Bethany Woodhead kickstarts our day trip series with an exploration of Edinburgh
With less than half a million people calling Edinburgh their home, this historic city is flooded with over four million tourists each year… and for good reason. Packed into this small city is a spiral of medievalism contrasted with cosmopolitanism. As you navigate around the cobbled streets and hidden alleys, you are met with an array of contemporary cultural comforts. Edinburgh is a special place to visit, no matter what season you decide to go; so make use of studying in a city which is not too far away and take multiple trips throughout the year!
With around 211 trains per day between the hours of 05:30am and midnight, it really couldn’t be easier to commute back and forth from Scotland’s capital. With a 16 to 25-year old railcard, you can get an “Anytime Day Return” ticket for only £8.30; or if you’re really wanting to tighten the ol’ purse strings, you can catch a Megabus for as little as £3.75 one way. Buses run all day and all night, leaving Buchanan Bus Station (which is only a five-minute walk from the Subway and other rail links) and drops you smack-bang in the middle of Edinburgh, around a three-minute walk from Princes Street.
So, what are some of the greatest things to do whilst you visit the city? Well, most importantly, of course, you need to know which pubs are worth hitting first. Cowgate and Grassmarket offer an abundance of watering holes to quench your thirst after a long day scaling Edinburgh’s very, very hilly streets. Start at McSorley’s: an Irish pub, frequently bursting with life (especially on game days: it’s probably one of the best venues to watch the Six Nations), and it also offers live music most nights. It’s a short walk from the Meadows, where you could have spent the day basking in the sun with a disposable BBQ and bottles of Bud perched on a bag of ice. After a pint at McSorley’s, head two minutes down the road to Frankenstein’s – a Gothic themed bierkeller spread over three floors of a 19th-century church. Looping down Victoria Street you can find Finnegan’s Wake: another Irish pub, packed with thick, high wooden tables and flags adorning the ceiling, giving it a warm, cosy feel (and offering student-priced drinks if you ask for the special menu!) By this time, you’re probably feeling peckish, so pop across the road to Oink (veggie people – stay clear) and choose from a “Piglet”, an “Oink” or a “Grunter”, topped with sage and onion or haggis, and a good helping of sauce (if I were you, I’d go for a smothering of homemade chilli cheese doused all over the huge pile of meat you’ve made the correct decision of indulging in). After this re-energising pit-stop, continue to walk down, down, downwards until you reach the corner of Auld Jock’s Pie Shoppe. Keep going (unless you fancy stopping off for a stealthy serving of pie and gravy) and follow the road left until you are greeted with the delightful sight of The Three Sisters. This wondrous venue literally is a three-in-one, with a gated off courtyard filled with long drinking tables, colourful lights and a huge sports screen. Inside is much like any pub, but if you find the doors on the right, just before entering the main pub, and you follow the staircase upwards, you’ll find Edinburgh Napier’s Students’ Union, where you can get a double pint for a fiver (twice the drink for half the price of downstairs – enjoy!)
It’s worth it to stick around for a night on the toon; just be prepared to either crash at an afters or spend an hour and a half hating yourself as you nauseously clamber onto a 4am Megabus back to Glasgow and find a taxi home to the privacy of your own flat (where you can throw up in peace and crash in bed for the remainder of the day). If you’re in Edinburgh on a Friday and are a bit of an “Indie-Rock wanker” like the rest of us cool kids, then head back to where you found Finnegan’s Wake on Victoria Street, and a few doors down is the Liquid Rooms, where they host Propaganda club nights every Friday. Think “Firewater Thursdays”, but in Edinburgh. Alternatively, there’s Edinburgh Hive (God help you), Why Not (a swanky underground club, situated directly underneath the grandeur that is The Dome, on George Street), or Please Don’t Tell (affectionately named PDT and full of retro memorabilia – word of advice, watch your drinks as they’re suspiciously strong at this place and you will absolutely live to regret your decisions here).
If the drinking and the club-hopping doesn’t sound like the type of exploration for you, fear not, for Edinburgh is jam-packed with endless other ways for you to pass the time. If you’re up for a bit of a walk, pack a wee picnic and climb Arthur’s Seat for panoramic views from atop an extinct volcano. Similarly, take a bus to Portobello for a leisurely stroll along the beach (and when I say leisurely, I mean gale-force wind and seaspray pelting you at 90mph, unless you are lucky enough to catch it on one of these unusually hot, calm summer’s days).
And if you’re fancying a little potter around some more indoor-type venues, head over to Camera Obscura in the Old Town for boggling illusions, trippy light displays and tremendous rooftop views of the city. There’s also the National Gallery, Edinburgh Zoo, spooky ghost tours, or a gander up the Royal Mile to see the mighty castle perched upon its hill, overlooking Princes Street Gardens.
Lastly, Edinburgh transforms into a whole new world at least twice a year as they host huge, city-wide cultural events. In summer, the Edinburgh Fringe exhibits the world’s largest arts festival – an absolutely unmissable event taking place over the entire summer season, jam-packed with countless comedy, dance, theatre and music shows that will be sure to blow your mind. And when the sunshine hides away and the brisk Scottish winter settles in, the city becomes the home of romantic, cosy Christmas markets and pop-up bars with handmade gifts, hot cocoa, delicious world cuisines and, of course, plenty of mulled wine!
Scotland’s capital holds many an adventure; so prepare to fully immerse yourself in cultural heritage, an endless trail of good pubs and far too many Harry Potter shops (although can you ever really have too much Harry Potter?)