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Summer holidays in Edinburgh

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Over a million arts fans opt for a summer break in Edinburgh during the festival season, but there’s much more besides. Book an Edinburgh hotel for summer sunshine and long evenings, alfresco dining and colourful blooms.

Long walks and panoramic views

With almost 18 hours of sunlight a day during the Edinburgh summer, it’s the best season for long strolls and city views. For a vigorous walk, ascend cliff-face Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park to Arthur’s Seat for panoramic views from this famous dormant volcano. Nearby Calton Hill has an assortment of monuments at its gentle peak, including the incomplete acropolis originally built as the National Monument. You can pick up the riverside Water of Leith walkway from the city centre, winding its way through villagey Dean and Stockbridge, emerging into the Firth of Forth in Leith. Don’t leave your Edinburgh hotel without a hat, sun-block, and a jacket for unexpected downpours.

Royal Highland Show

Get to grips with Highland culture at this prestigious agricultural show, going strong since 1822. Top sheepdogs run rings round their woolly charges and prize cattle line up for inspection. Kids will love the playground with giant tractor, and prize-winning beasts being shown off in the animal parade.

Dining alfresco in Leith

Once the downtrodden docks, this northern region of Edinburgh has enjoyed a recent facelift. Take a summer evening stroll along the waterfront walkway and choose a fish restaurant for dining alfresco or a cocktail while the sun sets over the Firth of Forth waters.

Royal Botanic Garden

Founded in 1670, these botanical gardens really come into bloom in summer. The Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden is split into four distinct areas of the world, with plants from Asia, Europe, North America and the southern hemisphere. Look out for special summer events, including guided walks with expert horticulturists and botanical art courses.

Picnics in the park

The dividing line between the New Town and Old Town, Princes Street Gardens are a peaceful oasis even in the frenetic festival season. Buy food from Princes Street food halls for a decadent picnic, alongside locals enjoying a lunchtime break. Further south, and popular with students from the nearby university, The Meadows’ huge swathe of green is dotted with frisbees and footballs and snaked with cycle paths.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Pipe bands and Highland dancing take centre stage at this Edinburgh Castle show, but it’s more than just bagpipes, kilts and military costumes. Parachute displays and performers from over 40 countries impress the crowds, with the dramatic lone piper on the castle ramparts the crowning moment. 

Edinburgh International Festival

This mammoth three-week event is now the world’s largest arts festival. Book early for big names and look out for the grand opening Festival Cavalcade, led by over 150 motorbikes, floats and bands. Running alongside are countless other festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where cutting-edge comedy and edgy theatre are the hallmark. 

Summery browsing

During August, the West End Fair brings together almost 100 exhibitors selling unique selections of contemporary jewellery, clothes and handicrafts. The Royal Mile is the place to find all things tartan and pick up the best malt whiskies. Browse Stockbridge’s vintage shops for quirky clothes and accessories, and scour the summer sales at Princes Street’s top stores, with late-night shopping on Thursdays.