I've still not tried haggis or black pudding (not really top of my 'to do list'), a deep fried Mars Bar or Irn Bru. I've not been for a night out in Glasgow, or to the Highland Games or any of the Isles in the North. There are many weird cultural things I'm yet to experience, but there are many things I have done that I think should be on any tourist's 'To Do' list.
1. Loony Dook
The first New Year I had in Edinburgh, I dragged myself out of bed on New Year's Day and made the trek to Queensferry to watch a bunch of totally insane Scots in fancy dress jump into the River Forth. Apparently nothing says 'Happy New Year' like the thrill of catching hypothermia. It's an entertaining spectacle, mostly thanks to the completely outrageous fancy dress costumes and the shocked faces of the participants when they immerse themselves in the freezing water. It kind of leaves you wondering if maybe it's their version of a hangover cure.
2. Edinburgh Castle
I don't care how cliche you think it is, no 'To Do' list for Edinburgh would ever be complete without taking a moment to enjoy the spectacle that is Edinburgh Castle. It's unmissable, and yet a surprising number of tourists stand right below it and still ask where it is. St Margaret's Chapel, within the Castle grounds is the oldest building in Edinburgh and just a little bit romantic. Make sure you take the opportunity to view it from all sides, I do all the time and my mind still boggles at how beautiful it is.
3. Calton Hill
If you're here during the busy festival months and feel like you need a bit of fresh air and peace and quiet, then I recommend Calton Hill. When I first came to Edinburgh, there was a cat that sunned itself on the hill and was more than happy to make friends with the tourists. My sister and I had christened him Chester. The views from Calton Hill on a clear day are pretty amazing. You can see all the way to the River Forth, and on the opposite side of the hill you can see all of Edinburgh's icons. The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Princes Street, Edinburgh Castle and Arthur's Seat are all on display. Calton Hill also has a rather large half-built but long since forgotten about version of the Acropolis.
If you're fit enough (and mad enough) to attempt to make it to the top of Arthur's Seat, then it's worth the visit. It's like being in the Highlands but with the distant hum of traffic to keep the city slickers happy. You can choose to go the long way and follow the path like a civilized person, or you can go cross country and head straight to the top. I have a friend who once trekked the cross country path (I use the term 'path' very loosely here) in high heel wedges, which deserves a round of applause if you ask me.
5. Royal Botanic Garden
Continuing with the nature theme, I highly recommend the Botanic Gardens. It took me three years to get around to discovering this gem, but since my first visit I've been back multiple times. My favourite spot is the Queen Mother's Memorial Garden, mostly because it has the most amazing little gazebo. The walls of the gazebo are decorated with sea shells and the ceiling has a Saltire made out of pine cones. Basically it's like something out of a children's novel and I desperately want one in my own house.
6. Dynamic Earth
Now be warned, I'm about to go all nerdy. Dynamic Earth is awesome. Firstly because it's like being Doctor Who (only way less hazardous), but mostly because they have a new Dome show that is narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch. For a brief 20 minutes you can watch a show about how the Earth was formed while being serenaded with the sound of Mr Cumberbatch's voice. I'd go back multiple times for that alone, but if you're interested in the rest of it then you can also touch an iceberg, and go to a cool interactive 3D show to explore how the Earth was formed. I'm not doing this place the justice it deserves, you just need to go for yourself.
Edinburgh has many more amazing places to visit while you're here. If you have a location that you think should be at the top of anyone's To Do list, get in touch and let me know.