Visiting a Pub
In Edinburgh, there are a good number of traditional pubs, many of which serve hand-pulled, cask-conditioned ales. Glasgow's scene overall is more modern, with several so-called "style" bars. The preferred Scottish draught is lager, often combined with a wee dram of whisky by the traditionalists. Whether you become friendly with the locals or not, pub life is always one of the most entertaining aspects of a visit to Scotland.
Experiencing Edinburgh's Famous Festival
The Edinburgh Festival is one of Europe's (if not the world's) most prestigious annual cultural events. In fact, it encompasses several "festivals" at once. The original International Festival remains primarily devoted to the high arts: Classical music and dance. Meanwhile the Fringe now dominates the month-long fest, hosting the most acts and drawing the largest audiences to hundreds of stages with comedians, music, drama, and other entertainers. Furthermore, a huge international book festival occurs virtually simultaneously, while smaller jazz and TV festivals compete at the edges. If you're planning to visit Edinburgh in August, make your hotel reservations early.
Savoring the Cuisine
The fresh fish and seafood harvested from Scotland's icy lochs and seas is world-class. Then there is the lamb and Aberdeen Angus beef. Edinburgh has three restaurants with Michelin stars and Glasgow boasts some of the best Indian restaurants in the U.K.
Enjoying Art Galleries & Museums
Edinburgh is home to the National Galleries of Scotland, which contains the country's collection held in five different buildings. It ranges from Renaissance painting to pop art. Meanwhile, Glasgow has one of the best municipal holdings of art in Europe. The crowning glory for many critics is the Burrell Collection, a host of art and artifacts bequeathed to the city by an industrialist, but the Victorian Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has the soul of the city's collection.
Sure, most people think only of St. Andrews, which frequently hosts the Open. But both Edinburgh and Glasgow (and the regions nearby) have fine courses. The birthplace of the sport's rules is Edinburgh, and its historic short course, Bruntsfield Links, can be played during summer for free -- and all you need is a ball, pitching wedge, and putter.
Strolling in Parks or Gardens
In the capital, you have the option of the splendid Royal Botanic Gardens, Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat, the Meadows, or Calton Hill. Glasgow (which many believe means "Dear Green Place") has a host of options from Glasgow Green along the River Clyde to Kelvingrove Park in the salubrious West End.
Glasgow considers itself the second biggest shopping playground in Britain after London. And, as no self-respecting city likes to be upstaged when it comes to retail therapy, so Edinburgh has given chase. There is a combination of posh department stores, such as Harvey Nichols; old favorites, such as House of Fraser or Jenners; and plenty of trendy designer shops.
Exploring Ancient Edinburgh
Take a wander down one of the many narrow lanes off the Royal Mile in the city's Old Town to begin to get a sense of what medieval Edinburgh was like. In addition to exploring on your own, my walking tours should help to heighten the experience.
Contemplating the City and Environs from up High
At 250m (823 ft.), Arthur's Seat is presumably the best - unless you want your panorama to include Arthur's Seat, in which case you might prefer Castle Hill. But then you will miss the castle. Calton Hill affords views of all. And if you are not up for climbing, take the elevator in the Museum of Scotland, which has an observation deck atop its magnificent modern building.
Downing a Pint in an Edinburgh Pub
Whether sampling a pint - look out for stout-like Dark Island from Orkney, organic pale ale from Black Isle brewery, and Edinburgh's own Deuchars IPA - or a dram of whisky (peaty island Laphroaig or smooth Highland Dalwhinnie), Edinburgh has numerous traditional pubs. My favorites include the Bow Bar, Café Royal Circle Bar, and, for something a bit more hip, Black Bo's.
Strolling in Old Town or New Town
Take your pick of these two central and historically preserved districts, and don't be afraid to get off the beaten track of their main roads and boulevards. Explore a few of the many cobbled side streets and alleyways for a feel of the real Edinburgh. Get a little lost.
Visiting the Royal Botanic Garden & National Galleries
This botanic garden is not just for plant lovers. There are paths and paths to stroll amid a variety of foliage and settings: From redwoods in a miniforest to rock gardens with a waterfall. The art collections of the National Gallery are split between different museums, and while the size of them is not exceptional, some of the works hanging in them are.
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