Nelson Monument in the background from Calton Hill.

Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, is located on the south coast of the Firth (estuary) of Forth.

Edinburgh's location

Edinburgh’s location

Founded in 1329, Edinburgh is the seventh largest city in the United Kingdom. A great time to travel to Edinburgh is in July when the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe Festival are held.

People following a street performer on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland, a few days before the official start of the Fringe Festival (2-26 August), the most famous festival of the street arts of the W

People following a street performer on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland, a few days before the official start of the Fringe Festival (2-26 August), the most famous festival of the street arts in the World. iStock photo.

Edinburgh is not large, yet very charming. Walking in streets, you can see magnificent structures, including old churches and Victorian architecture

Nelson Monument in the background from Calton Hill.

Nelson Monument in the background sits atop Calton Hill. Commemorates Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson.

In the foreground is Balmoral Hotel, a luxury hotel, which sits at the east end of Princes Street.

In the foreground is Balmoral Hotel, a luxury hotel, which sits at the east end of Princes Street.

masterpieces, such as museums and city hall. Even the residential houses are historical sites.

Overview of Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle

Overview of Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle which stands as the spirit of the city. The Stone of Destiny, the symbol of Scottish monarchy, is housed inside.

Edinburgh Castle which stands as the spirit of Scotland. The Stone of Destiny, the symbol of Scottish monarchy, is housed inside.

Bagpipe, an iconic symbol of Scotland.

Bagpipe, an iconic symbol of Scotland.

The must-see building is the Edinburgh Castle which was built on a huge granite rock of a dead volcano. You can see this black stone castle from all corners of the city. It became the royal resident in the 6th century before Palace of Holyrood house

Edinburgh, Scotland, UK - May 22, 2013: Holyrood House (sometimes referred to as Holyroodhouse Palace) is occasionally used for state banquets and, historically, as a palace for royalty. Nowadays it is mainly an office building. This image shows the house in the evening spring sunshine.

Edinburgh, Scotland, UK – May 22, 2013: Holyrood House (sometimes referred to as Holyroodhouse Palace) is occasionally used for state banquets and, historically, as a palace for royalty. Nowadays it is mainly an office building. This image shows the house in the evening spring sunshine. iStock photo

 

took its place in the 16th century. The later is one of the royal summer resorts. But so far Edinburgh Castle is still the spirit of Scotland and the city was named after it. There are many treasures in the castle, such as the crown designed in 1540, the stick and the sword. Photos are forbidden inside the building. Plan two to three hours to visit the castle as there is often a long queue before each tour. The fee to the castle is £17, but senior citizens over 60 receive a discount, cost £13.60.

Besides a “must-see” there is a “must-have” and that’s St. Giles Cathedral. A city must have its cathedral.

Royal Mile.

Royal Mile to Princes Street

 

St. Giles Cathedral. An architecturally distinctive feature is the crown steeple.

St. Giles Cathedral. An architecturally distinctive feature is the crown steeple. It’s located about one-third of the way on Royal Mile between the Castle and Holyrood Palace.

Outside the castle, you can walk down the Royal Mile to Princes Street. Traditional shops, modern malls and café line along the street. Cashmere is the most famous product in Scotland. Each one can find his own interest in this street.

Scottish National Gallery, main floor

Scottish National Gallery, main floor

Other places to visit are Scotland’s museum, such as, Scottish National Gallery and Scotland National Library. The first Encyclopedia Britannica was compiled and published in Scotland in 1771 before the publishing house moved to London in 1895.

In the background is a picture of Arthur's Seat. Edinburgh is hilly. Arthur's Seat is the main peak.

In the background is a picture of Arthur’s Seat. Edinburgh is hilly. Arthur’s Seat is the main peak.

Edinburgh is the second most popular tourist city after London. There are three ways to get to it from London, plane, train or bus. The best season to visit is from May to September. August is the busiest month. If you prefer to have a quiet and relaxing holiday, avoid August.

The Cotswolds:

Leaving Edinburgh, we came to Cotswolds, one of the three most beautiful locations in the world. The other two are Provence, France and Tuscan, Italy.

The Cotswolds, an idyllic area in the world.

The Cotswolds, an idyllic area in western England.

This area is in the west of England. The Cotswolds represent the idyllic scenery of England. In this area, there are over a hundred well kept traditional villages. These villages are elegant and chic, colorful and peaceful. Vines and flowers surround the old stone houses. Greens cover every inch of the area. Fish and swans cruise in the brooks. No wonder it is named the most natural scenic spot in England.

Swans cruise the Windrush River.

Swans cruise the Windrush River.

We stayed in Bourton-on-the-Water. It is a village in Gloucestershire.  The older houses were built with yellow Limestone like beeswax shining in the sun.

Yellow Limestone houses shine in the sun like honey.

Yellow Limestone houses shine like beeswax in the sun.

According to the 2011 census, the village had a population of 3,296 inhabitants,  making it a rather large village as its population actually exceeds those of nearby Stow-on-the-Wold and Burford. The River Windrush meanders

Bakery-on-the-Water adjacent to the Windrush River.

Bakery-on-the-Water adjacent to the Windrush River.

through Bourton-on-the-Water looking like an advertisement for serenity and beauty. Although there are no Gondolas floating down the Windrush, Bouton is often referred to as “Venice of the Cotswolds.”

Arched bridges span the Windrush River.

Arched bridges span the Windrush River.

Several arched bridges cross the river adding to the fairy tale beauty of the village. It is so relaxing to take a walk by the river, seeing Mallards playing in water or having a glass of local dark beer in the bar by the water. During peak summer season, Bourton-on-the-Water often has more visitors than residents. If you plan to visit this paradise, make reservations months in advance. Trains or buses from London will take you there.

Slow down and enjoy the unique country beauty, forgetting time, work and other annoyances in the world. Visitors return time and time again. I really hope I can come again.

About the Author:

Zhu Xiaojian taught English at the university in Fuzhou, China. As a young woman, she briefly lived in the U.S. to learn English and become familiar with the American culture. She is the co-author of Walk Beijing. When I lived and taught English in Fuzhou (1996-97) Zhu and I became close friends. She did her best to teach me Mandarin. We never lost contact with each other. In 2007, I called Zhu and asked her if she would like to co-author a guidebook to Beijing. In August of that year, we joined forces to live in Beijing and write what became Walk Beijing.  She is an incredible person and I am honored to be her friend.

Her husband, Yixien, was the head of the library in Fuzhou. Her daughter, Chery, currently lives in the North Carolina and is studying to be a nurse. Yixien and Zhu are retired and enjoy travel and photography. Julia (Zhu) and Yixien took all the photos in this article except the ones noted from iStock.