So, you’ve taken the plunge!
And are now doing some Edinburgh Scotland travel as you visit the land of kilts, bagpipes, Haggis, and tartan (not plaid guys which are what this naive American totally confused it with).
Good for you and say hello to Edinburgh city Scotland for me.
You are going to have the most EPIC of times because quite honestly, I cried when I left (high praise from someone who is so not a cryer).
But besides the multitude of Scottish stereotypes circulating around the globe:
What do you really know about Edinburgh Scotland travel and this stunningly historic and insanely beautiful city?
I mean sure:
We all know that Mel Gibson starred in the film Braveheart, about the fight for Scottish independence, but that isn’t gonna help you navigate the not so man streets of Edinburgh (where’s that Edinburgh Scotland travel guide when I need it?).
Well, I am here to help with a travel guide, Edinburgh Scotland edition.
Even if my knowledge of Scottish social and political history is lacking.
After visiting this amazing city, I hopefully have some helpful and maybe even enlightening Edinburgh Scotland travel tips for you before you set foot in this eternally cloudy, damp, and cold, hidden gem of the United Kingdom (but the people are so warm and friendly that the weather is secondary).
No, I am not some Scotland guru who visited once and thinks she knows it all. Thank God because then I’d be a total douche.
I am merely a weary traveler who visited this region and made a ton of novice travel mistakes along the way.
Maybe I can throw some useful Edinburgh Scotland facts your way so that you can dodge these mildly horrendous, Edinburgh Scotland travel fails
Because in the end:
I want you to use these Edinburgh Scotland travel hacks to fall head over heels in love with Edinburgh, Scotland, just like me (Oh I fell and I fell hard).
***Looking for the best hotels in Edinburgh? You can try Edinburgh hotels like Rock House, Abercorn Guesthouse, High Street Hostel, and 23 Mayfield Guesthouse. All are fantastic hotels with RELATIVELY inexpensive rates. Not cheap but definitely won’t make you declare bankruptcy if you stay at any of these places. ***
1. Avoiding the Edinburgh Scotland Bus
Normally, I HATE buses with a burning passion.
They’re slow, crowded, unreliable, and always stuck in traffic. For an added bonus of misery, they tend to smell like BO (body odor) but that’s a story for another post.
When I travel, I typically use the metro as my primary mode of transportation. However, that was all before I hopped on a bus in Edinburgh, Scotland UK.
These buses put all other public buses to shame since they come fully loaded with electronic screens that detail not only what stop you are at but the time until your arrival at various other stops along the route (most but not all the buses have this).
Let’s Take a Moment While the Heavens Open Up and Let the Angels Sing.
Throw in some bus-only lanes to avoid traffic, and you have an easy and efficient way to get around the city. Best public transportation in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Oh, and did I mention?
All bus stops have electronic signs that detail both the number of the bus line and the minutes until its arrival. I was totally blown away and am now forced to rethink my entire perception of public buses.
Listed below in this Edinburgh Scotland guide are various Edinburgh points of interest and the buses you use to visit them.
For The Real Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh Castle, and the Literary Pub Tour take the 23, 27, 41, 42, or 67 to the George the IV Bridge stop.
For the Royal Yacht Britannia take the 11, 22, 34, 35, or 36 to the Ocean Terminal stop.
For Dynamic Earth, Arthur’s Seat, Scottish Parliament, the Royal Mile, and the Palace of Holyrood House take the 35 or 6 to the Holyrood stop.
For the Scottish National Museum take the 8, 37, or 31 to the Chambers Street Stop.
For the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art take the 13, 901, and 906.
***Older buses are not outfitted with electronic route maps, so sit on the left side of the bus so that you can read the bus stop name as you drive by. Also, remember to push the stop button so the driver knows you want to get off at a particular stop.
***Of the aforementioned attractions my absolute faborites include a guided tour of Mary King’s Close ( it always sells out so get tickets in advance) as well as an audio tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia, which offers an amazing look into the lives of the royal family aboard their former yacht.
2. No Exact Change for the Lothian Buses (Public Buses in Edinburgh)
The ONLY downside of taking the bus?
You need to have cash and it needs to be exact change because otherwise, you won’t get any change back.
Single ride tickets cost £1.60 so before I even left for the day, I would meticulously analyze each coin I had (because let’s be honest, I had no clue what any of them were worth and didn’t want to look like a total moron on the bus). and create £1.60 piles based on the number of bus tickets I would need for the day.
When I got on the bus, I could efficiently and easily throw my exact change in the machine and procure my ticket. Sure, it’s annoying that you don’t get change back but it’s also a great way to get rid of excess coins
Or I’d Make My Life Easier: and Get a Day Pass:
Day passes give you unlimited bus rides for the day and cost £4 for adults, £2 for children, and £8.50 for families. This way you can make your own Edinburgh Scotland day tours.
3. Not carrying a raincoat or umbrella at ALL times (a raincoat is better because it can be windy)
Okay, Edinburgh Scotland and Edinburgh Scotland weather can be a bit cold and rainy.
As for Me?
I lucked out and had two days of pure, sunshiney goodness, but that is definitely not the norm.
Edinburgh can be a cold, cloudy, and dreary place with endless passing showers.
The skies can literally open up at any moment and just downpour on you. That’s why it’s imperative that you are always prepared for the temperamental weather and carry either an umbrella or raincoat at all times.
At any moment, a disgruntled, rogue raincloud could just randomly drizzle all over you and leave you standing there, cold and miserable, which is nobody’s idea of a good time.
That’s why you always need to be prepared with some handy, protective rain gear.
Something I never do in the US since it’s typically pretty sunny. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t even own an umbrella in the US. Whoops.
4. Using the hop on hop off bus
There are several different hop on hop off bus companies that offer Edinburgh Scotland tourists daily tickets for approximately $20.
But not you. You’re WAY smarter than that!
Besides, why would you want to pay so much when public buses are cheap, easy to use, and take you anywhere that your little tourist heart desires?
Glad you see my point.
The only way I could see this bus being useful is if you had 24 hours in the city and literally just wanted to sit on the bus and observe the beautifully diverse assortment of Edinburgh Scotland attractions.
Otherwise, the price of this bus is just isn’t worth it.
Especially since Edinburgh is a highly walkable city that’ s super easy to navigate.
5. Assuming you’ll understand everyone because they speak English
The people of Edinburgh do indeed speak English.
But that doesn’t mean you’il understand everything that the locals say
I mean, the accent here can be so thick that there will probably be at least one moment when you’re chatting with someone and have no idea what they’re saying.
You know that they’re speaking English but that’s pretty much all you know.
As a Result:
You just sit there, pleasantly smiling and nodding because you don’t want to be THAT jerk who makes someone automatically dislike every American they meet (I never wanna be THAT guy).
6. Wearing shorts, EVER.
So I booked my trip to Edinburgh and thought, “Oh gee, it’s summer in Edinburgh Scotland so surely I should bring some summer clothes. Right?”
No, a million times no.
Edinburgh Scotland winter and Edinburgh Scotland summer are cold, even when it’s sunny outside.
The only person who should wear shorts in Scotland is someone who is used to the Edinburgh Scotland climate and thinks that 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) is absolutely balmy and damn near a heat wave.
So leave your daisy dukes and flip flops at home.
Instead, pack a raincoat and warm weather clothing that is super bulky and really annoying to stuff in your bag.
If you don’t pack a coat, sweater, scarf, set of boots, and a hat, you’re gonna regret walking down the Edinburgh Scotland Royal Mile and impulsively buying all the cold weather clothing they offer because it’s freakin’ freezing!!
Just keep in mind:
That while the Edinburgh Scotland weather is chilly, it’s not subarctic. So it’s not like you’ll need twelve layers of wool just to keep from getting frostbite.
Just err on the side of warmth.
Just add extra layers, to your Edinburgh Scotland packing list, so that you can bundle up when the wind kicks in and you want to scream at the heavens, “Really? How can this be summer? We are in the Northern Hemisphere!”
7. Looking left before crossing the Street
For the love of God, look right!
You are in a top, United Kingdom Bucket List location and everyone here drives on the left side of the road.
it is so ingrained in me to look left before I cross the street, that I actively had to tell myself to look right so that I wouldn’t get pummeled by a quick moving, double-decker bus.
It was a struggle to break this long-suffering habit though.
I had to stand on the road and actively look back and forth, across the street a couple of times, just to make sure that the road was actually safe to cross.
I probably looked like an escapee from the insane asylum because of the number of times that I whipped my head around to look across the street.
I didn’t want to end up in a body cast while I was there, so the strange looks were totally worth it.
8. Assuming a hike up Arthur’s Seat will be a light stroll
Right, the short answer is no.
Hiking up Arthur’s Seat Scotland (one of my favorite Edinburgh Scotland day trips) is actually pretty daunting. I mean, I am no triathlete so I was definitely huffing and puffing my way up.
And then, of course:
You see some Ironman bounding up the hill like a freakin gazelle and you want to throat punch him for making you feel like Jabba Da Hud as you continue your Edinburgh Scotland hiking adventure.
But on a more serious note:
Just be prepared for a somewhat strenuous hike of 3 miles that will take between an hour and a half and two hours, round trip.
When I say be prepared, I mean I wouldn’t wear my new Gucci shoes and a super skimpy dress during this hike; one of those experiences where comfort and practicality supersede any need to look good.
Bring a backpack with plenty of water and snacks because there is nowhere to procure supplies on Arthur’s Seat (Trust me, you don’t want to release the hangry beast within because you haven’t eaten after hiking all morning).
Also, pack some sunscreen since there is not a lot of shade on the hill itself. Leave the hat at home though since its super windy at the top; a fact that will render your hat totally useless.
In terms of footwear:
You won’t need supercharged, Everest level hiking boots, but I would definitely wear comfy sneakers that have plenty of grip since some of the trails can be a bit narrow and quite rocky.
***Arthur’s Seat is the second hill that you see when looking at this extinct volcano from Edinburgh. The first hill is actually Salisbury Crags, so don’t ascend this hill thinking it’s Arthur’s Seat.
***Since most people ascend Arthur’s Seat from Holyrood Park the trail here can become rather crowded. So go early to avoid the crowds. Also, try and go on a clear day since the local clouds tend to leave a looming mist that obscures the panoramic views of Edinburgh from the top.
***Get a ticket to tour the Palace at Hollyrouf House. The Queen was visiting when I was thee so I didn;t get to visit.
***The trail from Salisbury Crags ascends and then descends dramatically. Do not worry because you are totally on the right path. Eventually, the trail winds back up Arthur’s Seat so don’t panic when the trail starts heading downhill.
***There is no admission fee. Plus, the entrance is located near Dynamic Earth, the Scottish Parliament (also free), and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Therefore you can hike Arthur’s Seat in the morning and then visit some of these other attractions in the afternoon.
9. Enduring the Museum line for the Crown Jewels
Who doesn’t like crown jewels? They’re shiny and sparkly and oh so pretty, right?
How can you not see them while visiting Edinburgh Castle?
Yeah, I get it:
That’s what the internal dialogue in everyone’s head sounds like.
The line to see the Crown Jewels can be almost an hour long if you wait on line to see both the crown jewels and their associated museum.
This history nerd, I mean enthusiast, can honestly say that the museum for the Crown Jewels is kind of lame.
Anyone in line is just there to see the Crown Jewels:
So do yourself a favor and skip the needlessly long wait. Instead, walk into the main courtyard where the Great Hall is located, and access the Crown Jewels from this line (More exactly, the crown jewels are located on the first floor of the Royal Palace and on the East side of Crown Square).
The line here is so much shorter because you don’t unnecessarily meander through a museum that no one really looks at.
***Fun little fact, the crown jewels of Scotland are known as the “Honours” of Scotland and are the oldest set of Royal Regalia in Britain. The crown, sword, and sceptre were first used together at the coronation of the nine-month-old Mary Queen of Scots.
***If you plan on visiting Edinburgh Castle then make sure you purchase your Edinburgh Castle tickets in advance. The line is huge and no one likes waiting in line, so get your tickets ahead of time and be a winner at life.
10. Discussing the Trams
You know how you never bring up politics or religion in polite conversation because it never ends well?
The trams are kind of like that in Edinburgh.
It’s a super sore topic of conversation for locals so best leave this subject alone.
To not so adeptly change the subject, where’s my deep fried Mars bar?
11. Rubbing Greyfriar’s Bobby Nose
For those of you who aren’t in the know about local Scottish lore, Greyfriar’s Bobby was a Skye Terrier that became famous for allegedly spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner, until the dog himself died on 14 January 1872.
While the accuracy of this piece of Edinburgh Scotland history is disputed:
The infamy of Greyfriar’s Bobby has grown with the establishment of a memorial in 1863 at Greyfriars Kirk Cemetery and the creation of Greyfriar’s Bobby Pub in honor of this loyal, canine companion.
But whatever you do:
Do not rub Greyfriar’s Bobby’s nose. Shockingly enough, rubbing the statue’s nose is totally useless and will not inundate you with good luck (while we’re at it, you might as well leave the Loch Ness monster alone too).
If you Rub this Scared nose:
Not only will everyone know that you’re an Edinburgh Scotland tourist, but they will also silently hate you since rubbing Greyfriar Bobby’snose actually removes the statue’s paint and corrodes the statue itself.
As a result of all this wear and tear:
The bronze beneath has started to come through, making the nose look shiny and gold (the statue is hollow and actually all black).
So back away from the nose and no one gets hurt.
***If you have time and want to get away from the crowds for a bit, then consider a Scottish Highlands Day Tour. Many of my friends have done this tour and say that’s it’s absolutely amazing.
12. Getting in the Way of Edinburgh University Students (Please, they have to get to class!)
Look, I feel your pain:
It can be difficult to steer clear of students when the university campus is practically on the Royal Mile.
But remember that while you’re relaxing on vacation:
Other people are living their lives and fulfilling daily obligations like school and work. You know, all those annoyingly necessary things in life.
It’s important to be considerate of others and not block the pavement while oohing and aahing at the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby (don’t you touch that nose! lol), or while waiting on line to get into The Elephant House coffee shop (The”supposed” birthplace of Harry Potter and a mecca of sorts for Harry Potter fans around the world. I have heard through the grapevine though that Spoon is where the real writing has happened).
While you’re out there, snapping that selfie:
Some poor student is dashing to class to turn in that paper after a Monster energy drink-fueled all-nighter.
So be kind:
Make space for all the sleep deprived college kids who need to use this public space as an impromptu raceway (Come on guys, GPAs hang in the balance).
13. Losing track of Time
Before I did some Edinburgh Scotland travel:
I never realized how far North it was. I assumed it was about as far North as New York and that Scotland would have days that were similar in length to my hometown.
Well, boy was I wrong.
I strolled down the Royal Mile, enjoying some of the amazing, Edinburgh Scotland things to do and was totally bewildered when all of these shops started closing their doors when it was still light out. At least,
I was confused until I looked at my watch and saw that it was 9:30 pm!
So don’t be like me, per usual.
Stay aware of the time so that you can do necessary things like grab dinner before everything closes (I literally didn’t know what to eat since by this point, most of the grocery stores and restaurants were already closed. Thank God for protein bars).
*** And since you’re looking at your watch anyway, don’t forget to marvel at Edinburgh’s one of a kind sunsets (especially if you’re lucky enough to have decent weather). For your viewing pleasure grab a blanket, a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee, and enjoy the aptly named golden hour from Calton Hill. One of the most enchanting experiences you can have in Edinburgh.
14. Step Away from the Tourist Bars
Look, I know we’re all looking for an “authentic” travel experience:
But let’s be real, sometimes it can be a real pain in the ass to find them. You might even be tempted, for convenience sake, to head into one of the many Edinburgh Scotland bars on either Grassmarket or Rose Street.
At least not if you’re looking for a quiet drink, to meet a local, or hell, even get a drink at all. Sure, these watering holes can be a hoot during the Fringe Festival and various sporting events, but those are the only two times when such establishments are mildly acceptable.
Step into these places any other time of the year and you’ll feel like you’ re in a cattle call.
To avoid feeling like you’re on a farm, head to Sandy Bells on Forrest Road instead. Here, you’ll actually get a drink and hear some amazing, live Scottish Folk music.
***I don’t drink so this information was expertly passed on to me by some insanely wise people.
15. Not inhaling all the Scones and Clotted Cream you can find
At this point:
You’re probably wondering why there has been no mention of the amazingly vibrant and diverse food scene of Edinburgh Scotland restaurants.
Well, I wanted to save my favorite tip for last.
Now yes, Edinburgh does have a wealth of international and innovative cuisines to choose from
But I like to keep it traditional.
That’s why I indulged in some clotted cream and scones; a food that is probably one of the finest Edinburgh Scotland attractions of them all.
I’ve eaten my fair share of scones and clotted cream before (I mean in the US we are not TOTAL heathens) but they were always kind of blah.
The clotted cream was really gross. It was this weird white stuff that came out of a jar and tasted almost like sour cream. I really had no idea why anyone would ever put this on a scone, which was like this foul and overly dry, sawdusty, pseudo-biscuit.
But this changed when I tasted Edinburgh Scotland food and realized what a proper scone was like.
This confectionary marvel is warmed to perfection and served with a slightly crusty exterior that is complemented by a light, fluffy, and almost pillowy interior.
Truly the perfect combination of textures.
The flavor of the scone is then balanced out by a slightly sweet yet savory dough that melts in your mouth and always leaves you wanting more.
Slather on some fresh clotted cream and a dollop of fresh raspberry jam and you have found the definition of divinity.
Aren’t you glad you read this and now know more about Edinburgh in Scotland (we discourage any and all negativity)?
Now I admit:
While these Edinburgh Scotland travel tips may not make you Scottish enough to pull off a kilt, play the bagpipes, enjoy Haggis, or even understand what some locals are saying, this list will help you make the most out of your Edinburgh Scotland group travel plans.
A trip that will leave you with one question:
When can I go back?