GETTING THERE: Edinburgh is about 400 miles north of London and can be reached by air in just over an hour from either Heathrow or Gatwick airport. British Caledonian flies from Gatwick and British Airways and British Midland Airways from Heathrow. The basic one-way economy fare is about $100, while a round-trip excursion, with restrictions, costs $108.
More highly recommended, however, is the rail journey on the fast, efficient Inter-City 125 service from London's King's Cross Station. It takes about five hours, but the scenery is frequently splendid, particularly the last leg from Newcastle onwards, and it deposits you at Waverley Station at the very foot of Edinburgh Castle. Few rail journeys anywhere end with a more invigorating view. The basic railway fare from London is $68 one way, but ask British Rail about the special money-saving round-trip fares they sometimes offer. There also is bus service from King's Cross in London, which takes about nine hours. GETTING AROUND: Buses are frequent and taxis are cheap by both American and London standards -- but the city is so compact that most places are an easy stroll away anyway. WHERE TO STAY: There are about 200 hotels and guest houses in the city, covering every range of quality and price. Probably the best hotel in town is the Caledonian on Princes Street, where a single room in the summer ranges from about $70 to $107 a night. At the other end of the scale a single room in a small guest house like the nearby Orion at 33 Minto St. is about $18. The going rate at small family-run hotels is about $30 a night. WHERE TO EAT: Edinburghers like to think they have the best restaurants in Britain, and they could well be right. Certainly eating here can be a more adventurous and cosmopolitan experience than almost anywhere else in Britain. For elegance, try the Cafe' Royal Oyster Bar on West Register Street. It specializes in seafood and is expensive but unfailingly excellent. Cheaper and more informal is Folie Douce at 45 Lothian St., the Creperie Francaise at 8A Grindlay St. and Vito's at 55A Frederick St. For vegetarian food, Henderson's Salad Table at 94 Hanover St. is both cheap and famous. PUBS: There are about as many pubs in Edinburgh as there are types of Scotch whiskey -- in other words, hundreds. Among the more agreeable and atmospheric are the Abbotsford at 3 Rose St. and the Kenilworth at 152-154 Rose St. in the New Town, and Deacon Brodie's Tavern at 435 Lawmarket in the Old Town. INFORMATION: The Tourist Information Center is in the new Waverley Market, on Princes Street, phone 557-2727 (if calling from outside Edinburgh, dial 031 first). In addition to the usual panoply of maps, pamphlets and advice, the center offers a full list of places to stay and a helpful accommodation service. It also runs a bank where you can exchange money or cash traveler's checks.
Until Aug. 31, the center is open Monday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. After Sept. 1 the hours are shorter, but the center is always open at least during normal office hours year-round.