Edinburgh Vacation. This post covers what the guidebooks don’t tell you. It offers practical information to enable you to plan your trip to Edinburgh. It may even save you money.
Whether you travel to Edinburgh by car from another part of the UK, bus, train or plane you are guaranteed a warm welcome. It’s full of historic buildings and not just the castle. There is so much to see and do. I’d compare it to a really good buffet where you find you have so much to choose from, you don’t know where to start.
My advice would be to plan your trip beforehand and hopefully this article will be of some help.
Arriving in Edinburgh
If you are arriving from overseas at Edinburgh Airport there are three ways of getting into Edinburgh. You can travel by:
Tram which takes you into the city centre and terminates at Newhaven. There is a set fare from the airport to the city centre. For up to date prices click this link
The Airlink bus (service 100) runs between the airport and the city centre, reaching Waverley Bridge railway station in 25 minutes. A single adult ticket costs £ 5.50 ( US$ 6.20) and an open return is £ 8.00 ( US$ 10.30). A child ticket is £ 2.75 ( US$ 2.70). For more details, how to pay and prices regarding other services click this link
New for 2024 Bright Bus offers an adult single fare at £4 and a return at £6.50 from the Airport to the City Centre. It also connects with Bright Bus hop on hop off tours around the city centre at an interchange on Waterloo Place. Stops will include Haymarket Station, Waverley Station, Princes Street, Shandwick Place Murrayfield and Edinburgh Zoo.
Separate taxi ranks (which are well signposted) for private airport taxis and for city “black cabs” are situated outside the east end of the terminal building. A journey to the city centre takes approximately 25 minutes but could take longer at peak times. Most taxis are wheelchair accessible.
If you have not been to Edinburgh before and dont know where you are going Taxi Cab is the best option. Give the driver the address of your pre booked accommodation and he will take you straight there. I would not advise using Uber for Airport pick up or drop off. Uber are not licensed to pick up at the airport and the driver will charge you for access to the car park near the airport terminal building which could be expensive. For more details regarding airport taxis here are the two links you need
Edinburgh Vacation – Accommodation
There is a wide range of accommodation in the city to suit every budget from large chain hotels, bed & breakfast, self catering and hostels.
Large chain hotels can offer a number of attractive deals depending of the time of year. A number of people use booking sites such as , Trip Advisor, Air BnB or agencies to book accommodation. However you should bear in mind that the way some of these sites make their money is by charging you a commission which could be up to 25% in some cases.
There has been a crack down on Air BNB self catering and bed and breakfast providers by the local council. All operators have until the end of September 2023 must have applied for a licence to continue trading. Licence holders will be required to display their licence number on their website and all other forms of advertising. If the accommodation provider is not displaying a licence number on their advert they are breaking the law. Don’t book with them
My advice when booking accommodation is always try to book directly with the accommodation provider. Or look for sites that do not charge you a commission such as VisitScotland.com, or if you are looking to book self catering accommodation Embrace Scotland. Look for the Visit Scotland grading logo. This means the property has been inspected by a Visit Scotland Quality Assurance Inspector and meets the required standards. All accommodation providers on these sites must be licence holders or be in the process of applying for a licence.
Don’t book accommodation in a residential area miles from the city centre just because it is cheap. Check out the location first on Google Maps or Google Street View. You may find when you get there it is not in a nice area and not very safe.
Edinburgh Vacation – Car Hire or Not
When we had our self catering business in Edinburgh I was constantly being asked if we had parking for a car. We did offer parking which saved our guests a fortune. Parking in the city centre is very expensive. If you are flying in from overseas or travelling by train or bus you don’t need a car to get around the city. If you try to drive around and don’t know where you are going you will spend your holiday sitting in traffic jams and seeing nothing.
Parking charges in the city centre are very expensive. This year charges will be extended to 10.00pm. There are very few accommodation providers who will offer accommodation with free parking.
Edinburgh Bus Tours
The best way to see the city is by open top bus tour. Tours leave from St Andew Square and you can hop on and hop off during the tour. Your ticket lasts you for 24 hours. It is really good value, saves you time and takes you to all the places of interest. For the best price always buy your ticket from the tour company.
For details on all bus tours click this link
Buses are great way to get around and see the city. You can pay using a credit card or cash and adult fares are capped at £4.80 per day. That means you can travel on as many buses as you like that day and you don’t pay any more than £4.80. For more details about how to use public transport and fares click this link.
If you know where you want to go and what you want to see just get on a bus that will take you there. The Edinburgh Bus and Tram is a good app to use. You can download this from the app store. Alternatively the Transport Scotland App is another I would recommend.
Day Trips from Edinburgh
If you are thinking about taking trips outwith the city then a car may be an option. But make sure you plan your trip carefully, make sure you leave enough time for the drive. Roads to various beauty spots are not built for speed and there are speed restrictions in many towns and villages along the way. For example a trips to the Trossachs or Stirling can take 3 hours depending on traffic flows. A better option may be taking one of the many excellent organised tours.
I am often asked about days out by train. There are some excellent train journeys in Scotland such as the Jacobite Express from Fort William to Mallaig however trains don’t go to many of the places of interest. Train trips from Edinburgh to Glasgow, Stirling, Linlithgow or Dunfermline are great days out but there is no rail line to places like St Andrews and the East Neuk Towns in Fife.
For details on how to get to St Andrews and a free walking tour round the town click this link
Do not attempt to drive to places like Loch Ness, Inverness, Oban or Glen Coe from Edinburgh on a day trip unless of course you want to spend all day in the car! If you want to visit these places include them as part of your overall trip and book accommodation in the area. Alternatively take a tour.
Best time of year to visit Edinburgh
Edinburgh can be very busy at various times of the year with festivals and events. In August the Edinburgh International Festival and the Festival Fringe takes place for three weeks. Accommodation can be very expensive. If you are looking to spend a few days in the city as part of an overall trip to Scotland or the UK it is probably best to avoid this time of year. Alternatively look for accommodation outwith Edinburgh in places such as Dunfermline, Linlithgow, Stirling or North Berwick. All these towns have good rail and bus links to Edinburgh.
The months of January, February and March are pretty cold and wet however there are some bargains to be found in terms of accommodation and flights. However not good for touring and seeing other parts of Scotland.
The months of April, May June, July and September can be busy however there are some good deals to be had if you are flexible with your dates. There are two weeks in October which are school holiday weeks. November tends to be quieter and December is always busy in the lead up to Christmas and New Year where again prices are at a premuim.
Edinburgh Vacation – Visitor Attractions.
If you haven’t been to Edinburgh before then a visit to the castle is high on anyones bucket list. However it can get very busy particularly in June, July, August and September. Waiting times to purchase tickets can be up to an hour.
If you plan to visit other castles as part of your trip, membership may be an option. This allows you entry to all Historic Environment Scotland properties. For details click this link
Important Tip when visiting the castle.
Tickets often sell out far in advance, especially over the summer months. Book your tickets online in advance for the best price and to guarantee entry. Once tickets are sold out online, there will be no further tickets available at the castle.
Museums and Galleries
All museums and galleries are free on entry (a donation of £5 per person is optional). A series of exhibitions run throughout the year. There is a charge for entry. Details can be otained from the museum or gallery website by clicking this link
Edinburgh Vacation – Walking Tours in the Royal Mile
There are lots of tour guides and companies offering walking tours. My advice again would be to avoid the third party booking sites charging booking fees or commissions and book directly with the tour company.
Edinburgh Vacation – Eating Out
Edinburgh has a great range of places to eat and it is not for me to give recommendations. What I will say is that eating out in Edinburgh is not cheap particularly in the evening. However a numnber of good resturaunts in the city centre offer set price luncheon menus which are a fraction of the cost of prices in the evening. If you are on a budget this may be an option for you.
If you opt for a Self Catering flat then outlets such as Marks & Spencer Simply Food in Princes Street have Dine in for Two offers. Also look for Sainsbury’s in St Andrew Square and Shandwick Place West End who sell pre cooked meals.
Edinburgh Vacation – Other Options
I have a couple of free walking tours which I would recommend. You can download all the details by clicking the links below.
I would recommend you do Edinburgh Walking Tour for First Time Visitors. If you haven’t been to Edinburgh before it takes you to all the places you want to see. in and around the city centre. Just click on the link and you can download for free.
Another favourite of mine is the short walking tour of Edinburgh’s Georgian New Town which takes in the Water of Leith and Stockbridge. Just click on the link and download for free.
Edinburgh Vacation – Day Trip Ideas
Here are another two ideas where you can go on a day trip from Edinburgh
Abbotsford House home of the novelist Walter Scott. Click this link for more details
Culross featured in Outlander and was the fictional village of Cranesmuir. Click this link to find out more
However long you plan to stay in Edinburgh. I also hope that this blog has been of some help in planning your trip.