Solo Travel in Edinburgh
Types of Girl about the Globe – Harry Potter GatG, History GatG, Party GatG
Edinburgh is such a wonderful city for solos. I spent 5 days in this Scottish capital in the summer of 2019 and it completely exceeded my expectations and has even made it into my favourite European cities.
One thing I love about it is its international community and I met several Spanish people during my time here. It is really solo-friendly, whatever activity you’re into. Even if you don’t really enjoy history, the history here is fascinating. And if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll definitely want to visit this city as it was the muse for J.K Rowling. So, why do I love it so much? Read my solo guide and find out. I hope this inspires you to visit Edinburgh.
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- About Edinburgh
- Things To Do in Edinburgh
- Edinburgh Castle
- Accommodation in Edinburgh
- Tours in Edinburgh
- Getting Around Edinburgh
- From Edinburgh Airport
- Facts About Edinburgh
- Related Posts
Although it is part of the United Kingdom, Scotland borders England and is situated in the north of Great Britain. It’s known for its friendly locals, stunning landscapes and good seafood. Scotland remains very natural and untouched and even Loch Ness isn’t that touristy.
Edinburgh is the capital and this city is bursting with history, Scottish pubs and plenty to do. There's a reason that this is one of the best cities to visit in Scotland. It really is the ideal starting point for a trip in Scotland and has an international feel to it, making it easy to meet others. Both the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh have been included as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Edinburgh used to be one of the world’s most putrid cities due to their problematic way of disposing of sewage. Once known as ‘Auld Reekie’ (translating to ‘Old Smelly’) it has now re-branded itself as the “Athens of the North.”
Things To Do in Edinburgh Scotland
Solo female travel Edinburgh for endless history. Walkthrough one of the narrow alleys in the Old Town to get a feel of how the city was in bygone times. The oldest house here dates back to 1617. Taking one of the free walking tours gives an insight into the Medieval citys' past (you just pay a donation at the end).
You’ll learn how the buildings used to be several stories high with wooden shelters on top (which were home to the poor). To cater for the growing population they grew higher and higher and even reached nine stories high by the late 1600s! You can see one of these overcrowded buildings at Gladstone's Land, near the upper end of the Royal Mile. Living in the Old Town was harsh and water was collected from public wells – that you can still see in the town – and carried up the numerous flights of stairs.
The Grassmarket area was where grass-fed animals were bought and sold (hence the name). It was also the area where public executions were held. Apparently, The Last Drop was the last place they took the people who were being executed in the streets. It is now an atmospheric pub where you can enjoy traditional Scottish food and a tipple. The oldest pub in Grassmarket dates back as far as 1516! This vibrant area is an ideal place to sit al fresco in the summer and people watch.
At the end of the 18th century, the residents of Edinburgh that could afford to, moved to the Georgian New Town to live in the new individual houses within wider streets (see Charlotte Square for an example).
Edinburgh was named the first World UNESCO City of Literature and has inspired hundreds of novels. Literary GatGs should head to the Writers’ Museum on the Royal Mile. This building is hundreds of years old and was built in 1622. The museum celebrates the works of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
One of the most famous novels said to be inspired by Scotland is JK Rowling’s, Harry Potter. Nicolson’s Cafe was one of the cafes where JK Rowling used to write from. Princes Street is one of the main shopping streets and where you can dine to your hearts’ content.
In the evenings you can join a literary pub tour, meet locals in the pub or get spooked on a ghost tour that takes you to Edinburgh’s creepiest sites including Greyfriars Graveyard. It is said that JK Rowling would find names from the cemetery to include in her books. There’s even a Harry Potter shop in the city!
Edinburgh Castle marks the beginning of the Royal Mile which stretches to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It was once a processional route and nowadays there is plenty to see and do along this historical thoroughfare.
St Giles’ Cathedral is one of the most impressive pieces of architecture along the Mile and is the heart of the city. This 14th Century church was Edinburgh’s most important church for more than 1,000 years with its crown steeple and beautiful stained windows. Its famous Thistle Chapel was once the home of the Knights of the Order of the Thistle.
Near to the cathedral is the statue of David Hume, Scotland’s favourite philosopher. Tradition has it that rubbing his toe will bring you good luck.
If you only have time to go to one museum in Edinburgh, make it the National Museum of Scotland. It’s free and in the Top 20 most visited museums and galleries in the world (and the UK's second most popular museum), You can spend a full day here wandering around the three levels discovering Scottish history and the natural world. As well as housing jewellery belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots, it's also home to the famous Dolly the Sheep. There are 20,000 artefacts here and the roof offers great views of the city.
Witness freezing icebergs and exploding volcanoes at Dynamic Earth, the country’s geological attraction, or step aboard The Royal Yacht Britannia and explore the five decks of the Queen’s former floating palace (easily reachable by bus from the city centre). Or learn more about the city’s darkest history at The Edinburgh Dungeon.
Other good museums to see are the Surgeons’ Hall Museums which are home to one of the most historic pathology collections in the UK. It’s not for everyone but once used as a medical teaching resource you can now visit this fascinating place.
Step into the Scottish Parliament and enjoy a free tour or visit the homes of Scottish Royal History at the Palace of Holyrood House at the end of the Royal Mile. Go shopping in Princes Street or George where you can find high street names designer stores. Or look for a quirky Scottish souvenir along the Royal Mile.
Camera Obscura has five floors of illusions with interactive exhibits such as Victorian and 3D cityscapes. Or you can just watch yourself grow and stretch in a visual effect. This is a must-see in Scotland on a rainy day.
You don’t have to go far to immerse yourself in some nature either. Holyrood Park is just one mile away from Edinburgh Castle, near to the Scottish Parliament and Palace of Holyrood House. The highest point here is Arthur’s Seat, the remains of an extinct volcano that offers some of the city’s best views.
It takes approximately 2 hours to climb for the 360-degree views so wear your walking shoes. Whilst you’re here walk the track around the cliffs or learn about the park’s geology and history at the Information Centre.
It wouldn’t be right to come to Edinburgh and not sample the Scottish whisky which you can do at the Scotch Whisky Experience through tastings and tours (try the honey one if you’re not a whisky lover). Or enjoy a single malt whisky at the Holyrood Distillery instead.
With plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes and award-winning eateries, solo travel Edinburgh for literature, history, fun, and nature. It’s perfect for solos!
One of the top places to visit in Scotland is Edinburgh Castle, which dominates the Edinburgh skyline. Edinburgh Castle is one of the oldest fortifications in Europe and was built on basalt rock formed by a 350-million-year old volcano. The castle has been at the centre of Scottish life for more than 900 years and is full of quirky stories that you can read as you wander around. One tip here is to wear flat shoes as it can be a bit hilly.
Before you reach the Castle, the esplanade used to be where women accused of being witches were burned at the stake. (More than 300 women were burned here in the 16th and 17th century).
As you enter a warning of war sits above the gate. Inside you’ll find the National War Museum, the Scottish National War Memorial, and the Prisons of War where you can discover the grim realities of war. Join the long queue for the Stone of Destiny – an ancient symbol of the monarchy – and the Scottish Crown Jewels, the oldest set of crown jewels in the British Isles and worn by Mary Queen of Scots.
Military history is important to the city and for several months of each year, you can see the stadium for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo perched high on the walls near Edinburgh Castle. If you are there during August it is definitely worth buying a ticket to attend the event to watch performances by international military bands and witness a spectacular parade.
Accommodation in Edinburgh
No matter what your budget, Edinburgh has a variety of places to stay from 3 to 5-star hotels, fantastic hostels, guest houses and B&Bs, apartments and self-catering options. The city is walkable so it doesn’t really matter where you stay but if you want to be close to the bars and the castle then the Grassmarket area is ideal as everything is on your doorstep.
Plus there’s Airbnb which offers rooms in Edinburgh with a local and rental accommodation on a short-term basis. You can stay in a private room in a local's house or rent their whole apartment. Save $20 off your first stay with this Airbnb link.
All of the accommodation below have been recommended by solo female travellers from our Girls about the Globe community and come with our Solo Female Friendly endorsement. I've also included where I stayed too. For all other accommodation in Edinburgh, click the link below.
This accommodation is perfect for solos. It’s student accommodation but first-class with private double rooms and en-suites. Each section has its own communal kitchen and lounge too. You can also book a studio. Reception is open 24 hours if you need anything. I stayed here for 2 nights and really enjoyed it.
Brae House Campus is located near Arthur’s Seat at the foot of the Royal Mile near to Holyrood Palace and the quirky National Parliament building. If you love jogging and want to be near nature to get your exercise this is a good option. The castle is 2 km away and is walkable if you don’t mind a walk. If you are arriving at Waverley Street Station and looking for your own space, this accommodation is perfect.
- Prices from £35 per night for a double room with an ensuite
- To book, check prices or availability for Brae House Campus
You can't get much better for a hostel with a sociable vibe than this one, and I loved staying in this 18+ hostel. They have two properties and this one is in the perfect location. The kitchen is huge so you can cook your own meals, and it’s a short walk to the nearby Co-op. You can even see views of Edinburgh Castle from the windows. There’s a cafe downstairs and an on-site bar where you get to meet others on the evening bar crawl which I definitely recommend signing up for.
It’s spacious, there are separate bathrooms, and you can even stay in your own pod which comes with different coloured lights depending on your mood, a curtain, coat hooks and a shelf. You don’t even feel like you’re in a dorm room surrounded by 20 other people when you’re in it. For a central location and to meet others, this is my favourite hostel. Choose from a bed in a 6-12 bed female dorm room, a 6-12 bed mixed dorm room, a POD bed in a 20/22 bed mixed dorm or a double room. Some of the dorms also have an ensuite, and breakfast is additional. There’s a reason it’s called Kick Ass coz it’s awesome!
- Prices from £16 per night in a POD bed in a 20 bed mixed dorm
- To book, check prices or availability for Kick Ass Grassmarket
Located in the Old Town of Edinburgh, the Scotsman Hotel is a historically listed building once home to the Scotsman newspaper. Over 100 years old, this 4-star hotel overlooks the city and Edinburgh Castle. Indulge in some Scottish luxury with Egyptian cotton sheets and 24-hour room service.
If you are departing Edinburgh from the train station, The Scotsman is right nearby. Choose from a standard, deluxe or feature double room or upgrade to a suite. Breakfast is additional.
- Prices from £175 per night for a standard double room
- To book, check prices or availability for The Scotsman Hotel
Tours in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Tours – Get Your Guide helps you to find top-rated activities and day tours in worldwide destinations including Edinburgh. Choose from a tour exploring Edinburgh’s underground vaults, a ticket to see the Royal Yacht Britannia or a Chocolatarium, tasting and chocolate making tour. There are several to choose from including a Harry Potter walking tours and it’s really simple to use. Just check the reviews, price and availability then book online. Read my review here or click the link below for all tours.
Scotland Tours From Edinburgh
MacBackpackers – If you’ve ever wanted to explore the history and culture of Scotland, MacBackpackers have been offering Scottish adventures for the last 20 years. Designed for 18 to 40-year-olds, this award-winning company are ideal for solo travellers wanting to meet like-minded others and have fun on their trip (and they’re 100% Scottish). The prices start from a budget price of £149 for the 3 day Isle of Skye tour. I recommend the 5 day Skye and Highland Fling due which is a Scottish Highlands tour with the Isle of Skye or book the 7 day Best of the West if you have longer. Read my review here or click the link below for all their tours.
Intrepid Travel Scotland – If you’re searching for some company to explore the UK with, Intrepid Travel is a responsible travel company that offers tours of Scotland whether you’re looking for a 5 day trip or are planning 10 days in Scotland. Choose from a 5 day tour of Scotland’s Orkney Islands learning about the Viking and Neolithic history, or a 5-day walking trip through the Scottish Highlands in the summer. Their 10 day trip takes you around the region seeing the highlights of Scotland. Intrepid operate a flexible booking policy so you can change your travel plans up to 21 days before departure. You share a room with someone of the same gender or you can pay extra for your own room.
Getting Around Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a walkable city especially if you stay near the Royal Mile. Even Arthur’s Seat is only 2 km away from the centre, and to reach the Botanic Garden will take 30 minutes maximum on foot. You can also cycle within it. Edinburgh has an ‘inner tube’ map of the cycle routes and you can hire a bike at Biketrax.
But for those who prefer public transport, there is a city-wide bus network and night buses if you decide to come back late at night. Prices are usually indicated at the bus stops and you can buy your ticket on the bus (they may not give change so have the correct money if you can). Find bus routes here
You can hop aboard one of the Edinburgh trams which run every 15 minutes from York Place to the airport stopping in the city centre. See routes here Or hail one of the black cabs or other Edinburgh taxis on the street. If Edinburgh is just one of the stops on your Scotland itinerary there are trains to the main cities and beyond. Use Rome2Rio to help plan your journeys.
From Edinburgh Airport
It’s really easy to reach Edinburgh airport from the city centre. Both Airlink (route 100) and Skylink operate from the airport into the city centre (and vice versa). Route 100 departs from Waverley Bridge, stopping at West End, Haymarket and other stops to the airport. Tickets cost £4.50 single or £7.50 return. Purchase your ticket on the bus either with a card or the exact cash.
Other options are Skylink 200 which takes you to Ocean Terminal and route 300 to Surgeon’s Hall. Or catch the tram from York Place to the airport or vice versa. The 30-minute journey will cost you approx £6.
Facts About Edinburgh
- Can I drink the water? Yes, tap water is perfectly fine to drink
- Is tipping expected? If you had good service, it is courtesy to tip 10%
- Fixed price or barter? Fixed-price
- Any ATMs? Yes, lots!
- Which side of the road do they drive? The left-hand side
- Good for vegetarians? Yes! Edinburgh has been named the UK’s Most Vegan-Friendly City.
- Any Seven Wonders of the World? No.
How good is Edinburgh for solos? I cannot recommend it enough. I even attended the Edinburgh Festival solo and loved it!
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