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Great Things To Do in Edinburgh, Scotland

Updated on November 14, 2014

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Home to the second largest population in Scotland. A diverse city and a joy to visit. Whatever you are looking for in a vacation you will find it in Edinburgh, whether you are having a quick stopover or a longer relaxed vacation. Edinburgh can be all of these for you. If you want history, culture or just plain-old people watching, there is something for everyone in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is also known as the Athens of the North due to it being one of the historical major centres of the Enlightenment, led by the University of Edinburgh. The Old Town and New Town areas of Edinburgh are now listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in recognition of the unique architecture of the Medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town.

Edinburgh is traditionally said to be built over seven hills, but that could just be a romantic notion to link it with Rome, which was also said to be built over seven hills. The seven hills are said to be - Arthur's Seat, more of a mini range rather than just one hill, Braid Hills, again more of a mini range, Castle Rock, which Edinburgh Castle sits atop of, Calton Hill, Corstorphine Hill, Blackford Hill and Craiglockhart Hill. All of these hills offer a spectacular view of Edinburgh and are well worth the visit.

What can I do in Edinburgh?

There are lots of free things to do in Edinburgh, from walks and parks to art galleries and museums. A day out in Edinburgh doesn't have to cost you a lot of money.

Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street
Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street

A Trip to Edinburgh Castle is a must

Edinburgh Castle has dominated the Edinburgh skyline in some form since the 9th century. A beautiful majestic building sitting on top of the volcanic Castle Rock. Although no longer used as an army garrison, the British Army is still responsible for parts of the castle, although its presence is mainly ceremonial.

Many a visitor can be seen jumping in fright at 1 o'clock every day as the "1 o'clock gun" is fired. The exceptions to the gun being fired are Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day. The gun was originally fired to act as a time signal for the ships in the Firth of Forth.

Within the castle walls you can find the National War Museum of Scotland, Mons Meg ( a 15th century siege canon), The Royal Palace (once royal apartments to the Stewart Monarchs), The Great Hall, and St Margaret's Chapel which is the oldest part of the castle.

Did you know that you can get married in Edinburgh Castle, or if the mood takes you, you can propose to your loved one in the Minstrel's Gallery of the Great Hall? How Romantic!

Edinburgh Castle

If you don't want to "go it alone" you can book a castle tour. If you want to go at your own pace then try one of these books, and know what you want to see. The views from Edinburgh Castle are outstanding.

National Museum Of Scotland Beside the famous Greyfriers Bobby Statue
National Museum Of Scotland Beside the famous Greyfriers Bobby Statue

Free Museums

Edinburgh has several museums that are free for everyone to visit.

Remember, whatever time of year you visit Edinburgh, it can rain. It's part of the charm of visiting Scotland. So when you know it's going to rain pop into one of hte free museums.

The National Museum of Scotland, (part of the tower from the Museum shown in the photograph), located in the Old Town, re-opened in July 2011 following major redevelopment. It exhibits over 20,000 objects in 36 galleries. This museum is a joy for both adults and children alike with its interactive exhibits, children's galleries and frightening Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The Writers' Museum, near the top of the Royal Mile, is filled with potraits, first editions and objects relating to the lives of great Scottish writers including Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Museum of Childhood is a lovely little museum full of childhood toys from the past and present. You will find this little museum also on the Royal Mile.

Acommodation in Edinburgh

There is a huge variety of places to stay whilst visiting Edinburgh, from camping to hostels, B & B to superb hotel suites. The only thing that limits your choice is your budget.

Edinburgh Guide Books

A good guide book can save you many hours getting lost in a strange city.

Family things to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a wonderful place to visit with your kids. There are lots of green open spaces for them to run around. Take a picnic and have lunch underneath Edinburgh Castle in Princes Street Gardens. Visit the swing park in the West Gardens of Princes Street.

If you go for a walk up Blackford Hill, look out for Blackford Pond. This is said to be home to the best fed ducks and geese in the city. Take along some stale bread and rolls and you'll see what I mean!

Edinburgh Zoo Logo
Edinburgh Zoo Logo

Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo was built in 1913 and owned by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. Edinburgh Zoo sits on Corstorphine Hill in 82-acres of land, which offers amazing views over the city of Edinburgh. As well as being a tourist attraction the zoo participates in various conservation programs around the world as well as doing research into animal behaviour.

Edinburgh Zoo is able to lay claim to the fact that they are the only zoo in Britain that is home to koala bears and giant pandas.

Edinburgh Zoo has just opened the largest outdoor penguin enclosure in Europe. They run a very succesful breeding program and after a complete refurbishment due to the old penguin enclosure springing a leak, they now have a world class penguine enclosure. Look out for the famous penguin walk!

Make sure you head up to the hills at the top of the zoo. The view is outstanding and there is a great playpark for the children to let off steam in. There are also several picnic benches for lunch. If the walk is too much for you, then there is a small tram like bus that runs up to the top hill during the summer months.

Before becoming home to Edinburgh Zoo, Corstophine Hill was a plant nursery.

The zoo contains one of the most diverse tress collections to be found within Central Scotland, and you may spend many an hour just wandering around the gardens before visiting the animals. Zoo horticulture is becoming increasing important. It enables the animals to live in a lush environment and provides an enhances experience for animals and visitors alike.

You can find out more information regarding Edinburgh Zoo by clicking on the following link. It will give you opening times, how to get there, etc.

www.edinburghzoo.org.uk

Edinburgh Zoo - Why not read a bit about it before you visit!

If you're planning to visit Edinburgh Zoo then it's a great idea to have a guide. I love planning with my family what we intend seeing.

Activities in Edinburgh

Which activity would you like to do first when you visit Edinburgh?

See results
Greyfriers Bobby Edinburgh
Greyfriers Bobby Edinburgh

Festivals in Edinburgh

Edinburgh has several festivals that run throughout the year. The most famous is the Edinburgh International Festival which runs through the month of August. This is a time when Edinburgh becomes home to many fantastic and outstanding performers. From street performance to the Scottish National Orchestra and many visiting famous guests, there is entertainment to suit everyone.

It does get very busy so my advice would be to book your accommodation as far is advance as possible.

Edinburgh has accommodation to cater for everyone's budget. From camping to top class hotels. The thing to remember with Edinburgh is that it is a reasonably small city. It has a good bus service, you can buy a day ticket and hop on and off buses all day at will, although it's not particularly car friendly it has several park and ride parks on the outskirts of the city, which saves you trying to find parking in the city centre.

Most tickets for the festivals go on sale approximately 6-8 weeks before the festivals start, so it might make sense to book accommodation and travel tickets early to get the best deals. The exception to this rule is Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The tickets for the Edinburgh International Festival will go on sale in March 2014 and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo tickets are on sale now.

I have placed a link below to give you more ideas of the dates when the Festivals are held in Edinburgh, and more importantly, which Festivals are available.

www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk

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Edinburgh Festival

Below is a selection of books which may help you decide which Festival you wish to visit.

Looking for something Special

If I haven't quite covered what you're looking for in my lens, type in your search and see what you come up with.

Edinburgh Weather

Just in case the weather turns wet, it's always better to be prepared.

If you intend to visit Edinburgh, or even if it is a distant dream, I would love to hear your thoughts on my lens.

If you wish to tell me of your plans I would love to hear from you.

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    • Charito1962 profile image

      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      I haven't been to Europe, but I sure would love to visit Edinburgh someday. Sounds like a great place to see. Thanks for sharing, Ms. Cara!

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 3 years ago

      @SilverLotus1: Thank you.

    • SilverLotus1 profile image

      SilverLotus1 3 years ago

      Scotland is a fantastic place to visit. Nice lens!

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      My grandmother was born in Scotland and I have always wanted to visit but now it is probably too late for me as I am not keen on travelling now. Very interesting lens and nice commentary on the city. I see the castle in the tattoos that are a family favorite each New Year here in Aus. Well done.

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @Adventuretravels: You will have a great time camping in the highlands. Breath-taking scenery.

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      Giovanna Sanguinetti 4 years ago from Perth UK

      My plans are to go to Scotland as son as possible. We're dying for the winter to end so we can set off on a camping trip in the Highlands. Two year ago we went t the Out Hebrides -WOW!!! Great lens.

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @trevorjb1406: Thank you.

    • trevorjb1406 profile image

      trevorjb1406 4 years ago

      Love the lens.

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 4 years ago

      @IanTease: I hope you enjoy the rugby and it that it stays dry for your visit.

    • IanTease profile image

      IanTease 4 years ago

      I'm going up to Edinburgh for the rugby international in March and am hoping to visit Camera Obscura before hand. Recently toured The National Museum, the view from the roof is fabulous, when the weather is good.

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      Colin323 4 years ago

      I'm planning to visit the second-hand bookshops, plus art galleries, when I go in June 2014

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 4 years ago

      @ArtByLinda: I hope you get to visit one day soon.

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 4 years ago from Idaho

      Great ideas, I would love to see a castle someday. Well done.

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @Baddew Fibes: Thank you. Your kind comments are very much appreciated.

    • Baddew Fibes profile image

      Baddew Fibes 4 years ago

      Very well put-together lens. Thanks!

    • wellingtonboot profile image

      wellingtonboot 4 years ago from U.K.

      I love Edinburgh!

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 4 years ago

      @DeborahDian: Its a great country. Funny friendly people. Great people.

    • DeborahDian profile image

      Deborah Carr 4 years ago from Orange County, California

      My husband is of Scottish descent. I would love it if we both could go there someday.

    • scheino lm profile image

      scheino lm 4 years ago

      Nice lens for accommodation I've found some great deals with the site www.simplevacationbooking.com

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 4 years ago

      @Max Globe: Thank you.

    • Max Globe profile image

      Max Globe 4 years ago

      Very interesting lens

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 4 years ago

      @TanoCalvenoa: I hope your wishes come true and that you get to visit one day soon.

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      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      I've always wanted to visit Great Britain, and important places including Edinburgh. Maybe someday I'll get to.

    • Vortrek Grafix profile image

      Vortrek Grafix 4 years ago

      Thus far have only been at the airport in Edinburgh on on a tranfer flight, Have lived in UK but never got the chance travel to the highlands. It's on the agenda though. Lots of history, plenty of fine pubs, and love bag-pipes.

    • Outdoor Gal profile image

      Outdoor Gal 4 years ago

      I've recently been to Scotland for a 1-week holiday with friends. We toured around a lot, then ended up staying in Edinburgh for the last 3 days of our trip. One thing I like about Scotland is the FREE museum entry! :)

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @Outdoor Gal: I'm happy for you that you enjoyed your holiday in Scotland so much!

    • EntrepBeings profile image

      EntrepBeings 4 years ago

      Hi Cara, what a great lens! I hope to visit Edinburgh someday! Thanks for sharing!

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      CASHGURU 4 years ago

      Great lens ... We love visiting Scotland. :)

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @EzLoanLookUp LM: If you want to visit distilleries you could try the Speyside whisky trail. I haven't experienced it but my husband has said it's worthwhile doing. Also if you are up in the North East of Scotland there is an abundance of golf courses to have a round on.

    • EzLoanLookUp LM profile image

      EzLoanLookUp LM 4 years ago

      I would love to visit a whiskey distillery and perhaps a links style golf course.....any recommendations?

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @happy-birthday: I hope you manage to visit Edinburgh next year. I'm sure you would have a great time.

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      Birthday Wishes 4 years ago from Here

      I would love to visit Edinburgh! Maybe next year... :-) Thanks a lot for sharing this great lens!

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @VspaBotanicals: I hope you get to one day!

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 4 years ago

      Wish I could visit!

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @FLtraveler: I'm sure you would have a great time if you get the chance to visit.

    • FLtraveler profile image

      FLtraveler 4 years ago

      My husband and I have been talking about going to Scotland. It looks beautiful.

    • Spirality profile image

      Spirality 4 years ago

      Who doesn't love free stuff? But really, just walking around in Scotland is probably very breathtaking in and of itself. Love it!

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @mcstacy: Thank you.

    • mcstacy profile image

      mcstacy 4 years ago

      Great lens. Sounds so of full culture and history.

    • TravelsWithAunt profile image

      TravelsWithAunt 4 years ago

      I have been to Edinburgh many times - my nephew lives there - and it has never failed to rain, so yes, take your wellies!

      I also love the Ian Rankin books about an Edinburgh detective.

      So historic, so beautiful - well worth a trip.

    • jen becht profile image

      jen becht 4 years ago

      Scotland is so beautiful. It is so magical. I wish I live in Scotland.

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @francescajohnston: Thank you.

    • francescajohnston profile image

      francescajohnston 4 years ago

      I would love to visit Scotland! Great Lens!

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @Torrs13: I hope you get to visit one day!

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      Torrs13 4 years ago

      Looks like a cool place to visit! I've always wanted to go to Europe!

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you for saying so.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      A place that I definitely want to visit, interesting Lens, thank you :D

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @CaztyBon: I hope you get to visit one day soon.

    • CaztyBon profile image

      CaztyBon 4 years ago

      I've never been to Edinburgh, but I really would love to. Great information on your lens.

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      Cara 4 years ago

      @rstaveley lm: I agree, the National Galleries of Scotland are outstanding.

    • rstaveley lm profile image

      Richard Staveley 4 years ago from Burley in Wharfedale, Yorkshire, England

      I love Edinburgh, especially the National Galleries of Scotland - and also the Chocolate Shop just off the Royal Mile - could spend all day in there!

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      Bartukas 5 years ago

      Great festival :P

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @getupandgrow: There's a more relaxed pace about Edinburgh when the festival is over!

    • profile image

      getupandgrow 5 years ago

      I loved the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and am really glad I've been, but want to go back to Edinburgh when it's less frenetic to appreciate it properly and visit the mueums.

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @HivelysArt1: I hope you realise your dream one day soon!

    • HivelysArt1 profile image

      HivelysArt1 5 years ago

      It's always been a dream of mine to visit Scotland the home of my ancestors. Maybe someday I will be lucky enough to visit. Interesting lens. I had no idea there was a great zoo there.

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @mmwoodward: It's always a surprise what you see in Edinburgh!

    • mmwoodward profile image

      mmwoodward 5 years ago

      I went to Edinburgh last year and had a blast! Went to the castle, the Edinburgh vaults, The Edinburgh Dungeon, and Camera Obscura. Also saw a random fire juggler in the streets.

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @Sharon Weaver: I'm sure you would find the sights incredible and would be inspired to paint.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image

      Sharon Weaver 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I have never been but would love to paint there. the landscape looks lovely.

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @dezwards: I hope you have a good time on your next visit.

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      dezwards 5 years ago

      Made my first visit to the Fringe last year and already booked to go back, would highly recommend it. Excellent lens on one of my favourite places. Many thanks

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @mina009: I hope you get to visit Edinburgh soon. I'm sure you would find the whole experience wonderful.

    • profile image

      mina009 5 years ago

      I have always wanted to visit Edinburgh without really knowing why, maybe because of a certain kind of mysterious attraction that works like a real magnet. I just hope that when I visit it, this feeling that I have stays the same. Thank you for your great ideas..

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @wleon63: Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to say so.

    • wleon63 profile image

      wleon63 5 years ago

      I have never been to Scotland, although it looks like a beautiful country from the images I have seen of it. Your lens was informative and I enjoyed reading it very much. Well done, on a well-written piece.

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @hmommers: I hope you manage to visit one day soon!

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      hmommers 5 years ago

      Not been there yet, but it is on my to-do list :-)

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @MissMalaprop: I'm sure you would have a great time if you decided to visit!

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      MissMalaprop 5 years ago

      One of my good friends is originally from Edinburgh. My boyfriend visited there in college also, and now one of his best friends teaches at the university there. We've been dying to take a trip there - I've never been!

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @FancyThatUK: You're right, Edinburgh changes competely during the festival.

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      FancyThatUK 5 years ago

      We love Edinburgh! It is just so beautiful, we usually like to go up for the fringe if we can, it has such a great atmosphere!

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @Snakesmum: I didn't go on the underground tour. I was too scared! I think you may have been on a Mercat Ghost Tour or The Real Mary King's Close Tour.

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      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Have visited Edinburgh - very enjoyable. Saw the castle, and went to an underground tour, although I forget what it was called. Amazing what's under the streets there.

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @JeffGilbert: I hope you get to visit one day soon.

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      JeffGilbert 5 years ago

      It's a place I plan on visiting at one point. Great lens!!!

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @susanholland10: I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures, and hope you have a great vacation.

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @racingdatabase: I hope this lens brought back happy memories.

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      Susan Holland 5 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      I am becoming more and more convinced. Scotland in June. Thanks for the great pictures and information on your lenses. :-)

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      racingdatabase 5 years ago

      Great lens! I grew up in Edinburgh so know the city very well :-)

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      Stephen J Parkin 5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Edinburgh is a truly cultured place and the city beneath the city is well worth doing. Not to mention the brewery tour and trips to distilleries too!

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @grannysage: I'm sure you would have a great time if you ever managed to visit.

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      grannysage 5 years ago

      I think it would be wonderful to be sightseeing on a bus and happen to run into JK Rowling. I saw an interview with her recently where she said she still uses buses. Of course, I would be too shy to actually talk to her.

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @RennyCross: I agree. A great central area.

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      RennyCross 5 years ago

      One could go explore castles from Edinburgh as well.

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      Cara 5 years ago

      @mtg724: I'm sure you'd have a great time.

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      mtg724 5 years ago

      It sounds like a great place to visit, I'd probably try the food there first. That would be my first stop.

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