Festival Season

Published Friday, 10 August 2012
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Whether its Jazz & blues, Books, Comedy, or the swirl of the bagpipes at the famous Military Tattoo, the summer festivals in Edinburgh draw hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

On a recent stay in the Scottish capital, we were able to enjoy some of the treats in store for the performers, and the visitors, to the city.

The big question on a city break is where to stay. Whilst many go for the hotel option, this time, we opted for self-catering and found spectacular apartments on Princes Street in the centre of the city.

The Princes Street Suites are very well appointed and only 5 minutes walk from the Royal Mile in one direction and the 'new town' in the other. There are a number of apartments in the complex, of various sizes & configurations, and they offer a great alternative for families or groups visiting the area. Whilst they are self-catering, a breakfast basket can be delivered daily for each resident and there are a number of shops nearby where you can stock up on necessities. The complex also has a 24hr reception and access is by keycard, so it is also very secure.

The city has a wealth of top class restaurants to tempt the tastebuds too. Kyloe is a gourmet steak restaurant which offers diners a great meal. The waiting staff bring various cuts of raw meat to the table to discuss the options and ways they can be cooked so they can be fully appreciated. One Square at the Sheraton Hotel is another place that we can highly recommend.

The chef there is quite experimental and the menu offers an innovative slant on traditional meals. I particularly enjoyed the Rhubarb Crumble and Custard Twist which recreated the flavours and textures of one of my favourite desserts in a sorbet. We also enjoyed a "taste of Scotland" experience at the Scotch Whisky Experience & Amber Restaurant which included a tour of the exhibition as well as a tasting menu of traditional Scottish dishes complemented by different whiskies to enhance the taste.

For something a little bit different you could learn while you eat by taking part in a Chocolate Tasting by Coco of Bruntsfield. The boutique company specialise in fine organic chocolate which is high in cocoa content. Their tasting sessions are carried out at their 2 stores in the city and give a solid grounding in what real chocolate tastes like.

After all that eating (which didn't take place all in one day!) a bit of relaxation was required, and there's no better place to do that than at the One Spa at the Sheraton Hotel. The spa has an incredible outdoor rooftop hydropool as well as a Thermal Suite with a number of treatment rooms.

The popular "Escape at One" package is a great way of enjoying the best, in my opinion, spa in the city.

Of course, a visit to Edinburgh isn't all about restaurants and spa visits, there's lots to see in the city.

Understandably, many of the attractions centre on the rich history (good and bad) the city offers.

The Edinburgh Dungeons tell the more gory history, but in a very entertaining way, with actors leading you round a labyrinth of tableaux in the city's vaults. The visit is full of audience interaction, and while a little scary for the very young, is certainly a family attraction worth visiting.

Nearby, Mary Kings Close brings even more realism to the Edinburgh story as you are guided round one of the underground 'closes' which at one time housed hundreds of families. Just remember to bring a doll or teddy for the resident ghost, Annie!

Further up the Royal Mile, the optical illusions at the iconic Camera Obscura have been a feature of the tourist scene in Edinburgh since 1853. The Obscura has recently benefitted from some investment and new attractions include a dizzying Vortex tunnel and a confusing mirror maze.

In this Year of Creative Scotland, Tourism bosses are hoping that the recent release of the new Disney/Pixar film "Brave" will encourage visits to Edinburgh and the Highlands as children follow the story, in real life, to the locations portrayed on screen.

Direct flights are available to Edinburgh from George Best Belfast City Airport with Flybe. The short flight time means you can be wandering down Princes Street within a couple of hours of leaving Belfast.

For further information you can visit www.visitscotland.com

© UTV News
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David Gordon
David Gordon

David is a Travel Writer & Broadcaster.

He is the producer & presenter of Travelbites, Northern Ireland's only dedicated radio travel show and podcast. He also produces features for travel programmes in the USA, Australia and Europe.

You can hear the podcast here or on Itunes.

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