How to Rise Above it All in Edinburgh...
If you've tried walking the streets of Edinburgh over the last few days and had to negotiate the crowded streets (around the Old Town in particular) you may be experiencing what is known as fringeitis, a pathological disorder manifesting in anxiety, irritation or (for locals in particular) uncontrollable, almost homicidal rage.
They say (whoever 'they' are) that the population of Edinburgh doubles during the annual summer festival season, and sometimes it can feel like all those people are deliberately obstructing your path or queuing for your bus.
So here's my handy guide for rising above it all, featuring some of the city's best elevated positions from which to enjoy the views, or simply catch your breath before returning to the fray.
One of the city's oldest purpose-built visitor attractions, the Victorian era outlook tower and camera obscura is still a popular draw to visitors at the top of the Royal Mile. On wet days the tower's five floors of optical illusions and visual trickery will keep everyone entertained, and when the weather is good the views from the top - some long-distance outlooks aided by telescopes - are unbeatable. Entry fees apply, but tickets are valid all day for exit and re-entry and as such represent great value.
St Giles' Cathedral
Recently the iconic crown-shaped tower at the top of the Old Town's largest church building was opened to the public for the first time, allowing keen visitors to get unparalleled 360-degree views of the city from the very centre of the medieval town. A small fee applies for the 20-minuted guided tour to the top, and groups are limited to 4 people at a time, making this one of the most exclusive outlooks in the whole city.
National Museum of Scotland
Nestled at the top of the new wing of the National Museum of Scotland is an open roof terrace giving views across to the castle as well as out towards Arthur's Seat. Access is free, although it can be something of a challenge to find the staircase that will take you up and out - finding it is half the fun! This does also mean it is rarely crowded, so you'll truly feel like you're away from the hustle and bustle of the festival streets below.
Another paid entry attraction, with 287 steps up and the same number back down, this is the world's tallest monument to a writer (Walter Scott, obvs.) with four separate landings including the crows' nest viewpoint at the very top. Reaching the pinnacle takes nerves of steels as the stairs are incredibly tight, narrow and enclosed, even for someone without much fear of tight spaces. The views are well worth it, though, and seeing the monument up-close is a pleasure too.
And of course the volcanic summits of Arthur's Seat and Calton Hill can give you some iconic views for your photo albums, but they can also get crowded during the festival, especially on the days when the weather is good.
Whether you stay an hour or just a few minutes, the detachment from the busy streets can be invaluable to let you recharge your mental batteries before taking the plunge back into festival heaven.
My Up-Close and Personal Tours can show you the city at your own pace, and can avoid the most crowded areas (or try to, at least!).
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