We all love travelling don’t we? And if it wouldn’t be that expensive we’d do it all the time! What if I told you that I’ve spent four days in the beautiful city of Edinburgh and only payed about a 170 pounds? That’s affordable isn’t it? Keep on reading for some money-saving tricks and my must-sees in Scotlands historic capital city!
Where do I stay?
If you don’t care about staying in a room with strangers I have just the right place for you! The West End Hostel offers you a nice accomodation only 20 minutes away from the Princes Street Gardens for only 11 pounds a night! The dormitory style shared rooms are available for 6-24 people with bathrooms either in the room or right over the corridor. There are only-female dorms as well!
The rooms are clean and offer you a small locker for your valuable belongings free of charge.
You can either eat in the hostel-bistro (20% off while you stay there) and have breakfast there as well (3 pounds a day) or use the fully equipped shared kitchen with a fridge to store your food. My friend told me, that this is normal in a hostel, but since I’ve never been to a hostel before I didn’t knew it. So in case you are as unknowing as I am – now you know!
You have to check out at 11am on the day of your departure, but they offer you a luggage storage so you can easily leave your suitcase there and enjoy your last day in the city without having to carry it with you all the time.
For more information see their website: https://www.thewestendhotel.co.uk
Food is always a good plan!
While the supermarket will always be the easiest and cheapest alternative to provide yourself with food during a trip, there are some nice (and not even expensive) restaurants and bistros to consider when you’re feeling a little hungry again. I give you three examples of places that not only serve you good food but also protect your wallet!
The Thistle Stop Cafe
Wanderlust Cafe & Bistro
This wee cafe is hidden in Edinburghs old town and offers a variety of simple but delicious small dishes. No matter if you want a traditional English Breakfast or a nice panini for lunch you’ll find just the right meal here!
Right in the center of the city the Wanderlust Cafe & Bistro is the perfect place for a lunch break or a hot coffee to warm you up. You can choose between tasty burgers, healthy salads, sweet treats and many more!
Anybody up for an instagram-worthy breakfast? You’ve come to the right place! Not only was my toasted banana bread with plum and almonds beyond this world, it was also picture-perfect!
So many things to explore!
When I visit a city I always try to see as much as possible. Of course there are the obligatory sights everybody has on his or her bucket list but I strongly recommend you to not forget about the insider tips. I tried to make a good selection of both here – insiders and commonly known things to do on your next trip to the city.
The 12th century castle seems to hover over the city like a guardian angel. Being a landmark it attracts millions of tourists every year and that for good reason. History lives on within the castle walls and even beyond throughout the whole city. The castle however is a good place to start your exploration tour of Edinburgh’s old town.
We bought our tickets online to avoid the queue and save us some time and that was definitely a good thing to do! The online tickets have a timed entrance which means that you have a time slot (30 minuntes) to get into the castle and skip the line. The earliest entrance is 9.30 and it’s really worth to sacrifice some sleep in the morning to be one of the first at the castle. We arrived at 9.20 and about 15 minutes later we were in and equipped with our audioguides, ready to explore the medieval royal residence before it was crowded with all the tourists. You should also consider to start at the top of the castle where you’ll find the Honours of Scotland and the Great Hall and then make your way downwards. If you want to see and hear the famous 1 o’clock gunshot you have to be there long before 1 pm and can’t visit on a Sunday since they don’t fire the gun then.
Buying an audioguide is a good investment if you are interested in the castles history and want to hear some insights from experts. The numbers for the informations tracks are spread all over the building and you can listen to the tracks in whatever order you want to which means that you can tour the castle in your pace.
If you are generally not that much interested in history the information boards on the most important attractions might already be enough for you. Don’t worry you can always go back to the “audioguide-rent-station” and get one or even join one of the free guided tours that set off every 30 minutes.
We planned 1 hour for the castle, stayed 2 and had still not seen everything so make sure you have enough time! Also don’t miss out on the tiny St Margaret’s Chapel which was built around 1130, rediscovered in 1845 and is one of the most beautiful places in the castle. And last but not least take into account that you will be outside most of the time so rather not go on a super rainy or cold day.
Adults (16-59 yrs)
Children (5-15 yrs)
Concession (60+ and unemployed, no students!)
Children under 5 go free.
The Literary Pub Tour
What if I told you that you could visit some of Edinburghs nicest pubs, enjoy cool beers or ciders and learn about interesting history on the side? Sounds good? Then you should definitley check out the “Literary Pub Tour”!
Seldomly have I laughted and enjoyed myself that much on a guided tour.
We met at 19.30 at the first pub where the tour started with a little introduction from our nice guide. Within the next two hours we visited two other bars and many other places steeped in history. In the end we had not only learned about Edinburgh itself but also about some of its most famous authors and the Scottish language.
This tour is without a doubt one of the best you can do in Edinburgh and well worth the money!
Please note that you should be able to understand English really good since the guides will probably talk with the typical (in my opinion really lovely) Scottish accent. If you don’t understand English that good rather not try to understand them! 😉
Also the drinks aren’t included in the ticket so be prepared to spend some money on them. AND last but not least you will spend most of the time outside so remember there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing! 😉
You can buy your tickets online right here at a reduced price or at the meeting point at the main entrance to The Beehive Inn. Please check the website as well for the times as they change from month to month.
Reduced Ticket (Online)
Don’t we all love a good piece of chocolate? But have you ever thought about where that chocolate came from?
In the Chocolatarium you will learn how the delicious treat is processed, starting with the cocoa bean till you can taste it in the end. Yes you’ve read right you will taste it and not only one piece but a whole lot of other pieces as well! YIPPIIIIEE! Not convinced yet? You can do your own chocolate and sprinkle it with the most amazing toppings in this world.
This tour is not only super interesting but also just too delicious to miss it!
A tour lasts 90 minutes.
My absolute highlight aka a FREE Highlands Tour
A free highlands tour sounds too good to be true? That’s what we thought as well but let me tell you booking this was the best decision we made! Usually a tour to the Highlands will cost you between £30-60 but this one is completely free and based on tips only meaning you give as much as you think it was worth!
We met at 8.45 in the morning and boarded our bus together with about 20 other people and our tourguide/driver Brian. The first stop was Forth Bridge where we stayed for a quick photo and toilet break. Brian shared some anecdotes about the bridges and then we continued our journey to the next sight.
The National William Wallace Monument built in the 19th century in honour of the Scottish national hero Sir William Wallce better known as “Braveheart” is one of 20 monuments all over Scotland. After a steep climb of 246 steps one can enjoy the breathtaking views from the top of the 67 meters high tower. The three floors inside the monument hold a nice exhibition about William Wallace including his sword and interesting facts about the 13th century fight from which he emerged the legend he is today.
Unfortunately the time wasn’t enough to see everything since we couldn’t take the first free shuttle bus up the Abbey Craig. If you miss the first bus I recommend to walk the 15 minutes trail up the hill to the tower. You can buy the tickets for the monument at the foot of the hill right next to the parking lot where the bus is going to stop. The cafe there also offers a nice selection of food and drinks for a little snack.
starting at £23.50
The next stop on our tour was the beautiful Lake of Menteith, the only lake in Scotland! Yes you’ve heard right all the other ones are called “loch” which is similar but not quite the same (please don’t ask me why! To me it looks pretty much identical!). We took great pictures there and then left for our lunch break in a lovely little town I absolutely can’t remember the name of. But when you are there try to find a family run cafe/bistro with unbelievably good cake! Yeah we had cake for luch and I don’t regret it in the slightest! If you brought your own lunch you can enjoy it on one of the many picnic tables around the parking lot.
On our way to Loch Katrine Brian stopped in the middle of nowhere on top of a hill with wonderful views over the Highlands for a few minutes before we all had to go back to the bus.
Loch Katrine is not only the primary water reservoir of the greater area of Glasgow but also inspiration for many literary works. Sir Walter Scott for example dedicated his poem “The Lady of the Lake” to the 13km long Loch. As well as famous writers there is another celebrity linked to Loch Katrine: Queen Victoria who opened the aqueduct network there in 1859. The time you will have there is probably enough to surround a great deal of the Loch but not to enjoy a cruise on it. You will still see a lot, don’t worry!
On our “rollercoaster ride” (you’ll know it when you do it!) to the last sight Brian stopped again to visit his hairy friends and feed them with delicious, fresh carrots. Who are they you ask? The Hairy Coos! Those cute animals have easily been one of the highlights of the day and not only for kids!
Doune Castle was the last halt of the day and my personal favourite. I have a thing for castles and old buildings in general but if they served as a shooting location for “Outlander” and “Game of Thrones” as well, I literally can’t handle my excitement! I did an audioguide tour which I strongly recommend doing if you want to feel the abandoned rooms come to live again. You have access to the great hall with it’s beautiful timber panelling, the kitchen with the highest chimney I’ve ever seen and many other rooms, every one with it’s very own story.
Children under 5 go free.
To put it in a nutshell booking our tour with “The Hairy Coo” was probably the best decision we made on our whole trip! I enjoyed every second of it and fell head over heels in love with the Highlands! If you are travelling on a budget but still want to see as much as possible in a short time book your tour right here!
There is one final little thing I want to say about the tour. It is a FREE tour but that doesn’t mean, that you should not pay anything. On our way back Brian reminded us, that the tour was financed by tips only and that means the people who attended it before you payed for your tour. When we left the bus we left our “tips” with Brian. My friend and I payed £25 each since we knew that the tour was worth £45. We would have given more but we literally couldn’t. I think that’s ok since the whole concept is to make the tour affordable for people who can’t spend loads of money. What really upset me was seeing people leave the bus without paying ANYTHING or a very, very small amout.
Please be fair! If you really can’t give any more that’s ok but please appreciate the work and effort they are putting into it and pay them what you would like to receive if you had organized a tour like that!
The National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland is a great destination for the whole family! With many things to explore and try yourself not only adults will have a good time here. The way the exhibitions are located in the beautiful 19th century building makes it easy to find the ones you are really interested in. I enjoyed the big (3 floors!) exhibition about Edinburghs and Scotlands history a lot but you can also find parts about general history from all over the world, the wildlife, the universe, technology (including Dolly the cloned sheep!) and many more. For a little break during your visit the museum offers snacks and drinks in the big museum cafe. Since the admission is free I recommend however to leave the museum, eat somewhere where it’s a little cheaper and come back when you’re ready.
If you want to see everything you should at least plan half a day or even more. For the ones who can’t spare so much time the museum offers free guided tours with different areas of focus. Just take a look here.
One last word of saving advise: Don’t bother buying bus or train tickets! Everything can be reached easily on foot if you are not injured or travelling with somebody who can’t walk a whole day. Be prepared however to walk uphill and downhill a lot, Edinburgh is build around a mountain and this mountain is very present in the whole city! 😉
All that’s left to say for me now is: Enjoy your trip to Scotlands capital city! 🙂