Welcome to Edinburgh

Lying immediately before majestic Edinburgh Castle, the Castle Esplanade hosts in late summer of each year the internationally acclaimed Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Since its inception in 1950, more than 12 million visitors from around the globe have come to experience the colour, splendour and stirring sounds of the massed pipes and drums of the Scottish Regiments, as well as to see at first hand dazzling displays of precision military drill.

From this high vantage point with its fabulous views over the city, many visitors are shocked to discover that between the late 15th and early 18th centuries at this precise location as many as 300 women suffered the horrific and terrifying fate of being burned at the stake for the crime of witchcraft. During the 16th century more witches were burned here than anywhere else in Scotland.

After exploring historic Edinburgh Castle many visitors take a leisurely stroll along Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile. The Mile is the main thoroughfare of Edinburgh's Old Town, running from the Castle, across the Esplanade, and down through the Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate and Abbey Strand, to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of HM The Queen in Scotland.

Taking its name from a combination of its length and the fact that it was the route taken by monarchs travelling between the Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the history of the Mile is fascinating and engaging in equal measure.

This was the haunt of Deacon Brodie, upon whom Robert Louis Stevenson based his famous Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde character, and the notorious serial killers, Burke and Hare who, in the late 1820's, murdered numerous vulnerable victims (the exact number is unknown, but at least 16) and sold their bodies on a "no questions asked" basis to a willing Dr Knox of Edinburgh University for dissection by his anatomy students.

When the pair were eventually caught, Hare, in return for his freedom, turned King's Evidence on Burke, who was subsequently hanged publicly at the Lawnmarket on 29 January 1829 before a jeering crowd estimated at 25,000. Burke's body was put on public display and his skin crafted into a variety of items, including a business card case, which can be seen today at the Police Information Point in the High Street. His skeleton can also be seen at Edinburgh University's Anatomical Museum.

More venerable names have also lived along the Mile, including the likes of David Hume, the world famous Scottish empiricist philosopher, economist and historian, as well as Adam Smith, father of economics, advocate of free trade and author of The Wealth of Nations. His grave can be seen at historic Canongate Kirkyard, towards the lower end of the Royal Mile.

Other interesting stop off points along the Mile include St Giles Cathedral, the Museum of Childhood (free), the 15th Century John Knox House, the Museum of Edinburgh (free), and Canongate Tolbooth and The People's Story Museum (free).

Lying almost at the end of the Mile is the controversial yet architecturally stunning Scottish Parliament building. Designed by talented Catalan Architect, the late Enric Miralles, and hugely expensive by any standards, the Parliament is a bold statement of Scotland's new-found self belief and confidence.

Finally, lying at the very bottom of the Royal Mile sits the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This one time home of Mary Queen of Scots (who as most people know got her head chopped off while imprisoned by her English cousin, Elizabeth I) is set against the magnificent volcanic backdrop of Arthur's Seat and beautiful Holyrood Park.

A walk down the Royal Mile is just one of the many things visitors can do in wonderful and cosmopolitan Edinburgh. The city oozes history, charm and sophistication and is an architectural treasure. Its heady atmosphere, particularly at Festival time, enchants, captivates and ultimately delights. A fabulous place for a romantic short break or just to escape to and unwind for a few days, no wonder then that so many find themselves eager to return to renew their acquaintance with this new-found friend.

As well as British Airways, a number of low-cost and international carriers fly into Edinburgh Airport, which is located just a short taxi or bus ride out of town. This coupled with excellent road and rail links to other parts of Scotland and the UK means that Edinburgh is highly accessible to all.

By James Maxwell.