A green rolling mountain range set against a blue sky.

UK Road Trip: Scotland

Thoughts from Alanna…

Below is Part Two of my quick UK road trip this summer! Read all about the beauty of Wales in Part One.

After about 5.5 hours driving from north Wales, we made it to our hotel outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. The city is very busy in the summer and was even worse now because it was hosting the Edinburgh International Festival (high-end, posh shows) alongside the Fringe Festival (usually free acts trying to get noticed). Tons of hotels were sold out so we settled for the Sweet Chestnut by Marston’s Inns about 30 minutes from the city centre. It’s a simple hotel but the room was perfect, everything was clean and it was beside a pub/restaurant where we had an included full English breakfast every morning.

After finding decent parking in the western part of the city, we decided on visiting Edinburgh Castle for our first day. We knew where it was (it’s hard to miss perched onto of a mini-cliff) but took an extra-long way to get there.

We went the wrong way around. I’ll admit it.

Check your maps, people! We were very lucky that the weather was extra sunny and hot so we were very drenched by the time we made it to the castle.

TIP: Book your tickets for the castle online ahead of time to beat the queue. We didn’t since we weren’t sure which day we’d want to do it and thus had to wait in a sweaty line-up for 30 minutes to get our tickets. It’s a bit expensive (about £16 per person) but the castle is massive. There’s so many museums, cafes, historical buildings, crown jewels and, of course, some of the best views of the city all within the castle. You can easily spend most of your day here just like we did.

It basically looks like Hogwarts.

The castle is situated on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s High Street. It’s crammed with pubs, whisky bars, gift shops and the like so it’s a great place to wander and explore.

However, since we were here during the International and Fringe Festivals, the place was packed. Every three steps (I counted) someone would try to sell their show to you. “Come see the best improv comedy show in the city!” “See a play about a man and his microwave!” “This dance showcase will blow your mind!” Acts for the fringe are not payed to perform and many of them are free to see (or pay what you can) so they try to sell themselves the best they can to stand out from the other hundreds there. We watched a comedy/magic duo that was really good and a Canadian busker who was hilarious but could have spent our entire time in the city seeing shows.

But it does get overwhelming and frustrating trying to get anywhere when the street is so overcrowded and the tourist in front of you decides to abruptly stop walking.A huge crowd of people along a main street in Edinburgh, Scotland.

We ended the day exhausted and sweaty but all the wandering helped get our bearings.

The next day started off with a guided tour of Mary King’s Close. You’ll find this tiny place on the Royal Mile and for £15 per person, you’ll see real homes of historic Edinburgh underground. The city built on top of these homes, forcing the occupants out but preserved the buildings below. You can’t take any pictures but our guide was incredibly knowledgable about the buildings, those who lived there and important facts about the era, including the plague and how it impacted these homes. Overall it was very cool and I’d definitely recommend it for those in the city. It’s just 50 minutes so there’s no reason you won’t have time.

Afterwards we got some lunch from a food truck and wandered the local arts market. Lots of cool stuff!

Next we set off along the Royal Mile away from the castle all the way to the bottom at Holyrood Palace. This is the home of the Queen when she visits the city and for a price you can get inside. We skipped this but walked alongside the palace to Holyrood Park where you can climb a mini-mountain to Arthur’s Seat. This was by-far my favourite part of Edinburgh. It’s so incredible that you have this mountain in the middle of such a big city with different difficulty paths so there’s something for everyone. We decided to take the quickest path up to the peak before having a picnic slightly below on the grass, then taking a longer path back down. What a view!

We only had two full days in the city (due to time and cost) and I wouldn’t recommend any less otherwise you’ll be way too rushed. If you have extra time (and can buy tickets) there’s also the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo which sounds like a great time! A short but sweet visit, I can’t to return!

The view of Edinburgh, Scotland from a nearby mountain.