Edinburgh-native Jenna Crombie, a NEWSWEEK reporter in London, moved south to Surrey when she was 11, but she continues to enjoy fond memories of and frequent visits back to the hugely atmospheric Scottish capital. Here, she reveals some of her hometown highlights.
Eats: The Grill Room at The Dome (Tel: 0131 624 8624) manages to be super stylish while remaining refreshingly unaffected and unstuffy. This former home of The Royal Bank of Scotland is popular with the city's suits who come to enjoy some after-work drinks and dinner. The architecture of this historic building is striking, and the staff exemplifies Scottish hospitality. At the gates of Edinburgh Castle, The Witchery (Tel: 0131 225 5613) has a dark, spooky interior dating back to the 16th century. But it's not just the surroundings that are memorable; the food is also magnificent. Hint: order the Scottish lobster when someone else is paying.
Drinks: It's no secret that the Scots like a drink once in a while, and they're known for producing legendary whisky. I must confess my taste buds are a little immature for the heavy stuff, but I am reliably informed by my father and some of his friends that The Dining Room (Tel: 0131 220 2044) on Queen Street, which is home to The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, is the perfect place to enjoy a tipple—or five.
Frights: Having been known to jump at the sound of nothing more than a party popper, perhaps I'm predisposed to find walking through Edinburgh's historic streets and graveyards at nighttime truly terrifying. But even people with steelier nerves than my own will find an Edinburgh ghost tour a fright fest. Black Hart Entertainment (Tel: 0131 225 9044) runs the spine-chilling City of the Dead tour, which features visits to the Covenanters Prison and the Black Mausoleum, home to the infamous Mackenzie Poltergeist. This scared me senseless, so be sure to take a friend.
Sights: Queen Elizabeth II, who just celebrated her diamond-wedding anniversary, enjoys The Palace of Holyroodhouse as her official Scottish residence. But we shouldn't forget a previous occupier of the breathtaking palace who was somewhat unluckier in love, Mary Queen of Scots. For those who enjoy delving into history, or are just fascinated by stories with intrigue and high drama, you can visit the spot in the palace where Mary witnessed her jealous husband and his cronies murder her alleged lover David Riccio. Another unmissable historical sight is Edinburgh Castle (www.edinburghcastle.biz), which dominates the skyline sitting atop the city's imposing and gargantuan volcanic rock. If you're in town in August, The Military Tattoo takes place here, and it's an unforgettable spectacle. A visual feast of colors unfailingly delights audiences every year. The stirring sound of hundreds of pipers and drummers playing in unison is a memory I will long remember.
Festivities: Edinburghers know how to throw a good party. Christmas celebrations in the city are always suitably festive, and this winter sees a new addition to the revelries. The Highland Village Christmas Market will run from Nov. 23 until Jan. 2, and gift hunters, with an aromatic cup of mulled wine in hand, will find a selection of treasures crafted all over Scotland. And to ring in the New Year in the most memorable style, head to Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations in the city center. There are new lineups every year, but there is always a fantastic array of entertainment, as well as a breathtaking fireworks display. Make sure you wrap up; it can feel arctic out there. Or perhaps just arm yourself with a nice warming hip flask and get ready to belt out a rousing rendition of "Auld Langs Syne."