Edinburgh may not have the shopping status of Glasgow, a city with a large appetite for the latest styles, but the Scottish capital does have a well-rounded selection of newfangled boutiques, souvenir shops, and traditional department stores, such as the classic Jenners. With the addition a few years ago of the fashionista's favorite, Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh is certainly starting to challenge its more trend-conscious counterpart to the west.
New Town's Princes Street is a primary shopping artery, with leading department stores, such as Marks & Spencer, major bookshops, and plenty of tourist tat. For the posher shops, such as Cruise or Laura Ashley, George Street tops the lot. For tourists, Old Town's Royal Mile is the place to find Scottish souvenirs, whether you're looking for tartan or whisky. If you're from a country outside the EU, take along your passport when you go shopping in case you make a purchase that entitles you to a VAT (value-added tax) refund.
Shopping hours in central Edinburgh are generally from 9 or 10am to 6pm Monday through Wednesday and on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, shops open at 11am or noon and close around 5pm. On Thursdays, many shops remain open until 7 or 8pm.
The Shopping Scene
Edinburgh used to be the poorer relation to Glasgow when it came to shopping, particularly in the realm of fashion and boutique clothing. Less distance separates them now, though, as Edinburgh's style credentials are on the up. For visitors from abroad, prices in the U.K. may seem high. But after a few years when the pound was strong relative to the U.S. dollar and the euro, the currency has fallen in strength.
Best Buys -- Although you may find a bargain at the tourist-oriented shops along the Royal Mile, the more unique gifts are to be found at the shops in the city's various national galleries or in the Museum of Scotland.
Tracing Your Ancestral Roots
If you have a name beginning with Mac (which simply means "son of") or one of the other lowland Scottish names, from Burns to Armstrong, you are probably a descendant of Scotland and may have ties to a clan - a group of kinsmen of common ancestry. Clans and clan societies have their own museums throughout Scotland, and local tourist offices will have details about where to locate them. Bookstores throughout Scotland sell clan histories and maps.
Genealogical records are kept at the General Register Office, New Register House, 3 W. Register St. (tel. 0131/334-0380; www.gro-scotland.gov.uk). It contains hundreds of thousands of microfiche and microfilm documents: Details of every birth, marriage, and death in Scotland since 1855. The system is strictly self-service, and it gets crowded in summer. A fee of £10/£17 for part/full day access is charged. Open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4:30pm.
The official government source for genealogical data online is at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. Simply register to make searches of census records dating to 1841, births between 1855 and 1905, as well as wills and testaments filed as far back as 1513. A basic £6 fee is charged to look at details.
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.