Wanting to visit Edinburgh, but can’t because of lockdown restrictions? Fear not, there are several ways you can visit Scotland’s capital from the comfort of your own armchair..

By Bev Cleary

Stuck in ‘lockdown’ wishing you had already made that trip to the second most visited city in the UK as you had always planned?

Don’t worry, you can still enjoy the sights and sounds of a fantastic tour of magnificent Edinburgh without stepping out of your front door!

And a virtual visit to Scotland’s most popular tourist city from the comfort of your own home, is a fantastic way to spend great family time together during lockdown.

In addition, you can use the magic of the internet to marvel at Edinburgh’s incredible sights and sounds virtually, to help you to plan your future visit in person. Where better than Edinburgh, to spend that wonderous day when pubs, restaurants, theatres and museums will be allowed to unlock their doors again and welcome throngs of tourists with open arms?

Edinburgh and the Lothians welcomed more than 34.5 million visits by tourists in 2018. That’s an increase on the previous year’s visitor numbers. In addition, those who visited, spent more money than ever before.

More than a third of visits were taken by tourists from Great Britain while almost another third visited from Europe. Overnight visits from the United States accounted for some 8 per cent of all visitors and around 9 per cent from the rest of the world.

Edinburgh, located on the Firth of Forth’s southern shore, has been the capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century. The city has long been a centre of education, particularly in the fields of medicine, Scottish law, literature, philosophy, the sciences and engineering.

It is the second largest financial centre in the United Kingdom, after London, and the city’s historical and cultural attractions have made it the United Kingdom’s second most visited tourist destination attracting 1.75 million visits from overseas in 2016.

The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582 and now one of four in the city, is placed 20th in the QS World University Rankings for 2020. The city is also known for the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe, the latter being the world’s largest annual international arts festival.

Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town together are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, which has been managed by Edinburgh World Heritage since 1999.

The great news is, that you can visit this wonderful city and its surroundings by doing it virtually on your laptop, ipad or phone and you can do it any right now! It is something that the local government is proud to be promoting and a way of helping to support local businesses, organisations and residents during the lockdown as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

For example, if you are planning a family visit with children after lockdown, why not drop in on the amazing Edinburgh Zoo website. Young and old virtual visitors can marvel at the tigers, penguins, lions and pandas through their very own live ‘cams’.  If you want a keepsake, you can visit the online shop or choose and reserve a ‘Magic Moment’ experience at the Zoo to look forward to, at a later date.

If it is culture that you are looking for, and there is plenty of it in Edinburgh, take a virtual stroll up the hill to the magnificent Edinburgh Castle where, via any number of sites offering virtual tours,  you can learn about its history, its inhabitants and its events from the comfort of your own sofa.

Arguably, any historic, virtual tours of Edinburgh must include the famous Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence when she visits Edinburgh, situated at the end of the city’s magnificent Royal Mile. It has been home to royalty for more than 500 years.

Holyrood’s own website reveals a tangled tale of its former, famous residents including the tragic Mary Queen of Scots. On your virtual tour, you can also find out about the historic royals who moved out of Edinburgh Castle’s bleak and windy hilltop site to the splendour of Hollyroodhouse’s gardens and landscapes.

There is a seemingly endless list of virtual visiting options in Edinburgh, including the not-to-be missed National Museum of Scotland, St Giles’ Cathedral, the incredible Surgeons’ Halls Museums, the National Library of Scotland and at least four major sites of learning. Google offers some great virtual tours of these landmarks.

You can ‘virtually’ hike up to incredible viewpoints around Edinburgh on Google Streetview, including Arthur’s Seat, Calton and Blackford Hills and the Scott Monument, dedicated, of course, to world famous son of Scotland, Sir Walter Scott.

Similarly, if you fancy a stroll along some famous streets, you can ‘virtually’ follow in the footsteps of thousands of residents and tourists along the Royal Mile, Princes Street, Grassmarket, Victoria Street and Circus Lane.

Edinburgh’s majestic scenery has also been the backdrop to many movies and television dramas over the years and some of the more recent ones may just surprise you. If you drop in, virtually, to the ‘Official Guide to Edinburgh’ website, you will discover a long list of filming locations which include details of  addresses which are depicted in scenes from Trainspotting and T2:Trainspotting, Sunshine on Leith, Outlander and The Outlaw King, quite obviously. But also, would you believe it, Avengers: Infinity War which features the city’s Old Town and – the only location outside of the United States filmed for the movie. Avengers: End Game also features scenes filmed in the Scottish Borders.

If you are more of a reader than a movie buff there is a vast array of literature featuring plots and characters, real and imagined, based in Edinburgh. According to the Culture Trip website, there are at least 5 page turners that are ‘must reads’ before you even arrive in the city.  The list features, among others, Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh of course and The Heart of Midlothian, widely considered one of Sir Walter Scott’s finest novels. Culture Trip suggests the tome is an essential part of your planned trip to Edinburgh even as a precursor to exploring the Scott Monument built in the author’s honour.

From live penguin webcams to exploring the National Museum on Google Streetview to sitting down in an armchair and watching Trainspotting, the opportunities to experience Edinburgh are ‘virtually’ endless.


Before planning a visit to Edinburgh, please take time to read the latest guidance from the Scottish Government. Click here for details.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here