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Situated along the Firth of Forth close to the North Sea, Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, consists of a new town and an old town that are both listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Combined, they make Edinburgh the most visited city in Scotland. Edinburgh is also the country’s capital city and, as a result, is Scotland’s main port of entry, making it a great place to use as a base to explore the rest of the country. Its great location means that it is accessible to many other key destinations and landmarks, and a car rental is the best way to get out of the city and explore the rest of the Central Belt region of Scotland and beyond.
Who to Book With
Well-known international car hire agents such as Hertz, National, Budget and Europcar offer car hire in Edinburgh, with offices at the airport and in the city centre, close to both the Edinburgh Waverly and Haymarket railway stations. Although the vehicle selection is plentiful, it is still recommended to book the car of your choice online pre arrival.
Best time to go
May to September is the most pleasant time to visit Edinburgh, although summers are the busiest time of the year due to the city’s numerous festivals. Those wishing to get a good deal should avoid visiting in August, as this is when rates tend to be at their highest. May and June are great months to visit if you want to avoid the summer crowds, as it is still warm and sunny with temperatures ranging between 15°C and 28°C.
Need to Know Essentials
The following must be shown in order to drive off in your car rental:
- Both parts of a valid UK driving licence
- A second form of identification
- The credit card that you used to make the booking
- Booking confirmation, preferably printed.
Edinburgh is not known to be vehicle-friendly, as it is prone to traffic jams, and parking is extremely hard to find. It is best to park your car at a park and ride facility outside of the city centre and travel in by public transport. If it is necessary to bring your vehicle into the city, then park at a safe car park or find a hotel that offers parking to its guests. There is also pay and display on-street parking options, although they are not easy to come by and rates are expensive at between £1.00 and £2.80 per hour.
All roads in Scotland lead to Edinburgh, making it easy to get in and out by car. The M8, M9 and M90 all start outside of the city centre, while numerous other routes also span out of the city in all directions. All roads taking drivers in and out of the city are toll free, but the M8, which connects Edinburgh to Glasgow, is notorious for heavy congestion.
Motorways can be identified by their blue signage with white numbers, while major trunk routes have green signs with yellow numbers. The city centre itself has many one-way streets, making it difficult for newcomers to navigate. Still, there is no congestion charge here, so visitors can enter without having to worry about having to pay a fee. It is mandatory in Scotland for all passengers to wear a seatbelt and drivers are forbidden to use a mobile phone while behind the wheel.
Public Lothian Buses are the best way to get around Edinburgh, although First also operates buses throughout the city. Double Decker tour buses, which operate every day except for Christmas Day, provide a fun way to go sightseeing in the city. Many visitors also enjoying walking around Edinburgh; routes can be downloading to your mobile phone via the city’s walkit app.
Lothian Buses and First often use the same bus stops,al though tickets are not interchangeable. Tickets can be purchased on board from the driver, with a single journey on Lothian costing around £1.40, while First charges according to distance travelled. The best deal is to purchase an all-day ticket, which costs £3.50 with both of these bus companies. Tickets for the sightseeing bus are around £12 for the day and these can be purchased online.
Edinburgh is served by two railway stations, with Edinburgh Waverley railway station being the main hub. It is situated between the old town and the new town, and services are operated by a number of train companies, such as East Coast, First TransPennine Express, CrossCountry and ScotRail. These services connect the city to Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London, among other UK destinations.
Black cabs can be found at taxi ranks throughout the city, including outside of the railways stations, major hotels and the airport. Central Radio Taxi and City Cabs are the two largest companies operating in Edinburgh. Taxis here run on meters, with the tariff being around £2 for the first 520 metres and then an additional £0.25 for every 195 metres driven thereafter. Between 18:00 and 06:00, the initial tariff raises to £3 for the first 520 metres driven.
Buses and Trams
Apart from walking, the Lothian Buses are the best way to zip around the city, as there are more than 50 routes, making pretty much any location in Edinburgh reachable. Buses run every 7-10 minutes between 05:30 and 24:00 and there are 11 night bus routes that operate between 24:00 and 05:00. Bus number 100 runs from the city centre to Turnhouse Airport.
Edinburgh is filled with landmarks, both ancient and modern, home to a number of great annual festivals, offers some fantastic shopping opportunities and is a haven for foodies. But there is also so much to see outside of the city that most spend at least one day out exploring other towns and villages or visiting a nearby national park. Edinburgh’s location on the Firth of Forth means that there are a number of excursions you can take along the coast, while Glasgow and Dundee can be reached by car in just over an hour.
Loch Lomond - Scotland’s largest loch, offers some spectacular scenery and the opportunity to enjoy plenty of outdoor activities. Hike along the shores of the loch, cycle along the Lowland Highland Trail or relax on a sandy beach.
Stirling Castle - One of the largest and most important castles in the UK, sits just 40.5 miles outside of Edinburgh. The castle was built in the early 12th century, although today most of what remains was built in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Scheduled Ancient Monument is very important to Scotland’s history and open to the public every day except for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
East Neuk - This is a stunning stretch of coast that runs from Earlsferry to Crail on the opposite side of the Firth of Forth. Visit blue flag beaches, snap photos of red tile roofs, wander along streets lined with 17th century estate houses and shop in fish markets. Finish the drive off in the famous historical town of St Andrews.