One good way to get oriented in Edinburgh is to take a bus tour. If you want to get to know the area around Edinburgh, Rabbie’s Trail Burners leads small groups on several different excursions.
Edinburgh Bus Tours. The company's highly popular Mac Tours are conducted in vintage open-top vehicles to the city's main attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Palace of Holyroodhouse, and museums and galleries. Buses depart from Waverley Bridge, and are hop-on/hop-off services, with tickets lasting 24 hours. 0131/220–0770; www.edinburghtour.com. From £14.
Lothian Buses. The 60-minute Majestic Tour, in an open-top bus, operates with a professional guide and takes you from Waverley Bridge to the New Town, past Charlotte Square, the Royal Botanic Garden, and Newhaven Heritage Museum until it reaches the royal yacht, Britannia, moored at Leith. Tickets are available from ticket sellers on Waverley Bridge or on the buses themselves. Waverley Bridge, Old Town, Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH1 1BQ. 0131/554–4494; www.lothianbuses.com. From £14.
Rabbie's Trail Burners. Strike out farther afield on day trips run by this cheerful Edinburgh company. You can get a surprisingly long way and back in a few hours on one of their minibuses—options include Loch Ness and Glencoe, Loch Lomond National Park, Rosslyn Chapel and the borderlands, and a Highland whisky tour. Groups are kept to a guaranteed maximum of 16, giving these a less impersonal feel than some of the big enterprises. Book online for a discount. 207 High St., Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH1 1PE. 0131/226–3133; www.rabbies.com. From £31.
Scottish Tourist Guides. This organization can supply guides (in 19 languages) who are fully qualified and will meet clients at any point of entry into the United Kingdom or Scotland. They can also tailor tours to your interests. 01786/451953; www.stga.co.uk. From £120.
Cadies and Witchery Tours. Spooky tours tracing the steps of Edinburgh's ghouls, gore, and mysteries commence outside the Witchery Restaurant at 352 Castlehill. The Cadies and Witchery Tours, a member of the Scottish Tourist Guides Association, has built a reputation for combining entertainment and historical accuracy in its lively and enthusiastic Ghosts & Gore Tour and Murder & Mystery Tour, which take you through the narrow Old Town alleyways and closes. Costumed guides and other theatrical characters show up en route. Edinburgh, Edinburgh. 0131/225–6745; www.witcherytours.com. From £9.
Scottish Literary Pub Tours. Professional actors invoke Scottish literary characters while taking you around some of the city's most hallowed watering holes on these lively and informative tours. The experience is led by "Clart and McBrain," self-styled "bohemian and intellectual," who regale you with tales of the literary past of Edinburgh's Old and New Towns. The experience is so witty and fun that you might even forget you're learning something along the way. Tours run daily in summer, Thursday to Sunday in fall and spring, and Friday only in winter. 18–20 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH2 3BN. 0800/169–7410; www.edinburghliterarypubtour.co.uk. £14.