Rising up in medieval splendour from its base atop an ancient, extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle stands at the head of the Royal Mile in Old Town, the original city centre with winding lanes and dark alleys. Opposite, the Georgian New Town provides a contrast with its ordered grid of elegant 18th-century architecture. While Edinburgh has a rich, cultural heritage and is home to many of Scotland's museums and galleries, it is perhaps most famous for the Edinburgh International Festival, which runs for three weeks during August. During the festival the town comes alive with street performers advertising their shows, and visitors are sure to be entertained by comedians, and may even see one or two of their favourite actors sampling a barrel at the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre.
Edinburgh is unique among Scotland's cities. Tourism, its proximity to England, and its multicultural population set it apart. There's up-to-the-nanosecond dance clubs in 15th-century buildings and firebreathers outside Georgian mansions: this is a place that knows how to blend ancient and modern.
Its superb architecture ranges from ancient churches to monumental Victorian masterpieces - all centred around the castle on a precipitous crag in the city's heart. Pick any street to stroll - you'll be wowed by sudden vistas of looming battlements, cold volcanic peaks and hills steeped in memory.
Edinburgh's summer streets are enlivened by the buzz and high jinks surrounding the world's biggest arts festival. The flipside is grim council housing estates, dubious weather and tartan kitsch; but don't let that stop you. Edinburgh is a mixed bag but it struts an identity that extends much further than heroin addicts and the occasional display of kilts and bagpipes. In traditional Scottish fashion, it will leave you feeling whisky-warm inside.