City,  Scotland

How to Make the Most of Edinburgh Marathon Weekend

Back in 2018, I was lucky enough to use the Edinburgh Marathon Festival as a perfect excuse to see a fantastic city. If you are a runner, or like me – there for moral support, there are some things I wish I had known before making the long trip north. Here’s the way we managed to make the most of our time.

Day 1: Pre-Edinburgh marathon

A great choice we made was taking an early flight on the day before the race. From the airport, the journey to the city centre is super easy; you can take the tram or train in less than 30 minutes. The four of us there decided on the tram, as we thought it would be a more Scottish experience (we don’t have trams in Essex) and travelled to West End – Princes street.

Then we did some light sight seeing. We made our way to see the Scott Monument first. On a normal day, I’d have been scrambling up to the top, but pre-marathon, it’s probably not a good idea.

Scott Monument - A large, bronze, Gothic style structure in Edinburgh

Then we made our way to the old town to see Edinburgh Castle. Although I announced, and begged, and moaned, that I wanted to go in, we didn’t, so I had to settle with looking at the architecture. But there is no reason you couldn’t go in to explore. We wandered along the Royal Mile instead. There you’ll see hundreds of quirky shops and attractions, and you might even get to see some quality street performers.

A man on stilts juggling knives on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

We then made the trek to our hotel, The Ben Doran Guest House, a half hour walk from the city centre. If I were to go again, I would aim to find one a bit closer to the Royal Mile. There we got changed and shot back out for a meal and a drink to calm some nerves.

Despite all the brilliant, independent places to eat in Edinburgh, we ended up in Bella Italia. Why? Because on a Saturday night, I hadn’t booked a table for 4, and nowhere would have us! Definitely do a little research a few days in advance to book dinner. There’s nothing worse than eating deep fried grease the night before a 26mile run.

Another key thing to be aware of is almost no pub shows Champion’s League football. I know, I was shocked too. We walked around Edinburgh for a good 25 minutes before we found one packed pub showing the Liverpool vs Real Madrid Champions League Final. Clearly the Scots aren’t that into European football!

Day 2: Edinburgh Marathon day

Start by eating breakfast. Today is going to be a long day. Unlike London, the Edinburgh marathon finish line isn’t in some easily accessible, central location, oh no. It’s a solid half hour bus journey, so definitely make sure you have bought bus tickets from (or to and from) the finish line.

That morning, my friend and I said goodbye to our runners, and realised we had a couple of hours to kill before we had to get the bus. It was a cold morning, and we carried all the kit in the world: cameras, jackets, food, drinks, flip flops, you name it. We considered going to the castle, but decided to take in some more sights of the city instead.

Be prepared to stand in a line for ages waiting to board the bus from the finish line. Be prepared for the driver to have no idea how to get out of Edinburgh. Be prepared to wait a while (or in my case an hour and 40 minutes) for your designated runner to arrive.

I did run the last few 100 meters for emotional support, so I kind of did take part…

After the race, we sat around the field, drinking beers and waiting for the return journey to start. The walk from the finish line to the bus is not short either, so I balanced a jelly-legged man on my shoulder on the 20 minute walk. On arrival back in the city, we realised it would be another 25 minute walk to the hotel, so we ordered a cab. Again, aim to stay a little closer to the city centre. 

That night we waddled back to the centre. Again, I hadn’t booked anywhere to eat so we settled on Pizza Hut. However we did end up drinking for a couple of hours in Scotsman Lounge, which had a brilliant singer until 10pm. We considered staying out for the night, but the aching feet and legs were too much for the boys and we had to retire.

Day 3: Post-Edinburgh Marathon

Sprightly and refreshed the next morning (as if) we packed our bags ready to leave the wonderful city. We picked a later flight purposely to allow us to spend a bit more time exploring the real reason I accompanied the runners to Edinburgh: the zoo!

We rode the tram back out of the city, making a pit stop outside Murrayfield and took a taxi from there. What I realised about Edinburgh is that you can call any taxi company and there will be a cab at your feet in 5 minutes. I’m not a fan of Uber, so I know a location with good taxi service when I find it!

Edinburgh Zoo is huge and hilly. Probably not the best choice for someone post Edinburgh marathon. But, if you deal with it, you’ll have a wonderful time! I loved seeing the vast array of animals in their brilliantly maintained enclosures, especially the sun bear and chimpanzees. The day was also one of firsts…

Three chimpanzees at Edinburgh Zoo

I had never seen a panda or koala before, and I was so excited to finally see them that I was almost shaking. Let me tell you they are the least interesting animals on the planet. If you want to see an animal sit and eat for 20 minutes, please, go and find a panda or koala!

Koala facing the camera

So ends the trip to Edinburgh and my advice. I definitely want to visit again but for a longer time period, and when no one has to spend 5 hours running!

Best of luck to all Edinburgh marathon runners (and spectators), and enjoy your weekend in one of Britain’s finest cities.

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