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holiday HOT SPOTS: An Ed for heights; THE PERFECT PAINKILLER.

Byline: By KEN BENNETT

EDINBURGH, Athens of the North, is a glittering sight with pink-stoned buildings climbing to the sky - architectural gems competing with designer dwellings to baffle the senses.

From an imposing rock, the Castle surveys the city. And nestling at its edge is the Point Hotel, another jewel in the city's well-encrusted crown.

The views from our room at this award-winning designer hotel - one of the world's top 50 of its kind - were amazing.

It has a modern feel, not least because of an art exhibition featuring students' work on every floor that makes the whole place seem ahead of its time.

Its location is perfect for a weekend break. It's just a ten minute walk to the castle and is on the fringe of that shoppers' paradise Princes Street and the theatres of Lothian Road.

Like Rome, Edinburgh has seven hills and an underground warren of spooky vaults. We explored them on a Mercat Tours walk. Mary, our guide, terrified us with tales of murder and ghosts. Typical was the story of Burke and Hare, the notorious grave robbers who stored their corpses down there.

The Old Town was once a maze of closes and small all eyways, that flowed down through the buildings to the valley below. Only 66 remain.

Each has a name and offers a glance back in time. Peer down them as you wander the Royal Mile, along the George IV Bridge and past the poignant statue of Grey friars Bobby, the loyal Skye terrier, who, for 12 years, did not leave his master's grave until he died himself.

Canter down Candle maker Row into Grassmarket, once a place for public hangings, now more famous for its trendy bars and restaurants.

Exclusive shops next to dodgy looking drinking dens make it Soho Lite. James Young Simpson, who first used an aesthetics in medicine, was from Edinburgh and the city still specialises in softening pain.

Try one of the hundreds of whiskies or the local Hendricks Gin, infused with cucumber and juniper.

Don't miss a Saturday morning visit to the Farmers' Market. Fifty stalls sell everything from organic smoked trout to buffalo burgers, Steve Mitchell, of Puddledub Buffalo (www.puddledubbuffalo.co.uk) even sells them by mail order.

Continue your stroll down Lothian Road to Princes Street and Waverley Bridge, where you can pick up a sightseeing bus. Hop on and off as often as you like.

For must-see panoramic views climb to the top of the Camera Obscura near the Castle Esplanade.

The hundreds of chimney pots you'll see gave rise to the nickname "Auld Reekie" for this once smoky city. This really is a place where you will need an Ed for heights.

FACTFILE: Ken Bennett stayed at The Point Hotel, 34 Bread Street (0131 221 5555, www.point-hotel.co.uk).

Buy an Edinburgh Pass for free access to most attractions. Details and city break info: www.visitscotland.com/citybreaks. Bus tours depart regularly from Waverley Bridge and start at pounds 8.50 (concessions available) 0131 220 0770. Mercat Tours walks details: 0131 225 5445, www.mercattours.com

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STUNNING: The Point Hotel' MAJESTIC: Edinburgh Castle
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Dec 17, 2006
Words:525
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