Unless You Live In A Bubble, It's Impossible To Miss Out On Edinburgh Art And Culture!
Edinburgh is a city awash with museums, art galleries and theatres
If you are indeed a hungry vulture on the lookout for culture, Edinburgh is your feeding ground.
From renaissance masterpieces to modern art, elegant sculptures to towering monuments, fascinating ancient exhibits to cabinets full of whisky and hand-crafted gardens to fabulous theatre productions, Edinburgh the art and culture capital of Scotland has it all!
If you have an interest in art, the National Gallery Complex and the Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art will keep you in front of the canvas for hours.
More of a passion for architecture? Gaze up at or even climb the Walter Scott Monument on Princes Street and find out about one of Scotland's greatest sons.
For more plants, trees and flowers than even your imagination could conjure up, take a relaxing stroll around The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh just one mile north of the city centre.
Learn about the fascinating roots of the Scotland we know today at the Museum of Scotland before taking a barrel-ride through your own miniature distillery at the Scotch Whisky Experience.
When the sun goes down, why not check out a gripping theatre production to top off the day at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre or Edinburgh Playhouse?
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Situated only a mile north of the city centre on Inverleith Row, the Royal Botanic Garden covers 70 acres of beautifully landscaped parkland. Whether you're a fan of horticulture or not, it is the ideal place to unwind.
The Royal Botanic Garden is over 330 years old and has developed an international reputation for plant science and education in the field of horticulture.
As you walk around the Botanics, you will come across a number of fascinating world-renowned attractions. The Queen Mother's Memorial Garden was opened in 2006 to commemorate the extremely popular royal. Her garden has been arranged in a very creative way which will appeal to all visitors, which, in a way, represents the Queen Mother's effect on the nation's people.
The Royal Botanic Garden also has the most extensive collection of Chinese plants outside China. For those who would like to experience the landscape of the Scottish highlands, the Scottish Heath Garden provides a small-scale representation of highland scenery.
The Rock Garden has also gained international recognition for its collection of over 5,000 alpine plants and 165 metre long herbaceous border. Over and above this, the Royal Botanic Garden has a range of glasshouses. The Victorian Temperate Palm House and The Windows On The World glasshouses are extremely impressive. Windows On The World houses around one percent of all known flowering plants, cyads and ferns. Try counting them all! Or pronouncing their names!
It will cost you nothing to enter the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh which makes it an more attractive proposition for an afternoon stroll. If you wish to explore the glasshouses, there is a small charge. An adult ticket costs £4.50, a concession is £3.50 and the price for a child (ages 5 - 16) is £1.20. There is also a family ticket on offer for 2 adults and up to 4 children which will cost you £9.50.
Lothian Buses numbers 8, 23 and 27 all run from the city centre to the east gate entrance on Inverleith Row. The Gardens open at 10am all year round and close at 7pm from April to September. During the months of March and October closing time is 6pm and from November to February the Gardens close at 4pm.
The Scotch Whisky Experience
Those who know all about the Water of Life and those who remain blissfully ignorant will learn something new about our national drink and extremely important export at the Scotch Whisky Experience....and have a barrel-load of fun at the same time!
Situated literally a stone's throw from Edinburgh Castle at the very top of the Royal Mile, the Scotch Whisky Experience is the place to learn about one of the most important aspects of Scottish culture.
If you're like me and know next to nothing about the distillation process which creates this delicious nectar, the unique barrel ride around a replica distillery will give you the detailed insight you need!
Even whisky connoisseurs will be impressed by the stories behind the discovery of this most heavenly drop!
Whisky experts are on hand to educate you, answer your questions and discuss the finer points, if you are already impressively well-read!
The greatest thing about Scotch whisky is the range of flavours, intensity and character available. Even if you are not an avid fan, there is a whisky out there for you! The whisky experts at the Scotch Whisky Experience will assist you in discovering your ideal Single Malt Whisky.
What's more - the Scotch Whisky Experience is proud to present to you the largest whisky collection in the world. It is an awe-inspiring experience having close to 3,500 different Scotch whiskies in front of your eyes.
The Scotch Whisky Experience is only closed on Christmas Day. From September to May they open at 10am and close at 6pm with the last tour commencing at 5pm. Throughout the summer months of June, July and August when demand is particularly high, the doors are open from 9.30am until 6.30pm with the last tour leaving at 5.30pm.
There are three different tours on offer, each with its own characteristics. There is the Silver Tour, the Gold Tour and the Collection Tour. As you might expect, the prices for each tour differ. There are also discount prices for large groups. I recommend consulting the entrance prices on the official website to find out the prices which relate to your situation.
And to answer the all important question....yes you do get a dram (small glass of whisky) on the tour!
The Museum of Scotland
A short walk down George IV Bridge from the Royal Mile will take you to the The National Museum of Scotland with it's eye-catching Moray sand-stone facade.
This beautifully-designed modern building houses the Museum of Scotland and the Victorian building next door is the Royal Museum. Together they make up The National Museum of Scotland although they have two separate entrances.
The National Museum opened its doors in 1998 focussing on the history, people and culture of Scotland. This museum will interest locals and tourists alike due to the extensive collection of artefacts relating to Scotland's people, history and culture.
Flags which were raised at the Battle of Culloden, prehistoric jewelry and paintings and works by Scottish artists will all fascinate visitors to the Museum of Scotland.
Those of you who are looking for a detailed insight into the roots of the Scotland we know today will feel very much at home at the Museum of Scotland. The museum is open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm and admission is free! So, really there is no excuse for staying away!
The Walter Scott Monument
This Victorian Gothic commemorative monument to the great Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott is arguably the most significant and recognisable landmark on Princes Street.
Sir Walter Scott was a highly successful historical author around the turn of the 19th century. His works were much admired in the British Isles, North America, Australia and across Europe. Scott's most popular novels include Ivanhoe, The Heart of Midlothian, Waverley and Rob Roy. Alongside Robert Burns, Scott is generally considered the most influential Scottish writer of all time.
After his death in 1832, a competition was held to design a monument to commemorate his life and works which the relatively unknown, amateur architect George Meikle Kemp won. By 1844 the monument was complete after four years of construction. Sadly, Mr Kemp was not present at the inauguration of his masterpiece after tragically drowning in the Union Canal in a freak accident.
The Scott Monument was originally golden in colour but has since turned almost black as a result of the notoriously poor air quality of Edinburgh's Victorian days. It is possible to climb the Scott Monument by way of 287 steps although the tower is often closed due to maintenance work. If you do manage to make your way to the top you will be able to enjoy stunning views of Edinburgh Castle and the city centre.
Sitting beneath the tower between the four columns is a marble statue of Sir Walter Scott with a quill in his hand and his dog Maida beside him. On a visit to the Scott Monument you can ask yourself what Sir Walter would think of Edinburgh in the 21st century as he gazed out onto Princes Street...
The National Gallery Complex
The National Gallery Complex comprises the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy buildings. The buildings face each other on an area of ground between the two sections of Princes Street Gardens. The Royal Scottish Academy stands on Princes Street with the National Gallery immediately behind it.
Both neo-classical galleries were designed in the 19th century by William Henry Playfair, a leading Scottish architect of the time. However, in 1912 they were remodelled by William Thomas Oldrieve.
In 2004, the 'Weston Link' was completed which enabled visitors to pass between the two galleries via an underground concourse.
The archive and study facilities at the National Gallery are hugely impressive. The Gallery has a prints and drawings collection of over 30,000 works ranging from the early Renaissance period to the late nineteenth century.
The National Gallery and Royal Scottish Academy's art collection includes works by Monet, Constable, Rembrandt, Botticelli, Da Vinci and Van Gogh.
As well as these masterpieces by international artists, the galleries also have Scotland's greatest and most important works of art on display.
Admission to the National Gallery Complex is free and you can see these incredible works of art 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm. On Thursdays the galleries are open until 7pm. During August the gallery is open until 6pm to accommodate the greater number of visitors. The galleries are closed only on the 25th and 26th of December. If you happen to be up and about on the 1st of January, the galleries are open from 12 noon to 5pm!
The Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art
The Scottish Gallery of Modern Art moved from Inverleith House in Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden to Belford Road in the New Town in 1984.
The eye-catching, neo-classical building was built in 1825 complete with beautifully-landscaped grounds which are now home to several sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Rachel Whiteread, Tony Cragg and Henry Moore among others.
On the other side of the street you will find the Dean Gallery, named after the nearby neighbourhood of Dean Village. This is the sister gallery of the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. Formerly an orphan hospital, the Dean Gallery opened its doors in 1999 to display her sister gallery's collection of Dada and Surrealist art as well as the sculptures of Eduardo Paolozzi.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has an extensive collection including works by world-renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Lucien Freud, Andy Warhol and leading British artist Tracey Emin.
The galleries are situated in parkland in the New Town close to Dean Village. You can get there on foot by walking to the West End of Princes Street, along Shandwick Place before turning right up Palmerston Place. This road will take you onto Belford Road and over a bridge. Both galleries are located on this street.
As with the National Gallery of Scotland, admission is free. The galleries are closed only on the 25th and 26th of December. The opening hours are 10am to 5pm. During the busy period in August the galleries stay open until 6pm. For those who wish to view some masterpieces to start off the new year, the galleries are open from 12 noon to 5pm on the 1st of January!
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About the Author
Robbie Leys is a writer forhttp://www.edinburgh-insider.com, an Edinburgh tourist information site providing tips, recommendations and hidden gems from the locals.