Editor's Note: The following article is written by David Brice, President of Golf International. Established in 1988, Golf International specializes in the design and operation of quality golf trips to Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales, France, Spain and Portugal. The articles written by David represent trips available to Golf International customers. Click here to learn more about Golf International.
Everyone enjoys visiting a European capital city and while the big three - London, Paris and Rome, consistently rank among the most popular, there are a few others with equal and many insist, even greater appeal.
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Topping the list of contenders for a position on this popularity poll is Scotland's historic capital of Edinburgh. Much the same as Paris or Rome, Edinburgh first seduces visitors with her stunning good looks, then mesmerizes them with her abundance of charm and personality - before they know it, she has captured their hearts. Welcome to the ever-growing numbers who have already fallen head over heels for this elegant lady - they know Edinburgh is one of the great capitals of Europe and for any golfer, perhaps the greatest capital of all.
Within a short half hour drive of Edinburgh's city center, sits a bevy of more than 20 superb courses, including some ranked among the world's very best. This is the Edinburgh Golf Coast, an appropriate title, bestowed on the tiny county of East Lothian, a bastion of the Royal & Ancient game, where much of golf's history has been written.
From the oldest playing course in existence, to the most prestigious golf club on the planet, to hidden links gems where Mary Queen of Scots played golf back in the 15th century. There are remarkable examples of modern day golf architecture and the 200 year-old links that set the standard for links design. East Lothian is a treasure trove of golfing excellence, with more than enough dazzling layouts to satisfy even the most jaded golf traveler and it's all so conveniently close to the big city attractions of Edinburgh.
It's this unique combination of plentiful, world-class golf, all located in close proximity to a stunning and thoroughly intriguing capital that adds so much to Edinburgh's intrinsic appeal to one and all. Golfers or not, this an irresistible city.
Impressive as the city is, it somehow manages to maintain a very friendly, welcoming appeal that never overpowers. Compact and with very human proportions, it's a manageable city where from a central hotel location, most of the main points of historical and cultural interest, museums, galleries, fine dining, nightlife and shopping, will all be within walking distance, or only a short taxi ride away.
Neatly divided into two halves, the medieval Old Town containing many of Edinburgh's most intriguing sights is to the south. The New Town, dating from the 18th century and considered one of the world's finest examples of Georgian urban architectural development, is to the North. Separating the two is renowned Prince's Street, the main shopping thoroughfare.
Top of the list of must see sights is Edinburgh Castle, the most famous and best preserved of all Scottish castles. Dating from the 12th century, the castle has served as a fortress, royal palace, seat of the Scottish parliament, military garrison and state prison. It contains a wealth of Scottish history and today houses the Stone of Destiny, a relic of ancient Scottish coronations and the Scottish crown jewels. Count on the best part of a half-day to discover all the magnificently preserved buildings and their history.
Linking the castle to Holyrood Palace is a stretch of four ancient streets, known as The Royal Mile, once the main thoroughfare of medieval Edinburgh. There are more historic buildings and monuments along its one-mile length than many other cities offer in their entirety.
A good starting place outside of the castle gates is the Scotch Whisky Center, where you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about whisky, sampling a few drams along the way. One of Edinburgh's top restaurants is also located here, but best return for dinner to take full advantage of the excellent Scottish cuisine and an accompanying list of more than 400 whiskies, complete with a whisky consultant to assist in your selections.
Stop by at Gladstones Land, an extravagantly furnished, well preserved 17th century merchant's house. Nearby, Lady Stair's House, another impressive 17th century building housing a museum of the lives and works of Scottish writers Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Parliament House, built in 1630 to house the Scottish Parliament, has served as the High Court since the early 18th century. The Great Hall here has some spectacular stained glass windows. Dating from the 15th century, St. Giles Cathedral was used by protestant preacher, John Knox, to direct the Scottish Reformation in the mid-16th century. The ornately carved royal pew is used for worship by Queen Elizabeth II when she stays in Edinburgh.
The house where John Knox spent his final days, dates from 1450 and contains a small museum of his life. Another museum of Edinburgh's social history is housed in the Canongate Tollbooth. Built in 1591, this used to be the local law courts, jail and burgh council meeting rooms.
If you are curious about the daily lives of Edinburgh's poor residents before the 18th century, take a tour of Mary King's Close, located under the City Chambers. Far beneath the Old Town's streets are the basements, cellars and dark alleyways, where without ventilation, daylight and a proper water supply, domestic life and industry thrived - until the plague killed the entire population around 1645.
Marking the end of the Royal Mile is Holyrood Palace, official residence of Queen Elizabeth when she visits Edinburgh. Open to the public when the Queen is not here, it's a wonderful opportunity to experience a real living palace, steeped in history, where a litany of devious deeds have taken place over the centuries. Mary Queen of Scots used to stay here, Bonnie Prince Charlie held court within these walls and Queen Victoria was a frequent resident.
But Edinburgh has much more to offer the visitor. This is a city of museums with the National Gallery of Scotland leading a host of others including The Museum of Scotland, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Museum.
There is the New Scottish Parliament Building, a stunning piece of contemporary design, attracting students of architecture from around the globe. If shopping is on your list of things to do, you are in the right place - outside of London, Edinburgh has the best shopping in all of Britain. From the best cashmere to Edinburgh Crystal, antiques and fine art, the galleries and boutiques are in a class of their own.
There is the New Town to explore with its impressive squares, wide boulevards, elegant building facades and ornamental door arches. Many of the city's art galleries are to be found here as are a profusion of top class restaurants, which are well worth discovering. Edinburgh ranks second to only London for the quality and quantity of its restaurants and Scottish cuisine has ascended to lofty levels where only the French, Italians and Spanish have trodden before.
Edinburgh has more than enough temptations to keep any visitor busy, whether golfer or not, for as long as they care to stay. Pleasing everyone is a difficult task for any city to accomplish, but Edinburgh achieves it with ease, elegance and a sense of style that has Scotland written all over it.
Only making a good thing even better is the fantastic values that abound in all of Scotland today. Our good old Yankee dollar is stronger than it has been for a long, long time and especially so against the British pound -- about 25 percent stronger than it was as recently a couple of year's ago. But bargains don't last for ever, so take advantage of this one while you can and make Edinburgh a part of your travel plans soon. You'll come home with a new favorite European capital on your list -- that's a guarantee.
For more ideas on how best to include Edinburgh and some of Scotland's very best golf courses on your trip, call Golf International, the Scotland experts, at 1 800 833-1389 or click here.
©2010 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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