Edinburgh

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Europe > UK > Edinburgh ( EDI )


Should you hire a car in Edinburgh? Well, if you are just heading for a few days into the centre of Edinburgh, a car will of course be a complete hindrance.Central Edinburgh is well known as being both a nightmare for car drivers, and a throng of buses.

We’re guessing you know that, so this advice is for slightly longer stays in the Scottish capital, using it as a base to explore the surrounding area.

Do I need a car in Edinburgh? Introduction



Why rent a car in Edinburgh?


  • Urge to Explore: Once you have climbed to the top of either Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat, however breathtaking the immediate view below, you will also have a strong urge to explore the neighouring country, and a car will give you the most freedom to do this.
  • The Falkirk Wheel is one of the most impressive engineering structures in Scotland, and the easiest way to get there is by car (although a bike would give you the freedom to explore the canal aswell).
  • Forth Bridges: A car will give you the freedom to head north across the spectacular Forth Road Bridge, which in turn gives you amazing views of the even more stunning Forth Rail Bridge.There is no longer any toll on the Forth Road Bridge.
  • Stirling: Head out to Stirling with its famous castle, and visit the nearby William Wallace monument, which is easier to get to by car.
  • Fife: Head into the ancient Kingdom of Fife, and on to St Andrews, the world famous home of golf.
  • Golf: A car is ideal for any of the numerous golf courses in and around Edinburgh.
  • Glasgow: Head across to Glasgow – the train will take you to the city centre, whereas a car will give you freedom to explore the many interesting destinations in the suburbs and beyond. See our Glasgow car hire guide for more details.
  • Rail network: Compared to Glasgow, where our verdict is no, the local and regional rail network heading out from Waverley station is nothing like as comprehensive, especially within suburban Edinburgh, where the public transport is dominated by buses.
  • Head North: Edinburgh is an ideal staging post for heading north and into the Scottish Highlands – especially as flights to Inverness tend to be a bit more expensive than flights to Edinburgh (when travelling within the UK), and Edinburgh Airport offers a much wider range of inward flights from mainland Europe aswell as flights from New York Newark in the USA. Flying into Edinburgh and then driving up also means you don’t miss out on the scenery.
  • Motorways: Picking up a hire car at Edinburgh Airport will give you easy access to the Scottish motorway network, and you will already be in an ideal position to reach most of the Central Belt, as the airport is to the west of the city. This makes arriving at Edinburgh Airport a much better bet than Glasgow Airport or Prestwick, for access to most of central Scotland, as both of these airports are to the west of Glasgow.
  • Small hotels: Even though the City Council has made driving difficult in central Edinburgh, there are many excellent small hotels and b&bs on the roads leading in and out of the city, particularly aroudn Murrayfield on the way in from the airport. These places tend to provide free onsite parking.
  • Gardens: Don’t forget to visit the beautiful Royal Botanic gardens to the north of the city – but exploring around Edinburgh by car will take you to plenty of other green spaces.

Why not? Visiting Edinburgh without a car


  • Easy buses: Edinburgh is bus central – they might not be glamorous, but they will take you where you want to go. (If you have the right change – Ed)
  • Bus frequency: On the busiest arteries, buses can turn up as often as every 30 seconds – just like in central London.
  • Use your Inner Tube! Edinburgh has a unique ‘Inner Tube‘ cycleway mapping system, inspired by Harry Beck’s London tube maps. This is based on a network of off-road cycle routes which itself uses disused railway lines around the city.
  • Car? Daft! Because there is just so much to see and do in the centre of Edinburgh itself, and even more within easy range of a short bus ride – renting a car for a short stay would be daft!
  • Road v Rail: Most places which would make interesting road trips – Glasgow, Falkirk (for the Falkirk Wheel), Stirling (for Stirling Castle and the William Wallace Monument), Perth etc, can be easily accessed by fast and frequent train services.
  • Train + bus: Those places that aren’t directly on the rail network are usually easy to access by local bus services. For example, the William Wallace Monument is adjacent to Stirling University campus, so plenty of buses are available.
  • St Andrews: Even though St Andrews doesn’t have its own railway station, a shuttle bus is available from nearby Leuchars, or regular coach services are available from Edinburgh Bus Station.
  • Arriving by train in Edinburgh by night, and climbing up the Waverley Steps (becoming Escalator-Ed) to look back at Edinburgh Castle is truly spectacular!
  • Forth Foot Bridge: There is a better way to appreciate the full glory of the Forth Bridges without a hire car – take the train to Dalmeny, which is right before the start of the Forth Rail Bridge. Climb down to the sea shore, appreciate the spectacular vista of the bridges from sea level, then climb up to the start of the Forth Road Bridge. You can then cross on foot, again enjoying great views of the Forth Rail Bridge. At the north side, head to North Queensferry station, and board a train to appreciate the Forth Rail Bridge.
  • Deep Sea World – is an easy excursion at the end of the Forth Rail Bridge – alight at North Queensferry (also an easy drive across the Forth Road Bridge).
  • East Coast Route: The train journey from Edinburgh to Berwick is particularly stunning (this is the final part of the route up from London Kings Cross).

VERDICT: YES

James says - a few trip notes:


Edinburgh is the city where I studied Architecture, so I know it well.

When should you hire a car in Edinburgh? Although you won’t want a car for a short weekend away, it will give you more freedom to get out and explore the numerous interesting destinations beyond Auld Reekie herself, reching places that aren’t so easy to get to by public transport. Therefore the verdict is a soft yes – a car is useful, but not essential.

James says - a few trip notes:




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