student life

Edinburgh On Your Own: A Student’s Survival Guide

There is grey area on student calendars across the country. Think the Bermuda Triangle with a snooze button.

There is grey area on student calendars across the country. Think the Bermuda Triangle with a snooze button. Spoken of only in hushed whispers and generally characterised by things like a dependency on American TV dramas that follow the plight of ‘complex’ middle-aged men, an unhealthy relationship with Buzzfeed lists that promise to ‘blow your mind’ but leave you gazing vacantly into a Harry Potter gif trying to hold back tears, or an inexplicable affinity for the kind of films that star Katherine Heigl.

I’m talking about when everyone’s gone home for summer. Your flatmates have gone home. Your course mates have gone home. That girl with the tragic dip dye you stole traffic cones with over fresher’s then never spoke to again save for a few awkward nods in the Silk queue? Gone home.

This can be a testing period made more boring by the fact it’s not covered under the “post-exam blowout” school of thinking. You start to forget what it’s like to interact with anything other than the accusing ‘are you still watching…’ message on Netflix and daytime is just night-time with guilt.

Last night as I lay in bed at 3am glaring at a gradually brightening ceiling I decided it was time to secure a firm grip of myself. At first, the idea of mincing about Edinburgh, my student city, on my own seemed jarring but I quickly remembered that there are actually tonnes of cool stuff to see in the capital, even if you’re playing Billy no-mates. So without further ado, here is my definitive list of things to do when it’s just Edinburgh and you.

Get Lost

Edinburgh’s nook & cranny game is at an indisputable ten on the scale. The city is teeming with architectural gems which fall completely under the radar if you live your life solely in shades of CabVol and Kingfisher’s. The Grassmarket is a great place to start exploring, boasting an abundance of quirky shops and bars from which you can branch out to unearth the city’s underrated attractions like the Greyfriars Bobby Memorial.

The museum chronicling the story of the faithful little dog that never left his master’s grave makes for a charming visit and sits next to an apparently haunted graveyard which adds that invaluable ‘shityourpants’ factor. A short hop takes you to the royal mile which is fringed with enough Instagram fodder to keep people gagging over your sierra-tinted adventures for days. These include the astonishing St Giles’s Cathedral and, of course, the castle itself.

Get High

…up a hill, or indeed an inactive volcano. If weeks of vegetating haven’t left your legs emaciated stumps then there’s a multitude of hills, meadows and other captivating shrubbery at your disposal. Julie Andrews wishes. Arthur’s Seat, the tallest of Edinburgh’s 7 hills, is an extinct volcano standing at 251 metres tall.

An essential excursion for any wanderer with a smartphone – the summit offers some of the most breathtaking views in all of Edinburgh. There’s also Calton Hill, a breezy climb at the east end of Princes Street upon which stands the National Monument.

The views from the top of the monument, nicknamed “The Scottish Disgrace” – due to builders running out of money to complete the project during its construction – are fantastic. If an upward gradient is entirely out of the question then you should try Stockbridge. Rammed with cute little side streets, picturesque parks and lots of unusual shops, Stockbridge looks like the product of a wet dream in a postcard factory and will no doubt have you browsing away for hours.  

Get Steamy

Wake up and smell the hydrangeas because there’s plenty over at the Royal Botanic Garden. This intoxicatingly tranquil hideaway is the perfect place to enjoy a sunny day. Hours will drift by as you saunter through 70 acres of lush green oasis mulling over all the things you can’t afford.

Even on rainy days, the Botanics are a hot spot with the deliriously grand Victorian Palm House housing all kinds of rare exotic plants and tropical flowers within its steamy glass walls. Always stunning and rarely crowded, the garden is a guaranteed treat for even the most reluctant tree hugger.

Get Cultured

After 9 months of avoiding education, voluntary learning might sound off-putting to the average-student-turned-root-vegetable but Edinburgh is one of the most culturally enriching cities in the world with countless museums and galleries to freak with your brain.

The National Museum of Scotland takes you on a breakneck journey through the history of our planet complete with a series of mind boggling interactive exhibits. A trip to the Grand Gallery is highly recommended to see the famous Window on the World installation.

More central would be the Scottish National Gallery on The Mound, home to over 1000 pieces of fine art. Featuring select pieces from famous Impressionists and Post Impressionists, the gallery is truly a feast for the eyes. But if the classics don’t do it for you, have no fear you can combine broadening your artistic horizons with the great outdoors over at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

The collection which occupies two buildings set in magnificent grounds is rooted in a variety of styles including Expressionist and Cubist. The Water of Leith Walkway also runs alongside the gallery offering a charming riverside stroll where you can let all those art attack vibes sink in. 

Get Tinder

Kidding (not kidding) – keep me in your prayers.

Hopefully this has shed some light on all the adventures that lie outside the confines of your pot noodle cave in the big bad Burgh. If it hasn’t, then I’ve brought you 5 minutes closer to the hours when you can slither into your nearest supermarket for a mixture of white zinfandel and maltesers without fear of being seen by ordinary civilians. Stay lucid.

What do you think? Have you been tempted to check out Edinburgh while the students are away? If staying in your university city too, is there a similar amount of things to do over the summer? Have your say in the comments section below.