A weekend in Edinburgh & the Highlands – travel guide and itinerary

Are you looking for a little weekend getaway? Then charming, picturesque Edinburgh might just be the place. It’s definitely one of Europe’s most beautiful cities with so much history and culture surrounded by hills and plenty of options for good food and down-to-earth nightlife. The Scottish capital has just about the perfect size for a city, too. It feels biggish with enough to do for a whole weekend or even week, yet it’s easily manageable to explore everything by foot. You could even throw in a day tour to the Scottish Highlands. Who knows – you may get to see the Loch Ness Monster! 

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So here’s your travel guide with plenty of tips for a weekend in Edinburgh and the Highlands. It’s beautiful to visit year-round so no need to wait for next summer.

 


 

Top things to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Of course, this is not to miss. It’s Edinburgh’s most famous landmark, built on Castle Rock in the 12th century. Even if you decide not to go inside, you should walk up the little hill and enjoy the views. It does take you back in time as you pass historic houses and hear traditionally dressed men with long hair play the bagpipe.

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Arthur’s Seat

We were lucky as on our last day in Edinburgh the rain clouds lifted and we enjoyed plenty of sunshine and a bright blue sky. Depending on which route you take and how many pints of beer or glasses of Whisky you had the night before, the climb can be slightly exhausting. But believe me when I say it’s all worth it for the views. You’ll see all of Edinburgh to one side and the sea to the other. So much greenery so close to the city, perfect! Hint: Take a jumper, it’s super breezy and cold up there.

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Free walking tour

Sign up to one of the many free walking tours – you’ll get to see all major sights in (half) a day including a few you may not have come across otherwise. Our guide also pointed out a lot of spots that may have inspired J.K. Rowling when writing Harry Potter. Most tours start at Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile and finish on Castle Rock. We were very happy with Sandemans Free Tours. I suggest you do them on your first day because afterwards you can explore the sights/museums/etc. more that interested you and you’ll have better orientation.

 

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Experience Scotland’s pub culture

Grassmarket has a bunch of options such as the Beehive Inn. We thought Biddy Mulligans looked most fun. They had a band playing so everyone was dancing and having a great time. The Bow Bar was also pretty busy early on and there’s plenty on offer in terms of whiskey and ale.

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A day trip to the Scottish Highlands

The Highlands were amazing and I would definitely like to explore them more. Would I recommend doing it on a day trip from Edinburgh? It depends. Your better option would be to rent a car and go on a weekend tour. But on these one-day tours (~12 hours) you spend a lot of time on the bus and I really mean a lot, like 80-90% probably. We had one breakfast stop and a mini photo break before we reached Loch Ness. We had an hour lunch by the lake before we headed back another way. There we stopped two or three times for about 15 minutes each. Book these tours ideally a week in advance, for example with Highland Experience.

 

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Where to eat and drink in Edinburgh

The Devil’s Advocate for eclectic collection of Scottish and world whiskies as well as modern Scottish dining.

Milk which was named one of Edinburgh’s top 10 must-visit cafes in the The List Magazine Eating And Drinking Guide.

Earthy Market Cafe for seasonal, local, organic and free-range eating.

The White Hart Inn is said to serve the best Haggis in town but don’t hold me to it – I’m not sure it’s something I’d like to try…

Bramble Bar for drinking cocktails in a bit of a sophisticated atmosphere.

Just Burgers and Beers… well, the name kinda gives it away: amazing burgers and good craft beers (but also wine)

Howie’s Restaurant is a good choice for eating some Scottish salmon in a romantic atmosphere.

Cuckoo’s Bakery doesn’t only serve delicious scones (and you shouldn’t leave Edinburgh without having tried them) but also Edinburgh’s quirkiest cupcakes

Elephant House to drink your coffee where J.R. Tolkien drank hers.

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Where to stay

You can get pretty amazing deals on Airbnb, especially if look in areas about 10-15 minutes walking from Old Town. In terms of hostels, I’ve heard good things about Castle Rock Hostel (awesome location obviously), The Baxter and Light House Hostel.

Have a great time in Edinburgh!

4 Comment

  1. Amazing adventure. Very inspired for a travel blogger like me. Tks for making this article.

  2. I made the mistake of going to Edinburgh for only a day from London; it wasn’t nearly enough, and I have to go back. I ended up spending most of the day at the castle. A weekend like this ought to do it for me when I make it back there one of these years. 🙂

  3. Thats super nice 🙂 My husband (by then boyfriend) spent our first vacation in Edinburgh and we basically had the same itinerary .. The 12 hours in the bus were indeed long but it was the best we could do with the limited time we had.. We definitely wanna head back there and explore it on a lower pace and when the highlands are not all brown and muddy 😀 We have been there in march I think and I would love to see it in green 🙂

    1. We went the first weekend of May and it was actually snowing in the highlands! I’d love to go back in summer and do a weekend road trip. Edinburgh in May was beautiful though, on our last day we had lots of sunshine.

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