Date of Trip: November 2002
Edinburgh is geared towards squeezing the pennies from the tourists, but it can still be enjoyed by anyone travelling on a budget. Most cities have a park or two, Edinburgh is fortunate enough to be a city in a park. Stunning views of surrounding areas are easily reached.
Quick Tips and Suggestions
If you want to visit during the festival, book well in advance at St. Christopher’s Inn. When I arrived in Scotland, it was cold, it was raining, it was everything I expected. Stepping out of the train station I headed for the nearest hostel; St. Christopher’s Inn. It’s a thirty-second walk from the train station, and in the center of the historical heart of the city, very convenient. Stumbling in with my heavy backpack, the Australian receptionist greeted me with a smile and I happily parted with my cash – £15 a night to share an eight-bed dormitory. However, everything wasn’t as it seemed. With the skill of a politician, St. Christopher’s had been somewhat economical with the truth. Its adverts claimed an excellent TV and games room, which turned out to be two sofas and a pack of cards. Residents received free continental breakfast each morning, which was two slices of toast with jam. Constant improvements were also promised, this at least was true, as guys with hammers and drills woke me up at 8am each morning.
To its credit however, the hostel is attached to a bar called Belushis, which provides good food, (at a discount to residents) and Sky television, so you don’t miss your favourite sports team getting beaten. There is also no curfew, and you need electronic cards to access your room, although true backpackers never have anything worth stealing.
Still, unless your traveling in a large group, I’d recommend you check out other hostels first before checking in, as you’re likely to get a better deal a little further away from the city center.
Kilts in the Cold
You have to respect the Scottish; harsh winters, high mountains, horrendous winds – and they still wear kilts. Impressive. They may only be worn at football matches and weddings these days, but Edinburgh still has a thriving kilt industry. A visit to the woolen mill proves that. Witness kilts being woven in the traditional methods, and then witness your wallet getting thinner as you buy your family tartan; everyone’s got a Celtic root somewhere. Edinburgh has more to offer than ramparts and tartan, however. The old town offers whisky tours and haggis tasting; the new town presents a fantastic range of high-street shops and overpriced bus tours, and there’s also the student area with its budget shops and vegetarian tattie (potato) shops. And if you can afford it you can even visit during the festival period.
Don’t worry if you’re a little short of cash though, as Edinburgh is a great town to explore. There are many twisting paths, hidden buildings and specialist shops to discover. The general rule also seems to be that the closer to the city center, the more expensive the attraction – culture doesn’t come cheap these days – the castle costs over £8 to visit for example. So head out of town, my favourite attraction is only a ten-minute walk out of the city center, and it’s free.
Holyrood Park is home to steep crags, majestic lochs and also Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in the park. It’s well worth the short climb to the top, as when the carpet of mist retreats it provides fantastic 360° views of the area, particularly impressive at dusk. You probably won’t see anyone in a kilt around here, but you will see plenty of locals in cycling shorts or running tops, as the crags are a popular recreation area. Personally I’d recommend several layers, it gets chilly up there, even if you do have Celtic roots.