The party's over but the fun's just begun

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City Slicker: Edinburgh - Those in the know wait until Hogmanay's ended to go to this city. Rhiannon Batten offers ideas for new and returning visitors



Why visit?


Forget Hogmanay – visit Edinburgh after the celebrations are done, when calm returns to the city and its residents no longer have to share their pavements with quite so many visiting feet. Not that you'll feel you've arrived at the end of the party if you visit now.

Plenty of special events take place this month, including the annual month-long showing of Turner's watercolours at the National Gallery of Scotland (nationalgalleries.org), and Burns Night on 25 January. To find out what it's all about, book in for "An Evening with Robert Burns" at Ghillie Dhu, Rutland Place, a theatrically styled pub and music venue (ghillie-dhu.co.uk).

If you can't make it this month, Edinburgh has plenty in store for 2011, including major redevelopments of two of its top museums.

Don't miss...

Edinburgh Castle (edinburghcastle .gov.uk). Taking centre stage on a huge rocky outcrop, this brooding bulk dominates the city. Attractions include the 12th-century St Margaret's Chapel, the Scottish National War Memorial, the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny.

A walk down the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (royal collection.org.uk). You can't beat this characterful street for soaking up some Old Town atmosphere. Just before you reach the palace you pass the Scottish Parliament building (scottish.parliament.uk), a beacon of contemporary design in the centre of ancient Edinburgh.

A breathless hike up Arthur's Seat. Behind Holyroodhouse, this great grassed lump of rock is an extinct volcano. From the top there are great views across the city to Fife. If you've got time, carry on down the other side to the village of Duddingston for a pint at the Sheep Heid Inn, Scotland's oldest pub (sheepheid.co.uk).

The Water of Leith walkway (water ofleith.org.uk). The section that runs between Stockbridge and the Charles Jencks' Earthworks at the National Gallery of Modern Art is the prettiest. As of last year, it's also strewn with Antony Gormley sculptures.

Mary King's Close (realmarykings close.com). This warren of 17th-century streets and alleys was buried beneath the Royal Mile during building work in later centuries. The area is now open to guided tours. These make the most of local myths and ghost stories to bring the streets and their former residents back to life.

What's new?

Leith

Leith has seen some dramatic development recently. Hugging the waterfront in the north of the city, this docklands area is where Irvine Welsh wrote and set his novel Trainspotting. It is also where the city's brightest constellation of Michelin-starred restaurants is based. More casual new arrivals include Mimi's Bakehouse (mimis bakehouse.com) and the Parlour bar (theparlouredinburgh.com).

Hotel Missoni Spa

The Hotel Missoni opened in summer 2009, but the company's first spa launched only in November 2010. Eve Lom and Natura Bissé treatments are on offer here. Complete the luxurious feel by stopping off for one of the best cocktails in town at the hotel's bar. Also keep an eye out for IQ City Pads. Launching later this month in the city's glitzy Quartermile development to the south of the castle, these luxury holiday apartments will feature views of the Meadows, handmade beds, iPads, iPod docks and toiletries from the White Company.

Details: hotelmissoni.com, iqcitypads.com

Museum reopenings

The National Museum of Scotland (formerly called the Royal Museum of Scotland) is redeveloping its Victorian section – time your trip for summer when its 16 new galleries, learning centre, café and shop are due to open. And the hoardings are finally set to come off the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in November. The fully restored building will have more gallery space, a new display programme and first-rate education and visitor services.

Details: nms.ac.uk, nationalgalleries.org

Angels with Bagpipes

This stylish but unpretentious new restaurant from Marina Crolla (of the family behind the Valvona & Crolla delicatessen) recently opened on the Royal Mile. With a menu that treads a well-judged line between Scottish and Italian flavours, it's no wonder the restaurant is a hit. Also new are Castle Terrace restaurant, a high-end spin-off from Michelin-starred The Kitchin in Leith, and Seadogs, a great option for fish-loving, budget-watching gourmets, from the people behind the Dogs gastropub.

Details: angelswithbagpipes.co.uk, castleterracerestaurant.com, thedogsonline.co.uk

Glenogle Baths

Take a dip at Glenogle Baths, one of several beautiful old Victorian swimming baths around the city. This particular one has had a comprehensive yet sensitive restoration. It's council run and open to all.

Details: edinburghleisure.co.uk

Compact Facts

How to get there

The East Coast mainline service (eastcoast.co.uk), which links Edinburgh's Waverley station with London King's Cross, York and Newcastle, is the most direct way to the heart of the city. The guesthouse 94DR (94dr.com), in Southside, offers B&B in a double from £80.

Further Information

VisitScotland (0845 225 5121; visit scotland.com/whiteinvite).

Insider's Secret

Tim Bremner, Designer, bremnerdesign.co.uk

The best view is, arguably, from the top of Arthur's Seat. But there's one that's almost as stunning from the top of the St James Shopping Centre car park – the panorama stretches right to the Firth of Forth. But go on a sunny day for the full effect.

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