Designations on this journey

Map of Central East Scotland

How to get to the east of Scotland

Getting to the east of Scotland is easy by train. You can travel from various stations across the UK straight into Edinburgh Waverley Train Station. From there you can travel onto Dundee by train too. Or book the Caledonian Sleeper from London and journey overnight in your own cabin, complete with your own bed.

You can travel by road with coaches running directly into Edinburgh, and onto Dundee. If you’re travelling by road, hire an electric car so you can drive up the scenic east coast from Edinburgh through Fife and St Andrews before reaching Dundee.

Fly to Edinburgh Airport from a number of destinations across the UK and Europe, including Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Belfast, Dublin and Amsterdam.

Find more information and advice on travelling to Edinburgh and Dundee.

Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature

Where to start

The capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh is home to world-class visitor attractions which detail the fascinating history, and a captivating cultural scene. The city itself is situated on the east side of central Scotland.

Begin your UNESCO journey here in the heart of Edinburgh, in the city centre. The city is incredibly walkable and easy to get around. As you visit these attractions to hear more of this City of Literature, look out for friendly local people, hidden gems, and delicious food and drink, and you’ll have plenty to amaze you.

City neighbourhood areas to base yourself in

  • City centre
  • Leith
  • Portobello
  • Tollcross
  • Southside
  • West End
  • Grassmarket

Why it’s special

Over the centuries the city has become a real hub of famous writers, inspiring the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns, JM Barrie, Muriel Spark and JK Rowling. Creativity has always flourished in Edinburgh, with books and reading at the beating heart of the city’s rich cultural life for centuries. In recognition of this, Edinburgh was the first city in the world to be named a UNESCO City of Literature.

Did you know Edinburgh is home to over 50 bookshops?!

Type of designation

UNESCO City of Literature

How long to stay

At least 2 days

What to do during your time

Things to do

Central Library

Edinburgh is home to numerous free public libraries, including the National Library of Scotland, Scottish Poetry Library, and Central Library. The Central Library is a great place to start your UNESCO Trail journey as it’s home to special collections of rare books, map, images and more that have been acquired since the library opened in 1890. The collections date from the 1400s onwards and special finds can be located in various departments; Reference, Edinburgh & Scottish, Art & Design, and Music.

Find out more about Edinburgh’s Central Library.

Scott Monument

Did you know Edinburgh is the only city in the world with a 60 m landmark erected in memory of an author? The Scott Monument is a sight to see and to climb, the tribute to Sir Walter Scott towering over Princes Street Gardens with great views toward Edinburgh Castle and beyond. This ornate piece of architecture was built in 1840 to commemorate this great Scottish literary figure. Make sure you visit the monument’s Museum Room on the first floor to learn more about its history and the legacy of Sir Walter Scott.

Explore the Scott Monument.

Scottish Storytelling Centre

Where better to delve into Scotland’s literary history than at the Scottish Storytelling Centre? Located on the iconic Royal Mile, this arts venue offers a packed programme of live storytelling, theatre, music, exhibitions, family events and workshops which take place all year round. On your way out, make sure you stop to admire the exterior of the building which features a unique combination of contemporary design and medieval architecture.

Find out more about the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Independent bookshops

Edinburgh is blessed with up to 50 bookshops, many of them independent businesses. From rare book dealers to shops specialising purely in science fiction and fantasy, Edinburgh has a bookshop to suit every kind of reader. One of the best ways you can support the city’s local businesses is by browsing in one of these unique bookstores and purchasing a book as a souvenir. Even if you aren’t in Edinburgh, many of the shops have an online offering so you can have your next read delivered straight to your doorstep.

Find out more about Edinburgh’s independent bookshops.

Literary events

Aside from fascinating attractions, Edinburgh also hosts its own literary festivals. The Edinburgh International Book Festival and Scottish International Storytelling Festival both see talented writers, poets, authors, storytellers, musicians and more, flock to the city to explore Scottish culture, literature and music. These events see thousands of literature enthusiasts come together to enjoy readings, performances, recitals, storytelling and more.

Explore the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August and the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in October.

Local tips

If you decide to visit in the summer, you’ll see a whole other side of the city come to life with events, festivals, performances and more lining the streets and filling creative venues during the Edinburgh Summer Festivals.

Walks and ways to travel around

Edinburgh is a walkable city in itself, but there are also great walking routes in and around the city that are great to explore. Head to the Pentland Hills Regional Park for a different view of the city, scale Arthur’s Seat which was once an ancient volcano, climb Corstorphine Hill on the north side of Edinburgh, or head for a stroll along one of the city’s beach spots, Portobello Beach and Wardie Beach, or head further east to Gullane and North Berwick in East Lothian.

Looking up from the bottom of Victoria Street which leads from the Haymarket to George IV Bridge

Old and New Towns of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage Site

Where to start

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh make up the city centre, the New Town to the north of Princes Street and the Old Town to the south.

The Old Town centres around the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and includes some of the southside too. You’ll find a labyrinth of cobbled streets, narrow alleyways and hidden courtyards, all amazingly well preserved and steeped in the city's history.

The New Town provides an elegant contrast to the Old Town. It features broad streets that boast spectacular neoclassical and Georgian architecture, with a wealth of beautiful buildings perfectly preserved since their construction in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some New Town areas include Charlotte Square, Queen Street and George Street.

Streets to explore

Old Town:

  • Castlehill
  • Royal Mile
  • Market Street
  • South Bridge

New Town:

  • St Andrews Square
  • Princes Street
  • Abercromby Place
  • Stockbridge

Why it’s special

The Old & New Towns of Edinburgh are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, marking it as a unique and significant site, which will be protected and preserved for future generations to come. The area is also much bigger than you’d expect, spanning 1.75 square miles (4.5 square km) with 4,500 buildings, including ancient monuments, designed landscapes and conservation areas.

As you move through Edinburgh, you’ll notice the various styles of architecture and design transitions on buildings and streets. The beautiful architecture of Edinburgh shows an important development in how and when the city was constructed. Coinciding with the Enlightenment in the 18th century, the medieval city of the Old Town underwent an expansion, leading to the construction of the spacious Georgian New Town. The influence of the New Town project is seen throughout Europe, but Edinburgh remains the most dramatic and best-preserved example of this ground-breaking shift in urban planning.

Type of designation

UNESCO World Heritage Site

How long to stay

At least 2 days

What to do during your time

Things to do

Calton Hill

Head for a walk up Calton Hill, which is a great place to admire panoramic views out across this UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re an early bird and head up in the morning, the sunrises are pretty spectacular too. At the top you’ll be met by a variety of historic monuments, including the National Monument, Dugald Stewart Monument, Nelson's Monument, the Old Royal High School, Robert Burns Monument, Political Martyrs' Monument and also the City Observatory, which are all fascinating to learn more about.

Explore Calton Hill.

Royal Mile wynds and closes

The Royal Mile is a famous and historic street in the city centre which stretches over a mile (almost 2 km) through the heart of the city, from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. As you walk along you’ll notice many courts, closes and wynds off to the sides as well as historic buildings now filled with attractions, shops, places to eat and drink and private homes.

Look out for such gems as St Giles Cathedral, Mary King’s Close and the Museum of Edinburgh. Take a walking tour down the mile, a great way to hear more of the history.

Find out more about the Royal Mile.

Gladstone’s Land

Find out all about 17th century tenement living at Gladstone’s Land, an Old Town institution which recently reopened after a £1.5m restoration. The winding stone staircase, tiny windows and period decoration gives visitors a real taste of Edinburgh’s history.

Join one of the specialist tours to find out more about Old Town history, and visit the ground floor ice cream parlour and coffee shop, inspired by the rich trading history of the building.

Visit Gladstone’s Land.

Dean Village

Located just 10 minutes from Princes Street, Dean Village is a quaint but popular area near Edinburgh city centre. Spread across a gorge which is cut through by the Water of Leith, it is a pretty spot with Dutch-style gabled houses, romantic follies and even a castle inspired by the chateaus of France. At the heart of the village is Well Court, arguably the most iconic building in the village, built in the 1880s to house local workers who worked at the adjacent water mills. It’s home to independent shops, welcoming cafés and eateries, as well as detailed buildings and architecture, and a great family-friendly place to visit.

Visit Dean Village.

The Real Mary King’s Close

Up for a spooky trip back in time? The Real Mary King’s Close tells the darker tales of Edinburgh’s past with ghosts, myths and legends making an appearance in this haunted tour. Mary King’s Close was a real close in the Old Town and sits opposite St Giles’ Cathedral. Pay a visit to this close, frozen in time, and hear the tales and stories of the people who lived, worked and died here – and you never know, you may see a ghostly figure or two along the way!

Explore the Real Mary King’s Close.

George Street

This gorgeous central street runs parallel to Princes Street and offers high brand shopping alongside eateries and accommodation, all in stunning architecture. The street was deliberately created at the ridge of the hill, meaning you get stunning views over the north of the city and across the Firth of Forth to Fife every time you cross a junction.

Explore George Street.

Local tips

Did you know, some of the best sites in the city to experience Old Town architecture and design is at Gladstone’s Land, The Canongate Tolbooth and St Giles’ Cathedral?

Walks and ways to travel around

The best way to experience the true character of Edinburgh’s Old & New Towns is to travel around at your own pace, soaking in the historic atmosphere as you go. Most things in Edinburgh are within walking distance of each other, which is a great way to see even more of the city’s intricate design and innovative architecture.

More information

UNESCO designation

Edinburgh World Heritage

Visiting the area

Edinburgh Edinburgh iCentre

Food & Drink for Edinburgh

You won’t be stuck for choice for places to eat and drink in Edinburgh. With cafés, bars, and restaurants around every corner, there will be dishes and delicacies to suit all tastebuds.

Old Town

Wedgewood The Restaurant is located on the Canongate and offers up a range of quality dishes, alfresco dining, and fragrant wines to accompany your meal of choice.

Angels with Bagpipes is situated just off the Royal Mile and serves incredible concoctions made from fresh Scottish ingredients and produce. With its Old Town exterior and contemporary chic interior, it’s a hospitable experience to remember.

The Cellar Door Restaurant can be found on the George IV Bridge and is a hidden gem in the Old Town. Discover this modern Scottish restaurant which boasts a delectable seasonal menu of fresh Scottish produce that it sourced locally and sustainably.

New Town

The Perch Restaurant is a family-owned eatery situated on Hanover Street which serves up an à la carte evening menu, set lunch menu and weekend roast - all made using fresh, local ingredients.

Stop off for a warming brew at Lowdown Coffee on George Street. This quaint little café offers teas, coffees, cakes and more in a welcoming atmosphere – the perfect stop on your city expedition.

Tuck into traditional French cuisine at Café Marlayne on Thistle Street which offers a menu full of freshly prepared goodness using quality produce and ingredients.

Other options include:

Accommodation for Edinburgh

Staying in a central location for a city trip is a great way to experience the most of city culture and night life. From chic hotels and friendly B&Bs, to self-catering apartments and more, there’s plenty to choose from in the capital city.

Book in to Cheval The Edinburgh Grand for a city centre stay in luxury apartments in Charlotte Square.

Step into this boutique hotel and enjoy the stylish interior and design of each room. Tigerlily Hotel can be found on George Street and also offers the perfect setting for a meal out, afternoon tea or a few drinks at the weekend.

Literary lovers can also stay in Stevenson House, the former home of Robert Louis Stevenson in Edinburgh’s New Town, and now a cosy bed and breakfast.

Live it up in Edinburgh’s newest aparthotels inspired by poet Oscar Wilde. Wilde Aparthotels Edinburgh offer a charming stay in the city’s Grassmarket, situated just under Edinburgh Castle, and offers a great central location for all the amazing city things you have planned.

For something a little different, book a stay at Code Pod Hostels – The Court for a budget-friendly trip to Edinburgh. This unique former courthouse and jail has been transformed into the ideal city stay, with dozens of attractions and things to do on your doorstep.

Other options include:

  • The Place B&B – book one of the literary suites which celebrate Edinburgh’s UNESCO status.
  • Ten Hill Place – this hotel is run by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and all profits go directly to training new surgeons.
  • McCrae's Organic B&B – this family-run B&B strives to make a minimal impact on the environment helping guests to do the same.
  • Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel – this central hotel on Leith Walk is part of Hostelling Scotland, a not-for-profit charity.
The red Forth Bridge over the Firth of Forth against a blue sky

The Forth Bridge UNESCO World Heritage Site

Where to start

Head west of Edinburgh to Queensferry, on the banks of the Firth of Forth. This bustling coastal town is a great starting point for experiencing the Forth Bridge. It was once the main port for ferries over to North Queensferry in Fife, and is still home to boat tours which will take you under the bridges and to the Forth islands.

You can travel here from Edinburgh via train or bus – get off at Dalmeny train station, or take the Lothian Country bus 43 to reach Queensferry.

Towns to base yourself in

Why it’s special

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an icon of engineering and is revered around the world. Spanning the Firth of Forth, the immense railway bridge stands as a seminal moment in the history of engineering and still the world’s longest-ever cantilever bridge.

Completed in 1890, it took eight years of construction and 4,600 workers to create this incredible feat of engineering. One of the most ambitious projects of its kind ever undertaken, it remains an awe-inspiring sight 130 years on, and an enduring testament to human ingenuity.

Did you know that the bridge’s piers are made from granite from Aberdeenshire?

Did you know the trusses are made from over 50,000 tonnes of mild steel held together by over 6.5 million rivets?

Type of designation

UNESCO World Heritage Site

How long to stay

At least 2 days

What to do during your time

Things to do

Walk and cycle over the Forth Road Bridge

The Queensferry Crossing opened in 2017 and now carries general traffic, but the original Forth Road Bridge is still used by buses and taxis, and is open to pedestrians. It’s a great, scenic walk or cycle across the Firth of Forth thanks to the wide footpaths down the sides, giving magnificent views of the Forth Bridge, North Queensferry, and across the water, out to sea.

Explore the Forth Road Bridge.

Train ride to North Queensferry or Dalmeny

Take the train itself, over the Forth Bridge, for an alternative perspective. The bridge carries over 200 trains each day making it one of Scotland’s most vital transport links. As the bridge connects Edinburgh & The Lothians and Fife, there are plenty of places where you can hop on and off the train to uncover attractions and locations around the area too.

Hop on board a train journey.

Queensferry Museum

Showcasing the past and traditions of historic Queensferry and neighbouring Dalmeny, the museum boasts stunning views out onto the Firth of Forth and the Forth Bridge. Whether your interest is social history, folk traditions or civic engineering, there is a variety of stories to enjoy. The museum offers permanent displays as well as temporary exhibitions, curated by community groups.

Visit Queensferry Museum.

North Queensferry Harbour Light Tower

North Queensferry Harbour Light Tower offers a gorgeous view of Scotland’s most famous bridges over the Firth of Forth. But it is also one of the world’s smallest working light towers, built by Robert Stevenson in 1817. Check the opening hours to take a look inside.

Explore North Queensferry Harbour Light Tower.

Deep Sea World

Located beneath the world-famous Forth Bridge, Deep Sea World is Scotland’s national aquarium. Come face to face with sharks in one of the world’s longest underwater tunnels.

Visit Deep Sea World.

Maid of the Forth

This is just one of many boat tour operators which offers sightseeing trips which sail beneath all three bridges. Nothing beats gazing up with wonder at these amazing structures as you glide down the Firth of Forth.

Cruise with Maid of the Forth.

Food & Drink

A popular spot in Queensferry, Scotts Bar & Restaurant offers up a tasty menu full of simple, but delicious, dishes, accompanied by an incredible view over the marina and bridges - it’s a real sight to see.

Elsewhere in Queensferry, The Little Bakery is a cute wee café perfect for afternoon tea, cakes, fluffy pancakes, baked goods and more.

Or if you’d rather tuck into juicy meats and mouth-watering Canadian-style sandwiches and dishes, Down The Hatch at Port Edgar has got you covered.

Across the Firth in North Queensferry you can also enjoy the hospitality of Rankin’s Café or the Wee Restaurant.

Accommodation

Accommodation in Edinburgh is ideal if you are planning to visit the Forth Bridge. With many forms of accessible transport running frequently every day, it is easy to get to and from Queensferry, where there is a range of boutique accommodation. You can relax at Ravenous Beastie, sip a cocktail overlooking the Forth at Orocco Pier, or choose a royal room at the Queen’s B&B.

Over in Fife, check into the Doubletree Hilton in North Queensferry for some of the best views of the Forth Road Bridge and Queensferry Crossing.

Local Tips

Stay tuned for more information about a unique Forth Bridge Experience by Network Rail. Expected in 2023, you’ll be able to get up close to the structure with access to the top of the bridge.

Walks and ways to travel around

Both Queensferry and North Queensferry are easily accessible by train, bus, bicycle and car, with various links and stops from Edinburgh.

There is also a network of scenic foot and cycle paths on both sides of the Firth.

The full Fife Coastal Path runs for 117 miles, but there is a 17-mile section which runs on the north side between Limekilns and Burntisland – you can pass directly under the Forth Bridge onto Carlingnose Point Nature Reserve.

The Fife Pilgrim Way follows a medieval path across Fife for 64 miles, starting in North Queensferry. It follows the same route to Inverkeithing before continuing on to Dunfermline.

The John Muir Way runs over 134 miles in honour of the ‘father of national parks’ John Muir. One section runs from Linlithgow and then along the south coast of the Firth of Forth to Queensferry.

More information

UNESCO designation

Forth Bridge

Visiting the area

Edinburgh & The Lothians Fife Edinburgh iCentre
A couple park their bikes to take a break on a bench during a cycle through of the seaside town of South Queensferry, taking in the views of The Forth Bridges (Forth Bridge, The Forth Road Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing
The RRS Discovery sits at Discovery Point, lit up in red as the sun sets

Dundee UNESCO City of Design

Where to start

Located north and east of central Scotland, Dundee is a compact city that is bursting at the seams with things to see, do and explore. With a rich history and many innovative feats of creativity and design, the city is a true gem worthy of any travel list.

It is easily accessible by car, bus, train and even plane via Dundee Airport, which sees flights directly from London, or via Edinburgh Airport too.

Start in the city centre and take a walk down to the newly redeveloped waterfront area, home to some of the city’s many star attractions.

Why it’s special

Dundee was once best-known for its flourishing textile trade and shipbuilding industry which made it quite the economic powerhouse. Things have developed and moved on now, but this small and compact city continues to place innovation at its heart, making it a cutting-edge multidisciplinary design hub quite unlike any other.

Dundee is recognised by UNESCO as the UK’s first-ever City of Design, and continues to make great strides in fields as diverse as medical research, fashion, the gaming industry and tech space – even comic books.

What becomes clear when you visit Dundee, is how much history and innovation sit side by side now – from the V&A and RRS Discovery to WASPS Studio and Verdant Works. Design really is everywhere in this city.

Type of designation

UNESCO City of Design

How long to stay

At least 2 days

What to do during your time

Things to do

V&A Dundee

One of the newest additions to Dundee’s changing waterfront and the first V&A museum in the world outside of London, this attraction opened its doors to the public in 2018 and boasts a collection of art, design, creativity and more.

The building itself is an impressive sight to see! Designed by architect Kengo Kuma, the bold architecture of the V&A Dundee aims to blend into the waterfront, emulating the coastal crags and clifftops of the east coast of Scotland.

Explore the V&A Dundee.

NEoN Digital Arts Festival

Dundee’s NEoN Digital Arts Festival aims to showcase the understanding and accessibility of digital and technology-driven art forms. The festival has seen exhibitions, workshops, talks, conferences, live performances and public discussions, and by bringing together emerging talent and well-established artists, the hope is to influence and reshape the genre.

Find out more about NEoN Digital Arts Festival.

Open/Close Dundee

When you visit Dundee you will notice a street art mural or two. Across the city you can find magnificent pieces of art painted and sprayed onto walls and the sides of buildings. This initiative promotes the creative talent of up and coming artists but also brings life to the streets of Dundee. Follow the City Centre Trail or Stobswell Trail with Open/Close Dundee which will take you around the city to find these creative murals.

Explore Open/Close Dundee.

Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre

Make a trip to Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre where you’ll be met by a wealth of creative outlets. From galleries, a cinema and print studio to creative spaces, shops and the Jute Bar Café, there is a whole range of things to see, do and experience here.

Visit Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre.

Dundee Women’s Trail

Dundee owes much of its history to brilliant women. From the female textile workers who laboured in the mills making Dundee the jute-making capital of the world to figures like Mary Ann Baxter, co-founder what became the University of Dundee and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, learn more about these remarkable women on this self-guided walking trail.

Follow the Dundee Women’s Trail.

The McManus

The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum is housed within a splendid Gothic revival-style building in the very heart of the city. It boasts eight galleries crammed full of exhibits about the history of Dundee, as well as fine art and world cultures.

Visit the McManus.

Dundee Transport Museum

Dundee Museum of Transport is a great day out for the little ones, featuring a wide range of classic and modern modes of transport that have been used throughout the years.

Hear stories of the city’s old tram network, its railway and maritime history and even get up close to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Explore the Dundee Museum of Transport.

Food & Drink

If you’re feeling peckish, Dundee’s food and drink scene won’t disappoint.

Head to Bird and Bear, a creative cocktail bar, which boasts a unique interior and design. Offering up the highest quality drinks, delicious food, and an atmospheric street beer garden, it’s the perfect place for brunch, cocktails and evening meals.

Enjoy food with a view at the Bridgeview Station Restaurant. Perched on Dundee’s waterfront and set in a memorable Victorian station, this restaurant serves up Scottish dishes made with only the best local seasonal produce.

If your tastebuds are tingling for something different, why not try a Lebanese dish or two? Tahini offers up an exotic menu filled with tasty creations that you may have never tried before.

Accommodation

Dundee boasts a variety of accommodation options to suit everyone from cosy B&Bs and stylish hotels to self-catering stays and more.

The Best Western Dundee Invercarse Hotel is a lovely 3-star hotel. It’s set in wooded surroundings with picturesque views over the River Tay, welcoming rooms, friendly staff, an on-site restaurant and more.

Located just outside Dundee in Forfar, escape from the city with a stay on a farm in the countryside. Newton Farm Holidays provides the ideal getaway for those looking for a city break but want a peaceful place to cosy in at night. With friendly farm animals as your neighbours and the choice between a 4-star B&B and a 4-star self-catering cottage, it’s a unique stay you’ll love!

Local tips

As you wander around the city you may come across a few familiar faces. Comic book graphic design has been part of Dundee’s cultural fabric for decades, so statues dedicated to favourite characters, including Oor Wullie, Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan, can be spotted across the city.

When you’re down exploring Dundee’s Waterfront, the V&A Dundee and RRS Discovery, look out for the new urban beach. There’s a travel hub, interactive play area, life-sized whale sculpture and seating so you can enjoy the surrounding architecture and view out over the Tay.

Walks and ways to travel around

Dundee city is compact and is easily walkable, allowing you to soak in all the creative architecture on your travels. Outwith Dundee, there is glorious countryside to explore in Angus, with many walks and trails if you fancy getting out and exploring city for a day.

More information

UNESCO designation

City of Design Dundee

Visiting the area

Dundee Dundee iCentre

Where next on the UNESCO Trail?

Explore South Scotland's UNESCO Site

Travel easily to the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere. Why not begin your trip at one of the biosphere communities where you’ll be given a warm welcome and information to help you explore?

View Journey

Explore the UNESCO Site in the Outer Hebrides

Head over to the Outer Hebrides to learn more about St Kilda, a dual UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's a very special and hard to access place, but there's plenty you can learn while on the larger Hebridean islands.

View Journey