Whizzing around Edinburgh on a tour bus

HISTORY, landmarks, undies – a bus tour around Edinburgh is just capital, writes Catriona Thomson

All aboard for a fresh look at Edinburgh. Picture: Ted Stewart

A bus tour, of course. We decide upon the distinctively liveried orange and brown Edinburgh World Heritage Official Bus. The five-star VisitScotland tour sets off from Waverley Bridge for a seven-mile tour of the city, with a commentary of historical events and information about the people who have helped shaped Edinburgh’s iconic landmarks. Our family obviously don’t get out much, as even waiting for the bus was fun.

We bounded straight up the stairs, taking our pews in the open air, although there are plenty of seats under cover and inside, for when it’s tipping it down. You simply plug in to hear an audio commentary, choosing from a variety of languages. Hope, my youngest daughter, struggled with the headphones, as they are too large for her delicate ears, but she soon provided her own unique commentary.

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“Mum we have to come back here, Princes Street Gardens, it’s an excellent roly poly place.”

Then in an accusing tone, “What are those people doing up there?”, pointing to the Scott Monument, and, “Exactly, how did they get up?”

She descends into hysterics when she spots mans’ pants on a clothes horse in a St Andrew Square pied de terre. This was her favourite moment of the whole tour; who needs to know anything about culture?

Meanwhile, my partner Graham and elder daughter Eve listened intently to the commentary, picking up interesting information such as who streets were named after and fascinating facts about their life. We passed the Royal Scots Club, where the girls’ Uncle Craig and Aunt Katherine were married recently, and coincidentally we spotted Eve’s chum’s dad, who drives wedding cars at the weekends. We gave him a cheerful wave as he waited patiently for a bride. It’s things like that that make you realise even a city like Edinburgh is actually quite small.

We loved learning the oddest facts. The art college used to be a hospital, which was funded by George Chalmers, who never forgot his humble trade roots, insisting beds were set aside for ill plumbers.

Other highlights included the Robert Adam-designed Georgian House, and stunning views over the Dean Bridge. The high vantage point gave us a whole new perspective on familiar places. The tickets last for 24 hours which means you can hop on and off as suits. As we were all tuckered out from our whistle-stop tour, and in desperate need of refreshment, we made straight for the City Restaurant on Nicolson Street for a traditional fish tea. The perfect end to our day out in the big city.

The tour costs £12 for adults, £11 for students/seniors and £5 for children aged 5-15. Family passes for two adults and three children are £28. Tours leave Waverley Bridge every 20 minutes. Visit www.edinburghtour.com for more information.