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Nothing can quite describe that liberating feeling of embarking upon a solo adventure. To quote prolific Scottish writer Nan Shepherd, ‘it’s a grand thing to get leave to live’. The euphoric feelings when travelling alone, fused with the act of immersing yourself into a city, its environment, and its culture, is a grand affair. Anthropologically speaking, it makes for a profound personal experience and creates a sense of ‘being’. Here, Culture Trip presents a solo traveller’s guide to Scotland’s beloved capital, Edinburgh.
What better way to start your day than indulging in cake and tea while being surrounded by man’s feline friends. Situated in the Grassmarket area, Maison de Moggy is a truly immersive experience and Scotland’s first cat café . This café, which is a custom built cat utopia, serves delectable locally produced cakes and perfectly brewed teas and coffees. Although surreal, embrace the therapeutic nature and calming company.
Ignore the touristy stigma attached with bus tours and accept the fact that they are fun. An ideal way to capture the essence of Edinburgh and its history in a short space of time, a bus tour is the way to go. Cruise the cobbled streets with the complimentary headphones and hear all about Scotland’s colourful past, with numerous random yet fun facts thrown in there. Choose from a multitude of tour options and take note that most tickets are valid for 24 hours, making this the ideal mode of transport for the day. There is something liberating about hopping on and off as you please.
When visiting Edinburgh, it is hard not to notice the myriad of winding wee alleyways that sprout off the Royal Mile like branches. The Scots term for such alleyways or wynds are known as a close or closes (a close tends to be private whereas a wynd is public). However, hours can be spent exploring these intriguing passageways, many of which are steeper than steep and extremely narrow. For a historically accurate account of one of the city’s most famous closes, take a tour of The Real Mary King’s Close, and learn what life was like below the city during a bygone past.
Victoria Street, a street connected to the Grassmarket, is a vibrant hub of boutiques and specialty shops bursting with character and tempting finds. From fancy cheeses at I.J Mellis Cheesemonger and the sweet aromas wafting from the Isle Of Skye Candle Company, to hipster gifts at The Red Door Gallery, tweed galore at Walker Slater, fancy leather goods at The Cambridge Satchel Company, and the finest Scottish cashmere and knits at Hawico, there is the potential for serious monetary damage to occur. The best of them all is undeniably Museum Context — a cabinet of curiosity selling all sorts of gems, from globes and prints, to cool clocks, mugs, and antique-like finds.
Nothing says ‘welcome to Scotland’ more than a whisky tour. Sample the wide array of flavours and inhale the aromatics of this Scottish tipple. The barrel ride, myriad of high tech exhibits, and of course, a world of drams to sample, The Scotch Whisky Experience is the fail-safe go-to option. With over 300 malts to sample, the Whiski Rooms is a good spot to grab a bite and sip away, whereas hardcore dram fans should venture just outside of Edinburgh for a tour of the world famous Glenkinchie Distillery. Unsurprisingly, Scotland is also known for producing some of the best gin on the planet, such as The Botanist and Hendricks. Let it be known that Edinburgh gin is a worthy culprit too. Take a tour of the Edinburgh Gin Distillery and joyfully enter a juniper berry utopia — the raspberry liqueur gin really is out-of-this-world delicious.
Unassuming in nature and unpretentious in style, the quintessential Scottish pub has it all. From the side-splittingly hilarious banter between locals and live folk music, to wholesome eats, cracking pints, and enough whisky to last a life time, sourcing any of Edinburgh’s local pubs is a must for any solo traveller. Perhaps one of the most beloved pubs is Sandy Bell’s — a world famous folk music hub with live gigs most evenings. Devour a steak and ale pie, toasted sandwich, or a hearty bowl of soup and soak up the magnetic atmosphere and stunning tunes. For unwavering character and endless charm, venture towards The Sheep Heid Inn. This watering hole has been around for over 600 years and is old as it is charming. From the veteran skittle alley and tempting drinks to excellent food, this prime spot is secluded and entertaining. If historic and potentially haunted seems like a grand pub grub option, The White Hart Inn in the Grassmarket is just the ticket.
Edinburgh has a buzzing nightlife suitable for a myriad of personalities. For fancy clubs where heels and fashion come in abundance, make for any of the bars on George Street. For those who favour a more relaxed vibe with alternative tunes and low-key feels, look no further than the Cowgate area. From Sneaky Pete’s and Cabaret Voltaire to the Three Sisters, stick to this area and a night of fun festivities is guaranteed. For a portal of eclectic music, check into The Bongo Club.
Whether waking up early or after an epic night-out, the beauty atop the peak of Arthur’s Seat is well worth the wait — and walk. Sit and watch the captivating colours dance and cast their magic on the city and surrounding sights, while reflecting on your Edinburgh experience. Zone out and allow the senses to experience every chirping bird, rustling critter, and bobbing boat in the distance. The overpowering essence of this mountain cannot help but amaze every soul who graces it.