Starting this year me and my partner made a yearly tradition for ourselves, go on holiday to one place abroad and also one or more places within the UK (where I live). Recently I’ve realised how important it is to understand the country where you live, it’s important to understand traditions all over your nation and get to know the people who are your neighbours. This year we chose Scotland, and what a great decision that was!
Scotland is absolutely beautiful, even the views from the plane were breathtaking. As Scotland is quite hilly and scenic, everywhere I looked there was something to see.. gorgeous Gothic architecture, views of the mountains and I could even see the Northern Sea and surrounding islands from the hilly parts of Edinburgh.
We started our holiday in Edinburgh as there was so much to see there and it made sense to keep this city as our base. We flew directly from Southampton airport to Edinburgh airport in around an hour and 10 mins, we hopped straight on to a city link bus outside of the airport to take us to the centre of Edinburgh, which was only £4.50 and only took around 20 mins. This city link bus drives straight past Edinburgh zoo as well as Haymarket and finally Edinburgh Centre, it’s easy to hop off at any time.
There is plenty of hotels in Edinburgh which are all relatively close to each other, we chose to go with trusty Travelodge as we’ve stayed with them in other cities. There is around 5 Travelodges in Edinburgh centre, with various prices depending on how close to the attractions you are. Our one was on Queen Street, which was super handy as it was around £50 cheaper than the other hotels and only took around 5 minuets longer to walk to it. The only thing that was a slight issue was the fact that our hotel didn’t serve hot breakfasts and didn’t have a restaurant like other Travelodges, we ended up just eating out which wasn’t a huge issue though.
Unless you can’t walk far, I highly recommend not using public transport to get around Edinburgh centre. We walked way over 20,000 steps each day but we ended up seeing way more as we walked down all the side streets instead of sitting on a bus and only going to the main tourist streets. After throwing our bags in to the hotel room we took a walk around Princes Street which is the main road in Edinburgh which has a lot of shops and coffee shops on. We also walked along North and South Bridge which has a lot of shops and restaurants along and up the Royal Mile, which leads up to Edinburgh Castle. On South Bridge is a small Forbidden Planet shop which has a great collection of Pop Vinyls, I ended up getting a rare Hades from Disney’s Hercules there. Just around the corner on the Royal Mile is a Warhammer shop, the nicest people ever work there. They are so helpful and answer all questions you could throw at them, also they gave us a free face painting lesson on our last day when we had a few hours to kill. In Waverley Mall which is located just above Edinburgh Waverley train station, is a anime shop called Anime Republic, they sell everything from cosplays, pokemon plushies, pop vinyls and other anime memorabilia. It’s a small shop but unlike a lot of anime shops it is in an easy location to get to and they sell a lot of cute merchandise.
One place you have to visit is Edinburgh castle, which is located right at the top of the Royal Mile, it’s a hell of a hill but has the most amazing view of the city underneath you. We bought our tickets online the day before leaving for Edinburgh, they were £17 each and if you print the tickets at home you can skip the hefty queue to collect your tickets at the attraction. You can buy tickets for the Castle here. We bought the early tickets which I recommend to everyone, it was easy to move around the castle freely without too many other tourists and we finished looking around by the time the bulk of people came to visit. Make sure to look in to all the attraction rooms at the castle, they are sometimes hard to miss but are filled with information about the castle and the wars Scotland were involved in.
Right outside the castle is a small but tall tower, this is Camera Obscura & World of Illusions, which is Edinburgh’s oldest attraction. Camera Obscura is 5 levels of complete madness. You start at the top floor which has an open top terrace where you can see views of all the city from above, then work your way down through rooms full of optical illusions, interactive play and a spinning light tunnel. You have to stay for the show which is located in a small dark room on the top floor, in this room is a large wooden table with Edinburgh below projected on to. I don’t want to spoil the show but you have to go, it’s a very interesting way to learn about the buildings and history of Edinburgh.
Calton Hill is another must see while in Edinburgh, located on Regent Street and up some steep steps. The view from Calton Hill is phenomenal, you have views of Edinburgh centre, Holyrood Park and Leith. Several iconic monuments lie on this hill, including the breathtaking National Monument (which is very hard to climb up as there is no steps), the Nelson Monument which you can climb up too, the Dugald Stewart Monument and a handful more. Take half an hour to just sit down and look out at how beautiful Scotland is, I will never forget the amazing views from this hill.
One place I wish I was brave enough to climb up was the Scott Monument in Princes Street Gardens. The 200 ft tower is a Victorian Gothic monument with 288 steps to reach the top. It costs only £8 to enter to moment and visit both the top of it and the museum, if I were to go back to Scotland I would definitely brave it and climb up this beautiful structure.
For £14, with a 16-24 rail card, we got the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow Queens Street which is only a 15 minute walk from Glasgow Central but the train took only 50 minutes instead of over an hour.
Within a 15 minute walk radius is a handful of shopping districts in Glasgow, the first one we visited was St. Enoch Centre which is down the road from Queens Street. St. Enoch Centre is beautiful for a shopping mall, there is many shops inside but the architecture is great and there is plenty of quirky things to see in there. There is a massive Hamley’s toy shop on the top floor which turned me and my partner into big kids, Disney store is located on the ground floor and there’s a massive HMV outside on Argyle Street.
A couple of roads over from Glasgow central is Princes street which has many designer brand shops inside, outside this centre is Queens Street which has shops like Debenhams, Primark and Next. Geek-aboo is a merchandise shop just a few shops up from Primark, it is honestly one of the best merch shops I have ever been to, I just wish I had more room in my luggage (and money) to buy more stuff!
Also a stones throw away from Glasgow Queens Street station is Buchanan St, which has many shops, cafes and restaurants on the high street plus a Concert Hall. We sat at the Starbucks here and watched a young guy play bagpipes in the street.
Jamaica St, just off of Argyle St, has a few Geeky shops on it. One of them being Tokyo Toys which sells all kids of anime/manga merch and even has a life sized Totoro in it! A few shops up is Geek Retreat, we didn’t end up going here but it looks super fun. It sells all types of geekery, plus it is a cafe and an event house.. they have comic books signings and meet and greets there.
However, the national treasure of Glasgow and the funniest thing I saw on the whole trip is sat right outside the Gallery of Modern Art. The statue of the Duke of Wellington on his horse has a permanent fixture on his head.. a traffic cone. My friend who regularly travels up to Glasgow told me that whoever puts the cones on the statue, regularly changes it up and piles multiple cones on the Duke’s head.. and even the horses too. The cone has even made it to Wikipedia, take a look. It’s nice to know the authorities have a humour like to people of Glasgow!
Scotland is a destination that you need to put on your ‘to do list’, we are already planning to go back sometime and visit outside the main cities like Loch Lomond, Leith and the countryside up North near Aberdeen. I honestly didn’t think I’d enjoy Scotland as much as I did, instead of travelling to London for birthdays and other events, I’m going to make an effort to explore more of Scotland.
Hope you enjoyed this guide, if you know of any places to visit in Scotland that I would like, please message me or comment below!