October 2018


Cramond Island is one of many small uninhabited islands that can be found along the Scottish coastline close to Edinburgh.

If you are in Edinburgh and feel like escaping the city life for some fresh sea air and country walks then this is the place to go. Just a short bus ride from the city centre will take you to the small village of Cramond. It’s here that you will find this tiny Island reached at low tide along a ¾ mile causeway.

Affiliate Disclosure – Lou Does Travel contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself.

Cramond Island Causeway
Cramond Causeway

Best time to visit Cramond Island

If you decide to visit the Island then you must plan for the tides as you don’t want to end up stranded. Generally its safest to walk across in the morning around 8-9 am but these times can change so its best to check tidal times the day before. Tidal times can be found here and also on a notice board next to the causeway on the mainland side. It is really important to take notice to these times as the tide does come in very quickly and many tourists have been left for stranded for hours.

Cramond island tidal times
Notice board near the causeway giving the safest times to walk across to the island.

I wasn’t really planning to visit Cramond Island whilst in Edinburgh but felt like I needed a break from wandering the busy Edinburgh streets. I didn’t check the times beforehand and just hoped I’d be lucky enough to get there in time. I bought the £4 day ticket and hopped on the number 41 bus from the city centre and headed off into the unknown. I wasn’t really sure where to get off the bus, so I downloaded the Transport for Edinburgh app which came in very handy. Once on the bus I could track my position along the route and made finding my stop very easy! I definitely recommend downloading this app if travelling to Edinburgh! The journey itself took around 30 mins. Once off the bus I walked down towards the coast where I was met with some stunning views of the Scottish coastline and Cramond harbour.

Cramond Village
Beautiful Cramond harbour

Luckily I arrived just in time. I got there around 9 am and had only 1 hour left to be able to make it across and back again safely, so I headed straight over. The causeway itself is a lovely short 10 min walk and you can watch all types of birds digging for food along the way, if ya lucky you might even come across some crabs. Once on the Island the views are stunning, you can see right across the Forth river towards the famous Forth railway bridge and the new road bridge alongside.

The island is approximately 19 acres and rises to 68 meters above sea level making it an easy island to explore for a few hours. Unfortunately I only had around 30 minutes on the island but it was enough to take in the beautiful views and explore a little.

Forth Railway bridge from Cramond Island
The view of Forth railway bridge from Cramond Island

The island itself is now owned by the Dalmeny Estate but it was originally used to graze sheep, you can find remains of an old farmstead and an old jetty dating back to the 1800’s on the north side of the island. It is also thought to have once been the site of a Roman fort but there is no evidence to back this up. However in 1977 a very important Roman sculpture was discovered in the riverbed. The sculpture, a carved sandstone lioness is thought to be a Roman funerary monument, although how it found its way here is a mystery. Some believe it fell off a boat whilst others believe it was purposely dumped in the river.

The island also played its part during both World Wars. During World War 1 it was taken over by the war department and used to defend the Forth and then again in World War 2. During this time many military structures where built including several gun emplacements. Even the design of the causeway with its imposing concrete teeth were built to prevent German U-boats and other similar craft from passing through the harbour at high tide.

Cramond IslandC
View back towards the mainland from one of the bunkers on Cramond Island

Once back safely on the mainland I had plenty of time to spare so I decided to take a walk down one of the walking trails in the area. There are a few different walks to choose from but I choose the River Almond Walkway which took me around two miles from the Cramond foreshore to the historic Cramond Brig.

The River Almond once powered five mills, originally grain but later converted to iron working. As you walk along the trail you will come across the ruins of Fair-a-Far Mill, this mill was once the heart of Cramond’s industrial revolution. Ships came from as far as Russia and Sweden and brought iron to Cockle Mill just down stream where it was made into strips. These strips were then taken to Fair-a-Far Mill where they were melted down by huge furnaces to make tools, chains and cart axles. Eventually the the iron industry in Cramond closed down and the mill became a paint factory. However a flood in 1935 damaged the building beyond repair of which the remains still remain.

Fair-a-Far Mill
The Remains of Fair-a-Far Mill
River Almond
River Almond
River Almond
Beautiful scenery along the trail

As the trail continues you will be met with some stunning scenery as well as a lovely cosy cafe to have a bit of lunch or a quick coffee. However after this point some parts of the trail do require you to go up and down a series of stairs, so if this is an issue then its best to end the trail at the cafe.

River Almond walkway
The stairs going up along the walkway
River Almond walkway
The stairs going down along the walkway

If you manage to finish the trail you will reach the lovely Cramond Brig, this leads you back onto the main road where you can then either catch the bus back into Edinburgh city centre or go further afield and check out South Queensferry and the famous Forth railway bridge.

Cramond Brig
Cramond Brig
River Almond
Beautiful scenery at the end of the trail

Cramond Island is a fascinating and peaceful place, it makes an ideal trip to escape the hoards of tourists in Edinburgh. Its easy to get to and great for those on a budget! Have you been to Edinburgh, have you heard of Cramond? If so let me know in the comments below.

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Happy Travels,

Louise X

Staying in hostels isn’t everyone’s idea of holiday heaven, but for some it can be the best cost-effective way to travel. I myself have stayed in a lot of hostels over the years, some good, some not so good, so know what to look for and have gained a few tips on how to survive those first few nights in a dorm. So I’ve put together this guide on how to survive staying in hostels for those who may be considering or are not too sure what to expect.So why stay in hostels?

Affiliate Disclosure – Lou Does Travel contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself.

So why Stay in Hostels?

Most people believe hostels are for the hardcore backpackers. I know most of my friends really turn their noses up at the thought of sharing a room and bathrooms facilities with complete strangers, and opt to stay in expensive hotels instead! Although the thought of staying in my own room with private facilities sounds wonderful, the cost really is a huge downfall for me, especially when staying in Europe’s big cities!

The average daily cost of a hotel in say Paris can be upward of £100 whereas a hostel could be only £20. That’s an extra £80 I could spend on other things such as experiences or taking a longer trip. Not only that, but hostels have so many advantages especially for solo travellers like myself. Staying in hostels is a great way to meet other people, especially if travelling solo like I do! You will also find most hostels will have a variety of activities and tours which are usually cheaper than tour operators, as well as access to cheap or free laundry services and free WiFi (which you generally won’t find in expensive hotels). So if you take all that on board sacrificing some personal space and privacy is only a small price to pay. However some hostels have private rooms available for the same price as two dorm beds like the Yim Whan Hostel in Ayutthaya, Thailand for only £12 a night (low season).

Double room at the Yim Whan hostel in Thailand
Double room at the Yim Whan hostel in Thailand

Types of Hostel:

Chill out hostels

These types are generally my favourite, they have a really relaxed atmosphere and very friendly owners who sort of take the role of distant aunties or cousins. There is no pressure to get involved in any activities and don’t encourage late night drinking sessions or parties. There is usually a chill out room with bean bags and bookshelves and if ya lucky some help ya self tea and coffee. These type of hostels are great for solo and first timers travellers.

Relax in hammock
Relax after a hard days sightseeing. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Eco hostels

If helping to save the environment is your main concern then there are many hostels out there whose focus is responsible and sustainable travel. Here you will find environmentally friendly design and facilities and maybe even a vegan friendly restaurant. Again these are usually friendly relaxing hostels with no emphasis on drinking and party nights.

Boutique 5 star hostels

These can be very nice hostels in deed, but are slightly more expensive. This is due to elegant designs and extra special touches like pod style bunks, upgraded breakfasts and extra facilities such as swimming pools and loungers. These hostels can sometimes look as good as boutique hotels without the expensive price tag. I find that although pretty and modern they are not always as friendly and welcoming as other hostels.

How to survive staying in hostels
Equity Point Hostel Marrakesh Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Party hostel

As the name suggests these are the hostels to go to if drinking and partying the night away is what you have in mind. You will find an abundance of party activities such as bar crawls or even beer pong in the bar. If this is what you are after then these are defiantly the places to stay, if looking for peace and quiet then I suggest looking elsewhere!

Party atmosphere
Do you want a party atmosphere? Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Traditional youth hostels

These hostels are usually all over Europe and have a variety of travellers staying with them, this includes large groups of school children and families. If you don’t mind this then you will usually find these hostels in top locations and with cheap prices. Although for some you may need to be a member to stay with them, or being a member may get you a small discount. For the United Kingdom check out YHA.UK

Hybrid hotel/hostel

Essentially these are hotels that also offer budget dorm rooms. If you want the services of a hotel but with a hostel price these can be very good options especially if staying as a group or a family, snapping up a 4 bed dorm can be a lot cheaper than getting 2 hotel rooms.

The cheap hostel

Wherever you travel to there will always be the cheap hostel. They will have the best cheap prices but will almost always have the worst reviews to go with it. If cost is only the deciding factor then these are the way to go but be warned, you may be met with dirty bathrooms, poor facilities and even dirty bed linen! For a few extra pounds its worth getting a place with better reviews.

How To Choose The Right Hostel?

So as you can see there are many different types of hostel, so how do you pick the right one for you? The best way to check is to write down what you need and then check sites such as Hostel World for availability and prices and most importantly check through all the reviews! This will give you a good sense on if a particular hostel is a good fit for you.

Surviving hostels
Trip planning. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Things to take into consideration are:

  • The location, do you want to be in the city center or on the quieter outskirts? Close to the nightlife or to the beach or attractions?
  • Is there a bar/restaurant? If traveling solo the bar can be the best place to meet other people. You will usually find other solo travelers here ready to mingle.
  • Is free breakfast included? Whats it like? Can save you some money if on a tight budget.
  • How many beds in the dorm room? I usually go for the smallest rooms like the 4 bed dorms as you have less chance of being disturbed by people coming and going.
  • Female or mixed dorms? I’ve stayed in both but prefer female only as you tend to get more snoring from the guys (sorry but its true).
  • Security, does each bed have its own locker? Hows the access into the room? Is it by card/ key or left open?
  • What are the bathrooms facilities like? Are there plenty of showers/hot water?
  • Activities, do you want lots of activities to get involves with?
  • Atmosphere, are you looking for a party vibe or looking to kick back and enjoy a good book?
  • Age? Some hostels such as party hostel have a young crowd, if you are an older traveler like myself is this what you want?

Me personally I go for cheap chill out hostels where I’m likely to get a good nights kip with clean facilities, secure lockers, centrally located, a good bar area and good reviews. Sounds like a lot but this is generally what most people are after when looking at hostels and seems to be the middle of the road common hostel type. One of my favorite hostels is Budget Backpackers in Edinburgh. It had the right amount of activities on offer including bar crawls but didn’t have a big party vibe going on either which is great for the oldies like me to stay in and chill of an evening with a few bottles of beer!

Bar at Budget Backpackers
Bar at Budget Backpackers, Edinburgh
Bar area at budget Backpackers
Bar area at budget Backpackers, Edinburgh

Speaking of oldies, how old is too old for staying in hostels? Well I’m 41 years old and still feel really comfortable in hostels and staying in dorm rooms. Over the years I’ve met lots of younger people who I’ve still partied the night away with, as well as many people a lot older than me. In my opinion most people who stay in hostels don’t care about age, it’s all about the travelling and experiences, after all age is just a number!

How to Survive Staying In Hostels: Tips

Items to take:

Make sure you take a pair of cheap flip-flops! Always useful when taking a shower or taking a trip to the bathroom.

A quick cover up like a sarong is also essential, especially if the bathroom isn’t en-suite.

Ear plugs and an eye mask are a must have item especially is a light sleeper like myself. Most people are considerate of others sleeping but occasionally you come across the odd asshole!

A padlock for the locker! Some hostels will sell these but you can usually find them much cheaper in your local supermarket. Plus you don’t want to run the risk of them running out like what happened to me on my last trip to Edinburgh. God I must have about 10 padlocks at home now as I always forget to pack them!

Plug extension, if you have lots of gadgets to charge up then make sure you bring along one of these as you generally only have access to one socket per person. Always a useful way to make friends when the power outlets are a little more lacking.

Take a travel sheet or sleeping bag liner, this is especially useful if staying in cheap hostels or if you suspect there may be bed bugs! Be aware though bed bugs can strike even in the fanciest of hotels! To be honest I have never used one of these but know a lot of people who do.

A travel mug or drinking container is always useful for filling up on the go and also helping to save the environment. I know some people who also take their own metal straws and eating utensils but I suppose it depends on where your travelling too.

Bring your own towel, if possible invest in a travel one as they hardly take up any room. A lot of hostels will supply them for free but many will charge you for the privilege.

Surviving hostels
How important is a good nights sleep. Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

How to Survive Staying In Hostels: General advice

Always try to be considerate of others especially between 11 pm – 8 am

If you have to get up early, try not to have your alarm constantly going off, everyone understands people have to get up early for flights or excursions etc just don’t be the one who keeps pressing snooze!

If possible don’t use plastic bags, use a tote bag or canvas bag instead  as these don’t make a lot of noise. Trust me there is nothing worse than a bag rustler in the early hours of the morning!

Be friendly, it can be hard staying in hostels for the first time especially travelling solo, but just remember most people are in the same situation and a pleasant hello can go a long way. You never know you might just meet your next travel buddy.

Be prepared to have the same conversations! Where you from, how long you travelling, where you travelling to next? It’s generally always the same first questions but try to be a bit inventive if you can, you don’t have to lie but try to be creative with your answers, you never know where the conversation will lead. I once met someone who used to completely re-invent themselves at every hostel and try to see how far she could go before people clicked on.

Don’t let unforeseeable things get you down, be prepared for things to go wrong from time to time, unless it’s something major, the likelihood is that it will work its self right again.

Attitude is key! If you expect less you will usually be blessed with more, look past minor imperfections, let them slide. I have stayed in some hostels that when I arrived I just wanted to walk straight out again but they went on to be some of the best hostels I’ve stayed in. I stayed in one in Chiang Mai, Thailand about 4 years ago and the rooms where an absolute mess and a shower which was more of a trickle of water but the owners where so lovely. They made and gave out free food all day including the odd free beers, it had such a friendly vibe and I made a lot of friends with whom i’m still in touch with today.

How to Survive Staying In Hostels: Safety tips

Staying in hostels is very safe. As as a female solo traveller I have never felt that my safety has been at risk at any time. If anything I feel a little safer as I don’t feel as isolated as when staying in hotels by myself. However even though hostels are generally safe, its important to follow simple safety precautions as you would do anywhere. These include, not showing off expensive possessions, don’t leave valuables lying around, and using lockers at all times.

So there you have it my guide to surviving hostels. Would you now consider staying in a hostel or do you have any other useful tips? If so, leave a comment, like, share or subscribe to be the first to hear about any new posts.

Happy travels,

Louise X

How To Get The Best Out Of Edinburgh On A Budget

Edinburgh Is one of the most popular cities to visit in the United Kingdom and it’s easy to see why! The UNESCO world heritage site has a beautiful medieval old town with its cobbled streets and historic buildings. It has countless museums, beautiful scenic parks, vibrant nightlife and friendly locals. However with all these attractions, it can also be expensive! Whilst some attractions are unavoidably expensive, there are many free things to do as well. This guide will help you plan a trip to Edinburgh on a budget and help you stay within it.

Affiliate Disclosure – Lou Does Travel contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself.

Edinburgh on a budget
The mainland as seen from Cramond Island

Getting To Edinburgh:


Edinburgh has its own international airport which is appropriately 10 miles away from the Edinburgh city centre. Once at the airport the city centre can be reached easily by public transport. For the best deals on flights, I recommend Skyscanner

Tram – The tram line connects the airport with the city centre and ticket sales can be purchased from ticket vending machines at the station, using both cash or most credit cards. Adult single tickets cost £6.00 and open return tickets £8.50

Bus – There are a number of bus routes running from the airport to various areas around Edinburgh. The airport link 100 runs every 10 minutes and terminates at Waverley Bridge in the city centre. Tickets can be purchased in advance online, from the VisitScotland information desk next to UK arrivals, at the bus stop and from the driver (make sure you have correct change if purchasing tickets direct with the driver). Adult single ticket sales cost £4.50 and return tickets £7.50.


The main central train station in Edinburgh is Edinburgh Waverley station. This station is slap bang in the city centre within walking distance to most hotels, hostels and tourist attractions. For information and booking train travel check out the trainline.


Edinburgh can be reached from most UK cities via low cost bus operators such as National Express.

A useful app and website for finding low cost intercity transport options is GoEuro.

Edinburgh On A Budget – Where To Stay?

If you are a backpacker or simply trying to stay within a tight budget then hostels are the best option for accommodation. Most hostels in Edinburgh are situated within walking distance of the Royal Mile and all its attractions. My personal favourite is Budget Backpackers located in Cowgate with dorms from only £12 a night. This hostel is a lovely friendly hostel with each dorm bed having its own light, plug socket and locker. Just remember to bring your own lock. Budget Backpackers also has a chill out room, bar serving fabulous cheap food, vending machines and a variety of activities to get involved in. If you have never stayed in a hostel then check out my newbies guide to surviving hostels post here. For the best deals on I recommend booking with Hostel World.

Bar at Budget Backpackers
Bar at Budget Backpackers, Edinburgh
Bar area at budget Backpackers
Bar area at budget Backpackers, Edinburgh

If hostels aren’t your thing, you will also find many mid range hotels and bed and breakfasts. Although many of the cheaper options may be further outside the city centre. Check to find the latest availability and prices.

Edinburgh On A Budget – Things To Do

Free walking tours

One of the first things I like to do when visiting a new city is to walk around and get my bearings. One of the best ways to do this is to join a free walking tour and Edinburgh has lots to choose from. Not only can you join a free walking tour to see all of Edinburgh’s highlights, ghost and Harry Potter tours are also available. Although these tours are free, it’s expected you leave the guide a small tip, the best ones I’ve included below:

SANDEMANS New Europe Tours –  Walking Tours available everyday on the hour from 10 am-2 pm and last 2.5 hrs.

Edinburgh Free Tours – Walking tours available everyday at 10 am 11 am and 1 pm and lasts 2 hrs.

Free Ghost Tour – Ghost tours available every night at 5 pm 7 pm and 9.30 pm and lasts 1.5 hrs.

The Potter Trail – This Harry Potter trail runs daily at 12 pm and 2 pm and lasts 1.5 hrs.

Exploring parks and outdoor spaces

Edinburgh has More than it’s fair share of parks and outdoor spaces. The city is built on the remnants of an extinct volcano, providing many landscapes to explore.

If you are looking for a good hike and fabulous views of Edinburgh then head to Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat. Holyrood Park is located at the bottom of the Royal Mile behind Holyrood Palace and is a popular place to hike and explore. The hike up to Arthur’s seat only takes about 1 hour depending on your fitness level and route taken. Be sure to take some snacks, water and warm clothing if you plan on sitting at the top to watch the sunset like I did, as it can be really cold and windy. The hike is totally worth it though for the amazing views across the city of Edinburgh and beyond.

Edinburgh on a budget
The sunset from the top of Arthur’s Seat

If you are a lover of flowers and gardens then a trip out to the Royal Botanical gardens is a must, it’s located 1 mile outside the city centre and entrance is free. However there is a small cost of £6.50 to enter the Glass houses. You could also try the 12 mile walk along the Water of Leith which passes through the beautiful Dean Village.

Deab Village
Dean Village

Other options include the central Princes Street Gardens or take a hike up to Calton Hill with its look-alike Athens Parthenon. This monument is in fact the unfinished memorial to those who lost there’s lives in the Napoleonic wars.

Princes park gardens. Edinburgh
Princes Park Gardens

Explore churches

There are lots a beautiful churches to explore in Edinburgh but my two favourites are St Giles Cathedral and Greyfriers Kirk.

St Giles Cathedral
St Giles Cathedral

St Giles cathedral is probably one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen in the UK and is free to enter. The attention to detail in the architecture is truly stunning and it also houses many beautiful stained glass windows including one dedicated to Scotland’s famous poet Robert Burns.

Robert Burns window at St Giles Cathedral
Robert Burns window at St Giles Cathedral

Greyfriers Kirk is the graveyard where you will find Scotland’s most famous dog, Greyfriers Bobby. This Skye Terrier became legend after guarding the grave of his owner for 14 years. Bobby died himself on the 14th January 1872 and was buried near his owner in Greyfriers Kirk. The Kirk is also famous as the home of Scotland’s most famous poltergeist, the Mackenzie Poltergeist. Check out one of the ghost tours to learn more about this scary encounter!

Greyfriers Bobby
Greyfriers Bobby Grave

Explore museums and galleries

Edinburgh has many museums and galleries, many of which are free to visit. Most are open daily from 10 am – 5 pm unless otherwise stated.

Museums that have free entry include:

National Museum of Scotland – This was one of my favourite museum in Edinburgh, it is absolutely massive with the most amazing architecture. There are so many exhibits and collections that it it’s sure to appeal to everyone.

Inside the main foyer of the museum of Scotland
Inside the main foyer of the museum of Scotland
One of the many sections in the Museum of Scotland
One of the many sections in the Museum of Scotland

Scottish National Gallery.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Writers Museum – Lovely little museum celebrating the lives of three famous Scottish writers, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Writers museum
The Writers museum
Model made out of book papers in the Writers Museum
Model made out of book papers in the Writers Museum

Museum of Childhood – A lovely little museum which will instantly take you down memory lane with a Huge collection of memorabilia ranging from the old dolls houses, Hornby train sets, board games.

Museum of Childhood
Old puppets on display at the Museum of Childhood
Old toys at the Museum of Childhood
Old toys at the Museum of Childhood

The Peoples Story – Tells the story of Edinburgh’s working class from the 18th to 20th century.

Museum of Edinburgh – Discover Edinburgh’s unique history inside this maze of a 16th century building.

Scottish Parliament Building – Take a free tour of Scotland’s official parliament building. Open Mon – Sat from 10 am – 5 pm.

Other free things to do in Edinburgh

Take a day trip out to Cramond Island. This is a lovely little trip out and a little hidden gem. Explore the many walks or even walk across the causeway to Cramond Island subject to tidal times. You can easily reach the town and island by taking the Lothian bus number 41 from the city centre. For more information check out my Cramond Island post here

Cramond Island Causeway

Take a day trip to South Queensferry and check out this lovely quaint town and view the 3 Forth river bridges. If feeling energetic you can walk across the Forth road bridge over to North Queensferry. There is also a small museum documenting the history and construction of the 3 bridges.

Pretty houses in South Queensferry
Pretty houses in South Queensferry
Walking across the Forth road bridge
Walking across the Forth road bridge

If you are looking for further inspiration check out my other Edinburgh posts:

The best things to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh On A Budget – Useful Information

If during your trip to Edinburgh you don’t want to miss out on the 3 main paid attractions, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and Royal Yacht Britannia you can get the Edinburgh 48 hour attraction pass that includes skip the line tickets for the above attractions as well as 48 hours hop on hop off bus access. Click here for details.

Edinburgh Castle
The Entrance leading up to the Castle, I arrived early at 8.45am and was 1st in line

Getting around Edinburgh is very easy, most attractions are along the Royal Mile or within walking distance from it. If you do want to venture further out of the city, the buses are the way to go. You can get a Edinburgh unlimited bus pass for £4 a day or a county-wide bus pass for £5, You can also buy a weekly pass for £18. Be aware though, make sure you give the bus driver the correct change as they don’t have access to cash to give any change back.

Useful phone apps are the Lothian Bus network app, on which you can buy tickets and plan routes. Another great app for help when getting lost wandering around Edinburgh’s streets is Maps.Me, this app lets you download maps when online for use when off-line.

I’ve not included information on cheap eats and night outs as there is so much choice! Whatever your budget you are certain to find restaurants, cafe’s and bars to suit.

So there you have it, the best tips and ideas on how you can enjoy Edinburgh on a tight budget. Do you have any other tips on how to save money in Edinburgh? If so let me know in the comments! Plus if you like this post please share and subscribe to be the first to read any future posts.

Happy travels,

Louise X

Best Things to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city and is one of the most visited cities in Great Britain. It’s easy to see why with its medieval old town and elegant Georgian new town as well as the endless amount of gardens and public spaces to explore. Edinburgh is also a hilly city with the Edinburgh castle perched up at one end and Calton hill with its many monuments at the other. Above these is also the imposing peak of Arthur’s seat looking down towards Holyrood House. From here you can head up and join many others watching the sun go down over this fabulous city!

There are so many things to do in Edinburgh that it’s impossible to visit them all especially if only staying for a short period of time. I recently spent 5 days in the city and got to visit most of the highlights and some of the lesser know things to do as well. So here I’m giving my top recommendations of places to visit if planning a trip to this beautiful city. A couple of these places I never managed to visit myself but have heard great things about them so I’ve included them in my list. I covered a variety of experiences from exploring castles and stately homes to family friendly attractions, hikes, wildlife and museums so hopefully there is something for every type of traveller. For details on pricing and opening times etc, I have given a link to the official websites.

Affiliate Disclosure – Lou Does Travel contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself.

If on a budget or looking for free things to do in Edinburgh, then read my Budget guide to Edinburgh here

These are in no particular order:

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is probably the most famous landmark and visited attraction in Edinburgh, it is thought over 1 million people visit each year.  It sits predominately on Castle Rock, looking down along the Royal Mile dominating the city landscape. If you want to read a more detailed account about Edinburgh Castle then check out my visitor guide here

Edinburgh Castle
The Entrance leading up to the Castle, I arrived early at 8.45am and was 1st in line

Inside the castle you will be able to marvel over Scotland’s crown jewels and the historic Stone of Destiny, visit the oldest building in Scotland at St Margret’s Chapel, discover how prisoners of war were treated in the 1700’s, as well as visiting monuments, exhibits and museums, such as the Scotland’s National War Museum. You will also get some of the most amazing views over Edinburgh!

Prisoners of War Museum
The museum had rooms all set up as they would of been in the 1700’s
Edinburgh Castle
The views from the castle looking out over Edinburgh

If you are not too fussed by crowds then a popular time to visit is around 1 pm when they fire the gun on Mills Mount Battery, this tradition goes back to 1861 when it was used as a time keeping device for ships in the harbour. If however crowds aren’t your thing then I recommend getting there early, as soon as the castle opens and if possible book tickets in advance, the queues by mid-morning are extreme especially during popular summer times! I was there in September and the ticket line was still pretty bad. For more information click here

St Margaret's Chapel Edinburgh Castle
The oldest building in Scotland, St Margaret’s Chapel

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo is a popular attraction for animal lovers and families, many people especially go just to catch a glimpse of the Giant Panda’s, it’s the only place in the UK to see them. However I’ve been to many Zoos’s and have seen Giant Panda’s at Chiang Mai Zoo in Thailand so I gave this place a miss. However if this is something that interests you I have heard great things about this zoo including the chance to walk with the penguins. The penguin parade happens when the penguins decide to go for a walk outside there enclosure with their keepers, however as this is completely voluntary for the penguins there is no guarantee that they will leave the enclosure on any given day. You should also note that entrance to the Giant Panda enclosure is by being given a viewing time slot, and again there is no guarantee that the panda’s will be awake or in the viewing area. For more information click here

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: Whisky Experience

If you love Whisky or want to find out more about this famous Scottish drink, then a tour at the Scotch Whisky Experience is a must! Again I didn’t visit as the smell of whisky makes me feel sick (drank far too much of it a while back!) However if you don’t have this issue then you can either take one of the tours or just enjoy a meal and drink in the restaurant. The tours last from 50 mins to 3 hours and cost between £13.50 and £73. For more information click here

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: Walk the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile connects Edinburgh Castle all the way down to Holyrood House. This road is the most famous street and runs through medieval Edinburgh. The Royal mile is a Scots old mile although not used since the 18th century and is 1.81 km long. As you can imagine this is also one of the busiest roads in Edinburgh and is closed off in parts only allowing pedestrian access. Along the Royal Mile you will find an abundance of souvenir and whisky shops, restaurants, cafes and museums.

Royal Mile Edinburgh
A typical shop along the Royal Mile

You are likely to find yourself up and down this street many times, I recommend walking down its many closes exploring the little hidden away courtyards and shops.

Royal Mile Edinburgh
A typical close running down from the Royal Mile

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: Climb Arthur’s Seat

As you walk down the Royal Mile towards Holyrood house you will find the towering remnants of an extinct volcano, Arthur’s seat.

Arthur's Seat Edinburgh
The sunset from the top of Arthur’s Seat

If you are brave enough to take the hike up to the top you will be blessed with the most amazing views of Edinburgh including the docks and the Forth Rail Bridge in the distance. I climbed up to the peak around 6 pm so I could watch the sunset and was surprisingly met with about another 100 people doing the same! To be honest I couldn’t blame them, the views are truly spectacular and the sunset was beautiful. Do be warned though it is a lot colder up the top than down below so make sure you bring some warm clothes in a bag and don’t under estimate the climb, I was truly exhausted by the time I got to the top so make sure you have plenty of water with you as well. The climb itself is not too difficult, depending on which trail you use, some are worse than others. The quicker routes are generally the steepest, therefore making it harder for some.

Arthur's Seat
The climb up!
Arthur's Seat
The climb down!

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: Head up Calton Hill

If Climbing up Arthur’s Seat is too much for you then maybe have a go at Calton Hill. This hill sits towards the end of princes Street and you can’t really miss it if in Edinburgh due to it resembling the acropolis of Athens. This is in fact an unfinished monument called the ‘national Monument’ and was built in 1822 but never finished. It was meant to be a replica of the Parthenon in Athens, as a memorial to those who died in the Napoleonic wars. You will also find Nelson’s Monument which has a famous time ball mechanism by which ships used to set their chronometers.

Calton Hill is a lovely hillside park that has wonderful views on Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat, the plus point being it only takes 5-10 mins to walk up from the stairs located on Regent Road on the south side. For a small fee of £5 you can go inside and view the museum.

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: Head Underground

Unknown to most people underneath the Royal Mile is a secret world of underground vaults and even some old medieval streets. There are lots of different tours to take but these are the two that I done. You can book many of these underground tours and walking tours on line, however you can also book them in the street, you will see lots of advertisers along the top of the Royal Mile, near the Cathedral looking for people to join in tours. You will also find many free walking tours available.

The Real Mary King’s Close, this tour was my favourite of the two, you literally step down into another world as you explore Edinburgh’s only preserved 17th century Street. The street itself is underneath what is now known as the Council Chambers and as this is a government building you are unable to take photos which are a shame. The tour begins by giving you a history of how the street became underground (it never used to be) and goes into a lot of detail about the ordinary lives of those who lived there as well as the story of the night Mary Queen of Scots found herself here. The entrance to the tour is on the Royal Mile across the way from St Giles Cathedral. Tours run every 15 mins until 9.30 pm. For more information click here

The other tour I took was the Double Dead Tour run by City of the Dead Tours which covered the underground vaults and Greyfriers Kirk. I took the 8 pm tour as I didn’t fancy the late night tour by myself, at least at 8 pm it was still dark enough to be slightly scary or so I though. The tour itself was really good however there were a few moments that my heart leapt out of my chest! I won’t spoil it by giving away any details but If you are up for a good ghost tour, than this is the one to do. For more information click here

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: Check out the Museums

Edinburgh has a vast array of museums all within walking distance from the Royal Mile, some of my favourites where The Museum of Scotland, Museum on the Mound, Museum of Childhood and the Surgeons Hall Museum. Many of these museums are free to enter but request small donations.

The Museum of Scotland is absolutely massive with the most amazing architecture. This museum is over 3 floors and has a huge inner courtyard with gallery’s either side displaying a diverse collection taking you on a journey of the history of Scotland and around the world. This is a very good place to take children as well as there are lots of interactive elements for them to explore. For more information click here

Museum of Scotland
The beautiful courtyard inside the Museum of Scotland
Museum of Scotland
Inside one of the many exhibits in the Museum of Scotland

The Museum of Childhood, this museum takes you back on the history of childhood and toys. It has a vast selection of old toys from across the generations as well as exploring other aspects of growing up such as schooling, clubs, clothing, health and holidays. For more information click here 

Museum of Childhood
The Queen Anne doll dating back to the early 1700’s
Museum of Childhood
One of the many displays in the Museum of Childhood

Surgeon’s hall Museum, this museum may not be for everyone but as I work as a theatre nurse I found it especially interesting. It is not free to get in at a cost of £7 but NHS workers get a discount at £4. The museum is owned by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh which was founded in 1505, originally opened as a teaching museum for students, the collections, including bone and tissue samples, artefacts and works of art have been open to the public since 1832. This is a wonderful museum if you are interested in health and there are a variety of interactive displays and computer simulation. For more information click here

Surgeons Hall Museum Edinburgh
Surgeons Hall Museum Edinburgh
Surgeons Hall Museum Edinburgh
One of the interactive displays in the Surgeons Hall Museum

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: Visit Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia was once the floating palace of Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth for over 40 years and has been voted Scotland’s Best Attraction by Visit Scotland for 12 years running! The Site itself is out of Edinburgh City Centre in Leith Docks Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre but is easily accessed by Bus, Lothian Buses number 11 and 22 run every 10 minutes and the site also has free parking.

Royal Yacht Britannia
The main function room on board the Royal Yacht Britannia
Royal Yacht Britannia
The room where Charles and Diana stayed on their honeymoon

The tour itself is a self-guided audio tour which guides you through the ship across its many decks, visiting the private Royal quarters, including the Queen’s bedroom, the room in which Charles and Diana spent their honeymoon as well as the crews quarters, work areas, right through to the engine room. I believe the ship can get very crowded at peak times so recommend arriving early or later in the day like I did, I arrived around 3 pm and it wasn’t too crowded. If feeling hungry you can have afternoon tea in the ship restaurant or you can head over to the Ocean Shopping Centre where you will find plenty of restaurants and shops. For more information click here

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: Palace of Holyrood

Best things to do in Edinburh
Holyrood palace

At the  bottom of the Royal Mile you will find Holyrood Palace, this palace is the official residence of the Queen in Scotland and served as principle residence of Scottish royalty since the 16th century including Mary Queen of Scott’s and Bonnie Prince Charlie. As well as taking an audio tour around the historic rooms that have held many a state visit, you can also wander the beautiful gardens and visit the remains of the 12th century Holyrood Abbey.

Best things to do in Edinburgh
Holyrood Palace gardens
Holyrood Abbey

Please note, due to this being an official residence you are unable to take photos inside the palace. For more information click here

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: Visit Dean Village

Best things to do in Edinburgh
The Beautiful Dean Village

If you fancy escaping the hustle and bustle of the city then a walk to Dean Village is sure to relax and recharge the batteries. Dean village is located about a 15 min walk from the Royal mile, however most people don’t realise this little gem exists. The Village itself is only small but after exploring the beautiful peaceful surrounding you can walk along the river back towards town, along the way you will also find St Bernard’s well.

St Bernard's Well Edinburgh
St Bernard’s Well

You won’t find any cafes or shops here just beautiful old architecture and greenery so much so you’ll think you have been transported to somewhere in the countryside.

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: A day out to Cramond Island

Cramond Island
The mainland as seen from Cramond Island

If you really want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city then take a day trip out to Cramond Island. This little gem is easily accessed by Lothian bus number 41 from the city centre. The little village of Cramond has a beautiful little harbour and numerous walks along the shores. You can also walk along the causeway at low tide to visit the peaceful Cramond Island. However be sure to check tide times before making the trek across. It is best to arrive early in the morning; I arrived at 9 am which gave me around an hour to explore the island before having to get back to the mainland. For more details about Cramond Island and how to get there, check out my post here

Best Things to do in Edinburgh: Walk across the Forth Road Bridge

Forth Railway Bridge
Forth Railway Bridge as see from the road bridge

Just 30 mins out of Edinburgh by Lothian bus number 43 you will arrive at South Queensferry.  This is a lovely peaceful town with pretty houses and shops and a long promenade looking out towards the River Forth and its 3 spectacular bridges. Most people come to have a look at the famous Forth railway Bridge but if you are feeling energetic than you can walk across the Forth Road Bridge, be warned its longer than you think and took me 45 mins just to walk across it, however the views from the bridge are amazing and well worth the effort to walk across, not for those scared of heights!.

Forth Road Bridge
Views from the Forth road bridge

If like me you don’t feel like walking back across then you can either get the bus back or take the train back to Edinburgh Waverley Station. For more detailed information about South Queensferry and the Forth bridges check out my post here

Best Things do do in Edinburgh: Harry Potter Trail

If you are a massive fan of Harry Potter then there are plenty of Harry Potter sites to explore, from the cafes that J.K.Rowling sat in whilst writing the books to the places and names that inspired the stories. The most popular way to explore the Harry Potter trail is by taking a walking tour, as I’m not that in to Harry Potter I never felt the need to do this but did come across many tours whilst in Edinburgh. One free tour that was recommended to me was the Potter Trail which shows all the sites that gave inspiration for Hogwarts and the characters within. For more information click here

So there you have it my recommended best things to do in Edinburgh. You probably won’t want to visit every place on this list but I hope it gives you a good starting point for planning your trip to Edinburgh.

Have you been to Edinburgh? Is there any other attractions you would add to this list, or are you planning to visit any of these locations? If so let me know in the comments below, plus if you like this post then please share and subscribe to be the first to read my other blog posts,

Happy travels,

Louise X