The best way to get oriented in Edinburgh is to take a bus tour, most of which are operated by Lothian Buses. Its "City Sightseeing" open-top bus tours include multilingual commentary; its "MacTours" are conducted in vintage open-top vehicles. All tours take you to the main attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Palace of Holyroodhouse, and museums and galleries. Buses depart from Waverley Bridge, and are hop-on/hop-off services, with tickets lasting 24 hours. Lothian Buses' 60-minute Majestic Tour operates with a professional guide and takes you from Waverly Bridge to the New Town, past Charlotte Square, the Royal Botanic Garden, and Newhaven Heritage Museum until it reaches the royal yacht Britannia moored at Leith. Tickets cost £13 and are available from ticket sellers on Waverley Bridge or on the buses themselves.
If you want to get to know the area around Edinburgh, Rabbie’s Trail Burners leads small groups on several different excursions, including a one-day trip to Rosslyn Chapel.
Edinburgh Bus Tours (0131/220–0770. www.edinburghtour.com.)
Rabbie's Trail Burners (207 High St., Edinburgh, EH1 1PE. 0131/226–3133. www.rabbies.com.)
Scottish Tourist Guides can supply guides (in 19 languages) who are fully qualified and will meet clients at any point of entry into the United Kingdom or Scotland. They can also tailor tours to your interests.
Scottish Tourist Guides (01786/451953. www.stga.co.uk.)
Cadies and Witchery Tours, a member of the Scottish Tourist Guides Association, has built a reputation for combining entertainment and historical accuracy in its lively and enthusiastic Ghosts & Gore Tour and Murder & Mystery Tour (£8.50), which take you through the narrow Old Town alleyways and closes. Costumed guides and other theatrical characters show up en route. The Scottish Literary Tour Company takes you around Edinburgh's Old Town or New Town (£12), with guides invoking Scottish literary characters.
Cadies and Witchery Tours. Spooky tours tracing the steps of Edinburgh's ghouls, gore and mysteries commence outside the Witchery Restaurant at 352 Castlehill. 0131/225–6745. www.witcherytours.com.
Scottish Literary Tour Trust (18–20 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2JU. 0800/169–7410. www.edinburghliterarypubtour.co.uk.)