4 days in Edinburgh: the perfect Itinerary (first time visit)


How to spend 4 Days in Edinburgh: The Best Itinerary + Where to Stay

You’re planning to spend 4 days in Edinburgh and you’re looking for the best things to do?

You’re at the right place!

In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared for you this 4-day itinerary in Edinburgh. 

During your trip, you will discover all must-see attractions of the city such as the Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyrood, the Royal Mile and a lot more!

In addition to the best places to visit and activities for each stage of your itinerary, I will also give you all my best tips and accommodation suggestions depending on your budget.

So, what are the best places to visit in Edinburgh in 4 days? Where to stay?

How to avoid waiting in line (and save a lot of time!) at Edinburgh’s tourist attractions

Since Edinburgh is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, it’s really useful to know how to avoid queuing for hours to see the iconic landmarks of Scotland‘s capital.

Every day, thousands of visitors flock to the Edinburgh Castle or Holyrood Palace.

You probably agree that there’s nothing more irritating than seeing your plans for your 4 days in Edinburgh shattered because you lost hours waiting around!

Fortunately, there are 2 simple solutions to avoid the inconvenience and not miss any of the must-see sites during your 4 days in Edinburgh.

Here are the details:

1. The Royal Edinburgh Ticket

To save as much time (and money!) as possible during your 4-day itinerary in Edinburgh, the first option is to buy the Royal Edinburgh Ticket.

This type of city pass exists for all the most touristic cities around the word.

The pass will give you direct access to 3 of the most famous sites without having to queue to get your tickets first.

What’s included in the Royal Edinburgh ticket:

  • Fast track ticket to the Edinburgh Castle
  • Priority entrance to Holyrood Palace
  • Skip-the-line ticket for the Royal Yacht Britannia
  • 48 hours of unlimited travel on the 3 hop-on hop-off bus lines: very convenient to discover Edinburgh without hassle, especially if you’ve decided to visit Edinburgh with your kids or don’t want to walk too much.

After booking your Edinburgh Ticket (using the green button below), you’ll receive a confirmation voucher by email.

You will need to redeem your Royal Edinburgh Ticket at the ticket office located on St Andrew Square (the exact address will be specified in the email).

To buy your Royal Edinburgh Ticket, you simply need to click on the button below:

2. Fast track tickets for Edinburgh’s best tourist attractions

To visit Edinburgh in 4 days, you can also buy skip the line tickets individually.

Just like the Royal Edinburgh ticket, they will allow you to access the monuments and tourist attractions without queuing.

There’s a long list of fast track tickets available for the main historic landmarks and activities you can do in Edinburgh during your 4-day trip.

For your convenience, I have listed a few of them below. You’ll also find them mentioned throughout this article.

To book, simply click on the attractions names (in orange) or on the green buttons you will find in this guide.

4 Days in Edinburgh: All Must-See attractions

Voyage Tips - Advice

You can find all the available entrance tickets, guided tours and activities in Edinburgh by clicking here: Book your tickets and guided tours in Edinburgh.

If you’re planning to visit the castle, the palace, and the Royal Yacht, I really recommend you get the Royal Edinburgh Ticket, as it will allow you to save time and money. You can then complement it with other skip-the-line tickets and guided tours depending on your tastes.

It’s definitely the best way to make the most of your stay!

One Last Tip for a Perfect 4-Day Stay in Edinburgh

If you already know your travel dates (or as soon as you will have them!), you should really book your accommodation.

As Edinburgh is one the most touristic city in Scotland, the hotels offering the best value for money are often fully booked months in advance.

As a seasoned traveler, I can assure you that it’s always by planning as far in advance as possible that I’ve found the best hotels or apartments deals.

You agree that it would be a shame to somewhat ruin your stay in Edinburgh by ending up in a not-so-great hotel that costed you a fortune, right? 😅

So your best bet is to take 5 minutes now to have a look at traveler’s favorite hotels in Edinburgh.

And if you like one of the hotels you find, book it!

It’s fast, it’s easy and most accommodation offer free cancellation. That’s the best way to protect yourself from the inconvenience of finding nothing but mediocre rooms at exorbitant prices.

To check the best hotels deals in Edinburgh, simply click on the green button below:

After securing your dream stay, it’s time to continue reading this guide!

4 Days in Edinburgh: the ultimate itinerary

It’s now time to plan your 4-day itinerary in Edinburgh!

For each day of your stay, I will give you all the details you need to organize your visits, as well as a map showing the attractions of the day.

I assume that you’ll be spending 4 full days in Edinburgh and that you’ve already purchased your Royal Edinburgh Ticket or skip-the-line tickets

This way, you won’t waste time waiting in line to buy tickets and will be able to see as many places as possible during your 4-day stay.

And if you have any questions once you’ve read this article or just need help planning your holiday, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments section located at the end of this guide.

So, what should you see during your 4 days in Edinburgh?

First day – The historic centre of Edinburgh

Visit Edinburgh in 3 Days Day 1
4 days itinerary in Edinburgh – Day 1

Day 1 tourist attractions:

A. Edinburgh Castle
B. The Royal Mile
C. The Palace of Holyroodhouse
D. Arthur’s Seat
E. Grassmarket 
F. Greyfriars Kirkyard or Ghost tour

A. Edinburgh Castle

The best way to start your 4 days in Edinburgh is for sure to go admire the city’s most iconic landmark.

So first, let’s head to the beautiful Edinburgh Castle, the historic fortress that dominates the city.

You can reach the castle by walking along the Royal Mile avenue or by using the Hop-On Hop-Off bus. It’s a great option if you have the Royal Edinburgh Ticket, as it allows you to ride for free.

Given your itinerary for the day, you should get to the castle at the opening. 

This castle is not only a symbol of Scotland, but also a key to understanding the nation’s turbulent past as it has been a royal residence, a military stronghold, and even a prison.

You should allocate at least 2-3 hours for exploring the castle’s museum, war memorials, the Royal Apartments and St. Margaret’s Chapel.

You can also admire the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny, used in the coronation of Scottish monarchs for centuries.

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you’re visiting the castle during your 4 days in Edinburgh, you really need to buy your fast track ticket if you want to avoid queuing for 2 hours at the entrance!

If you’ve bought the Royal Edinburgh ticket, entrance is included.

Otherwise, you’ll need to buy a fast track ticket by clicking on the button below:

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle – you can’t miss it during your 4 days in Edinburgh!

B. The Royal Mile

Next, stroll down The Royal Mile, the Old Town’s main street that stretches from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace (the next visit on your itinerary).

It’s a treasure trove of history, lined with medieval buildings, typical narrow alleys, and small shops.

Here are the must-see places to see when you pass by:

  • Milne’s Court: A picturesque courtyard that offers a glimpse into medieval Edinburgh
  • Canongate Kirk: A beautiful small church
  • Dunbar’s Close Garden: A peaceful sanctuary, perfect for a quiet break
  • The Scottish Parliament House: A very unusual postmodern building constrasting with the ancient city
  • White Horse Close: A historic close, with a charming courtyard.

Saint Giles’Cathedral is also located on the Royal Mile, but you should keep this visit for the third day of your itinerary, when you will have more time to explore this famous street!

For now, simply stroll to the end of the avenue, where your next destination awaits: Holyrood Palace.

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you prefer not to walk from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood, you should take the Hop-on Hop-off bus, as it’s included in your Royal Edinburgh ticket.

Alternatively, you can purchase 24-hour tickets by clicking the button below:

Royal Mile
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile Avenue

C. Holyrood Palace

After walking throught The Royal Mile, your next stop is The Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.

This royal residence is another historic landmark you must see during your 4 days in Edinburgh!

You should know that the palace was founded as a monastery in 1128 and has served as the main residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century.

Inside the palace, you’ll find richly decorated apartments, which are used by kings and queens for state ceremonies and official entertaining.

Don’t miss the Historic Apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots, where you can see the bedchamber and audience room where the brutal murder of David Rizzio, her secretary, took place.

Additionally, the palace houses an impressive collection of tapestries and paintings, offering a glimpse into the royal lifestyle.

The Royal Edinburgh Ticket grants you priority access to Holyrood Palace.

If you don’t have the city pass, you need to purchase your ticket by clicking here:

Holyrood Palace Edinburgh
Holyrood Palace, a must-see during your 4-day visit to Edinburgh

D. Arthur’s Seat

Continue your 4-day trip to Edinburgh by heading to Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano and Edinburgh’s highest hill.

From up there, you will get a beautiful panoramic view of the city!

Plan about 2 hours round trip to for this moderately difficult hike.

Arthur's Seat
Arthur’s Seat and its amazing view over Edinburgh

E. Grassmarket 

As evening falls, let’s continue your 4-day itinerary in Edinburgh by heading to the Cowgate and Grassmarket area for dinner.

This area is known for its lively atmosphere and numerous dining options.

If you feel adventurous, you should try some traditional Scottish dishes like haggis, neeps and tatties, or Cullen Skink. Else, there are many restaurants offering international cuisines in the area, so you will for sure find something that suits your tastes!

Grassmarket historic district is also the perfect place for an evening stroll or to enjoy a drink in one of the pubs.

F. Ghost tour or Greyfriars Kirkyard

For a unique evening, you should join a ghost tour, it’s the best way to discover Edinburgh’s haunted history!

You can choose from several tours, some of which take you through the old town’s dark alleys and underground vaults.

To book or for more information, simply click on the orange links below: 

These tours not only offer a glimpse into the city’s spooky history but also provide a unique way to see Edinburgh after dark.

But for me the best one is the famous Greyfriars Kirkyard’s tour.

This graveyard is know as the world’s most haunted cemetery!

Guided tours of the cemetery are offered every evening and last around 1.5 hours, and you will get your dose of ghost stories and anecdotes!

As a bonus, your guide will also take you to Edinburgh’s haunted underground vaults.

You can choose to do the tours at 6PM or at 8PM, and you need to book your spot well in advance by clicking on the button below:

Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard – A haunted evening in Edinburgh

2nd day: Things to do and see in Edinburgh?

visiting Edinburgh in 3 days Day 2
Itinerary: 4 days in Edinburgh – Day 2

Day 2 tourist attractions:

A. The Royal Yacht Britannia
B. Calton Hill
C. Princes Street
D. Princes Street Gardens and the Scott Monument
E. The Scottish National Gallery
F. Charlotte Square

A. The Royal Yacht Britannia

 If you have the chance to spend 4 days in Edinburgh, you should really go see the Royal Yacht Britannia, located in Edinburgh’s historic port of Leith.

The former royal yacht of the British monarchy is now permanently moored in Edinburgh as a fascinating museum!

For over 40 years, the yacht served as a floating royal residence, hosting some of the most famous people in the world.

During your visit, you’ll get a glimpse into the life of the British Royal Family and the crew and you will discover:

  • The State Apartments
  • The Sun Lounge
  • The Crew’s quarters
  • The Engine Room
  • The Royal Deck Tea Room, the perfect spot to enjoy a cup of tea or a light lunch with waterfront views.

Entry to the Royal Yacht Britannia is included in the Royal Edinburgh Ticket.

If you don’t have the City Pass, you need to book fast track tickets by clicking on the button below:

Voyage Tips - Advice

To get to Leith, you can take public transportation or the hop-on hop-off bus if you have the Royal Edinburgh Ticket, since the journeys are included.

Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia – Visiting Edinburgh in 4 Days

B. Calton Hill

Next, you should go to the top of Calton Hill.

An easy 10-15 minutes walk will get you to the top of one of Edinburgh’s main hills. The reward? A beautiful panoramic view over the city’s iconic sights like Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Palace, and the Scottish Parliament.

On Calton Hill, you’ll also find several monuments and buildings such as the National Monument, Nelson Monument, and the City Observatory.

They offer great photo opportunities.

Calton Hill
Calton Hill

C. Princes Street

After enjoying the city views, it’s time for a bit of shopping (or window shopping!) on Princes Street, Edinburgh’s main shopping street.

Here, you’ll find a mix of high street brands, department stores, and Scottish souvenir shops.

Princes Street also offers beautiful views of Edinburgh Castle, so you will for sure also snap a few pictures on the way!

Princes Street
Princes Street

D. Princes Street Gardens and the Scott Monument

Princes Street Garden, located on Princes Street, is a quiet green space in the heart of the city.

It’s the perfect place to relax after a shopping spree. The garden boasts beautiful floral displays, monuments, and the picturesque Ross Fountain. 

A key feature of the garden is the Scott Monument, dedicated to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott.

If you’re up for a challenge, climb the 287 steps of the narrow spiral staircase to the top and enjoy the panoramic views of Edinburgh.

E. The Scottish National Gallery

The Scottish National Gallery, the next stop on your 4-day trip to Edinburgh is located close to Princes Street Gardens.

This gallery is a haven for art enthusiasts and anyone interested in Scottish and European art history.

This impressive collection that spans from the Renaissance to the post-impressionism period features works by renowned artists such as Botticelli, Van Gogh, and Monet, as well as Scottish artists like Ramsay and Raeburn.

Entrance to the Scottish National Gallery is free.

Scottish National Gallery
Scottish National Gallery

F. Charlotte Square

End your day with a visit to Charlotte Square, one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious and historic squares.

Charlotte Square is part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There, you can admire the elegant townhouses that surround the square, which are some of the best-preserved examples of Georgian architecture in Edinburgh.

The square is also home to the Georgian House, managed by the National Trust for Scotland, a beautifully restored 18th-century townhouse turned into a museum. Inside, you can admire its period furniture, paintings and period objects.

Charlotte Square is also home to the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland.

charlotte square
Charlotte Square

3rd day in Edinburgh – The best places to visit

Edinburgh in 3 Days Day 3
4 days in Edinburgh – Day 3

Day 3 tourist attractions:

A. The National Museum of Scotland
B. Camera Obscura
C. The Scotch Whisky Experience
D. St Giles’ Cathedral
E. Other Activity Ideas

A. The National Museum of Scotland

Begin your day at the National Museum of Scotland, the perfect place to learn more about Scottish history and culture, natural history and science.

I personnaly loved the Scottish Galleries, showcasing the history of Scotland from prehistoric times to the present day. The Grand Gallery, known for its stunning architecture, is also worth a look.

Last but not least, don’t miss Dolly the sheep exhibit, a tribute to the world’s first cloned mammal, a significant scientific achievement for Scotland.

Admission to the museum is free.

National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland – 4-Day Trip to Edinburgh

B. Camera Obscura

Next, head to the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, located near Edinburgh Castle (it’s just a 7-minute walk from the museum).

This attraction is a mix of historical technology and interactive exhibits.

You’ll experience mind-boggling illusions, holograms, and see the famous camera obscura.

Invented in 1835, it’s a unique way to see Edinburgh, using a Victorian invention to project live, moving images of the city onto a viewing table.

The rooftop terrace also provides spectacular 360-degree views of Edinburgh.

Voyage Tips - Advice

You need to purchase your Camera Obscura ticket in advance here:

Camera Obscura Edinburgh
Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

C. The Scotch Whisky Experience

Visiting Edinburgh in 4 days also gives you time for an authentic Scottish activity at The Scottish Whisky Experience.

Located just a stone’s throw from the Camera Obscura, this attraction is a must for whisky enthusiasts and curious visitors alike.

You’ll get to learn about the process of making whisky and discover the rich history behind Scotland’s national drink.

The tour includes a sensory introduction to the world of whisky, a barrel ride explaining the production process, and off course a tasting session!

You will also discover the impressive collection of over 3,000 different bottles of whisky!

Whether you’re a whisky connoisseur or a complete novice, this experience is both educational and enjoyable.

To book this activity, just click on the following button:

Voyage Tips - Advice

For a more tailored experience, you can instead book an evening at a whisky bar. There, an expert guide will eagerly share everything about Scotland’s national beverage.

You will sample four whiskies, each hailing from a distinct Scottish region. It’s a top activity for your 4-day stay in Edinburgh!

You need to book it here:

the scotch whisky experience Edinburgh
The Scotch Whisky Experience

D. St. Giles’ Cathedral

After your whisky themed visit, let’s head to St Giles’ Cathedral, an iconic monument of Edinburgh.

This historic church, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, is renowned for its beautiful stained glass windows and its significant role in Scottish history.

You should definitely explore the Thistle Chapel, home to the Order of the Thistle, Scotland’s chivalric company of knights chosen by The Queen.

Entrance to the cathedral is free, though donations are welcomed.

If you wish to, you can book on a guided tour directly on site. It’s a great way to learn more about the cathedral’s fascinating history and architecture!

St. Giles Cathedral Edinburgh
St. Giles’ Cathedral Edinburgh

E. Other Activity Ideas

To and your 3rd day in Edinburgh in style, you should opt for a guided tour that suits your interests.

And there are many amazing guided tours in Edinburgh!

From the magical world of Harry Potter to the mysterious Edinburgh catacombs and The Real Mary King’s Close, they all provide unique perspectives of the city and are a great way to learn more about its history and legends.

For example, the Harry Potter Tour is perfect for fans of the series or if you’re traveling with kids.

Edinburgh is where J.K. Rowling wrote most of the books, and this tour takes you through the streets that inspired her.

You’ll see the café where she wrote, the school that inspired Hogwarts, and other magical spots.

You need to book it here:

Alternatively, The Edinburgh Catacombs Tour takes you beneath the city’s streets to explore its ancient catacombs.

It’s really super interesting, as you will get insights into the darker side of Edinburgh’s past.

Book your Edinburgh catacombs tour by clicking here!

And if you’re looking for something even more unique, The Real Mary King’s Close Tour is an excellent choice.

It gives you a glimpse into 17th-century Edinburgh, taking you through a series of hidden streets frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

Simply click the green button below to book it:

the real mary king close
The Real Mary King Close

4th day – Walk around Edinburgh

5 days in Edinburgh Day 4 itinerary
4 days in Edinburgh – Day 4

Day 4 tourist attractions:

A. Royal Botanical Garden
B. The Scottish national gallery of modern art
C. Dean Village
D. Stockbridge district

A. Royal Botanical Garden

On the last day of your 4-day itinerary in Edinburgh, you should continue to explore the city to discover some of its hidden gems!

Start your day at the Royal Botanic Garden, one of the best botanic gardens in the world.

This 70-acre oasis is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the nature.

You can explore the garden’s plant collections, including the famous Rock Garden area, the Chinese Hillside, and the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden.

Personally, I really liked the Glasshouses, home to exotic plants from around the world.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
The Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh

B. The Scottish national gallery of modern art

Next, head to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

The gallery is split across two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two, each offering a different perspective on the art world.

Modern One focuses on a collection of modern and contemporary art, featuring works by artists like Picasso, Matisse, and Warhol.

Meanwhile, Modern Two hosts a range of temporary exhibitions and displays the gallery’s collection of Dada and Surrealist art.

You can also enjoy the sculpture park surrounding the gallery, featuring works by renowned artists.

C. Dean Village

After visiting the gallery, take a leisurely walk to Dean Village, a picturesque and tranquil part of Edinburgh, nestled along the Water of Leith.

This hidden gem is a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

There, you can explore the charming cobbled streets and admire the traditional mill houses, which are a reminder of the village’s history as a grain milling area for more than 800 years.

Walking through Dean Village really feels like stepping back in time!

Don’t miss the Well Court, a beautifully restored building that’s one of the most photographed in the area.

Dean Village
Dean Village

D. Evening in Stockbridge district

To end your 4-day trip to Edinburgh in style, you should spend your last evening in Stockbridge district.

Known for its bohemian vibe, Stockbridge boasts numerous independent shops, cafes, and pubs.

Spend some time browsing through the antique shops, artisan boutiques, and galleries.

For dinner, you will be spoilt for choice! From cozy bistros to upscale restaurants, you will for sure find something that suits your tastes.

After dinner, relax in one of the many pubs, where you can enjoy a local beer or whisky, to end the day like a local!

You now have all the information and tips you need to see Edinburgh in 4 days!

Where to Stay in Edinburgh

Now that you know what to do in Edinburgh in 4 days, but there’s one crucial question to answer: where to stay for these few days?

I’m not going to lie, the cost of accommodation in Edinburgh is pretty high and it’s not easy to find affordable hotels, especially in the center. The best deals are always booked months in advance.

That’s why you really do need to book as early as possible to get the best rates!

If you already know your travel dates, you should thus really book your accommodation now.

Here is my selection of the best hotels in Edinburgh depending on your budget:

  • Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel: Youth hostel located only 800 meters from the train station and Princes Street. Bed in a dormitory from 30€ per night, breakfast at 6€. Strong points: cleanliness, great location, friendly staff.
  • Leonardo Royal Hotel Edinburgh Haymarket: Located in the city centre, 10 minutes walk from the castle. Contemporary and elegant double room from 90€, breakfast included. Strong points: the very helpful staff, the spacious rooms, the very comfortable bed. It’s my favorite for its amazing value for money!
  • Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh: Located on the historic Royal Mile Street, 10 minutes from the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Chic and refined double room from 200€ per night, breakfast at 14€. Strong points: central location, spa, heated indoor swimming pool, gym, and the excellent breakfast!
  • Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Mile Edinburgh: 5 star hotel located on the Royal Mile, 600 meters away from the castle. This luxury hotel offers comfortable and elegant double rooms starting at 300€ per night, breakfast at 18€. Strong points: located in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic centre, the interior design, very helpful staff, absolute comfort. This is the best hotel for a luxury stay in Edinburgh!
5-star hotel in Edinburgh - The Radisson Collection Hotel
5-star hotel in Edinburgh – The Radisson Collection Hotel

Edinburgh in 4 days with kids

If you plan to spend 4 days in Edinburgh with your children, you can be assured they won’t get bored, and they’ll really love most of the attractions.

You may however need to adjust the itinerary slightly to suit their age and interests. For example, they are not allowed to take part of the whisky experience.

And for the youngest one, the ghost tour is not very recommend 😅.

Here are a few ideas for a 4-day stay in Edinburgh with kids:

More things to do during your 4 days in Edinburgh

If you’ve followed my itinerary for 4 days in Edinburgh and still want to explore more, you should read my guide of the 20 best places to visit in Scotland’s capital.

You can read it here:: The 20 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh.

It might even leave you wanting to stay longer in the city! Why not spend 5 days in Edinburgh, or even a whole week there?

Map of Your 4-Day Itinerary in Edinburgh

To help you visualize your daily itineraries during your 4 days in Edinburgh, I have created this map with all the places to visit day by day. You can view the legend of the map by clicking on the top left button, the one with a little arrow.

You can thus see the suggested itineraries for each day.

Find the best flight prices for your 4 days in Edinburgh

Since the price of flights to Edinburgh can vary a lot, it’s a good idea to compare them as early as possible. For this, you can use our flight comparison tool, in partnership with Skyscanner. It’s the guarantee of getting the best fare.

If after reading this guide you still need help to plan your 4-day trip to Edinburgh, don’t hesitate to ask me your questions in the comments section below.

Book your trip now and save money!

Scotland travel Guides

You’re traveling to Scotland? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Scotland: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Scotland are listed there.

The 15 Best Things to Do in Scotland: The ultimate bucket list!

The 20 Best Things to Do in the Highlands: All the best places to visit

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Best places to visit in Edinburgh in 4 days
Best places to visit in Edinburgh in 4 days

Creator of the Voyage Tips blog, travel and photography lover. I give you all my best tips to plan your next trip.

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