I recently had the privilege of visiting Edinburgh, Ayr and then Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, for a stag night and wedding. Throughout a whistle stop six day trip a fair amount of the Edinburgh night life, the Scottish country side, and also wireless hotspots where sampled. In this post I share the hotspot side of this trip along with a slide show of hotspot sights.
Having built up RedButton, a Cape Town based wireless hotspot business, over the last four years, once I got to Scotland I could not help myself and found my interest in Haggis, Caledonian Ales, the Scottish Accent and people being nearly equalled by what I spotted hotspot wise en-route. But it turned out to not only be a casual interest, I was sadly affected by prevalent British Airways strikes and found myself desperately in need of a hotspot, since I needed to find a flight from Glasgow to Heathrow pronto. So I went from casual observer to desperado quite quickly, there would only be so many reasonably priced seats from Glasgow International or Glasgow Pretwick International to Heathrow and so I could not rest on my laurels and wait to the last minute to book a flight. In retrospect my desperation was a good thing in terms of experiencing being a typical wifi dependent traveller in a world city – I had been at the network operator side of things for too long.
I was surprised to find that hotspots where not everywhere to be found, as I had expected. My budget accommodation off the historic grassmarket did not have wifi, in any way, shape or form. They did have terminals where I could sit in the lobby, at 1 pound for half an hour, but I did not travel from the tip of Africa to Edinburgh to sit around in a lobby, I wanted to use my laptop in comfort, with a coffee, Haggis or Ale at hand. So I headed out to the nearest coffee shop, which oddly enough only opened at 10am, paid my rent via a cappuccino, only to find that their wifi hotspot simply did not work. I moved on to a pub later on, which also advertised free wifi, and told the barman that I first wanted to test their wifi before ordering an ale. Sadly I once again came up short, their wifi was non operational, the barman advised that I go to the hotel across from them on the grassmarket.
At this stage my battery was running low, so I headed into the new town to find a mall where I might find a plug adapter. I spotted the best free wifi advertising I had ever seen en-route, at the Burger King, and wondered whether their hotspot might work, but guessed that it would since they would probably have a professional service provider with their loud and proud advertising, rather than a DIY installation. Well Burger King was a winner, they had hundreds of seats upstairs, plugs, the works – an naturally their free wifi worked with a fast and easy process backed by a splash page that optionally asked for my demographics. I did what I needed to do flight wise, over a three pound breakfast, and could return to what I came for, experiencing the city. I naturally also checked up on who provided their wifi, and there was no surprise when I found it to be a large scale free wifi specialist network operator.
Having secured my flight, I moved onto the trekking through the castle, and other sights, but I still had some wifi-lust left in me since I was travelling solo and also I was co-ordinating the stag night via email & SMS. The one thing I resolved to do in Edinburgh was eat Haggis. So I again settled for a pub that had wifi, this time via a WEP key, not traditional splash page which is far easier to use.
All in all, I found that Edinburgh had a fair amount of wifi, but I expected more from a capital city in the first world. I would say that wifi, and free wifi, is without a doubt more pervasive than say in Cape Town, but we are not far behind, and in certain areas of Cape Town I would say we are ahead in terms of professionally operated hotspots per square kilometer, but this is just my opinion from a very short trip, so I naturally speak under correction. The go-big-or-go-home marketing material used by Burger King was without a doubt the highlight of my trip wifi wise.