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It's virtually Edinburgh...

You can experience the Scottish capital's highlights despite the lockdown, writes Mike MacEacheran

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Arthur's seat

Arthur's seat

Mountain view point over Edinburgh city.

Mountain view point over Edinburgh city.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Arthur's seat

Weather can be a bummer in Edinburgh. The so-called "Windy City" can huff and puff and blow your brolly inside out, and even on the sunniest afternoon there's a routine shower waiting in ambush.

A trip to the Scottish capital, it's fair to say, is often characterised by cumulonimbus rolling in. Here, weather retains a certain independence of mind.

It's not the same, of course, but if the coronavirus lockdown has got you down, consider a virtual tour of the city instead.

You'll brighten your days at home, feel inspired to visit once life returns to something like normal and be able to do it all without getting wet once. Because for a while, at least, this is your ultimate Edinburgh "day out".

WHAT TO DO

First, you'll want to see the big sights, albeit virtually. On the plus side there are no queues to buy a ticket and you don't need to elbow past others to chew over the exhibits. Little perks, but silver linings all the same.

Time travel at Edinburgh Castle

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Mountain view point over Edinburgh city.

Mountain view point over Edinburgh city.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Mountain view point over Edinburgh city.


Google Arts & Culture does the best job of showcasing the city's landmark castle on its virtual tour, taking you on an interactive walkabout from Castle Rock into the inner courtyards of the Royal Palace, the Great Hall and St Margaret's Chapel, Edinburgh's oldest building.

Not to be outdone, Visit Scotland has an augmented reality app Portal AP, which lets you step into the castle too.

Discover Royal Yacht Britannia

First impressions can be poor at the former royal yacht of Her Majesty the Queen.

The boat, in service from 1954 until 1997, promises five levels of state rooms and is a sweet reminder of the days when the royals took to sea. But it's located outside Ocean Terminal, an ugly shopping mall surrounded by dockyards and the Port of Leith. Not that you'll see any of that online - out of context, the yacht brims with razzmatazz and a virtual snoop around feels likes walking into an episode of The Crown (just without all the Princess Margaret sex scenes). There are plenty of DIY tours on YouTube, but the most insightful experience is to watch Secrets of the Royal Yachts, available to stream on Sky.

Hike Arthur's Seat

Fancy a virtual ramble up Edinburgh's extinct volcano? There's nothing fancy about Visit Scotland's tour of the 251m crag, but it's weirdly revelatory - and instead of taking you up to an hour, it fast-tracks you to the top in a matter of minutes.

Meet Edinburgh Zoo's residents

So laudably conservation-minded is this zoo that it was the world's first to house and breed penguins. One of whom, Sir Nils Olav, is so important he's the colonel-in-chief of the Norwegian King's Guard. Unlike elsewhere in the UK, there are also koalas and pandas, both of which can be seen on live video feeds (edinburghzoo.org.uk/webcams) of the enclosures. The safari-style webcams also capture the tigers and rockhoppers, with plenty of tail-twitching magic at play. It's safari, but not as you know it.

Let Edinburgh entertain you

Intimate yet unforgettable, The Stand has built a formidable reputation for more than 25 years. The comedy club has given a foot up to the likes of Kevin Bridges and Frankie Boyle, and is now lauded as one of the best laughter factories in the world.

You can't come to it right now, but the show can come to you, because the venue is streaming live shows every Saturday on its website (the first of which attracted more than 100,000 online viewers). Expect heavyweights like Mark Watson, Mark Nelson and Omid Djalili.

LOCAL FLAVOURS

The recipe books of curly-haired enthusiast Tom Kitchin offer a masterclass in Scottish cookery. In particular, Kitchin Suppers (Quadrille Publishing, £20) is a tour of his Edinburgh kitchen, showcasing the one-pan wonders he cooks for his family. Traditionally, for example, his smoked salmon frittata comes loaded with cheddar and dill (his Swedish wife Michaela's influence, no doubt).

You'll have plenty of time on your hands, so another recommended all-rounder is Visit Scotland's ebook The Scottish Recipe Collection (ebooks.visitscotland.com/recipes). Cue tummy-tingling dishes from the likes of Mark Greenaway and Tony Singh.

SETTING THE SCENE

To better understand Edinburgh, switch on your stereo and TV.

This is the city of the Bay City Rollers, Idlewild and Young Fathers, as well as the defunct The Rezillos, The Fire Engines and Josef K. All of whom have a story worth telling.

Two essential songs to stream while dreaming of Leith are Streets of Edinburgh and Sunshine on Leith by The Proclaimers. Like the band itself, both are inherently celebratory yet maudlin.

If you want to get geeky, you can trawl through a collection of movies filmed here. From Avengers: Endgame to Chariots of Fire to Mary Queen of Scots to Sunshine on Leith, all brim with local personality. The mood might take you to Danny Boyle's classic Trainspotting, but the 2017 sequel captures the capital in a far more dazzling light.

Turns out, there's something more spirit-lifting than all of that. The Illusionist, from Oscar-nominated, Edinburgh-based animator Sylvain Chomet, is the ultimate sustained love letter to the city and is eminently watchable. Spot The Cameo cinema and Arthur's Seat, as well as pastel-splattered Broughton Street, Princes Street, Jenners department store and the New Town.

BRING IT HOME

The age of ordering products from our favourite cities is upon us - so go with it.

Start with a tote or clutch from Melville Street-based Strathberry (Meghan Markle's a fan). Order a bottle of Edinburgh Gin (edinburghgin.com), or join its weekly movie nights (Wednesday, 8pm). How about sodding the stuck-at-home diet by building a box of tablet and fudge from The Fudge Kitchen website? Locals swear by the slabs of sea salted caramel and maple walnut.

Queen Victoria once commented that Edinburgh is "fairy-like and what you would only imagine as a thing to dream of, or to see in a picture." That sentence, read at home while living under lockdown, now really takes on a whole new meaning.

Belfast Telegraph