In August 2007, I wrote the following article (updated) about my solo travel to Edinburgh, Scotland to experience the International Fringe Festival.
Remember, you can choose to feel the fear of solo travel and do it anyway.
Because the opportunity can benefit you in more ways than one, from finding your life partner to discovering things about yourself you didn’t know.
If you’ve been thinking about solo travel, I hope this post inspires you to pack your bags, get out of your backyard, and travel.
Solo Travel to Edinburgh, Scotland for the International Fringe Festival
On May 2, 2007, I graduated with a Master of Science, Management degree from Indiana Wesleyan University in Independence, Ohio. My trip to Edinburgh, Scotland was my graduation gift from me to me. Plus, my birthday is in August, so the trip was a birthday gift as well.
I always wanted to be in the capital city to experience the Fringe Festival because I love art and culture, books, music, dance,and theater. And during the Fringe Festival, I knew I could experience the Art Festival, Festival of Spirituality and Peace, International Film Festival, Military Tattoo Festival, International Book Festival, and more. It’s a mecca for use creative types.
I booked my plane ticket through Pleasant Valley Travel, located in Parma, Ohio. However, I booked my accommodations through the internet and chose to book with Budget Backpackers, a hostel located in the city centre of Edinburgh. It’s a hip, colorful, and funky hostel and I recommend you check it out.
Due to storms, my flight from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to Chicago O’Hare was delayed. When I arrived at London Heathrow airport, I missed my connecting flight to Edinburgh, so I booked a later flight to Edinburgh. But the ticket agent wasn’t thrilled about it. His face was painted with disgust. I could feel his judgement and swore he was thinking bloody American. As if I was the only person who’s ever missed a flight. Oh well. I’m sure he got over it.
When I arrived at Edinburgh Airport, I walked to the ground level where the transportation is located. I located the No. 100 Airport bus to the city center and purchased a round trip ticket. Riding a double decker bus is a must travel experience. I recommend sitting on the top level (weather permitting) because you can get a good view of the city.
I arrived at Waverly Bridge in the “new town” of the city center and walked to Budget Backpackers. I was thrilled when I found it. When I opened the door I was not only greeted by loud music playing, but a nice guy sitting behind the desk.
The atmosphere was vibrant and people were easy going and friendly.
I ended up in a six bunk room instead of the eight room bunk I booked. The room was clean and cozy but chilly because the window was opened slightly.
The ages of the guests at the hostel ranged from 20-somethings to families. Most guests were from the UK and Europe with a few people from Asian countries as well as Americans. Yep! We were a diverse bunch of travelers.
The people in my room were from Barcelona, Spain, England, Australia, and Los Angeles, California. The twenty something couple from L.A. had somewhat of an attitude. I think the guy was mad because his girlfriend hung out with her BFF more than she did with him. Luckily, they left on Sunday and the energy in the room shifted to a more positive one.
We had a couple of guys stay for one night, and then our new roommates arrived the next day. I listened to their accent and tried to figure out which country they were from. The only English they spoke was “hello” and “goodbye.” But they were friendly and polite.
Scotland (and the UK in general) has a fabulous public transportation system, but I chose to walk everywhere because it’s a great way to familiarize yourself with a city.
Cafés are everywhere!
I went to The Elephant House Café in Edinburgh because I read somewhere that J.K. Rowling wrote a few of the Harry Potter books at it. I also checked out Starbucks because I wanted to see if it was different from the U.S. It’s not.
The Royal Mile was packed with people, from tourists to artists, it was complete chaos.
One thing I could have done without was all of the cameras. From zoom lens’ to camera phones, it was a sea of flash.
Here’s a hint: Don’t be a tourist!
I know you probably want to have photographs as a memory of your trip but there are other people around you.
Here’s a tip: Buy postcards!
You can mail them to family and friends. And, it may be exciting for someone to receive a postcard with the “Royal Air Mail” stamp on it.
People who think the Scots only eat “Haggis” will be surprised to discover that Edinburgh offers a variety of dining options.
Eat at a pub or try a restaurant, like the Thai Orchid or Ting Thai Caravan. Note: I ate at The Thai House, located on Candlemaker Row (love the name). But I’m not sure if it’s still there.
By the way, Haggis isn’t bad (at the time I was still eating meat). I tried it before when I visited Scotland in 2000 with my cousin (that’s another story). You never know if like a food unless you try it.
The art and culture of Edinburgh, Scotland are fantastic.
And the museums are FREE!
From the National Museum of Scotland to The National Gallery of Scotland, which sits on three sites, the collections are spectacular. One and a half million visitors walk through the doors every year!
My favorite piece was the Millennium Clock at the National Museum of Scotland. Hand carved from top to bottom, it envelopes you when you stop to look and admire it. It chimes every hour on the hour.
Before it chimes, I suggest you read the placard to the left and to the right of the clock. The one on the right explains the intricacies of the clock and the story that it tells. It was moving and made me stop and think about the world and the direction we’re moving as a collective.
For those who enjoy the nightlife, you’ll love the city’s pubs (howffs) because all of them are not the same. For example, Frankenstein Bier Keller (some refer to it as Frankenstein’s Pub) boasts three levels with horror theme decor. The Last Drop pub is known as a traditional pub because of its décor.
Staying connected to its brewing and distilling traditions, makes Edinburgh a great city for those who like to drink beer and whiskey.
Edinburgh has three universities, plus several colleges. A youthful presence can be found in the city for most of the year. It’s a welcome remedy for a city that was once regarded as stuffy.
My trip to Edinburgh to experience the Fringe Festival was one of my favorites. Not only did I lose 10 pounds, but discovered I prefer a city vibe (I don’t mind hanging out in the countryside once in a while). I liked walking everywhere and/or taking public transportation. Please understand, I love and appreciate my car. But when you live or visit a walkable city, you really don’t need one.
The shopping in Edinburgh was fabulous because I had many more fashionable choices than what I may find in the Midwest — sorry. The beauty products were amazing, from the organic ingredients to the packaging (bold colors and funky designs).
Explore Edinburgh, Scotland on Your Own
The Edinburgh International Fringe Festival offers you the opportunity to experience thousands of performances in one city. Not only do you get to see people from around the world perform, but you get to speak with fellow travelers and learn that you’re not so different.
Visiting Edinburgh is a dream come true for anyone who loves “city” living. Ditch the rental car and walk and/or use public transportation. You’ll feel better physically, and the environment will thank you.