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Two Days in Edinburgh Solo: A Travel Diary

This post has been a long time coming. Meaning I literally went to Edinburgh a month ago and I’m just now getting this up. It would have been up way sooner, but I got annoyed that I had hundreds of photos to go through and just put off editing them for two weeks. It’s casual.

What matters is that I am here now to tell you all about the beautiful and historic city of Edinburgh!! A city I really want to go back to soon because I didn’t get to do everything I wanted. Plus, Edinburgh is so much more my vibe than Glasgow is. There. I said it.

2 Days Solo in Edinburgh: Everything I did in the historic city over two days as a solo female traveller

Getting to Edinburgh

Lucky for me, getting to Edinburgh from Glasgow is super easy. There’s a bus to Edinburgh that runs literally every 15 minutes from the bus station across the street from my school. How convenient right?

I left a little after noon since I had a class that morning, and got to Edinburgh in just barely over an hour. I spent most of the time listening to music and watching the countryside flash by out the window. The bus even had wifi so I could listen to music that I didn’t just have saved on my phone, too! That wifi worked a gazillion times better than the wifi on the train I took to Liverpool!! Like Virgin Trains, you need to step up your game!

I made sure to have the walking directions to the hostel I was staying at pulled up on Google Maps before I got off the bus. No one wants to be lost in a foreign city.

Where I Stayed

I had a reservation at St. Christopher’s Inn hostel right across from Waverly train station. It was the very first hostel I had ever stayed at and I was very impressed!!

I stayed in a female dorm with four three-bed bunkbeds. There were lockers for each bed, and we all shared one bathroom. But of course, there were other bathrooms in the hostel, just on different floors. The shower looked nicer than the one I have in my flat, but the temperature sucked! The water was either freezing cold or scalding hot and nothing I did changed that.

For one night, I only paid like £10 so I’m not trying to complain at all. I actually loved the hostel and can’t wait to spend nights at some more across the UK! Maybe I’m just weird, but I sleep best when there are other people near me, so being in a room with like 11 other girls made sleeping a dream.

Day 1

Since I had to check into the hostel, it was already past 2 p.m. before I could start exploring. I had a faint idea of where I wanted to go so I just headed down the west end of the Royal Mile, which was only a block south of my hostel.

The first attraction I was St. Giles Cathedral. It’s free to enter, but you have to pay for a photography permit, so I just walked in and walked out because it really didn’t seem all that amazing. The spire was absolutely gorgeous though. I could always spot it in the distance.

After seeing the cathedral I started to head towards the National Museum of Scotland.

On the way to the museum, I spotted this famed cafe!! The Elephant House is the “birthplace of Harry Potter.”  And that’s in quotes because there is no proof J.K. Rowling came up with the idea for the series at this location, but she did spend quite a lot of time there writing the books.

I didn’t step inside because I wasn’t hungry and had already had coffee as soon as I arrived in the city. If I ever go back to Edinburgh, I will make a point just to at least pop in to look around. Even if it’s just a huge tourist trap.

Just a little further down the road from The Elephant Cafe is Greyfriar’s Cemetery where a lot of Scotland’s most famous people are buried! I had heard about this dog statue across from the cemetery and only took the picture because of the touching story behind it.

This is the Greyfriars Bobby. The statue was erected in 1873 to honor the dog who watched over his dead owner’s grave for 14 years after his death.

National Museum of Scotland

After snapping a couple pictures of the bobby, I crossed the street and entered the National Museum of Scotland. The actual entryway wasn’t impressive at all, but as soon as you climb up a set of steps into the actual museum you get a view of this gorgeous room.

I kid you not I stopped in my tracks. I was so in awe of the beauty and architecture of the building. Sadly, that was basically all the museum had going for me. There were only two exhibits I really enjoyed out of the 13 housed there.

One of the exhibits was the marble statue collection, which you can see on the upper left level in the photo above. But some guy stopped and talked to me for like 10 minutes when I was taking pictures there. He was so impressed that I am a self-taught photographer and kept asking me if I was famous. Why are people so creepy? I left the museum after talking to him.

The fashion exhibit was the only other slightly interesting exhibit. They had clothes on display from all eras, and even a little side that talked about what beauty means.

I’m a sucker for old clothing, and always wished I could dress up in clothes like the dress above. I mean this dress has a cape!! How fun right?

Calton Hill

After leaving the museum, I headed towards Calton Hill. I had heard it was a great place to see the whole city and it was getting to be around sunset so I thought I could get a good little show. But the walk there was shorter than I anticipated and I was still too early for any orange or red skies. Still had great views though.

Just be warned, the climb to the top of the hill is a real climb. Like intense hill action. I’m not joking I had to stop half-way up.

 

Not only could you see the whole city from the hill, but you could see the water!! I didn’t take any pictures of that view because I wanted to just take it in myself. I stood on the hill just staring out at the water in the distance for a good couple minutes before continuing my trek around the hilltop.

Basically, don’t skip Calton Hill if you go to Edinburgh!!!!!

Old Calton Burial Ground

After making the descent from Calton Hill, I headed back towards where I had come from and popped into the small burial ground across the street. I’m very interested in darker things in life, so of course, the idea of walking around an old cemetery near dusk was my idea of a good time.

One thing I noticed immediately was a statue of Abraham Lincoln. I actually did a double take. Like why is an American president in an old Scottish burial ground?? So I walked up to the monument and saw the statue was part of a memorial for Scottish-American soldiers that fought during the Civil War.

Most of the burial ground was in disrepair and overgrown with plants. A lot of the resting places were mausoleums, which reminded me of Louisiana. It was really sad to see that a lot of the walls of the mausoleums were crumbled or purposely torn down, though.

Holyrood Palace

Holyrood House Queen's Gallery Edinburgh

It still wasn’t dark yet, so I decided to try and fulfill my mom’s dream and go visit the royal family’s Edinburgh residence. It’s hardly ever used, so most of the time it’s open to the public for tours. Unfortunately, it was closed by the time I made the walk over. So instead of going inside, I just took a couple photos of the Queen’s Gallery in front of the palace.

Golf Tavern and Meeting Araminta

Since it was finally getting dark, I headed back to the hostel. I had plans to meet a fellow blogger, Araminta from Financially Mint, at a pub at 8, so I needed to find some dinner! I ended up just eating a quesadilla and some potato wedges from the bar, Belushi’s, right next to my hostel because I had 25% off there.

Then I headed off to meet Araminta! I got there before here, so I ordered a Magners (one of my fav ciders) and sat at the bar until she arrived. We literally talked for over an hour just about traveling an blogging and going to schools in different countries. I left feeling so inspired blog-wise, which I hope you have noticed!!

Day 2

I woke up early the next day so I wouldn’t have to fight the other girls in my room for the bathroom, and so I could get some breakfast before it got too crowded. The hostel’s breakfast was actually really good. Or maybe I just really missed buffet style meals. (I miss my dining hall a lot y’all) 

Then I checked out of my room, stored my backpack in a locker, and headed out towards Greyfriar’s Cemetary. I didn’t actually go in the day before, so I wanted to do that before heading to the castle since I knew that castle doesn’t open until 10 a.m. Unlucky for me, the cemetery was closed to the public for restoration and repairs. So off to the castle I went.

Edinburgh Castle

I got to the castle walls around 9:30 so I had a half hour to kill before they opened the doors. The worst part was it was freezing cold and windy as crap since the castle sits on a hill. I tried to make the best of it by enjoying the sun peeking out from the clouds and the beautiful view of the city and Arthur’s Seat.

Arthur’s Seat is a mountain (??? hill? cliff?) on the outskirts of Edinburgh. It’s the first geographical feature in the background of the photo above.

Funny story about Arthur’s Seat

A fellow study abroad student from the US messaged me on Instagram after seeing my story I posted about arriving in Edinburgh to tell me I had to climb Arthur’s Seat. I didn’t have time on my two-day trip, but I still talk to the guy every once in awhile. It’s so cool how us international students just click like that!

Inside the Castle Walls

As soon as the doors open I speed walked it inside and bought my £17 ticket. Which was totally overpriced, but I wanted to see the castle after falling in love with Stirling Castle a few weeks prior.

Honestly, I didn’t like Edinburgh Castle all that much. It was too military focused and I felt there wasn’t much other history portrayed in the castle. I guess that makes sense though since it is the most besieged castle in Great Britain.

The only parts of the castle I really enjoyed were the dungeons, prison, and underground tower house. There’s my creepy side coming out again.

The dungeons were staged to make them appear how they would have been when they were in use hundreds of years ago. They reminded me of pirates! Which is one type of prisoner they did hold.

The dungeons also held some American prisoners during the Revolutionary War. And they were treated awful. They were given almost no food in comparison to all the other prisoners. Reading about this made me really sad and also put into perspective how much history the castle holds.

My absolute favorite thing about the dungeons were the original doors. They had the doors of the dungeons removed and placed in glass cases to show off the carvings made by the hundreds of prisoners once thrown down there. And carved into one of the doors is the earliest known depiction of the American flag. Can you spot it?

The little chapel on the castle grounds is also worth a small stop. St Margaret’s Chapel is actually the oldest structure on the property. If you’re religious, this place is a must stop for you. It’s very small, but it felt holy inside. And that’s a lot coming from me since I’m not religious.

Royal Botanic Gardens

After leaving the castle, I headed off towards the Royal Botanic Gardens. Botanic gardens have highkey become my thing since coming abroad. Every city I visit I always want to check if they have one!!

To get to the gardens, I had to cross over from Old Town into New Town. And I just realized I never said Edinburgh is split into Old and New Town! So basically Old Town is exactly like it sounds and houses all the older buildings and the Royal Mile. New Town looks more like a modern city with flats and shops, but not modern like NYC. It’s still got that classic European city look because it was built in the 15th and 16th centuries. I really wish I had taken some photos of New Town but my camera was almost dead and I wanted to make sure I got some pictures in the gardens!

Walking around the gardens was free! The gardens cover a huge expanse of land and were beautiful even though it was winter. I did see some beautiful flowers blooming and plenty of squirrels and birds!

edinburgh royal botanic gardens

Getting into the glasshouses did cost me £5.50 though. I think it was worth it since I’m glasshouse obsessed, but if you think plants are boring you could totally skip this part.

 

Scottish National Gallery

Afte leaving the gardens I started to make my way back towards Old Town because I had a tour scheduled for 5 p.m. and it was already almost 4 p.m. On the way back to Old Town, I stopped in at the Scottish National Gallery and omg I wish I had more time to actually explore the gallery. The paintings and statues were breathtaking! There were literally paintings that took up whole walls!

When I make it back to Edinburgh I will definitely be spending at least a solid hour in here.

Mercat Underground Tour

Last but not least, I had my underground tour! This was the thing I was most excited about because as I mentioned before, creepy things are my jam.

On the tour, we got a little backstory of the horrible living conditions of the city and why the underground was built. Basically, they built a bridge to connect two parts of the city but didn’t want to waste living space, so they used space under the bridge as underground real estate for businesses. This didn’t go over well because they didn’t waterproof it and well, it’s Scotland. Eventually, everyone moved out and criminals and the poor moved in.

The underground is supposedly haunted so we got our fair share of ghost tales. And I do have to say, I felt something dark down there before the tour guide even mentioned anything.

As soon as the tour ended, I ate dinner, picked up my luggage from the hostel and headed to the bus station to go back to Glasgow.


I know this post was insanely long, but I didn’t like the idea of breaking it up into two posts. Hopefully, me keeping this extra long gave you at least one reason to visit Edinburgh!

Which place seems like a must-see for you?

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