• Meghan Bartok

A Weekend in Edinburgh

Updated: Apr 13

As one of the last trips I took when I was studying abroad, my Canadian friend Luke and I decided we wanted to check out Edinburgh, Scotland. We went at the beginning of May, and the weather was beautiful! It was sunny for two of the three days we were there and warm enough that we didn’t need to wear a jacket on those days. We caught the overnight Megabus from London for about £25 return – not the most glamorous way of travel, but it saved us on a night of accommodation, and was still cheaper than flying!


Day One

After not enough sleep, we arrived in Edinburgh at 7 am. We stopped at McDonald's for a quick breakfast – not something I’m super proud of, but it was cheap, quick, and open. We also used their bathroom to freshen up for the day (oh the life of a backpacker!) before walking to our hostel. After dropping our bags off there, we headed out to walk around the city. We also soon discovered that Edinburgh is very beautiful and very hilly. I loved all the grey stone buildings; my favorite cities are the ones with incredible architecture that looks old and historic, and Edinburgh did not disappoint.

Our first stop and the main attraction for the day was Edinburgh Castle. This is arguably one of the main tourist/historic attractions in the city, and for good reason. It sits on a hill in the middle of the city, and you can see it from almost everywhere in the city. Both being history majors, Luke and I knew this was a must-do, even though the entrance fee was a bit steep for us at £16. After our day there, we decided it was definitely worth it! The entrance included a free guided tour, so we joined that to learn some of the history of the castle, which was super interesting! There was actually a prison inside the castle where American prisoners were held during the Revolutionary War. We also got to see the Scottish crown jewels and the room where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to the future King James I of England. We also got to hear the firing of the one o’clock gun, which was very impressive! The views from the Castle over the city of Edinburgh were also incredible.


Following our tour of the castle, we headed back to the hostel to take a little nap and have a snack before continuing our day. Our afternoon plans started off with a visit to the National Museum of Scotland, which is free, and a great museum! I was very impressed by the number of hands-on and interactive exhibits. There was a whole wing on the history of Scotland, which was very informational, especially learning how Scotland and England formed the United Kingdom. I also enjoyed the Natural World section with all the animals. The museum is huge, and had a variety of exhibits – definitely something for everyone here! After stopping by Tesco to get some snacks and food for breakfast in the morning, we headed back to our hostel, thoroughly exhausted by our lack of sleep the night before and our busy day. It was going to be an early night for us!


Day Two

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It was an early morning for us, as we were headed up to the Scottish Highlands to see Loch Ness. After grabbing a coffee, we were off to the train station, ready for our three-hour train ride. It was an incredible day out in nature, and nice to get out of the city. As much as I love city sightseeing, I will always feel most at home in the countryside. You can read about our day trip to the Highlands here.


Day Three

Sadly, this was our last day in Scotland. Even though we had only been there for two days, Luke and I had both fallen in love with Scotland, and nearly three years later, I’m still eagerly awaiting the time I can go back! We packed our day with a variety of activities, starting with the St. Giles cathedral – very pretty, but no photos allowed inside, sadly. After grabbing a morning coffee, we set off to Calton Hill, which is on the opposite side of the city from Edinburgh Castle, and also had some beautiful views. At the top of the hill, there are the beginnings of a model of the Parthenon, which was never completed due to a lack of funds. However, it made for a great area to enjoy the sunshine, and have lunch and a chat. From Calton Hill, you can see Arthur’s Seat, which is a mountain (or a very large hill, depending on where you’re from!) right in the middle of Edinburgh.


Before we tackled the mountain, we checked out the People’s Story Museum, where we learned about the people who had lived in Edinburgh from the 1700s until now, including a whole room on the transformation of gay rights in Scotland, which was very interesting! Then it was across the street to the Museum of Edinburgh, which had a variety of decorative arts and more about the general history of Edinburgh. The best part was that both of these museums were free!


Our next task would be the biggest of the day, climbing Arthur’s Seat. Let me tell you, it was actually a lot taller than it looked. Nevertheless, it’s still something I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Edinburgh, and definitely something I would do again if I found myself back in the city, although this time I would choose better walking shoes than worn-out Converse! After checking my phone’s pedometer, it turned out that we had climbed the equivalent of 146 flights of stairs. Don’t let that number scare you though, the views were so pretty that we hardly noticed the climb! It’s also a great place for a picnic, and I could have spent a whole day there, reading in the grass and enjoying the sun!

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We wrapped up our last day in Edinburgh by walking around the part of the city we hadn’t been to yet, more to walk around and talk than seeing anything in particular. I do love how green Edinburgh is – there is no lack of parks and outdoor space, which is what I enjoy in a city! We grabbed some dinner, then headed back to the hostel to get our bags. We stayed at Kick-Ass hostels, which we really enjoyed and I would highly recommend! Then it was off to the coach station for another overnight bus back to London!

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