48 hours in Edinburgh

An Aerial view of Edinburgh Castle.
An Aerial view of Edinburgh Castle.
Tourists relax and take in the view over Edinburgh after climbing to the summit of Arthur's Seat during in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Tourists relax and take in the view over Edinburgh after climbing to the summit of Arthur's Seat during in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Edinburgh Castle is situated at the top of the Royal Mile.
Edinburgh Castle is situated at the top of the Royal Mile.
Edinburgh Castle is a favourite with visitors and one of the busiest streets in the city, the Royal Mile runs from Edinburgh Castle at the top down to Holyrood Palace at the foot.
Edinburgh Castle is a favourite with visitors and one of the busiest streets in the city, the Royal Mile runs from Edinburgh Castle at the top down to Holyrood Palace at the foot.
A general view of Edinburgh Castle in the evening light.
A general view of Edinburgh Castle in the evening light.
Edinburgh Castle dominates the city skyline was built on top of an extinct volcano, and has had a human settlement on the castle site since 900BC.
Edinburgh Castle dominates the city skyline was built on top of an extinct volcano, and has had a human settlement on the castle site since 900BC.
Thousands of people gathered at Hogmanay celebrations in towns and cities across Scotland.
Thousands of people gathered at Hogmanay celebrations in towns and cities across Scotland.
New Year revellers, many in fancy dress, braved freezing conditions in the River Forth in front of the Forth Rail Bridge during the annual Loony Dook Swim.
New Year revellers, many in fancy dress, braved freezing conditions in the River Forth in front of the Forth Rail Bridge during the annual Loony Dook Swim.
Tian Tian the female panda bear looks out from her enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.
Tian Tian the female panda bear looks out from her enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.
Tian Tian the female panda bear looks out from her enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.
Tian Tian the female panda bear looks out from her enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.
 Dancers from China perform during the last dress rehearsal for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Dancers from China perform during the last dress rehearsal for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
New Year revellers gather on Princes Street during the Hogmanay party.
New Year revellers gather on Princes Street during the Hogmanay party.
The She Huo cultural troupe performs in Edinburgh.
The She Huo cultural troupe performs in Edinburgh.
The Massed Pipes and Drums perform during a dress rehearsal of the Military Tattoo.
The Massed Pipes and Drums perform during a dress rehearsal of the Military Tattoo.
Entertainers from the She Huo cultural troupe at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Entertainers from the She Huo cultural troupe at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
The Massed Highland Dancers perform at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
The Massed Highland Dancers perform at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
The Massed Pipes and Drums perform during the Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.
The Massed Pipes and Drums perform during the Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.
Performers during rehearsal for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Redford Barracks.
Performers during rehearsal for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Redford Barracks.
The Military Band of The People's Liberation Army of China perform at Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle.
The Military Band of The People's Liberation Army of China perform at Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle.
Scotland's national dish, Haggis (sheep innards) being cut open.
Scotland's national dish, Haggis (sheep innards) being cut open.

Which city has two central if extinct volcanoes, one of which is topped by the most precariously positioned castle imaginable?

It is not somewhere high in the Andes or on an Indonesian island, instead it is the elegant and laidback Edinburgh.

The Scottish capital exudes class but also knows how to have a good time - especially during its world famous arts festival in August and the New Year's Eve "Hogmanay" extravaganza.

Here's what to do with a weekend in the area.

FRIDAY

5 pm - Train is by far the best way to arrive in Edinburgh. Waverley Station is as central as you can be, in a valley between the "old town" which rises up to the castle volcano and the "new town" made up of graceful Georgian architecture.

6 pm - Plenty of expensive hotels, both boutique and large names, dominate the old and new towns but bargains can be had with the Travelodge chain offering cheap, well furnished rooms in very central locations.

8 pm - For a pricey but delicious immersion into Scottish culinary culture, including the national dish of Haggis (sheep innards) and some great salmon, head to Hadrian's Brasserie in the famous Balmoral Hotel on the main new town thoroughfare of Princes Street.

10 pm - For late drinks, take a wander down Rose Street, which appears like a back road to Princes Street but is actually buzzing with pubs.

SATURDAY

10 am - Have breakfast in a number of local independent coffee shops dotted around the centre, perhaps Scottish porridge or a scone.

11 am - If you do not fancy climbing the second extinct volcano, the 251-metre high "Arthur's Seat" which dominates the east of the city, then the smaller Calton Hill is much more manageable and offers superb views on the adjacent mountain, the castle rock and even the sea in the distance.

1 pm - Lunch is an easy affair if you find a bakery shop such as Greggs which stock an unusual Scottish "delicacy" which you will struggle to find elsewhere in Britain - Macaroni Cheese Pie. It is exactly what it sounds like and strangely delicious.

2 pm - For the afternoon it is time to take a walk up the "Royal Mile", which starts from near the foot of Arthur's Seat, by the British Queen's official Edinburgh residence Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament, which ran vastly over budget and whose modern architecture caused high controversy.

Moving up the steady slope, there are a myriad of tacky and not so tacky souvenir shops before a series of excellent pubs in which to grab a "wee dram" of Scottish whisky.

Look out for the obligatory bagpiper on the cobbled street as you near the summit and also the Real Mary King's Close exhibition, a warren of now unused underground streets which are eerie beyond belief.

4 pm - Your walk up the hill ends at the castle. Just peer over the sides of the parade area before the main moat and see how sheer the drop is. Stands are erected on this precarious position every year for August's Edinburgh Tattoo military parade.

The castle itself is interesting without blowing you away but a visit to the city is not complete without it.

7 pm - After a rest at the hotel, head out for dinner at one of the city's innumerable Italian eateries, especially in the new town, often seen as a masterpiece of urban planning. The strong links between Italy and Scotland are long and shrouded in mystery but no one complains about the food bonanza it has sparked.

SUNDAY

10 am - For a trip out of the centre, Edinburgh Zoo has Britain's only giant pandas and Europe's largest outdoor penguin pool.

12 pm - The Zoo has three very decent cafeterias for lunch and several picnic areas.

2 pm - Say goodbye to this glorious city at any one of the beguiling pubs back in the centre, enjoying a roaring open fire and some of the finest ales in the UK. Plus maybe one more whisky.

Reuters