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How to spend 3 fabulous days in this great city!

Edinburgh is second only to London as the most visited city in the United Kingdom. Its easy to see why, it’s a city full of charm, bursting with amazing historic buildings, cobbled streets, endless gardens and public spaces and surrounded by beautiful scenery. The following post gives what I believe to be the perfect Edinburgh 3 day itinerary to get the best out of a visit to this amazing city!

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.

Princes park gardens. Edinburgh
Princes Park Gardens


Edinburgh: How to get there

Plane

Edinburgh international airport is approximately 10 miles away from the 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!

Transfer by tram – There is a regular tram link into Edinburgh city centre, for more details check out Edinburgh Trams

Transfer by bus – There are a number of bus links from the airport to various areas around Edinburgh, however the airport link 100 runs every 10 minutes into Edinburgh city centre. For more details on bus services within Edinburgh check out the Transport for Edinburgh website

Train

The main city centre train station is Edinburgh Waverley located slap bang in the middle of Edinburgh within walking distance of both the old and new town. For more information and booking train tickets within the UK check out The Trainline

Bus

Edinburgh can be reached by bus from most other UK cities. For low cost bus operators check out National Express.

A useful app for checking out routes around the UK and the rest of Europe is GoEuro. This app will give you options for plane, train and Buses and the ability to book securely through the app.

Edinburgh 3 Day Itinerary: Where to stay

What ever your budget there is an abundance of hotels, guesthouses and hostels located within the city centre and close to most of its attractions. The best area to stay is the old town, close to the Royal Mile, here most of Edinburgh’s attractions will be right on your doorstep. Another area worth looking at is around Princes Street, Edinburgh’s new town district. Edinburgh’s Main train station, Waverley is located in-between both of these areas giving easy access. However wherever you decide to stay, you will find it extremely easy to get into the city centre with the excellent public transport links.

As a budget traveller I was looking for a centrally located hostel. After some research I booked my stay at Budget Backpackers which I can highly recommend! This was a very comfortable clean hostel, with an on site bar, lounge and chill out area. The staff were extremely friendly and offered a variety of excursions and advice for those new to the area. For only £12 a night I thought it was very good value for money. For those unsure about staying in hostels then check out my guide on how to survive staying in hostels. For booking accommodation in Edinburgh I recommend Hostel World and Hotels.com.

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

Edinburgh 3 Day Itinerary – Day One

Walk the mile!

Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is the heart of this historic city running from Edinburgh Castle all the way down to Holyrood Palace. Along the route you will find interesting museums, historic landmarks, secret places and a variety of shops, restaurants and cafes.

Start the day early with a hearty breakfast either at you hotel or the many cafes along the mile. Once your all filed up, walk up the mile towards Edinburgh’s most iconic landmark, Edinburgh Castle.

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

When visiting the castle be sure to get there early especially in the peak summer months. To make things easier and to save some money on entrance fees pre-book tickets on line on the Edinburgh Castle website.

For more detailed information on visiting Edinburgh Castle check out my guide here.

After spending an hour or two exploring Edinburgh castle make your way down the mile, Along the way you will spoilt for choice with shops selling souvenirs, cafes for grabbing a much needed snack or coffee as well as many small alleyways to explore called Closes. One such Close to check out is Lady Stairs Close, through here you’ll find the quaint Writers museum.

The Writers museum
The Writers museum

The Writers museum is free to enter and showcases three of Scotland’s most famous writers, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Once back on the mile, the next port of call will be the beautiful St Giles Cathedral. From the outside it doesn’t look quite as impressive as say the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral or London’s St Paul’s but inside it is incredibly beautiful and the attention to detail in parts is exquisite. Entrance is free but you can pay £6 to take a rooftop tour, for details check out the website here.

St Giles Cathedral
St Giles Cathedral

After wandering around the Cathedral, you’ll probably be in need of some lunch. Stop in one of the many cafes or restaurants for a bite to eat and then continue down the mile towards Holyrood House.

If interested along the route you will also go past some interesting museums such as The Museum of Childhood, The Museum of Edinburgh and the Peoples Story Museum. If you have the time I recommend all these museums especially if you would like an insight into Edinburgh and Scottish history. 

Holyrood Palace Edinburgh 3 day itinerary
Holyrood palace

At the bottom of the Royal Mile you will find the beautiful Palace of Holyrood House. Please note though that the last entrance in winter is 15.15 pm and 16.30 pm in summer. Holyrood Palace is the official Royal residence of Her Majesty the Queen when in Scotland and has a close association with some of Scotland’s most historic figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. 

The entrance fee is £14 for adults and includes an audio guide that walks you through the various rooms and areas of the house providing a detailed history along the way. 

Included in the tour is the remains of the Holyrood Abbey and the beautiful gardens.

Holyrood Abbey
Holyrood Abbey

After exploring the palace you could either head back to your hotel for a freshen up and go back out to enjoy a meal and enjoy some of Edinburgh’s nightlife or like me you could first head up Arthur’s Seat to watch the sunset.

Arthur’s seat sits prominently looking down over Edinburgh and although its a bit of a trek to reach the summit the views from the top are stunning! There are numerous trails up to the peak but the main trail begins behind Holyrood House. It’s useful to use an app such as Maps.Me to help navigate the quickest trail to the top if short on time. This off-line map is also useful for navigating around Edinburgh’s many streets and closes! 

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

Depending on the time of year, make sure you have a bag with some warm clothes such as a jacket and hat as the temperatures are a lot colder at the summit especially if staying to watch for the sunset. If you do decide to do this then I also recommend taking some snacks and a drink with you as well. To walk up to the summit only takes about 45 minutes depending on fitness level and although steep at times it is not a difficult climb.

Edinburgh 3 Day Itinerary – Day Two

The best museums

After a good nights rest and a hearty breakfast, its time to explore more of Edinburgh’s iconic landmarks and museums.

First off I would walk down towards the University of Edinburgh to check out the Surgeon’s Hall Museum. This Museum may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I found it absolutely fascinating! As someone who’s day job is a nurse, I am fascinated by the human body and what medical science can achieve. This museum gives and amazing insight into the history of surgical techniques without it being a gory medical establishment! The exhibits are shown in an interesting and educational way, with some have a go yourself technical challenges. There is also an interesting pathology exhibit which I will warn you houses hundreds of body parts in glass jars, however I do think its shown in a educational way.

Entrance into the museum is £7.50 for adult and only £4 for NHS workers with valid ID (I never had ID with me but they still gave me the discount) For more info check here

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

Once finished in the surgeon’s hall then head back towards town and visit what I believe to be one of the best museums in Edinburgh, The National Museum of Scotland, This excellent museum is housed in a magnificent Victorian building appreciated from both inside and out. The museum itself is huge and has a multitude of displays and exhibits. This diverse collection will take you on a historic journey of not only Scotland but around the world. The museum is open daily from 10 am -5 pm and has free admission.

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

By now its probably time to grab a bite to eat and then head back up the mile towards The Writers Museum. If you walk back through the Lady Stairs Close past The Writers Museum you will find yourself across the road to The Museum on the Mound. This museum is all about the history of money and is well worth a visit if you have time, if not check out the grounds as it has amazing views across the city!

In the distance you will see The Scott Monument and the Princes Street Gardens. Both are worth a visit, you can climb to the top of the Scott Monument and enjoy some amazing views as well a small museum for £8 entrance fee.

The Scott Monument
The Scott Monument
Princes park gardens. Edinburgh
Princes Street Gardens

If after all that you are tied of wandering round museums, why not check out the fabulous shopping district around Princes street or take a walk up Calton Hill to check out the Nelson Monument and the National Monument of Scotland.

Calton Hill
Calton Hill

In the evening, why not check out an underground tour? There are many to choose from, I personally recommend the ‘Double Dead’ underground and graveyard tour from The City of the Dead Tours. This tour starts from outside St Giles Cathedral and takes you deep into Edinburgh’s historic underground South Bridge Vaults as well as a ghostly tour in the Covenanter’s Prison in Greyfriars Graveyard. Warning! Its not for the faint hearted! Tour prices start from around £13

If ghosts aren’t your thing then a tour of the Real Mary Kings Close will get you experiencing Edinburgh’s underground streets without the scary ghost stories! Entrance is opposite St Giles Cathedral with a £15.50 entrance free with tours running every 15 minutes throughout the day and up to 9.30 pm in the summer months.


Edinburgh 3 Day Itinerary – Day Three

Explore the surrounding area

After all that exploring, today is a time to chill out and get some wonderful sea air with a trip to Cramond island and if you fancy it a trip out to see the iconic Forth bridges.

Cramond Harbour
Cramond Harbour

Cramond island is a lovely island reached only by a causeway during low tide. The surrounding area is beautiful with plenty of walking trails to explore. If wanting to walk across to the island you need to check out the tidal times as you won’t want to end up stranded. For more information on how to get to Cramond check out my Cramond Island guide here.

Forth railway Bridge
Forth railway Bridge

The Forth Railway bridge is an iconic landmark in Scotland and is now one of three bridges stretching across the Forth River. The bridges are situated in the quaint town of South Queensferry with its lovely promenade and pretty houses. The area is well worth a trip out and will make a great day combined with a trip to Cramond Island. To find out how to get to South Queensferry and the Forth bridges check out my guide here.

If after all that fresh air you still have time to fit in one last spot on the tourist trail then why not have a good old tipple at The Scotch Whisky Experience. They have a variety of tasting tours on offer and also have an onsite restaurant serving traditional Scottish fare. Sounds like the perfect way to finish a perfect 3 days in Edinburgh!

So there you have it my perfect 3 day itinerary of Edinburgh. Of course there are plenty of other things to do whilst in Edinburgh, so if you fancy changing a few things or spending more time in the area and looking for inspiration then check out my other Edinburgh guides. The Best things to do in Edinburgh or if on a tight budget, my Budget things to do in Edinburgh.

Have you been to Edinburgh, thinking of taking a trip or know of any other things to do whilst in the city? If so then let me know in the comments below.

Also, if you like this or any of my other guides then let me know, share and subscribe.

Thanks for reading and happy travels,

Louise X

Have you heard of the famous Forth Bridges and would you like to know how and why you should visit them if staying in Edinburgh? If so, this guide will show you how to visit the bridges and make the most of this little known area in Scotland.

The vast majority of people who visit Edinburgh tend to just check out the most popular tourist attractions in the city such as Edinburgh castle, Holyrood House and The Scotch Whisky Experience, however there is a lot more to this area than just the popular city attractions. Just a 40 min bus ride from Edinburgh city centre you can find yourself in South Queensway, a quaint little town situated on the River Forth with amazing views of the famous Forth bridges.

If feeling energetic you can take a walk across one of the bridges to get some of the best views or maybe you could take a boat trip and check out the bridges from the water?

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.

The Three Bridges:

Forth railway Bridge
Forth railway Bridge

The Forth Railway Bridge

The iconic Forth Railway Bridge was opened in March 1890 after taking 8 years to construct and was one of the most recognised engineering accomplishments of the Victorian era and is still one of the most recognisable structures in the world. This famous red steel cantilever bridge spans a total length of 2467 metres across the River Forth and is still in use today linking Edinburgh to the highlands. In 2015 The Forth bridge was recognised as a UNESCO World heritage site, one of only six such sites in Scotland.

The Forth Road Bridge

The construction of the Forth Road Bridge started in September 1958 and was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen on September 4, 1964. At the time of its opening it was the longest suspension bridge outside the USA with a length of 2.5 km. The bridge has since been strengthened to accommodate the extra weight of traffic that travel across the bridge today. As well as offering a passage for vehicles to cross the Forth, the bridge also has a walkway for walkers and cyclists to cross.

Queensway Crossing

The Queensway Crossing opened to the public in August 2017 and at 2.7 km long is the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world!

Forth Bridges: How to get there

Transport for edinburgh app
Following the journey on the transport for Edinburgh app

Its easy to get to the bridges from Edinburgh city centre, just hop on the Lothian number 43 bus and get off at Dalmany rail station. To make things easier I suggest downloading the Transport for Edinburgh app here. You can actually follow the bus route on a map on the app so you know when exactly to get off.

As South Queensferry is outside the Edinburgh city limits, you will need to buy the £5 day saver ticket that also covers the east of the county. You can either pay directly to the driver or via the app (Please note, the driver will only take the correct fare and no change will be given).

Once at Dalmany station, cross the road and head downwards through the housing estate, after about 5 mins you will come across a footpath to your right.

Forth Bridge
Follow footpath on the right

Follow the footpath which leads you underneath the Forth Rail bridge.

Go down the steps, across the road and walk left along the coast for the best views of the Forth Railway and Road Bridges.

Forth Bridge
Go down the steps and then cross the road to the left.

If you continue walking in this direction you will walk along the Queensferry promenade and into South Queensferry town.

South Queensferry
Pretty houses in South Queensferry
Pretty houses in South Queensferry
Pretty houses in South Queensferry

Forth Bridges: Things to do in South Queensferry

Walk across the forth Road Bridge

If feeling energetic, you can walk through the town and up towards the pedestrian entrance to the bridge and walk across the 2.5 km bridge which will lead you to North Queensferry. From here you can then catch the train back across the Forth Railway bridge from North Queensferry station either back to Dalmany station for the bus back into Edinburgh or stay on for the train back to the city.

The walk itself isn’t for the faint hearted and not advised if scared of heights. I’m not usually afraid of heights but did find it uncomfortable at times to go near the edge and look over the barrier. Luckily the walkway is quite wide so you don’t have to walk next to the edge if not wanting too. However the views as you walk across are amazing, not only of the other bridges but of the surrounding area as well. The walk itself takes about 30 mins depending on pace and fitness levels.

Walking across the Forth road bridge
Walking across the Forth road bridge
Forth Road Bridge
Views from the Forth road bridge

Take a boat trip

You can take a variety of boat trips from Hawes Pier at South Queensferry. Some trips take you along and under all the bridges to see them from a different point of view. Other trips take you to the small Inchcolm Island in the middle of the Forth River where you can check out the magnificent Inchcolm Abbey as well as having great views of the bridges. Unfortunately,  I was unable to do either of these as I arrived late in the afternoon and had missed the sailings.

You can check out the details of both in the following links: Maid of the Forth & Forth Boat Tours

Cramond Island

You can also combine visiting the bridges with a trip to the beautiful Cramond Island. To check out how to get to Cramond Island check out my guide here.

To do both trips in one day, I recommend getting the Lothian bus number 41 first to Cramond Island, spending the morning in Cramond and then continuing on the Lothian bus number 43 to Dalmany station. To check out my guide on visiting Cramond Island click here

Are you looking for inspiration on things to do whilst in Edinburgh, if so, have you checked out my other Edinburgh guides, The best things to do in Edinburgh or for Edinburgh on a budget – A backpackers guide.

Have you been to Edinburgh, do you have any tips on other places to visit? If so let me know in the comments below! Plus if you like this post, please share and subscribe to be the first to hear about my future adventures.

Thanks for reading,

happy Travels,

Louise X

Happy travels,

Louise X

Edinburgh Castle is one of the most visited attractions in Scotland and one of Edinburgh’s most iconic landmarks. Its hard not to notice the dominating castle, towering proudly above the city of Edinburgh on what’s known locally as Castle Rock.

As one of the most popular visitor sites in Edinburgh it can also be one of the busiest, with crowds of tourists descending on it every day, especially in the summer months. To get the best out of your visit to Edinburgh Castle then check out this guide, which provides you with everything you need to know.

If you are looking for other things to do whilst in Edinburgh, then check out my best things to do in Edinburgh post

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.

History of the castle

The earliest records of Edinburgh Castle date back to 1093 when the site was known as the ‘Castle of the Maidens’. However evidence suggests that people were living on Castle rock as far back as the Bronze age nearly 3000 years ago. The site as we know it now varies in date, with the oldest building, the lovely St Margaret’s Chapel dating back to 1130 and is Edinburgh’s oldest building.

Throughout the years the castle has been the site of many battles and conquests and found itself ruled by both the Scottish and the English with the castle changing hands many times. The castle has also been home to many Kings and Queens. The first was Queen Margaret who died here in 1093 and was made a saint by Pope Innocent IV in 1250. St Margaret’s Chapel was built-in her memory.

In 1296 Edward I of England invaded Scotland and took control of the castle, however this was short-lived as  in 1314 Sir Thomas Randolph, the nephew of King Robert the Bruce won the castle back.

In 1457 Mons Meg,  a 6 tonne siege gun was shipped to Edinburgh Castle as a present for the then King and Queen and was used on many occasions to deter the English. Mons Meg still sits proudly in the upper levels of the castle.

Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle
Mons Meg

In 1566 Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son Prince James in the royal palace, only 2 years later Mary later fled to England and her infant child became King. Her husband Earl of Darnley was thought to have been murdered and she later married what was thought to be the prime suspect in his killing. She was later imprisoned by the English and beheaded in 1587.

In 1688 the last Stewart king of Scotland, the Catholic James VII fled into exile after the Protestant William of Orange landed in England alongside his wife Mary, James VII’s eldest daughter and were proclaimed joint sovereigns of England. Many Scots were undecided on this and the castle was prepared for defence. A siege began in March 1689 and lasted for three months, during which time William and Mary were offered, and accepted the Scottish Crown.

There were many other skirmishes and attempts to claim the castle but it wasn’t really seriously threatened. Since then the castle has remained peaceful and in 1707 the Act uniting Scotland and England was passed in the Scottish Parliament. At this time the Scottish honours were hidden away and thought to have been lost but after special permission in 1818, Sir Walter Scott broke into  the room where they had supposedly been hidden and found them at the bottom of a chest. These Crown Jewels were immediately put on display in this same room and are still on display today.

Edinburgh Castle: Things to see

The Honours of Scotland: The Crown Jewels

Crown Jewels Edinburgh Castle
Crown Jewels exhibition

These Jewels are displayed in the Crown room and include:

  • The sceptre that was presented to James IV by Pope Alexander VI in 1494.
  • The crown was first worn for the coronation of James V’s wife Mary of Guise in 1540.

These items were first used together to Crown Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. The Crown Jewels are also accompanied by a special exhibition. Also inside the Crown room is the Stone of Destiny, a powerful ancient symbol of Scottish monarchy.

As the Crown room is very small, I recommend getting to the castle as soon as it opens and visiting the Crown room first before the crowds arrive. You can reach it by going up the Lang Stairs and following the signs for the Crown Jewels. Be warned you are not allowed to take any photographs inside the Crown room.

Lang Stairs, Edinburgh Castle
Lang Stairs

After visiting the Crown room then walk back towards the entrance and follow the visitors guide as normal.

Argyle Battery

Edinburgh Castle
The amazing views from the Argyle Battery

This is one of the many view points for checking out the amazing views across Edinburgh. It’s here that you will find the One O’clock Gun, fired everyday at 1 pm except Sundays, Christmas day and Good Friday. The firing of the gun dates back to 1861 when it was used by ships sailing past the Forth to set maritime clocks.

Scotland’s National War Museum

Scotlands National War Museum, Edinburgh Castle
Entrance to the National War Museum

This is a great museum housing artefacts used by Scottish forces over the centuries. It is housed in a former storehouse for ordnance which was built-in the 1700s and later used as a military hospital.

St Margaret’s Chapel

St Margaret's Chapel. Edinburgh Castle
St Margaret’s Chapel

This chapel was built by David I and dedicated to his mother Queen Margaret and is the oldest building in Edinburgh. The decorated arch inside the chapel is the original whilst the stained glass windows are more recent. Today the chapel is still used for weddings and christenings.

The Great hall

The Great Hall, Edinburgh Castle
The Great Hall

The magnificent Great Hall was built-in 1511 for James IV. The walls of this medieval room are filled with weapons and armour including the notorious Lochaber axe.

Dog Cemetery

Dog cemetery, Edinburgh Castle
Dog Cemetery

As you look out at the views of Edinburgh from Mons Meg, if you look down you will see the small dog cemetery. The final resting place of soldiers’ loyal canine companions.

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace, Edinburgh Castle
The giant fireplace inside the Royal Palace

The rooms within the Royal Palace have witnessed many historical events in Scottish history. It was here that Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI in 1566. It is thought that magic was used to transfer Mary’s birthing pains to that of a servant.

James VI became King shortly before his 2nd birthday and united the crowns of Scotland and England in 1603.

Scottish National War Memorial

The Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle
Inside the Scottish National War Memorial

This is a beautiful memorial to all those who lost their lives in both world wars as well as other military campaigns since 1945. The building was the former North Barracks but has been redesigned using sculpture and stained glass to provide moving depictions of scenes from the First World War.

Prisoners Of War

Prisoners of War, Edinburgh Castle
Prisoners of War exhibition

Discover how prisoners were treated in the 1700s and 1800s. These prisoners of war came from all over the world and even included a 5-year-old drummer boy captured at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Military Prison

Military Prison, edinburgh Castle
Military Prison

Step inside the old military prison and find out about some of the people kept inside. Built in the 1880s and last used in 1923.

Regimental Museums

Regimental Museums, Edinburgh Castle
Regimental Museum

There are several regimental museums within the castle grounds and include:

  • The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment)
  • The Royal Regiment of Scotland
  • Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

Edinburgh Castle: Visitor information

Tickets:

Purchase your tickets in advance, they will also be cheaper!

Buy on the day tickets:

  • Adult – £18.50
  • Child – £11.50
  • Concession – £15.00

Buy online in advance:

  • Adult – £17.00
  • Child – £10.20
  • Concession – £ 13.60

Opening Times:

The Castle opens everyday at 9.30 am and closes at 6 pm summer time and till 5 pm in winter, last admission is 1 hour before closing. I would recommend getting there early as the queue to get in, even with tickets, will be travelling down the Royal mile by 9 am especially in summer time. I arrived at 8.45 am at the end of September and was first in the queue, however by opening time the queue was huge!!

If you can’t get to the castle that early I would try to avoid visiting between 12 – 2 pm as the crowds appear for the One O’clock gun. If you want to be here for this then be prepared for large crowds.

Tours:

You can grab a self guided audio tour at the entrance in most languages for £3.50 adults, £1.50 children.

Complimentary guided tours are held at certain times throughout the day, however I’m not sure of the times.

Security:

There are no areas to store baggage or pram’s and only backpacks smaller than 30l will be allowed into the site. I did see staff asking people with larger bags to put them inside a plastic box to determine if they were allowed in (like they do at the airport for hand luggage).

They also seemed to be doing random bag searches as well. But it’s all for our security so fair enough, just be prepared.

Shops:

Inside the castle you will also find a couple of gift shops and Cafe’s

For further information check out the official site here

So there you have it, the best tips on visiting Edinburgh Castle! Have you visited?, do you have any other tips to share? If so let me know in the comments below! Plus if you like this post, please share and subscribe to be the first to hear about my future adventures.

Happy travels,

Louise X

Travelling to Edinburgh on a budget, then check out my budget guide to Edinburgh here

Are you off to Edinburgh soon? If so check out this guide on how best to explore Edinburgh Castle! #Edinburgh #EdinburghCastle #Scotland #Citybreak #backpacking #SoloTravel

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?

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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