More to Edinburgh than partying

HOGMANY, the Edinburgh Tattoo, the Edinburgh Festival and its Fringe.Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city is known for pushing the boat out when it comes to having a good time and knowing how to throw a party.But as well as being one of the UK's hot spots for entertainment and wow factor, there's plenty more in Edinburgh to keep you busy.

Evening Star news editor Jessica Gallagher goes beyond the fringe during a weekend in Edinburgh and discovers a city that's packed with history but which still loves to party.

HOGMANY, the Edinburgh Tattoo, the Edinburgh Festival and its Fringe.

Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city is known for pushing the boat out when it comes to having a good time and knowing how to throw a party.

But as well as being one of the UK's hot spots for entertainment and wow factor, there's plenty more in Edinburgh to keep you busy.

Our two-night stay didn't even scratch the surface of what is on offer but certainly gave us a taste of something we want to sample again.

Awash with history - both above and below ground - the centuries of fantastic architecture in the Old Town are contrasted with great shops in the New Town, which itself is more than 200 years old.

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The city has also won awards for its modern architecture.

Museums, theatres, not forgetting the imposing Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyrood House and the Scottish Parliament building provide something for people of all ages and tastes.

But the real Scotland experience starts seconds after you cross the border. While the far northern English countryside is spectacular, there is a definite difference as you pass into Scotland with everything seeming bigger.

Our hotel, Ten Hill Place, was situated centrally, just off South Bridge and a stone's throw from the Royal Mile, so sitting in a traffic jam before we got there was to be expected.

However, once you fight your way through the traffic you can easily leave the car there as most of the highlights in the city are within walking distance.

Failing that there are plenty of buses and cabs around if you want to go further out.

Opened in November 2006, the hotel is owned by the Royal College of Surgeons and sits in a quiet street opposite a square of Georgian houses, around the corner from the college.

The building itself, although now with an ultra modern façade, was originally built in the 1780s by James Hill, a good friend of Robert Burns who reputedly stayed there, and in more recent times was a used as a college residence by postgraduate students.

Any history the building may once have had though now seems to have disappeared in favour of very comfortable, modern rooms suitable for either a business stopover or city break.

Being so near the action makes for a very easy break. The centre of Edinburgh with all its attractions is very compact so it's great to be able to walk from one place to another.

THINGS TO SEE

Trying to cram everything into two or three days does make for some aching feet, but give yourself a week or five days and you might have time to stop and sample some of the many pubs and restaurants available.

One way of seeing a lot in a short space of time without the aching feet is to hop on one of the many city tour buses available which will help you get your bearings and choose what you really want to see and do.

Then of course there is the Royal Mile which takes you from Edinburgh Castle right through the city down to Holyrood House.

It's worth the walk because it is so famous, but there is little on offer other than an array of tartan and tourist shops. If you want real shopping head into the New Town where there is a choice of standard High Street shops and designer names including Harvey Nichols.

The castle is definitely worth a tour with some of its oldest parts dating back to the 12th Century. Join a tour for no extra cost on top of the entrance fee and find out the real story behind this fantastic building. It houses the Scottish crown jewels as well as a memorial hall built in honour of fallen soldiers in the First World War and now holding the names of all Scottish soldiers who die in combat.

As history dictates, the one o'clock gun can be heard across the city every day. The cannon sits on the ramparts of the castle which offer an unrivalled view of the city.

It's worth setting aside at least half a day to really take in everything on offer at the castle from the dog cemetery in memory of the soldier's best friends to the tiny St Margaret's chapel, built in the 12th century which is now available for members of the public to get married in - as long as they have no more than 25 friends and family.

Also of interest is the Royal College of Surgeons museum. The Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh has one of the largest collections of medical, anatomical and pathological material in Scotland.

Some of the world's most famous medical pioneers have passed through the doors of the college including Joseph Bell, the role model for Sherlock Holmes.

The museum offers a tour of medical history as well as a gruesome yet fascinating assortment of jars full of various pickled parts of the human anatomy.

A visit to Edinburgh would not be complete without a visit to the statue of Greyfriars Bobby the devoted dog who stayed on his master's grave for 14 years, only leaving to find food until his own death in 1872.

GHOSTS OF EDINBURGH

As well as history must come the ghosts and Edinburgh has plenty of those. Underground vaults lie beneath the city bridges which, during the 18th century were home to many workshops, traders and rogues. The vaults were filled in after people began living in them and only recently re-opened in 1994.

There are now tours around the huge chambers telling the history of those who worked there - but be warned, a study showed an unusual amount of paranormal activity.

With only a morning left we took the history tour (the ghost tours take place at night) and despite my love of all things ghostly I was secretly very glad we hadn't had chance for the ghost tours - it was spooky enough just being down there.

LEITH

However long you have in Edinburgh take time to see the port town of Leith during your trip. Just ten minutes drive from the city centre, Leith was once the gateway into Edinburgh and played a central role in Scotland's history for almost 900 years.

Over the centuries those who lived there built thousands of ships and fished and whaled in far flung corners of the world as well as exporting the famous Scottish whisky.

Today however it bustles with restaurants, bars and boutiques.

We spent a fantastic evening at a lovely fish restaurant called Fishers (apparently Tony Blair has eaten there) which offers beautiful food at affordable prices - at least for a couple with no children.

After the meal there were plenty of bars to choose from but we opted for the one next door, really friendly bar staff and a great atmosphere.

TRAVELBAG

Where: Edinburgh

How to get there: By car - from Ipswich follow the A14 to the A1 and keep driving. We chose to break the seven-hour journey with a stopover in York which is highly recommended if you have the time.

By train - Edinburgh is just five hours from London By plane - Edinburgh has its own airport and flight time takes around an hour from London.

Where to stay: We stayed at the centrally-located hotel Ten Hill Place. For more information go to www.tenhillplace.com

More information: www.edinburgh.org

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