Encounter Edinburgh with Claremont House

12 April 2019

 As Scotland's hub of history there's plenty to do and see in Edinburgh.

Top of the list has to be Edinburgh Castle. Strategically placed with spectacular views over the city, Castle Rock has been settled since the Iron Age, and a military settlement since the 12th century time of David 1st. Now it is now topped with one of the most imposing castles found anywhere in the UK, designed to broadcast power over a resolutely independently-minded population. It's been under siege 26 times so the ancient stones have plenty of stories to tell. It includes St Margaret's Chapel, the oldest building in the city, the Royal Palace and the 16th century Great Hall. It also houses the Scottish Crown Jewells and the National War Museum of Scotland.

Once you've orientated yourself from the Castle it's a natural stroll down the Royal Mile, a steep street lined with pubs, restaurants, a few shops showcasing antiques and a lot selling tourist tat, to Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British monarch. The queen visits each summer for a week but for the rest of the year the 16th-century royal apartment used by Mary Queen of Scots is open to visitors and a major attraction alongside a collection of art and antiquities owned by the royals.

Another area that rewards a closer look are the Grassmarket and Victoria Street. This is a great place to shop for some really lovely cashmere and tweed, and perhaps for this reason many  of the city's best restaurants are also found here. Alternatively, if you want to dine outside the touristy areas, there are some great options in the Stockbridge area.

Despite being in the heart of the city, Arthur's Seat provides an opportunity to take a major hike to discover some natural beauty. Described by Robert Louis Stevenson as 'a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design' this is rumoured to be the setting for legendary Camelot - though technically it's just an extinct volcano. There are several trails - of varying steepness - reaching the peak but none are too demanding until the final push to the red and rocky summit, at which point you'll be 251 metres above sea level. It's not Everest: allow two hours. This is by no means the only walk you can do. Unusually for a major city in Edinburgh within a few miles you can find beautiful hills and even deserted beaches: the natural beauty of the area is seriously underrated. For a less strenuous experience of the outdoors without leaving town the Botanical Gardens is a world-class centre for plant research and conservation. You don't need to trail through the 27 heated glasshouses: there's plenty of space for a gentle stroll - and there's a bus from Claremont House that will take you right there.

There are plenty of notable buildings. There's the grandly gothic St Giles Cathedral, the brightly modern National Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery. For more contemporary artworks from Miro to Hockney there's the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, while the Museum of Childhood provides a sideways glance at the toys and games from the pre-screen era, with a puppet theatre still in operation.  For a taste of the past there are several houses to look out for. John Knox House is a 15th-century property that hosts storytelling tours, the 16th century is represented by the Museum of Edinburgh in a cluster of restored buildings and for the 17th century Gladstone's Land is a high-tenement house in the Old Town that has been restored and furnished by the National Trust to show how life would have been for a wealthy merchant.

You can also get a taste of life as a wealthy monarch by visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia. It's nearby in Leith. If you're up for a drive out of town thousands of visitors flock to Rosslyn Chapel, famously the set of the 'Da Vinci Code' film, where you'll also find the 15th century Apprentice Pillar, said to house the Holy Grail.

All these attractions can be easily reached from Claremont House, the ultimate B&B to choose for your Edinburgh visit.

Gill Hunter, Claremont House