As a freelancer, I am in the very lucky position to be able to call the world my office. As long as I have my laptop by my side, and can be plugged into the world wide web, I can work from almost anywhere. The only real downtime is often travel; if my hands are grasped around a steering wheel or I’m cruising at 32,000 feet without any 4G then there can be too many hours wasted on my quest to see the world. It is for this reason that, when I’m travelling longer distances within the UK, I’ll often opt to use the train.
New research by Virgin Trains reveals the average Brit has just 17 days of free time a year and, for me, time off is definitely a luxury (although admittedly, according to the Free Me Calculator, I have 21 days each year…). However in early August, and with the kind of timing that any comedian would be proud of, I ventured up to Edinburgh to try and catch a few of the Fringe Festival shows that seem to take over the city. Having already exceeded my self-imposed annual leave allowance, my mobile office was definitely coming with me and, with laptop in hand (along with a ridiculous amount of overnight luggage), I headed north with Virgin West Coast Trains. Traveling in a very comfortable First Class carriage, the promise of wi-fi, good food and travelling in comfort and space made the five-hour journey a little less daunting.
The journey itself certainly met all expectations, but it was outside the train that really surprised me on the journey up to Edinburgh. Passing the Midlands and the major cities, the journey through the Lake District and into the Scottish Lowlands was unbelievably picturesque. Even the incoming clouds that capped the rolling hills couldn’t spoil the view; it really felt like we were heading through the wilderness. On board, the food was regular and excellent and the staff were very friendly. It was a great way to get some real work done while travelling.
Having been to Edinburgh before, there wasn’t a real urgency to hit all of the tourist spots again, so the whole trip had a much more relaxed “working” vibe to it. Bypassing the shows and tourists, I spent a lot of my time scouting out a few of the coffee shops and bars in the city and, with my laptop in tow, tried to blend in with the locals. I’ve noted down a few of my favourite spots below…
On the south side of Edinburgh you will find the New Town and the idyllic area of Stockbridge. Think cobbled streets, coloured doors and friendly locals. Being from London, comparisons to the Capital often come naturally, but Stockbridge has a whole different atmosphere to it, and it really does feel like a second home. I highly recommend breakfast and a good almond milk cappuccino at The Pantry, followed by a stroll along the incredibly Instagram-able Circus Lane for those epic morning shots. With every door colour under the sun and a village-feel to it, I couldn’t say no to a few opportunistic shots.
Of course, If your heart is more with the crowds, then there are a couple of places in the famous Old Town that provide a great working environment. If it is the AM and you need that caffeine fix, then try the well-known Brew Lab for it’s daily roasts and very, very good cold brew coffee. Just get there early as the coffee house gets extremely busy, and you really want to grab a slice of the melt-in-the-mouth brownies before they sell out. If you’re working later into the afternoon or the evening, then Devil’s Advocate is a brilliant place to refuel and refresh while you hammer away at the laptop. If you can look past the seemingly infinite whiskey list, definitely try a cocktail or two and tuck into the very good locally-sourced food. Just make sure you get the bulk of your work done as some of the in-house infusions are very strong.
With less than 48 hours in the city, it was a quick trip to Edinburgh, but I really didn’t feel as if I had scuppered any momentum or workflow on the trip. Unlike the complexities of an airport or the sheer impracticality/illegality of trying to send emails when in a car (let alone the traffic), the numerous hours on board the Virgin Trains service were well-utilised and the whole transition from south to north was seamless. It was great to maximise my free time when I finally arrived into Edinburgh Waverley, with no hours wasted with transfers or parking. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel too guilty about having some “Me Time”.
If you’ve ever wondered how much free time you have each year, Virgin Trains have launched their new Free Me Calculator which you can find here. As part of the campaign, they are looking to inspire the British public to make the most of their free time this summer and beyond and, to help you really maximise those minutes, Virgin Trains are also running a competition on their Facebook page with posts going live on Weds 16th, Saturday 19th, and Tuesday 22nd August. Share what you would do with your free time and you could be in with a chance of winning a Virgin Escape prize and Virgin Trains travel up to the value of £500. Full T&Cs below.