Britannia: The Royal Yacht
The royal yacht Britannia was launched on April 16, 1953, and traveled more than a million miles before it was decommissioned in December 1997. Several cities then competed to permanently harbor the ship as a tourist attraction. The port of Leith won, and today the ship is moored next to the Ocean Terminal shopping mall about 3km (2 miles) from Edinburgh's center. Once on board, you'll see where Prince Charles and Princess Diana strolled the deck on their honeymoon, visit the drawing room and the Royal apartments, as well as explore the engine room, galleys, and captain's cabin.
The yacht is open daily except Christmas and New Year's Day, with the first tour from April to May and June to October beginning at 10am, the last tour at 4pm. In summer, July to September, the yacht is open from 9:30am to 4:30pm. From November to March, the hours are 10am to 3:30pm. Lasting at least 90 minutes, the tour is self-guided with the use of an audio headset. Adults pay £10.50, seniors £9, and children ages 5 to 17 £6.75. A family pass is £31. Advanced tickets are recommended in August (tel. 0131/555-5566; www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk). From Waverley Bridge, take either Lothian buses 1, 11, 22, 34, or 35, or the Majestic City Tour Bus.
The Monuments on Calton Hill
Calton Hill is partially responsible for Edinburgh's nickname - the "Athens of the North." Rising 106m (350 ft.), it's a bluff of rock and grass that's home to a host of monuments. The unfinished colonnade at the summit is the so-called National Monument, meant to honor the Scottish soldiers killed during the Napoleonic wars. The money ran out in 1829, and the William H. Playfair-designed structure (sometimes then referred to as "Edinburgh Disgrace") was never finished.
The Nelson Monument, containing relics of the hero of Trafalgar, dates from 1815 and rises more than 30m (100 ft.) above the hill. At the top, a large white ball drops a few yards every day at 1pm (noon GMT) Monday through Saturday; historically it helped sailors in Leith set their timepieces. The monument is open April to September, Monday from 1 to 6pm and Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm; and October to March, Monday through Saturday from 10am to 3pm. Admission is £3.
The old City Observatory along the western summit of Calton Hill was designed in 1818 by Playfair, whose uncle happened to be the president of the Astronomical Institute. Nearby, the circular Dougal Stewart's Monument of 1831 (by Playfair, as well) is not dissimilar to the 1830 Burns Monument designed by Thomas Hamilton on the southern slopes of Calton Hill. It replicates the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, which was also the inspiration for his earlier attempt to honor the poet in Alloway. But visit Calton Hill not only to see these monuments up close but also to enjoy the panoramic views of the Firth of Forth and the city spread beneath it.
Down the hill toward Princes Street, in the Old Calton Burial Grounds, is a curiosity of special note to those with an interest in North American history. TheEmancipation or Lincoln Monument, erected in 1893, is dedicated to soldiers of Scottish descent who lost their lives in the U.S. Civil War. It has a statue of President Abraham Lincoln with a freed slave at his feet. Some famous Scots are buried in this cemetery, too, with elaborate tombs honoring their memory (notably the Robert Adam-designed tomb for philosopher David Hume).
Dean Village is a former grain-milling settlement that goes back to the 12th century. Its picturesque buildings nestle in a valley about 30m (100 ft.) deep along the Water of Leith. Originally called the Water of Leith Village, its principal landmark is nearby: The soaring arches of Dean Bridge (1833), designed by the incredibly talented engineer Thomas Telford.
The village has been restored, the historic buildings (dating mainly from the 17th to 19th century) converted into private residences. Look particularly at the stonework on the yellow-washed facade of the building at the foot of Bell's Brae, with its 17th-century panel of cherubs and milling imagery, as well as the well-worn inscription blessing the "Baxters" (bakers) of Edinburgh. But don't come here for any one particular site. Stroll around and enjoy the ambience, which feels a hundred miles away from bustling Princes Street or the Royal Mile. From Dean Village you can also walk for kilometers along the Water of Leith, one of the most tranquil strolls in the greater Edinburgh area.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.