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  • Writer's pictureCompass & Quill

Travel Guide: Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands

Travel Stories from Compass & Quill

I’ve always had a fascination with Scotland. Maybe it’s the accents, music, and history. Or perhaps the traditions, architecture, and landscapes. Whatever it is, I felt myself getting pulled in, dreaming of the day I’d get to explore it for myself. In August 2015, I finally had the chance.

Since that moment, I’ve made a vow to visit there again and wander around new places, like the Isle of Skye. I’ve also looked to find a way to keep those memories alive. Thankfully, as an author, I did just that when I published my book, One Stormy Night.

Whether you like to live vicariously through others or you’re aching to see it for yourself, here are some highlights I recommend checking out.

Where to Stay

We stayed at Hotel Indigo Edinburgh, which not only had beautiful common areas for dining and drinks, but the rooms were also gorgeous with high ceilings, wood floors, and fashionable décor. I also loved how walkable it was to everything. If you’re looking for a clean, centrally located hotel, this is a great one to check out.

Tours to Consider

Although I hate being stuck on someone else’s schedule, there are plenty of tours not to be missed. The guides share impressive information that you simply can’t gather on your own from walking around and reading the placards. Most of them are quick too (about 1-2 hours max) so you don’t feel like you lose your whole day.

Here are ones you should consider:

  • Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours: I recommend doing this on your first day so you can capture the highlights and get your bearings. This lets you get the lay of the land and helps you narrow down the sites you want to see.

  • The Real King Mary’s Close: This was probably one of the most interesting tours I’ve done. It’s quick, but gives a good insight into the living conditions of the Scottish folks from more than 400 years ago, what happened during the plague, and how the city built over it. It’s a little on the spookier side, so be prepared!

  • The Harry Potter Tour: This is also a great way to see some highlights and architecture of Edinburgh. If you’re a Potterhead like I am, it was cool to learn the inspiration behind the book, settings, and the characters.

  • Tour the Highlands: We almost skipped this because we had been traveling a lot throughout Ireland before we landed here. Thank God we didn’t, because this was one of the most stunning tours I’ve ever done (and also inspired a lot for my book ). If you want to get out of the city and explore the beautiful landscapes, definitely check this out.

There are several tours available, including 2- to 4- day tours that go even farther north and explore things like the whisky distilleries. We stuck to the day tour that took us through the rolling hills of the highlands, the Trossachs, a boat ride across Loch Lemon to the cute village of Luss, and more. Luckily, there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, so when we got to the top of the highlands, we could see miles of rolling green hills dotted with purple heather.

Places to Explore

You either can do tours of these or wander around. Also, some tours you select might include these as stops!

  • Edinburgh Castle: If you’re fascinated with royalty like Queen Mary of Scots or generally want to see a castle, this is the place. It was so cool to see the little “town” surrounding the castle which was perched up above Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. Spectacular views!

  • The Royal Mile: If you haven’t gotten your fix of royalty, wander down the Royal Mile and feel like you’re stepping back in time as you explore Old Town. Not only is the architecture amazing, but you can also stop into some of the city’s fine wool shops and get yourself authentic Scottish tartan.

  • Victoria Street: If you didn’t do the Harry Potter tour, make a pit stop down Victoria Street (aka the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter) and enjoy the sloping picturesque street with colorful shops and restaurants.

Places to Eat and Drink

If you know me, this will definitely come as a shocker, but I can’t remember the single place we ate or drank while here (other than stopping in The Conan Doyle pub for a quick pint).

As a foodie, I’m disappointed in myself that I can’t remember any of the names, especially since there were plenty of memorable ones. However, after visiting Ireland (which felt like I was eating a lot of variations of the same food), I was thrilled to see so many diverse food choices here. Plenty of them were easy walking distance from the hotel too!

Whether you’re in the mood for Italian, Thai, British, vegetarian, or something completely wild, you’re sure to find something for whatever strikes your fancy.

Scotland is one of those places that stick with you. Whether you’re staying in the historic bustling city of Edinburgh, or enjoying the quiet landscapes of the highlands, I bet it will leave a lasting memory.


About Compass & Quill:

Travel inspires many of my stories, opening me up to a world of new possibilities and perspectives. So, I'm sharing my travel stories here.

​Travel is an opportunity to think bigger and find our place in the world. This blog is meant to inspire you to look beyond beautiful photos that make your heart race and consider what your story will be once you arrive.

Let's explore. Follow me on Instagram to get a behind-the-scenes look at all my adventures!


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