One good way to get oriented in Edinburgh is to take a bus tour. If you want to get to know the area around Edinburgh, Rabbie’s Trail Burners leads small groups on several different excursions.
Edinburgh Bus Tours. Explore every corner of Edinburgh with this company's range of bus tours. The most popular are the Edinburgh Tour, which mainly covers Old Town sights including Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse; and the Majestic Tour, which explores the New Town and farther corners of the city, including the Royal Yacht Britannia at Leith and the Royal Botanic Garden. Buses depart from Waverley Bridge, with each tour lasting an hour. If you plan more than one bus tour during a weekend, buy a money-saving Grand 48 ticket. Waverley Bridge, New Town, Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH1 1BQ. 0131/220–0770; www.edinburghtour.com. From £16.
Rabbie's Trail Burners. Venture farther afield from Edinburgh on day trips run by this cheerful company. Its minibuses will take you a surprisingly long way and back in a day, with sights including Loch Ness, St. Andrews, Rosslyn Chapel, and Loch Lomond National Park. Groups are kept to a guaranteed maximum of 16, giving these a less impersonal feel than some of the big enterprises. Book online for a discount. 207 High St., Old Town, Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH1 1PE. 0131/226--3133; www.rabbies.com. From £29.
Scottish Tourist Guides Association. This organization 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. Guides can also tailor tours to your interests. 01786/451953; www.stga.co.uk. From £150.
Walking and Cycling Tours
The Cadies and Witchery Tours. Spooky tours tracing Edinburgh's ghouls, murders, and other grisly happenings start outside the Witchery Restaurant. The Cadies and Witchery Tours has built an award-winning reputation for combining entertainment and historical accuracy in its lively and enthusiastic Murder and Mystery and (in summer only) Ghosts and Gore tours. Both take you through the narrow Old Town lanes and closes, with costumed guides and other theatrical characters popping up along the route. The Witchery, 352 Castlehill, Old Town, Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH1 2NF. 0131/225--6745; www.witcherytours.com. £10.
The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour. Professional actors invoke local literary characters while taking you around some of the city's most hallowed watering holes on these lively and informative tours. The experience is led by "Clart and McBrain"—one a bohemian, the other an intellectual—who regale you with witty tales of the literary past of Edinburgh's Old and New Towns. Tours run daily from May to September and meet outside the Beehive Inn. The Beehive Inn, 18–20 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH1 2JU. 0800/169–7410; www.edinburghliterarypubtour.co.uk. £14.
The Tartan Bicycle Company. Cycling enthusiast and Edinburgh native Johann offers a range of guided and self-guided bike tours in and around the capital. Each half-day or full-day tour includes hotel pickup and your choice of standard or e-bikes. For a relaxed half-day introduction to Edinburgh, including some lesser-visited neighborhoods, opt for the Sky to Sea tour; it starts at leafy Union Canal, passes by The Meadows and Arthur's Seat, visits Portobello Beach, The Shore, and the Water of Leith, and ends in the New Town. Edinburgh, Edinburgh. 0797/394–0924; www.tartanbiketours.co.uk. From £45.