Whenever I go on holiday, I like to immerse myself in the place, and feel as if I’m getting a real and authentic experience. I like to go to places that aren’t simply your standard tourist hotspots. Recently I went to Scotland and had a really good time. In this article I’ll talk about a few of the places I visited, but I’ll also speak more generally about what I did to help me experience the place like a local.
Scotland has so much to offer. A couple of years ago I visited the Highlands. I had a great time, apart from being massacred by midges (be warned, if you do go to the Highland’s the midges are a force to be reckoned with). This time round, I decided that I’d like a more diverse Scottish experience.
The Highlands were great, but I was quite far away from the more urban areas of Scotland so I chose Edinburgh as my base this time. It’s historically and culturally rich, there’s so much to do, and it’s an extremely picturesque city. It also benefits from being fairly close to more rural parts of Scotland like Stirling and Loch Lomond, so I was also able to go out of the city and enjoy a diverse range of sights and experiences too.
One excellent way to explore a place as a local is to use public transport. Travelling around by bus is cost effective and also gives you a very different experience from the standard tourist one. You get a bit of local character, and if you’re really keen to explore Scotland like a local, you could always get off at a stop with someone and follow them around for a bit. Just try not to get caught! If you are going to try and blend in with the locals, then I would strongly advise you to avoid the brash, outlandishly commercial novelty Scottish shops. Don’t even dream of walking around the place in a pair of kilt shorts or a novelty tartan hat with “och aye the noo” emblazed on it. You will not be embraced by the local community.
Technology has made it so much easier to explore a place and sample its delights in a way that is less orthodox to the standard tourist. You can find all sorts of local events by visiting the websites of local radio stations and newspapers. They provide content for local people, so you are not getting information designed specifically for tourists. A great source of information I discovered for events in Edinburgh was on the website of the city’s University student radio station Fresh Air. It has a very comprehensive list of gigs, arts events and comedy nights.
Another useful tool I discovered was the Edinburgh Travel Map app from Lingling Pan. As well as giving you a map of the city and GPS instructions, you also get updated information about places around you like pubs/bars and restaurants. This includes price information and news about deals, meaning that you won’t simply be getting information found in a guide book, plus you’ll also benefit by paying local prices.
My Favourite Attractions
A favourite Edinburgh tourist attraction is Arthur’s Seat which, from its peak, gives you an incredible panoramic view of the city. However, a visit to the attraction can take some time and be a cumbersome journey.
Another captivating view of Edinburgh can be found from Nelson’s Monument, at the highest point of Calton Hill, which is situated in central Edinburgh, from which, incidentally, you can see Arthur’s Seat.
There are also some great places to visit on the outskirts of Edinburgh, including Gilmerton Cove – a series of underground chambers and passageways that were carved by hand out of Gilmerton Sandstone.. It’s a really interesting place to visit and it’s somewhere that’s not quite as touristy and obvious as the more well-known features of Edinburgh.
As for the question of where to stay, B&B’s can often be a more intimate environment than a hotel. You can get talking to the owner of the house and perhaps pick up some tips from them about where to visit, from the perspective of someone who lives in the area. Alternatively, there are some very beautiful hotels in Edinburgh with amazing room views of the city, and well located so that you can head straight out the door and immediately start exploring the city.
If you’d like to share any tips with us about exploring Scotland as a local, or if you’ve got any ideas for places we should really visit, then please leave a comment below.