Today I’m going to talk about one of my favorite trips thus far: Edinburgh. Edinburgh is an amazing city in Scotland that’s full of history and hiking and Harry Potter – really, what more could you ask for? I was only there for approximately 36 hours, but the city is small enough that I pretty much saw everything I wanted to while I was there. It’s also a pretty budget-friendly city, and most of the most interesting attractions are completely free. However, I will note a couple of excursions that you have to pay for; given that I was on this trip with a couple other college girls, we opted out of these, but they still sound incredibly interesting.
To get to Edinburgh from Oxford, we took an overnight coach bus. This was definitely the “budget” option, and you get exactly what you pay for. It’s not the most comfortable, and you don’t sleep well. But once again, it was half of what you’d normally pay for a flight, particularly since we bought our tickets the day before we left. If I did this trip again, I’d probably shell out the extra money for the flight, but that’s just a personal preference.
As far as transportation within the city, Edinburgh is small so you can essentially walk everywhere. It’s a great workout too, because Edinburgh actually has hills (unlike London or Oxford).
Where to Stay:
As students, we definitely took advantage of the cheap hostels in the city. The place we ended up staying was called Budget Backpackers, and for under 10 pounds per person, we had a private room for the four of us. The hostel also had a café downstairs, which was great for grabbing a snack. However, if I went back, I’d probably stay at the sister hostel, called Kick Ass. This hostel was just a little bit nicer and had a full bar and café, so it made it a really fun place to hang out. Luckily, our key cards for Budget Backpackers worked there too, it was just a bit less convenient to have to walk back to our hostel instead of just down the stairs to our rooms.
We started Day 1 with coffee and pastries at The Elephant House. If you don’t know what the significance of that place is, it’s credited as the “Birthplace of Harry Potter.” J.K. apparently spent a great deal of time working on her first novel here, which is understandable because the place is pretty adorable.
After that, we went on a short walking tour of the city. Luckily, our hostel offered these for free, but if you’re staying somewhere that doesn’t offer them, there are a bunch of places throughout the city advertising walking tours. In a city that’s so small but so rich in history, I’d definitely recommend this as a way to familiarize yourself with the area.
Some of the highlights we visited on the tour were Greyfriars Kirkyard (a graveyard where J.K. got inspiration for some of her character’s names – see Tom Riddell below) and the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who was essentially the epitome of loyalty.
After the tour, we walked up to Calton Hill, where you can get a pretty awesome view of the city. There’s also the National Monument up there as well as some other historic architecture, so it was definitely worth the walk. For dinner, we went to a place called Mum’s. If you’re in Edinburgh on a budget, I’d highly recommend this place. It has a lot of traditional English/Scottish comfort food, and pretty much everything was under 10 pounds.
At the end of the night, we visited a pop-up Game of Thrones bar. If you happen to go to Edinburgh on a Wednesday or Thursday between now and the end of February, this is such a cool concept. They have drinks and food that fit the theme of the movie, have the whole place decorated, and are playing iconic episodes.
Looking at the pictures I took on day 1 compared to today, you can tell there was a huge weather shift. While our first day was pretty cloudy and grey, our second day was blue skies for miles. As a result, we took advantage of this and climbed Arthur’s Seat, which was formed by an extinct volcano and now serves as the highest point in Edinburgh. While the hike itself is a bit grueling (and I was not appropriately dressed for it), the view at the top is completely worth it. You get 360 degree views of the city and surrounding towns, and can even see all the way out to the ocean. I took about a million pictures, but none of them can remotely do it justice.
We spent the rest of the day scouting out random bookstores and coffee shops to get work done. Despite taking a trip, we still had a lot of assignments back home. If I had had the time, I probably would have spent this time climbing up to Edinburgh Castle and visiting the Camera Obscura, which is an optical illusion museum. I’m not the biggest museum person (I much prefer walking around the city), but this looked like it would have been a lot of fun.
One overnight bus ride later, and I was back in Oxford. However, this trip got me even more excited for future adventures – I’m currently in the process of planning my next one and cannot wait to share it with all of you.