Solo Trip: Tips for Exploring Edinburgh, Scotland

Visiting a foreign city alone can be a bit daunting. But it doesn’t have to be! On my first solo trip to a different country, I experienced an amazing adventure I’ll never forget.

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to go to Europe for work. And even more fortunately, I was able to extend my trip and do some traveling after my work was finished. To say that I was excited about this opportunity would be an understatement. I was ecstatic! I had a whole continent of choices to explore. Should I go somewhere in trendy Scandinavia? Revisit my favorite places in Germany? Eat my way through Italy?

I’d be traveling alone, and I’d never visited a foreign country solo. While I pride myself on my independence and adventurous nature, the idea of being in another country all by myself was scary. Would I be lonely? Would I feel weird requesting a table for one at restaurants? Who would take photos of me for Instagram?

Fortunately, I pushed those thoughts away and realized I didn’t want to miss this special opportunity. So, after careful consideration, I decided on Edinburgh, Scotland. Not only is it in an English-speaking country, but I also happen to be a quarter Scottish. I hoped that Edinburgh would be a city I could easily navigate on my own.

Mapping Out My Solo Trip

Aboard the train from London to Edinburgh, I fully intended to read the book I had with me. However, there was free Wi-Fi onboard, which is hard to come by when traveling abroad! I couldn’t, like, not log on. And it’s a good thing I did, because I ended up mapping out my two-day trip.

While I’m not much of a planner in my everyday life, I prefer to devise a strategy when traveling, especially on a short timeframe. Otherwise, I feel aimless and end up missing some key spots. This time, there wasn’t another person to chime in with their vote on what to do or where to go. I was free to do whatever I wanted. Talk about pressure! 

Venturing Outside of the City

While researching Edinburgh, I learned that getting out of the city to see the countryside was a must. So even though my trip was brief, I booked a Loch Ness, Glencoe & Highlands Day Tour. At first, I was nervous that I’d feel awkward going on this all-day tour alone. But I was pleasantly surprised to find my sightseeing group was small and my extremely knowledgeable tour guide was very inclusive. As we drove around and chatted, it felt as if our whole group was in it together.

My fellow sightseers even offered to take my picture at various stops, which was great, since all the landscapes were beyond idyllic. Loch Ness captivated me the most — we arrived at lunchtime and the sun hit the water with a stunning glistening effect that was unlike anything I’d ever seen. And looking out at the gorgeous lake with only myself as a companion made it a great time for self-reflection. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.

Quick Tip:

Pack your most comfortable shoes! Between trekking through the Scottish Highlands on a day trip and walking all over Edinburgh, you’ll be on your feet a lot.

Discovering the Local Culture

Whenever I travel to a new destination, I like to fully immerse myself in the culture. This mostly means eating the local cuisine. Being in Scotland, I was obviously going to try haggis, for better or worse (only look it up if you’re not faint of heart!). So I headed to The Dogs, a cool and cozy restaurant located in New Town. When the haggis arrived, I braced myself. This was it. Time to get in touch with my Scottish roots. And guess what? I loved it! Like really loved it. So much so that I ordered haggis at dinner the next night, too.

Edinburgh is also known for its many pubs, and I knew I had to visit Kay’s Bar. Drinking at this authentic and legendary pub felt like enjoying a pint inside a friend’s comfy flat. Books line the shelves and you’ll also find board games, a warm fire, and even two dogs just hanging around looking to be petted. Kay’s was especially great to visit solo because pubs in Scotland are an inherently inclusive places where everyone is friendly.

Quick Tip:

If Scotch is your thing, you’re in luck! Edinburgh is full of whiskey bars and tasting rooms.

Taking in the Scottish Sights

By breakfast on my second day, my fears of eating alone were long gone. So I checked out Urban Angel, a hip and modern eatery full of young professionals. The food felt like a fusion of California and Scottish cuisine, and I enjoyed that small taste of home while being so far away. I ordered the avocado and ricotta toast with a side of black pudding, and it was delicious. It was the perfect place to fuel up for sightseeing.

Speaking of sightseeing — one of the best parts about traveling solo is that you end up having action-packed days in order to stay busy. I filled my one full day in the city of Edinburgh by running all around town. From the Edinburgh Castle to Arthur’s Seat to the Scottish Gallery of National Art, there were so many places to go — and so many selfies to take! (Traveling by myself certainly helped perfect my selfie-taking skills.)

Ultimately, I discovered that traveling alone was not scary at all. In fact, I never felt disconnected or bored — it actually felt really good to have some genuine “me time.” Sometimes it’s nice to just be with yourself and to refuel. I’m already planning my next solo adventure abroad!

Quick Tip:

Edinburgh is a great place to visit on a budget. Museums like Scottish National Gallery, National Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art are all free.


Explore More:
Add a guided group tour to your solo stay in Edinburgh with the Marriott Vacation Club Destinations® Exchange Program.


Jeanne L. is a writer living in Los Angeles, California.