When packing to visit Edinburgh, put on some sturdy walking shoes. Firstly, the center of town is hilly – Edinburgh is built on seven major hills. Edinburgh Castle sits on top of a dark crag of volcanic rock and when viewed from certain angles, it’s a mystery how you would ever get up there. Just east of the castle is the area of Holyrood Park. The highest peak in Edinburgh is Arthur’s Seat, and its popularity stems from the fantastic views of the city and the easy walk up to the top. Arthur’s Seat is an easy way to get a taste of the Scottish Highlands. This landscape was formed by volcanoes (now thankfully extinct), and the deep valleys and sharp cliffs were formed by scouring glaciers. The Scottish Highlands are important to modern geology, as it was here that James Hutton realized everyone was wrong and he was right about the ages and eras of the earth.
Head back down the hill and you’ll see a strange building that looks like a huge white tent. This is a science museum called Our Dynamic Earth and it’s full of exhibits about geology. Sounds dull – but it’s definitely not. There are exhibits about rainforests, polar landscapes and space exploration. You can make your own earthquake, understand volcanoes and learn about the changing earth and oceans; given the current restlessness of the planet, there’s never been a better time to try and understand it. Another good viewing spot, with less walking involved, is nearby Calton Hill. It’s topped with many monuments, and for really, really good views, climb Nelson’s Monument and watch the haar, or sea mist, creep in from the Firth of Forth.