusions, light trickery, and puzzling special effects, it’s also where you’ll find some of the best views of the city’s skyline. The attraction is located close to Edinburgh Castle and many travelers will choose to combine both into one day’s worth of exploration.
The venue is spread across five floors and features illusions and hands-on experiences that will appeal to visitors of all ages and interests. From the massive mirror maze to the disorientating vortex tunnel, you could easily lose track of time exploring the unbelievable oddities. Tickets are also valid all day, meaning that you can pop in and out of Camera Obscura and World of Illusions as much as you like.
by George Pizani | On: Gay Edinburgh