Scotland is a quaint country just north of England, painted with vibrant green mountains and stone laden roads. Edinburgh–the capital city of Scotland–is officially my new favorite place.
*Depending who you ask, Scotland technically isn’t a country…it’s part of the United Kingdom.*
PS: It’s pronounced ED-IN-BRUH (You’re welcome)
If you’re planning a Europe trip, or think you may cross the pond some day, Scotland needs to be on your list! Especially if you like:
- The freshest air on Earth
- Pub food
- Incredible stone architecture
- Kind people
On our recent trip to Europe, my friend Sara and I planned for 3 days in Edinburgh (which turned out to be 100 days too short). We stayed in the most adorable Airbnb, in the heart of City Centre, with a mid-30’s couple. Andre and Jim were AWESOME–everything you could ever want out of hosts.
I’d never stayed in a home with a family before so I didn’t know what to expect, but they provided us breakfast, loads of conversation, and tips on the city about where to eat, explore, and drink.
AND THEY HAD DOGS.
When looking for a neighborhood to stay in, I suggest one of the following:
- New Town (City Centre)
Here’s what our weekend looked like! But there’s plenty to do that we simply didn’t have time to get to…so do some exploring. Our favorite expedition was merely getting lost and seeing what we could find.
- Calton Hill
- The Ox
We flew in pretty early from London’s Stansted Airport to Edinburgh airport (there’s only 1). We flew with RyanAir (yes, they’re as bad as you’ve heard)–so tickets were super cheap. Once we landed, we hopped on the tram conveniently located in the parking lot and headed into town.
Upon arrival, we switched into comfy clothes and hiked up Calton Hill–Edinburgh’s main hill located right in City Centre. It’s got a few different monuments built on the peak of the hill and it overlooks the entire city, giving you a beautiful view. Want some more info? Click here.
The climb is pretty steep but only takes about 5-10 minutes. The hill is family and dog friendly!
After our hike, we grabbed lunch at a cute little Italian spot. Keep in mind that quite a few restaurants take a break from serving food between the hours of 2:00 and 6:00–so try to grab lunch before then!
*Insert much-needed 2-hour nap* *With heated blanket*
Once we woke up, refreshed and revived, we headed out to find a pub and some grub. The first place we stumbled upon was a classic Scottish pub; old men sloshing beer out of their mugs, football (soccer) playing on the telly, and lots of shouting. There wasn’t much sitting room left so we headed across the street to The Ox.
The Ox is small, cozy, and charming. We ordered a meat and cheese platter and a couple of drinks. I stuck with vodka ginger ale but Sara opted for a fun lavender gin cocktail–pictured below. Drinks and food were both superb–highly recommend.
- Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat
- Royal Mile
- Museum of Edinburgh
We let ourselves sleep in a bit on the second day because we were truly exhausted. However, once we were up, we really got to work!
First stop: Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat.
Arthur’s Seat is Edinburgh’s highest “hill,” and the closest thing they’ve got to a mountain. It’s actually an inactive volcano! Neato. The hike is quite steep and took about 25 minutes to complete–but we were moving pretty quickly.
*Prepare to spend at least 30 minutes stopping to pet dogs*
When we got to the top we were quite literally in awe. There are no words sufficient enough to describe views of rolling green hills juxtaposed against chilly gray water. The plush green grass is just begging you to lie down and roll down it–no joke, I about did.
There’s more than just one trail to explore, so we crossed to a different hill and soaked in the moment. If there’s one thing I could do every day for the rest of my life, it’s this.
I’m not 100% sure if the Royal Mile is actually a mile long or not…but it’s definitely worth exploring! We stopped into shops, checked out the Museum of Edinburgh, and grabbed lunch at another delicious pub. A fudge shop was calling my name…but it wasn’t open when we walked by (sad face).
- Endless wandering
- Dinner with friends
Our last day in Scotland consisted of walking until we were sufficiently lost, watching a football match with old men in a pub, and making friends with strangers from 6 different countries.
Nothing will ever beat the friendships made while traveling. There seems to be a silent understand among travelers that companionship on the road must be quick, real, and raw. You’re all outside of your comfort zones, probably feeling a bit unsure–maybe even nervous, yet you somehow form unbreakable bonds in the confounds of a foreign country.
If traveling abroad is something you long to do, I can give you no better bit of advice than this: focus on the people. Meet someone new everyday. Ask questions. Ask for stories. Tell yours.
Food: The Ox, Cannon’s Gait, Guilianos, Martone
Exploring: Arthur’s Seat, Royal Mile, Calton Hill
Scotland Tips, Tricks, and Notes
- Walk everywhere! Edinburgh is a city made to be explored by foot.
- Pack loads of layers! It’s pretty chilly in the winter but you’ll be walking LOTS so you’ll warm up fast.
- Wear walking shoes every day–we didn’t take public transport at all and our feet were definitely hurting.
- Sometimes the tip is included in meals, but if not, stick to 10% (Tip might show as “VAT” on receipt)