Happy Friday, everybody! Can you believe January is almost over and we’re going into the 2nd month of 2022? And how is everyone’s New Year’s resolutions going? Mine has been up and down. I’m reading a bit more, getting more exercise in when I can and really focusing my energy on the good things going on. So I hope the rest of my plans and resolutions for 2022 come to fruition!
January has been kind to me thus far! I’ve managed to get in a day trip to Cork and get a lot of work done, which is great and really getting that traveling spirit back into me after a couple of years of doing nothing. I think my trip to Helsinki kick started my travel fever again, so I am definitely excited for the rest of the year to get away and explore new places. Over the holiday period I was daydreaming and plotting my first 6 months of travel and where I wanted to go and also browsing for good deals for January, I decided I’d make the quick trip to Edinburgh, Scotland for a few days in the end of January!
I booked the trip as a bit of a Christmas gift to myself (I do love spoiling myself!) and I went on January 20 – 24 to Edinburgh. I checked out accommodation, transfers, made some plans with friends and decided that Edinburgh was gonna be my maiden trip of 2022!
On my previous trip to Scotland, I spent a short weekend in Glasgow and was told of the varied delights of the different parts of the country. So I took this opportunity to come to visit the capital and discover some of the famed Scottish History. Below I am going to give a run down of my experience in Scotland as well as some things I’d recommend doing and seeing.
Scotland is a very well connected country in North West Europe. Edinburgh, being the capital of Scotland, is linked strongly to other parts of Europe and selected transcontinental locations as well. Being not only the capital but a Cultural Capital of Europe, it is a convenient place to reach and I definitely recommend people doing research on a trip to Edinburgh ASAP. The same goes for Glasgow. Glasgow is more the Metropolitan capital of Scotland with big industry and big city vibes. I travelled to Edinburgh and Glasgow by air and from Dublin Airport, I used Ryanair to get there. The flight time for each were under 1 hour, which is super short and very handy. Dublin Airport is probably the easiest airport to access in Ireland. I come from Galway, so for me, there is always a bus that can pick me up in Galway and drop me right to the door like GoBus and Citylink. The same can be said for other cities in Ireland like Limerick and Cork who have trains and buses also servicing Dublin City and Airport.
Traveling by air from Ireland, different airports fly to Edinburgh and Glasgow. From Dublin, Ryanair and Aer Lingus service these two cities. From Ireland West Airport Knock, Ryanair also services Edinburgh. These services run daily and sometimes with multiple services daily. Companies like easyjet and Loganair provide air services between Scotland and Northern Ireland. So with all of these air connections, Scotland is just so easy to get to and explore.
Within the UK, both cities are very well linked by train and bus. By bus, even intercity is very accessible. Different companies in the UK provide services. Companies like Megabus, Bus Feda and National Express. With train, going from London via King’s Cross is a sure way to get to Scotland and see the views as you pass by.
When in doubt, I recommend checking various price comparison sites like Kayak or Skyscanner, or even a site like Rome2Rio to find out ways to get from where you are to Scotland and find the best prices to get you there.
Getting around in Edinburgh and Glasgow is quite easy! Once you figure out what street you’re on, you can easily figure out the landmarks and where you’re going. In Edinburgh, it’s a very nice city to get lost walking in. My hotel in Edinburgh was on the London Road which is just down from York Place but also around the corner from Elm Row – the road to Leith. In Glasgow, once you get to St. George’s Square, it’s easy to navigate your way around the city by foot. When traveling in a new city, I always advice having something like google maps on your phone, it’ll make it so much easier to find our where you’re going and the best way to get there. With Glasgow, I was staying right off of Sauchiehall Street (one of the main streets in the city) so a lot of the attractions I wanted to see were within walking distance, as well as good shops, bars and restaurants.
In Edinburgh, there is a pretty extensive bus and tram network. Once you get off the plane and leave the airport, it is only a short walk then to the tram that will take you into Edinburgh city with stops at York Place, St. Andrews Square and Princes Street, which are all very central locations. The tram is £6.00 single from the airport and its about a half hour journey. I like this kind of transport, the above ground tram, as it is quick and you get to see the suburbs pass you by. From Glasgow Airport, I took the bus with Glasgow Airport Express for less than £5 which was really good and I was near Sauchiehall Street in 15-20 minutes. When traveling to these cities, be sure to know the stops you need to get off at and to make sure it’s the right bus or tram you’re getting onto.
Getting around these cities is actually super convenient with local and public transport too. Lothian Buses and Scottish Citylink are some companies operating in Edinburgh that provide inner and intercity buses at a very reasonable price. I took the Scottish Citylink from Edinburgh to Glasgow for £10.00 return and I took the Lothian Bus from Leith to London Road for a couple of pound as well. In Glasgow, I used Uber a lot to get around. I think apps like Uber or FreeNow are great to have on your phone as well, just in case you’re in a badly connected part of the city.
I am a fan of responsible traveling so I would advocate to walk and cycle as much as possible when on a city break. Edinburgh has some great cycle paths and walking spots to really take in some of the natural beauty of the city and Glasgow is just super nice to walk around in.
Things to Do
Edinburgh being the capital and cultural capital of Scotland and Glasgow being the metropolitan hub of Scotland, both cities are heaving with things to do. Whether it’s art, history, concerts and live shows, sports or just exploring, both cities are fantastic for that. Being honest, I didn’t have a set itinerary for either place and went to them with the mindset of “I’ll just see what happens and wing it” and thankfully it worked out! But after doing that, I can now recommend some must see and do activities in both cities as well as things I would do again, for example:
- Walking Tours: It is something I’d recommend in any city you could visit. I have done walking tours in a few cities now and always want to do one when I travel to a city. In Edinburgh, my friends and I took a walking tour with Sandemans New Europe Free Tours who I have used in Prague and are reputable tour guides across multiple cities. Our tour guide, Jen, was super knowledgeable and witty and provided a very entertaining tour through the old town of Edinburgh, going from the City Hall to Edinburgh Castle to the Grassmarket. For Glasgow, Free Tours by Foot is a great company that gives a lot of local knowledge about the city and is very fun too! I love free walking tours, not just because they’re free but because for a gratuity based service, its very fun!
- Art and Culture: Edinburgh and Glasgow offer a lot of museums, galleries and places to immerse yourself in culture. When I was in Glasgow, I very much loved visiting the Kelvingrove Museum. Walking there felt so cool and regal as you see University of Glasgow on the hill overlooking the impressive Kelvingrove Park and Museum. The area itself has lovely buildings and cafes. Inside the University of Glasgow is the Hunterian Museum. A fascinating curation of items looking at evolution, masonry and the Mackintosh collection. The museum is inside the grounds of the university which is the most fascinating building, like a real life Hogwarts!
- Royal Palace and Artefacts: One of the things I really wanted to see in Edinburgh was The Palace of Holyrood House. It is the midsummer, weeklong residence of Queen Elizabeth in Edinburgh. When I go to European cities, I always find it fascinating to go to the old palaces or see where the current royal family reside etc. I just find castles and palaces super fascinating and contain a lot of interesting art and artefacts. To date, I’ve been to Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Dublin Castle, Dunguaire Castle, Buckingham Palace, Palacio Real in Madrid and the Palacio Real in Aranjuez. Holyrood House is a very impressive place to visit. It was the former home of Mary, Queen of Scots and is still a working palace of the royal family. With an audio guide in hand, the history will just ooze out as you walk through the halls. In Leith, this is where the Royal Britannia is docked. This is the Queen’s former yacht. It is also very cool to see this in person and the village of Leith is a very cute place to visit too!
- Cool Landmarks: As both cities are an caked in history, there are a lot of landmarks and areas I’d recommend checking out. For example, in Edinburgh, Calton Hill is an amazing landmark to hike up to and get an awesome panoramic view of Edinburgh city. When walking through Holyrood Park, you can venture up to Arthur’s Seat for a look at the ancient volcanic site. Some historic statues and areas lie in the old town like the Greyfriars and the burial site of Bobby, the dog. The walking tour will take you to some of these places. Some landmarks worth seeing in Glasgow include the Necropolis, Glasgow Cathedral, George’s Square and Glasgow Green which are in some lovely spots in the city.
- Day Trips: When I was in Edinburgh, the first thing I did was take a day trip to Glasgow for a little visit and to explore. The Citylink service in Scotland goes to a few locations which would be cool for anyone looking to do a day trip to Perth, Dundee, Inverness etc. My next Scottish trip will definitely include exploring the Highlands and different areas of Scotland. One place I definitely want to visit is wherever the Tagliotello food truck is – his food has been on my Tiktok feed for ages now and it’s my mission to try it next time!
Food and Drink
It wouldn’t be a Travel with David post if I didn’t include a part about food. It’s the essential part of any trip, in my opinion. Scottish cuisine is not too far removed from the gastro culture of Ireland but I was excited on my trips to try different places and foods that Scotland had to offer. Here are the few places I tried and ate in:
- Mamma Roma, Edinburgh: Classic Italian restaurant just around the corner from my hotel. You’re greeted immediately by the lovely Italian-speaking hostess and presented with a menu that just makes your mouth water immediately. I had to try the half and half option which was half pizza and half pasta. I was in HEAVEN. Literal heaven. Half of a four cheese pizza and a portion of amatriciana pasta with a Birra Moretti beer – it was the best choice for a cold January night.
- Cafe Elmrow, Edinburgh: Also just around the corner from my hotel on Elm Row, this cafe has a cute upstairs area and you can chill with very tasty coffee (a big compliment from me!) and delicious food. I went there on my first morning and got the nutella and banana pancakes. My mouth was covered in nutella but damn it was good!
- OX184: The burger I got in this place was immense. But even better, as someone who doesn’t like whisky, the one I got at Ox184 was really good. Their food and drink selection is top quality and the vibe of the restaurant is super cool. They also let us know that they host whisky tasting events too, which would be cool to try!
- Coffee N’ More: On the infamous Cockburn Street, Coffee N’More was a lovely way to start mine and my friends’ day of walking through Edinburgh. We got some lovely scones and sourdough toast with some coffee and hot chocolates. We were only slightly disappointed by them not having porridge on the menu. In fact, a lot of places didn’t offer porridge, which really upset my friend Volker.
- Corinthian Club, Glasgow: I went here on my first trip to Glasgow. This club/casino is very cool. My friend was the bartender in here so I was very impressed with the drink selection and the very classy vibe of the bar. I wore plaid so I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was a big fan of the gin they had there. Very delicious and very nice bar.
- Ronzio, Kelvingrove: A cute little cafe just across from the Kelvingrove. The sandwiches, smoothies and bakes are so so good and it’s just what you need after a few hours in the Kelvingrove!
Where to Stay
I’ve only been to Scotland twice and both of my stays were very pleasant! I am someone who goes on booking sites and searches “Price Low to High” and combs through the options to find the right one for me. My criteria is simple: Distance to the centre, private bathroom and free cancellation (because you never know these days). So on my two trips so far to Scotland, I can recommend the two following hotels as options for Glasgow and Scotland:
- EasyHotel Glasgow – Just off of Sauchiehall Street, EasyHotel by Easyjet is a budget friendly, bright orange hotel that was perfect for my weekend in Scotland and catered for 3 pronged list. The fact that it was budget friendly but close to the city was a winner for me and thankfully it was super comfy too!
- Cairn Hotel, Edinburgh – Just off of Elm Row and near York Place tram stop, so it was super handy to get to my hotel from the airport. It is also a great location to get to Leith or into the Old Town or Calton Hill. The hotel was warm, comfy and I had a private bathroom which was perfect! The price was also budget friendly! I booked this on Booking.com and was very happy with the stay!
Scotland is a land of myth and legend, really. So, if anyone is interested in taking a weekend away or taking a spur of the moment trip, I recommend either or both of these two cities. I plan to return to Scotland in the future and I’d for use either of these places as a base for me to explore from. There is a lot of culture and history linked to the two cities, so for those interested, it is very much the place for you. Be sure when booking to have a few key items for your itinerary and work around that. And also take a walking tour and learn a bit about the cities, so be sure to bring appropriate footwear as it may be a lot of walking!
This concludes my second blog post of 2022. As with my other posts, I am still cautiously planning some cool trips I wish to take in 2022. Some trips may be done within Ireland (Still living that Staycation life) but, with everything going to plan, I want to go abroad more and knock a few destinations off of my hit list! There will be another post coming in a week or two as I will be traveling again soon, so be sure to stay tuned 🙂
Keep an eye on my socials for updates on some upcoming trips, you’ll be overloaded with pictures soon!