December in Scotland

I packed in a lot of sightseeing in Edinburgh and around Scotland in only 4 days. I hit all of the main attractions in Edinburgh, such as the castle, Holyroodhouse Palace, Museum of Scotland, Royal Mile, etc. I also took a long day trip around the Highlands.

Apex International Hotel

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Kate06 on December 22, 2005

The hotel is located two blocks south of the Royal Mile and at the foot of the Edinburgh Castle. The view of the castle from our room was amazing - the best photographs of my trip are from my hotel room! The room had modern decor and was larger than most European hotel rooms. The downside is that the hotel is right on Grassmarket Street, which is a very popluar place to party at night. It was very noisy, and consequently, it was hard to sleep on Friday and Saturday nights. Also, the staff wasn't particularly friendly, unlike the majority of Scotsmen I encountered during my trip.
Apex International Hotel
Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 2HS
+44 (131) 3003456

Greyline Loch Ness, Higlands,

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Kate06 on January 1, 2006

We took this tour with only two other tourists, so we essentially had our own private tour in a smaller van, as opposed to a coach. The drive through the Highlands was beautiful. Since there were only four of us, the tour guide was very accommodating and took us off the beaten path to catch some great photo opportunities. We made our way north to Fort Augustus and Loch Ness. Fort Augustus is a beautiful little town, and Loch Ness is very scenic. After eating lunch at the Scotsman in Fort Augustus, we headed south and made a few more stops such as at the Well of Seven Heads near Loch Oich. Due to the shorter days in December, our tour was shorter than normal but fortunately, with our small group, we packed everything in and then some. Our tour guide was fantastic and was a great storyteller.
Greyline Loch Ness, Higlands
81 Salamander Street
Edinburgh, Scotland
+44 (0) 131 555 5558

The Museum of Scotland

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Kate06 on January 1, 2006

The Museum of Scotland is a must-see in Edinburgh if you are interested in the cultural history of Scotland. Each floor of the museum contains narratives and artifacts from a specific time period in Scottish history. The bottom floor begins with very early history, and the top floor contains modern history. I highly recommend taking the guided overview tour, which runs every half-hour or so. A staff member guides you around the museum and gives an overview of the exhibits. This makes it much easier to create your own plan of attack in the museum, as you'll have a better idea where to find the exhibits that interest you. Another must-do is a trip to the terrace level of the museum for the absolute best views of Edinburgh. I was lucky enough to be there at sunset and the views were amazing. My best photographs of Edinburgh were taken on the terrace of the Museum of Scotland.
National Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street
Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 1JF
0300 123 6789

Scottish Parliament

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Kate06 on January 1, 2006

Scottish Parliament offers guided tours of the new Parliament building. Our tour started in the lobby with 5 people. The guide took us through the main level, explaining the architect's design process. The building was designed with the impression of a flower and pedals. Each petal represents different areas of the Parliament complex. The most interesting petal is where members' offices are located. The drain pipes are at a slant that makes you wonder where the water goes. Above each drain pipe are sitting pods. The architect expected each member to sit in his pod (deck) and ponder legislation. The building is made of primarily Scottish materials. If you are visiting during working hours, find out if meetings are taking place in Room 2. This room is the largest conference room with the most interesting legislation (i.e. transportation) and the room has the best views of Arthur's Seat. Photographs are not permitted on the tour but during off-hours you can revisit the assembly room and take pictures at your leisure.
Parliament House
Parliament Square
Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 1RF
+44 131 225 2595

Royal Yacht Britannia

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Kate06 on January 1, 2006

You can visit the Royal Yacht Britannia and take a self-guided audio tour. Before going aboard the Royal Yacht, you can read about the life of the royal family and view photographs, uniforms, and special collections of the family. The rooms aboard are just as if the Royal Family was still using the yacht. Each room is glassed or roped off but you can get close enough to feel as if you are walking where the Queen walked. The audio tour takes you through the residential rooms where Charles and Diana stayed there on their honeymoon. The tour continues down below to the large kitchen, hospital, laundry, crew’s quarters and finally, the impeccable engine room. The yacht has a very personal and comfortable feel, unlike the museum/library feel of the castles. The audio tour provides a depiction of life aboard the yacht. All rooms aboard are meticulously maintained even though the ship is no longer in use. During my visit, the staff was setting up for a dinner party in the formal dining room. The yacht is still used for corporate or elite functions.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Ocean Terminal
Edinburgh, Scotland, EH6 6JJ
+44 (131) 555-5566

Princess Street, New Town

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Kate06 on January 1, 2006

Princes Street is the most popular shopping avenue in Edinburgh. You can find all high-end retailers and tourist shops along Princess. The sidewalks are really crowded and the merchandise is very expensive. There are not many eateries along Princess, unless you want to dine on fast food.
Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street
Edinburgh, Scotland, EH2 2YJ

Holyroodhouse Palace

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Kate06 on January 1, 2006

The tour of the palace is a self-guided audio tour. During the winter, the tour is solely of the interior of the palace. During the summer, the tour includes the grounds and gardens. When I visited, the Mary Queen of Scots rooms were unavailable due to remodelling. Still, I particularly enjoyed learning about the fascinating and tumultuous tenure of Mary Queen of Scots. The tour was very thorough and informative, albeit quite lengthy. You do have the opportunity to skip around the audio tour if you prefer. As I was there in December, I enjoyed the Christmas decorations adorning several rooms in the palace.
Holyrood Palace/Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Royal Mile
Edinburgh, Scotland, EH8 8DX
+44 (131) 556 5100

Edinburgh Castle

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Kate06 on January 1, 2006

We only purchased admission tickets to Edinburgh Castle; however, a self-guided audio tour is available. The castle is comprised of several independent buildings. The War Museum contains exhibits depicting the numerous wars fought by and in Scotland. The barracks that housed prisoners of war was particularly interesting. The exhibit provided a glimpse at the cruel life as a prisoner in the Castle. The Scottish Crown jewels, including the crown, sword, and scepter, are encased in the Crown Room. It's worth a quick peak at these sparklers! Every day at 1pm a lone soldier comes on duty to fire the canon. If you are at the castle at that time, it's worth checking out, but be advised that a large crowd usually gathers and it's difficult to see the actual ceremony.

The castle is situated high above Edinburgh. The views are spectacular, particularly on a sunny day, like we were fortunate enough to have. Make sure your camera is loaded with film!

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 2NG
+44 (131) 225 9846

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