How to staycation properly... and other things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland

For New Year's last year, I headed up the country to Edinburgh and, despite clearly being a different city, it still very much had the UK vibes (hi cold weather, hi).

Going on 'holiday' in your home country has its perks. Cost, for example, is likely to be lower than international travel, the language is the same (or, if not, then pretty similar), and there'll be no worry of the currency exchange rate doing you over #BloodyBrexiters.

However, holidaying at home may sometimes take away the feeling of, you know, actually being on holiday. But, by making these seemingly small decisions, I could have easily been somewhere else in Europe (with equally as shite weather as the UK).

New Year's Eve crew

New Year's Eve crew

Getting there
Driving for seven hours (well, being a passenger; it's a hard life) definitely generated the road trip feeling. There's just something about service stations, isn't there? Once we got in to the city, we dropped our bags off at the AirBnb and headed to a pub on the recommendation of our host.

On our way back, flying was our mode of transport. Just being at an airport oozes holiday vibes, even if it is the end of the hols. For someone who hates flying, I absolutely love being at the airport and, in this case, flights from Edinburgh to London were actually hella cheaper than train tickets #winning.

Surround yourself with locals and their traditions
You're bound to soak up the culture and traditions of the town you're visiting, even if it's only a couple hundred miles way from home, by surrounding yourself with locals. The Scottish festival of Hogmanay was in full swing throughout our stay, which we found entailed a hell of a lot more than the fireworks at the turn of the year. We got up close and personal with ye olde Scotsmen (unfortunately not in kilts) on countless occasions during our trip.

We took part in the Torchlight Festival on New Year's Eve eve (or the 30th December, as some people call it), and it was incredible. We each had a 'torch' between a group of three: basically a long stick lit at one end with an entirely open flame. Very trusting are the Scots. We toured the streets in our thousands, taking in all the sights by night as we went. It was beautiful to see the streets lit up by some many individual little fires constantly moving forward.

Torchlight Festival - Scots Monument

Torchlight Festival - Scots Monument

The next evening, we DEFINITELY surrounded ourselves with the locals, tourists, and every man, woman and child Edinburgh had to offer. As you can imagine, the fireworks were a very close affair. At one point, we joined forces with two other groups of people to guard our standing point and create a human wall to stop people squashing us even more than we were. The fireworks themselves were beautiful though, and were a great way to welcome in the new year. As were the post-fireworks visit to the pub to wait out the taxi until 3am. We had a great laugh playing Heads Up and drinking until we could get home. Alas, we were too hanging to take part in the run into the sea the next day...

See the sights
Of course, aside from Hogmanay, there are the sights in Edinburgh that are there the whole year round. I don't know how I always end up trekking huge heights whenever I'm on holiday, but we headed up to Arthur's Seat prior to the Torchlight Parade to get a good view of Edinburgh below. A year on and I'm still in awe of my friend who did it all in heeled boots (which many tourists passing us seemed compelled to remind her). The view was great and really drove home that I wasn't in London anymore.

Half of us also explored Edinburgh Castle, myself wrapped in a tartan scarf, obvs. Apart from another great view of the city below, the castle is like a mini museum with old jail cells, historical armour and painted artwork. I enjoyed discovering Edinburgh's history and it was good to take time learning new things.

Savour the free time
Although you're still at home (kind of), treasure the fact that you're on holiday. You'd otherwise be working, doing chores, or getting pissed in the same pub week in, week out. Instead, we chose to down whisky at 10am in a distillery, following a ride on a whisky barrel... We learnt a lot and even came away with a couple free gifts!

The distillery

The distillery

Another difference to our frequent Thursday night pub visits was the fact that we played games throughout. There were many a tense game of Jenga and Heads Up throughout our stay and it even earned us a round of shots from a friendly stranger, admiring our impeccable sportsmanship from the bar. Let's not even get onto our own version of Cards Against Humanity... we probably would have earned more than free shots for that.

The best thing about staycations? You can return pretty soon. Not too far from home, and as I said earlier, likely cheaper than heading abroad. Anything you do miss while you're there can easily be done a few weeks, or months, later. Result!