Anna shares her experience and advice on planning a solo trip to Edinburgh, and how to make the most of any solo trip. She talks about travel options, accommodation, managing solitude, and places to visit in Edinburgh, including attractions, shopping areas, and dining spots.
In April of last year I went on a solo trip to Edinburgh, and I think it may be the best thing I’ve ever done.
After loosely planning a similar trip with four of my uni friends which eventually fell through, I decided to go on my own.
I booked the trip alone at half one in the morning with only a month to go. The whole scenario paints me to be far more spontaneous than I actually am. Normally I’d require a month or two of rigorous planning before booking something like this, but this was an impulsive decision that paid off.
Solo travel is such an incredible experience and to anyone who is even slightly considering it I would tell them to absolutely go for it. However, it can also be quite a daunting thing to commit to. As much as I love my own company, a four night trip somewhere I’d never been before was definitely out of my comfort zone.
Here I’d like to offer my own advice and experience surrounding getting into solo travel, as well as why I think Edinburgh in particular is the perfect starting point!
Choosing a Place
If this is your first time travelling alone it may be worth picking somewhere slightly closer to home. I knew I wanted to travel by myself but the thought of going abroad (especially as someone who has not been to many foreign countries) felt like too big of a step.
This brings me to why I think Edinburgh is the ~perfect~ location, especially if you’re in the south of England like me.
Firstly, it is very well connected. I’ve been to Edinburgh a couple of times, getting there either by coach or by plane. Ideally, I would have much rather caught the train on both occasions but even with my trusty student railcard the price was way out of my budget.
Getting a coach, on the other hand, left my bank account far happier.
I do just want to stress that the 11-hour overnight coach journey from London to Edinburgh is not for the faint-hearted. My love for the national express runs pretty deeply, and as much as I recommend long-haul overnight journeys, having done a fair few, I usually end up hating my past-self for making the decision.
It is a bit of give and take: lack of sleep and listening to a child screaming for twelve hours while sitting in an upright position, or taking out a small loan for the train. If, unlike me, you’re not a financially unstable student, I’d opt for the train.
Last December, after a restless journey on the national express, I made it to Edinburgh at 7.30 and was able to watch the sunrise from Calton Hill. Absolutely freezing, but so beautiful it almost made my night of no sleep worth it.
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Where to Stay in Edinburgh
Accommodation, again, is something that does not have to break the bank.
When searching for places to stay in Edinburgh I was not on the lookout for anywhere glam as I knew most of my time would be spent out in the city and I only needed somewhere to sleep.
However, I did want it to be fairly central and as this was my first time travelling alone I was looking to have my own room, not yet feeling up to bunking in a hostel.
I ended up staying in the Premier Inn Hub in Haymarket. It worked out to be around £50/£55 per night and I would highly recommend it to anyone travelling alone.
The rooms are far smaller and more compact than normal Premier Inns but if you’re not planning on spending much time in the room it’s great. It’s also only a fifteen minute walk from Edinburgh Castle and it’s fairly busy, which is sometimes a comfort if you’re on your own, especially if it’s later in the year and getting dark earlier.
If you need one final push to book a stay they also provide free tea and coffee (herbal tea selection too!)
Managing Being Alone
One thing that has stopped me from booking a solo trip in the past has been the fear that spending time by myself might lose its novelty after a few days.
To deal with this I made sure to book or plan one significant activity per day before the trip so I never woke up with a completely empty day ahead of me. I wanted these plans to mainly cover the late afternoon / early evening period as this was the time I expected a lonely panic may set in.
I made sure to leave free time to just walk around but having some sense of what I was doing made a big difference for the first couple of days!
Here are a few ideas for things to plan in on your trip:
- Trips to local or independent cinemas
- Lots of cities do art maps listing exhibitions by local artists which are always worth checking out
- Walking tours
- Parks and marked out walking routes
Solo travel was something I’d wanted to do for a while and I think keeping this in mind really helped in any moments of slight panic that came from thoughts of being alone.
Read more from our travel section…
Now I want to get into all the things Edinburgh has to offer in order to convince everyone reading this article to book a solo trip asap!
My second time visiting Edinburgh was in December, so my focus was partially on hunting for Christmas presents.
Areas like Bruntsfield and Stockbridge have a lot of nice shops and cafes perfect for a browse. I have frequently returned to Curiouser & Curiouser in Bruntsfield and An Independent Zebra in Stockbridge for small and quirky gifts!
I recommend the walk on Leith from Dean Village to Stockbridge to anyone going to Edinburgh. It’s so green and peaceful and if I was more committed to running I can see it being a great route for anyone wanting to get in some exercise as well.
As far as classic tourist sights and activities go Edinburgh Castle, the Old Town, Calton Hill (at sunset too), and Arthur’s Seat are always worth experiencing.
Another pretty basic but worthy recommendation is the Vennel viewpoint. It frames the castle perfectly but does get quite busy with people taking photos.
Food wise, my knowledge is lacking. As most of my trips have been on a bit of a budget Tesco meal deals became their own food group.
I did however have a great time at Pizza 1923 which is a 15 minutes walk away from the Premier Inn Hub in Haymarket.
The veggie roast dinner at The Ox on London Street is probably the best thing you can do on a Sunday in Edinburgh. The pub is so cosy and the food was incredible.
Bars have never made it on to my solo travel bucket list but I did spend an evening with a friend in Festival Pub and I will definitely go back in the future.
Finally, the Milkman is no stranger to an Edinburgh recommendation list. I reckon it can be found on most cafe inspo pages. However, I have never seen anyone talk about the almond croissants there. I don’t know if I was just lacking in proper foods, but to this day I still maintain it to be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.