The British have long believed that the hard-working and thrifty Scots are more devoted to business than the arts, but a tour around Edinburgh's art galleries proves otherwise. For the art lover, Edinburgh offers a number of masterpieces, and if you're an art lover, you can justify a visit to this beautiful city just to take in its galleries. Roughly 14 kilometres west of the airport, Edinburgh is easily accessible once you've cleared customs. If you've packed light and landed early, why not take a taxi directly to a gallery to kick off your break with an early cultural fix. To get an idea on the range of transport options available, you can find useful information on arriving at Edinburgh airport from Flybe here.
The city's principal museum is the National Gallery of Scotland, which contains one of Europe's most distinguished smaller collections of art in an imposing classical-style building situated on The Mound in the center of Princes Street Gardens. Compared to other national galleries of Europe, it's small, but its collection came about with great care and has been expanded considerably by bequests and loans. A few paintings are of exceptional merit.
Though the Spanish masters are less well represented here, they shine in El Greco's "Saviour," Velazquez's "Old Woman Cooking Eggs" and "Immaculate Conception" by Zurbaran, his friend and contemporary. The Flemish School emerges notably in Rubens's "The Feast of Herod" and the Dutch in Rembrandt's "A Women in Bed." Titian's "The Three Ages of Man" is also one of the highlights.
Among the paintings on loan to the gallery are two Raphaels — "The Holy Family with a Palm Tree" and "The Bridgewater Madonna." Also on loan are "The Seven Sacraments," a series of paintings by 17th-century French painter Nicholas Poussin. The most valuable gift to the gallery since its foundation, the Maitland Collection, includes Cezanne's "Mont St. Victoire," as well as works by Degas, Van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin and Seurat, among others.
You'll also see works by great English artists — Gainsborough's "The Honorable Mrs. Graham," Constable's "Dedham Vale," along with works by Turner, Reynolds, and Hogarth. Naturally, the work of Scottish painters decks the walls, with none finer than Henry Raeburn, at his best in the whimsical "The Rev. Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch."
Edinburgh also houses the only museum collection in Britain solely of 20th-century art in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Set in an imposing, neo-classical building on Belford Road, its galleries contain works by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Leger, Rouault, Derain, Miro, Magritte, Kirchner, Nolde, Kokoschka, Giacometti, Arp, Schwitters, Popova, and many other major creators of 20th century art, with a fine representation of English and, particularly, Scottish modern art. Major modern sculptures by Bourdelle, Epstein, Marini, Moore, Hepworth, Reg Butler, and William Turnbull, and a sundial by Ian Hamilton Finlay are displayed both indoors and out.
The National Museum of Antiquities and National Portrait Gallery are both housed in the same building on Queen Street near St. Andrew Square. The Antiquities Museum displays the artifacts of Scotland's past — ;Bronze Age gold, Viking weapons, Roman silver and mosaics, the famous "Monymust" Reliquary, jewelry and other relics of Mary Queen of Scots, and even modern exhibits of Scotland's female golfers. The National Portrait Gallery displays paintings of great Scots, from the 16th century to present-day times, including Mary Queen of Scots, James VI, Sir Walter Scott, and Ramsay Macdonald.
The crown in Edinburgh's cultural offerings belongs to the Royal Scottish Museum on Chambers Street. This huge building with a Renaissance facade combines exhibits in natural history, art, and science, rarely found together under one roof. You'll find everything from early steam locomotives, like Stephenson's Rocket, to whale skeletons, stuffed gorillas, models of ships and lighthouses, Egyptian antiques, Gothic sculptures, African, Pacific and North American art, dinosaur footprints, and working models of machines operated by push-button controls.
If you can tear yourself away from all the Scottish history in Edinburgh, you'll find quite a profusion of culture — far beyond what the British may imagine.
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