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!):
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?