A BACKPACKER’S GUIDE TO EDINBURGH
Edinburgh is the Scottish capital and as such it’s the perfect place to explore all the Hibernian stereotypes, like what haggis actually tastes like, is whisky drinkable and whatever do they have under those kilts. The city is steeped in tradition, sometimes literally being built over seven hills, one of which hosts Edinburgh castle on an extinct volcano no less. Expect an old town filled with small streets and alleyways to literally get lost in, and a city soaked in parks that is actually the United Kingdom’s greenest. Edinburgh is famous for being the birthplace of Sean Connery — probably the hottest 007, its yearly Fringe festival, Trainspotting, the military tattoo, having a knighted penguin, and the Stoke-Travel-frequented Hogmanay New Year’s Eve celebration.
Facts About Edinburgh
Population of Edinburgh: 495,000 making it Scotland’s second most populous, after Glasgow, and the UK’s seventh.
Tourists to Edinburgh in a year: 4 million
Languages spoken in Edinburgh: English, Scottish English, Scots and Scottish Gaelic, in a descending order according to decipherability.
Average wage in Edinburgh: £28,000 a year
Price of things in Edinburgh: coffee £2.78, beer £4.77 (pint), lunch meal £10, decent bottle or pack of cigarettes £9, haggis £4/kilo, one ecstasy tablet £10
Average summer temperatures in Edinburgh: high 19°C, low 11°C
Average winter temperatures in Edinburgh: high 5°C, low 1°C
Getting Around Edinburgh
Walking around Edinburgh: despite being built over seven damned hills, Edinburgh is a compact city and ripe for walking through. Just think of the gradients as penance for all the haggis you probably won’t eat. The historic heart of the city is packed with monuments and historical buildings, and there are plenty of highpoints outside the city to hike up to and enjoy the views. Save your pounds and put some iron in those buns, bru.
Biking around Edinburgh: it’s the UK’s greenest city due to the proliferation of parks, but Edinburgh also lays claim to the green title due to its cycle friendliness. If you’re in Edinburgh for a few days, hiring a cycle for one of them is a great way to increase your tourism, and pub finding, range. Biketrax have plenty of bikes to choose from.
Public transport in Edinburgh: public transport in Edinburgh is mostly on the bus, with tickets costing around £1.50 for a single fare, and £4 for a day pass. There’s also a tram that goes out to the airport from the city centre in 35 minutes. The main train station is Edinburgh’s Waverley Station.
Taxis in Edinburgh: Edinburgh has black cabs, like London, as well as private taxis. Pretty expensive option compared to walking, but also pretty nice when you’re pretty shitfaced.
Driving around Edinburgh: we don’t recommend it. There are plenty of other ways to get around the Scottish capital and parking is very rare and even more expensive. Leave the car out of this, and go on foot or bike instead.
Edinburgh Accommodation Options
Where to stay in Edinburgh: most accommodation in Edinburgh is either in the historic Old Town, the still quite historic New Town, the history-filled West End, or the historical docklands of Leith. If you’re coming for Hogmanay don’t stay anywhere, as it’s going to be full and expensive, and just do a 24 hour strike mission with us.
Couchsurfing in Edinburgh: yeah you can do it, you can couchsurf anywhere! Might be difficult to sort out during the Fringe festival, where the city swells to four times its size with tourists, or Hogmanay.
Camping in Edinburgh: it’s possible to pitch a tent in Edinburgh, although it does get pretty cold… in summer! There is a special campsite that goes up for Fringe, the Edinburgh Festival Camping, and year round you’ll be able to shiver your tits off in the Mortonhall Caravan and Camping Park.
Best hostels in Edinburgh: hostels are a great option for an Edinburgh stay, giving you the chance to stay warm and get to meet fellow travellers. There are a bunch of hostels around Edinburgh, starting at as low as £10 a night. We like the St Christopher’s Inn because it’s not only near to many bars and pubs, it’s actually connected to one.
Best hotels in Edinburgh: we’re not really the hotels type, but sometimes in a city like Edinburgh you might find yourself cold and partied out and just craving some comfort and privacy. If they’re your needs, scan booking.com to see what’s out there, or alternatively check out the The Grassmarket, which is not only cool, but pretty cheap too. Treat yo’self, just not too much.
Edinburgh Food And Drink
What to eat in Edinburgh: are you brave? Good. First and foremost you’ve just got to try haggis, sheep’s innards blended with spices and oats and served inside a sheep’s stomach. Sounds crook, but it really tasty. Eat it paired with neeps and tatties, pureed turnip and potato, and even the most culinarily conservative backpackers among us won’t regret it. It’s the ethnic version of a sausage roll, and a great meal if you can surpass the thought of what it is. Then you’ve got porridge, a dish that most of us know well, but it’s the Scots who truly love it and do it with salt instead of sugar. Weird. Also weird is the Scottish propensity to deep fry everything, including Mars Bars, because they weren’t already bad enough for us. For something quick to line the gut, we always go for a bacon butty, which is quite simply bacon, white bread, butter and sauce, nothing more, nothing less, totally delicious.
Best places to eat in Edinburgh:
Like a lot of the United Kingdom, Edinburgh is well known for its pubs. Order a pie, haggis or bangers and mash from the waiters you can barely understand, accompanied by a delicious old fashioned. You can find many great pubs along the Grassmarket strip, or on the Royal Mile that runs through the centre of the city.
What to drink in Edinburgh:
Indulge, taste and feel the Scotch. Did you know Scotch can only be called Scotch if it’s from Scotland? Be cultured and shit and give a glass a go. Scotland also offers a large range of great beers, just ask the group of drunk men laughing and yelling next to you at the bar.
Best Places To Visit In Edinburgh
Arthur’s Seat is a mere 20 minute walk out of Edinburgh old town. Similar to the hill Edinburgh Castle is built upon, Arthur’s seat is a much-larger inactive volcano providing a challenging yet rewarding hike to those chasing adventure. It takes around 30 to 45 minutes to hike if you’re not already incapacitated by Scottish whisky, but boasts the most unbelievable 360° view of Edinburgh and Scotland. Here you can also find the most immaculate views of sunrise and sunset.
Portobello Beach is around a 40 minute walk from old down, or easily reachable on public transport or taxi. While potentially too cold for swimming, it provides serenity in the fact it is not yet completely commercialised, and is surrounded by the farmlands and countryside. The area also has a fantastic array of cafes, restaurants and bars and is a great place to take in some coastal scenery along the esplanade.
For all wizarding world geeks, Greyfriars Kirkyard & George Heriot’s school are simply two of the many landmarks in Scotland giving birth to the origins of Harry Potter. The school provided inspiration for Hogwarts, and the graveyard hold many names of the characters, with both being discovered from the porch of a little cafe called The Elephant House Cafe, one of many where the first novels were written.
Sandemans also offers great ghost, walking and pub crawl tours throughout the city. Whether you want to be cultured, discover the eeriness of the city or become incapacitated, there’s a tour guide along the Royal Mile waiting to help you out. These go for a few hours, but are definitely worth the few pound asked of you.
Edinburgh Festivals And Parties
Cultural Festivals: the Fringe Festival is Edinburgh’s most famous, and the largest arts festival in the world. There is no vetting for acts, so anyone can rock up and perform. The most popular aspect of the fringe are the comedy performances and awards. Edinburgh is very busy during Fringe, which goes for the month of August.
Edinburgh is perhaps one of the greatest places in the world to spend Halloween. The city has a strong and dark history, beginning the world wide hunt for witches, and murdering over 3000 accused in many vicious ways. It’s medieval aura provides the perfect setting to chuck on your white sheet and scare the shit out of some people with the rest of the city. Everyone get’s involved, and the city converts into a wonderfully mysterious ghost story.
Hogmanay! A three-day New Year’s Eve cultural and festival bonanza, featuring fireworks and street parties, musical acts from around the world, lumps of coal, Auld Lang Syne, fireworks and a brisk morning swim. Stoke rolls up to Edinburgh from London on the 31st of December for a 24-hour party-madness/cultural tour. It’s the only way to watch the New Year roll in..
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