Landscape, Isle of Skye
Landscape, Isle of Skye
Copyright by Moyan Brenn

I really want to go to Scotland.

The misty skies, medieval architecture and rolling green hills give Scotland an air of mystery and romance that’s got me intrigued. Even though I was falling asleep during most Skyfall (I was really tired, not bored), that shot of James Bond driving his DB5 in the Scottish Highlands was unforgettable.

People have been blabbing (blogging?) non-stop about Scotland this year: 2014 is Homecoming Scotland and they’re hosting the Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games. Scotland is one of the up-and-coming countries to visit, and Lonely Planet voted it the third best place to visit this year.

Naturally, my interest has been piqued. It also happens to be the only country in Great Britain I haven’t been to yet. After going to Budapest I wanted to fulfil my original travel desire: no-hassle travel where I speak the language.

So, I decided to go with Edinburgh! I understand the language (debatable) and I know plenty of people I can ask about what do there.

I’m not great at planning short trips – I’m an expat after all! I tend to over plan or under plan, but I like to think it just gives the chance to slow travel. In any case, here are some of the things I’ll being trying to do (if I don’t end up reading a book in my hostel room all weekend like I did in Strasbourg anyway!):

Edinburgh Photo courtesy of Maza
Photo courtesy of Maza

Eat Scottish Food

I will eat haggis, if only to say I did. But you know me, I always eat offally well. Oh, I’m so clever. I really like to get to know a place via its food and luckily for me, most of April will be Edinburgh’s GastroFest! The event combines science and gastronomy and it’s an ode to Scottish food for Homecoming 2014. Restaurants, here I come!

Visit Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town

I’m pretty in to UNESCO Heritage Sites as well, but it seems to be an area where I could spend a good part of a day – definitely if I hang out in the Meadows, explore Princes Street, and maybe even the Royal Mile.

Free Walking Tour

A co-worker “highly recommended” it, so I will do it! Apparently you will get to learn about all of the places that inspired J.K. Rowling to write Harry Potter – yes! To make this whole Harry Potter connection even more exciting, I’m taking the train. Maybe I will also have a brilliant idea for a novel and it will sell billions of copies… 😉

If anyone can recommend a good walking tour (I’ve heard that some guides make up facts and steal other guides’ scripts – not just in Edinburgh of course!), feel free to leave it in the comments.

Hike Arthur’s Seat

As soon as I read “climb extinct volcano” – I was sold! It wouldn’t be the first time I hiked up a volcano and at least this one is permanently dead. Arthur’s Seat is in the centre of Edinburgh and it was actually mentioned in the book Frankenstein, so this trip is getting extra literary.

For this, I probably won’t choose a specific day because the weather will have to be right. Who knows, that day may not even come! On the other hand there are lots of other really interesting walks that I’ll be able to do!

Getting to Edinburgh

From London, you can drive, fly, take the bus or take the train to Scotland. My partner does happen to be the only mid-twenties Londoner with a car and I wanted to see the landscape on the journey, but I wasn’t sure if it would be cost-effective. When I was researching online, I found an interesting comparison site called GoEuro, which calculates the cost of all four types of travel.

From there, I learned that flying would be faster in terms of journey time. But all of the faffing around (I’m so British!) getting to the airport (which the search tool shows as well) and checking in would cancel that short flight out and I’m only taking an afternoon off work before Easter. Don’t nobody got time for that! In the end, I’m taking the train direct from Kings Cross St Pancras to Edinburgh Waverley.

Places to Stay

I’m definitely open to suggestions on this one! I was really pleased with my AirBnB experience in Budapest, so I was thinking of staying in one of those again.

Edinburgh is a huge city – where should I focus my efforts? Have you stayed in any nice hostels or (budget) hotels that you could recommend?


*An earlier version of this post referred to Scotland as a “state”. Thanks to my reader Louise for pointing out this terminology is incorrect.

6 thoughts on “Planning My Trip To Edinburgh – I Need Your Help!”

  1. Hi Alyssa, I came across your blog from Matador Network. The places you mentioned in this post are definitely great to check out. If you’re into history, definitely do not miss the Royal Mile, the Grassmarket and the Edinburgh castle. The writer’s museum is excellent, as mentioned earlier. In addition to haggis, I’d recommend trying other “Scottish” things like Irn-Bru. If you have time, take a trip up the Highlands or the Isle of Skye, as you can get to see the wild, natural sides of Scotland, which is very picturesque and different from Edinburgh. I’ve been studying abroad in Edinburgh for the past nine months, and on my blog there’s a few entries/photos about Scotland that may be of interest to you.

    1. Hi Yilin,

      Thanks for the advice! The Grassmarket sounds interesting. I appreciate you stopping to comment – come back soon!

  2. Hey!

    Quick heads up – Scotland is a country not a ‘state’! Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland are the countries that make up the United Kingdom.

    Important point considering the referendum on Scottish Independence is this year!

    I’d recommend a ghost walking tour, Edinburgh has plenty of spooky stories and you get to go under the city into the vaults, or Mary King’s Close which was a street boarded up and built over during an outbreak of the plague and is perfectly preserved.

    Also Walter Scott Monument is great, climb it for £3 and great views, squeeze at the top though. The Grassmarket is great. The writer’s museum is interesting if your interested in Edinburgh’s literary side. Leith or a trip to South Queensferry is always worth it.

    Have a great time.

    1. Hi Louise,

      I’m still at a loss as to how to refer to the countries within a country! Maybe I was being hopeful for the Scots that want independence? haha.

      The writer’s museum definitely catches my eye, thanks so much for the suggestions 🙂

  3. I’m so glad you will be visiting Edinburgh and Scotland. It really is an exciting year ahead and a great time to visit. I currently work in Edinburgh and live in Glasgow. Everything you have listed above sounds great and don’t be too scared if the haggis…personally I think it’s delicious 🙂

    If you have the chance, I would recommend visiting Glasgow too, only an hour train ride away – I’d be happy to give you tips!

    1. Thanks Lisa, I’m really looking forward to it – Edinburgh is really expensive – wow! I’m trying to find somewhere outside of the city to stay for the weekend. Do send over any blog posts if you have them. 🙂

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