Edinburgh is situated in the central-eastern part of Scotland, close to the Firth of Forth and the North Sea. Thanks to its magnificent rock formations, sturdy buildings, and a grand collection of medieval and classic architecture, it is often recognized as one of the most invigorating cities in Europe.
People from Scotland used to call it Auld Reekie, Edina, Athens of the North, and Britain’s Other Eye. The city of Edinburgh is distinguished worldwide for its history, architecture, landscape, and cultural displays.
Established on a group of hills, it is located between the Firth of Forth to the north, the Pentland Hills to the south, and the council districts of East Lothian and West Lothian. As of this day, Edinburgh has a population of more than 500,000 and is growing due mostly to migration.
There are hints of human activity in the region from at least c.5000 BC with fortifications apparent from c.1000 BC. The Celtic and Roman inhabitants were succeeded by Northumbrians and Scots. In the 15th CE., Edinburgh was made Scotland’s capital, but its value as the political hub of Scotland was later lessened by the Union of 1707 with England.
The following cultural and architectural accomplishments in the 18th and 19th centuries, along with its seven hills, acquired it the title ‘Athens of the North. The city’s Old Town and New Town were both recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
Appreciated in the 19th CE. for biscuits, brewing, banking, and books, its prosperity has grown well-oriented towards services, especially in the fields of finance, science, and tourism. Edinburgh is considered as the second-largest financial capital in the UK after London and the fourth largest in Europe, with the main offices such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, Tesco Bank, and Lloyds Banking Group.
Burtons and Nairn-Simmers still make biscuits in the city, but McVities, which was established along Rose Street in 1830, already left the capital in 1969. Most of the larger breweries have shut, leaving only the Caledonian Brewery in Slateford Road, and there are several decent book publishers.
For several years, the center of civil authority for Scotland was re-established with the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. The city also gained significance in the retail sector, focusing on Princes Street, which is a great place for shopaholics. Further key enterprises introduce information technology, renewable energy, and the life sciences, embodied by the Edinburgh BioQuarter. Creative enterprises also signify an essential sector of the city’s economy.
Today, Edinburgh is known as one of the best tourist destinations in the world, and the city contributes 17.7% of Scotland’s tourist economy (2012).
This is where you can find the world’s largest arts festival, held yearly since 1947, including a distinct Festival Fringe. This has given addition to an almost year-round presentation of spin-offs, including the Book, Film, Jazz, and Science festivals, collectively with the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. In 2015, the twelve festivals contributed £313 million to the whole Scottish economy and helped create 6,000 jobs.
A visit here will surely be well worth it, considering the various things you can do and see.
Most of the edifices in the Old Town have survived in their original form over the years. Enchanting medieval ruins are swimming in this part of the city. In contrast, precise Georgian terraces outline the streets of the New Town. The overall urban view is a mixture of ancient structures and contemporary architecture, which provides the city a unique atmosphere.
This city is packed with year-round festivals, bustling nightlife, and an impressive arts scene. Edinburgh never falls short of pleasant travel adventures for tourists.
Driving in Edinburgh
Driving a car is the best way to view the variety and grandeur of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh’s Bramble cocktail bar is a sure-fire champion if you envision an evening of drinks in one of the nicest places in the city. Although it is not as spacious, only seating less than 100 people, Bramble is often part of must-visit lists. So much so that you’re assured of a great evening with some delightful drinks.
Starring innovative concoctions and sparkling flavors, ask the expert bar staff for advice if you just can’t settle on one.
If you’re not touring Edinburgh in time for Fringe in August, you can still receive an excellent treatment of the most exquisite of entertainment by hitting the Summerhall art center. From ancestral Scottish music and dance each week from the most excellent ceilidh bands in the city to professional performances and screenings of independent and popular movies in their impressive multi-purpose hall.
Edinburgh extends a wide diversity of free museums and art galleries, enabling you to capture your fill of their aesthetic capital without wasting a penny. Several even offer guided tours for no charge.
St Giles’ Cathedral is one of the most sought-after historical places in Edinburgh. It is open to tourists trying to feel the music and architecture. If you cherish art more than anybody does, then head to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, sheltered in an iconic structure of the city and extending a visual adventure through Scotland’s history to the current moment.
Although prices may apply to select exhibitions, you can tour the portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots, and continue walking to reach the actress Karen Gillan, free of charge.
The Stand is a haven for an intelligently fun comedy scene in Edinburgh. Each Monday night presents a Red Raw session for a budget but an exhilarating evening of watching comics obtaining their way in the industry.
If you’re fortunate, famous names in the stand-up scene tend to come back to this club, with comics such as Dylan Moran and Daniel Kitson frequenting this venue. Highlighting both shows for kids and those directed at adults, the Stand is sure to contribute something to delight everyone’s funny bone.
For a superb driving experience, drive along the extraordinary Queensferry Crossing, which will guide you along from Edinburgh to Fife where you can experience the refreshing views of the Fife Coastal Route. Alternatively, you can take a 45-minute drive from the city to North Berwick, a beachfront townhome to the majestic Tantallon Castle.
Top Road Trip Destination in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland. It is also the second-largest city in this magnificent country. This distinct, historical city has a dynamic yet calm feel for the old and young ones.
There’s surely more to do and see in the city itself than time permits. But the neighboring places, which are nearly close given the extent of Scotland, are undoubtedly accessible by car and interesting exploits are within easy reach.
Ask anyone who’s driven in Scotland and they’ll surely tell you, without a doubt, the striking spectacle encompassing simple country roads or pinching along the motorway to another Scottish city in under an hour.
Edinburgh is found in the Central Belt of Scotland, the most populated region, surrounding roughly East to West, dividing the Highlands from the Lowlands/Borders regions. As such, and due to its relatively small size, you can easily get to the Highlands if you drive North and England if you drive South, in just 3-4 hours!
Day journeys from the Caledonian capital introduce an excellent choice of destinations, several of which we’ve covered below.
You can drive your car to Loch Ness from Edinburgh in just four hours! Drive North heading the remarkable Forth Bridges, onto the M90 which converts to A9 (the East Coast central road which extends from London to Inverness) until you notice signs for Loch Ness. Park up modestly and you might be able to find the famous monster unexpectedly!
Getting there: The drive is about 3 hours and a half and extends 166 miles long. Head to the M90 to Perth and then drive north on the A9 going to Inverness.
If Edinburgh is rousing up romantic moods, how about driving to a blacksmith’s in Dumfriesshire (in the Scottish Borders) to be married by an “anvil priest” in Gretna Green?
An early Scottish law, granting marriages to be officiated by anyone as long as there were two witnesses, means that young couples could marry lawfully without parental approval. After a restrictive marriage law was organized in England and Wales in 1754, Gretna Green became the most liked Scottish village where young lovers from England fled to legally wed.
Getting there: The drive will only take about an hour and 40 minutes. Take the A74 heading to Carlisle and drive through the exit signposted heading to Gretna Green.
Anyone who has seen the film The Da Vinci Code will surely get familiar with the 13th-Century church Rosslyn Chapel and it has always been worth a visit. The fine stonework, including the prestigious Apprentice’s Pillar, is excellent and only supplements the slightly spooky, mystical feel that pervades the place.
Getting there: Just drive along the A720 (the ring road/bypass which encircles Edinburgh) South until you notice any signs for Penicuik on the A701. Afterward, you’ll notice that you are already in the stunning Borders country. It is usually less busy than the Highlands, particularly in summer.
This small town carries a heavyweight historical blow. It was the site of William Wallace’s collapse of the English army at Stirling Bridge in 1296.
Wallace was conceivably Scotland’s most important son, whose military guerrilla warfare against Edward II of England kick-started a Scottish liberation movement. It was ultimately achieved by King Robert the Bruce in 1314 and continued 400 years until the formulation of the UK proper in 1707.
Stirling Castle, which lies atop a mountain overseeing the entire area, is truly a must-see. This medieval citadel, which has great tours, overlooks the horizon until the evenly inflicting Wallace Monument looms. You can also see Wallace’s actual sword, and it is also near one of the most scenic university campuses in the country, Stirling University.
Stirling town itself is in various ways symbolic of Scottish towns of the same size, but there’s still loads to see and do.
Getting there: Driving for just about 50 minutes along the M8 motorway from Edinburgh, it’s encircled by mountains and hills, and if you want to go a bit further, you can drive past the university heading to Bridge of Allan and Dunblane (where the tennis champ Andy Murray lives) and then drive to the Trossachs, a national park that takes an hour drive north.
This old town is best remembered for being the birthplace of golf, that antiquated Scottish game that has grown truly global. (Although the Old Course in St. Andrews declares to be the world’s original course, Carnoustie in Dundee may be older).
Getting there: This charming university town is about 90 minutes from Edinburgh, crossed the Firth of Forth to Fife, then onward the Fife coast which flaunts various fishing villages largely maintained in centuries, such as Anstruther, where you can taste some of Britain’s best fish and chips.
The Romans’ second struggle to hold the raiding northern tribes out, Hadrian’s Wall can be easily reached from Edinburgh via a drive-through rolling border-dense country. Then, pass the border into England (no passports needed), go traversing the Roman fort and wall ruins. You can also stop to pause for refreshments in lovely Northumberland villages like Corbridge and market centers like Hexham and Haltwhistle.
These fascinating northern English boroughs are renowned for their solid stone-built homes, gift shops where you can purchase local arts and crafts, and friendly pubs where you can quench your thirst and experience a delightful Great British pub lunch.
Getting there: Driving to the borders from Edinburgh feels somewhat longer and you will be inside your car for about 2 hours and a half before reaching Hadrian’s Wall. Take the A74 heading towards Carlisle and then turn to A689.
Dunfermline Abbey and Pittencrieff Park
Dunfermline was the old capital of Scotland from around 1100 to 1300 AD. Its famed Abbey rests the remains of Robert the Bruce, an ally of William Wallace and King of Scotland.
He was buried in this place after departing abroad and being brought home. Robert Bruce’s heart was buried in Melrose Abbey in the Borders.
Dunfermline Abbey lies on the corner of Pittencrieff Park, which has numerous unique traits and striking greenery. The nearby older parts of Dunfermline embrace 16th-Century stone structures and cobbled paths.
Getting there: Drive north over the Forth Road Bridge and you’ll be able to reach it in under 30 minutes from Edinburgh.
Midlothian Snowsports Centre
Originally named Hillend Ski Centre, this year-round center offers lessons in skiing and snowboarding, tubing, and more.
Midlothian Snowsports Centre is the second-longest dry ski slope in Europe. Once you’ve exhausted yourself out on the slopes, revive your batteries at Café 360, the center’s onsite eatery. Indulge yourself in tea and cakes as you observe the action on the slopes from the picturesque balcony.
Getting there: The Snowsports center is situated just outside the A720 ring path right to the South of Edinburgh.
The central belt in Scotland includes Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city and less than an hour’s drive from Edinburgh.
Definitely a city in the contemporary sense, Glasgow is packed with things to see and do. Glaswegians are very fun to be with, bluntly open, and you can talk to anyone there without hesitating.
Getting there: To reach Glasgow, just drive west along with the M8 heading to Canal Street in Glasgow and turn in exit 16.
Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crag
There’s a half-tradition between Edinburgh students of climbing the legendary Arthur’s Seat to experience the remarkable view of all of Edinburgh and Leith, and Fife to the North, to get rid of a hangover. Even without a bouncing head, the capital’s most popular hill is a moderately challenging but quick hike, open without leaving the city.
Getting there: Although technically not a road trip, it’s still worth considering driving the car as there are lots to traverse in the area, which includes the Scottish Parliament and various parks, ponds with swans, and the Royal Mile.
Make sure to drive to any of these epic road trip destinations from Edinburgh and you’ll understand why Scotland has always been declared the world’s most fascinating country so many times.
Driving Rules in Edinburgh
Want to take a road trip in Scotland, but you’ve never driven in the UK before? Here’s a refresher on the rules before you start your epic journey past mountains, around lochs, and through glens in Edinburgh.
We are about to inform you of the driving rules in Scotland, plus some essential tips on country driving, speed limits, and much more.
- All vehicles are driven on the left-hand side of the road in the U.K.
- Speed limits are always displayed – lookout for a round sign, with a red border and number in it (in miles per hour). If you don’t see any signposts, the national speed limits apply. These are:
- 70 mph (112 km/h) for cars.
- 60 mph (96 km/h) for cars hauling caravans or trailers.
- 70 mph (112 km/h) for cars.
- 60 mph (96 km/h) for cars hauling caravans or trailers.
- 30 mph (48 km/h)
- Keep in mind that the speed limit is quite common around residential areas and schools and they are clearly displayed at 20 mph (32 km/h) maximum speed limit.
OUTSIDE BUILT-UP AREAS
- 60 mph (96 km/h) for cars
- 50 mph (80 km/h) for cars hauling caravans or trailers.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol is considered very severely in Scotland and the UK and there can be hefty fines for those caught to be above the prescribed blood/alcohol limit. As of 5 December 2014, the limit has been decreased from 80 mg to 50 mg of alcohol in every 100 ml of blood.
- Seat belts must be worn properly at all times by the driver and the passengers as well. In the UK, children must be fitted with a proper child car booster seat until they are 12 years old or reach the height of 135 centimeters tall, whichever comes first. Children more than 135cm tall and over 12 years of age must wear a seat belt.
Documents Needed While Driving in Scotland
- If you’re from a European Union country, as long as you own a valid license, you are allowed to drive any type of vehicle that is listed on your license in Scotland.
- If you’re from a country outside the EU, you can drive a small vehicle as long as you have a valid license from your own country, (eg car or motorcycle) in the UK for up to 12 months.
Things to Remember When Driving in Edinburgh
- When driving in the city of Edinburgh, several streets have posted a speed limit of 30 miles per hour (48 km per hour), with some streets having a raised limit of 40 miles per hour. Modifications to the speed limits around the city are displayed by circular road signs with a red border. The country parts of Edinburgh usually hold a speed limit of 60 miles per hour (96 km per hour), and any deviations will also be displayed with a red-bordered road sign.
- If you’re driving in the winter months, make sure that you drive with extra caution. When the weather in Scotland gets cold enough for snow and ice to form, several roads are cleared regularly, but there is still a risk of black ice, a critical and barely noticeable layer of ice that makes the roads more unsafe.
Hiring a Car in Edinburgh
It is really worth your time if you rent a car in Edinburgh to fully traverse in and around the city. You can do lots of activities in this city as well as visit charming places. Renting a car will give you the flexibility to visit a nearby city or attraction outside of Edinburgh easily.
Car Rental Companies in Edinburgh
Documents Needed When Hiring a Car in Edinburgh
The essential documents you need to present when hiring a vehicle are a valid driver’s license, valid ID, and a credit or debit card. You will also need to show any proof that you are over 25 years of age, and there may be additional documentation needed for international drivers such as International Driver’s Permit(IDP).
Insurance Needed When Hiring a Car in Edinburgh
When hiring a vehicle, whether it be a car, van, or motorhome, you are responsible for any damage that happened to the vehicle even if it’s not your fault. This fee is known as the rental agreement excess or CDW excess, which can cost as high as £2,500 depending on the vehicle that you hire.
Several car rental companies extend their own excess waiver, some pricing up to nearly £25 per day. That said, we recommend you to purchase the most comprehensive insurance. It does not have an excess amount in case of damages or repairs, and it will cover all parts of the car as well as the windshield and underbody.
Even if you don’t intend to drive off-road, the state of some single-track roads can still be dodgy. Additionally, some passing areas might be gravel rather than asphalt. Both raise the chance of small rocks flying in the air and create damage to the car.
If you already have extensive car insurance at home, be sure to check your policy as some may cover hired vehicles abroad.
Third-party insurance options can be purchased for a cheaper price. Just be well-informed that you might have to pay for any repairs up-front to the car rental company, then the third party will refund you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the minimum age requirement to rent a car in Edinburgh?
It differs from country to country with some being as young as 19 years old. However, in the UK and most other countries, the minimum age required to hire a car is 21 years old. Be sure to verify the information beforehand.
At 21 years old, you will be required to own a valid license for at least one year. Please be aware that there is an Underage Driver Fee for anyone who wants to hire a car younger than 25 years of age.
What documentation should I present to rent a car in Edinburgh?
Anyone who intends to rent a car must be of legal age and owns a valid driver’s license for at least one year.
Any driving licenses issued with non-Roman Alphabets, such as Russian or Chinese characters, must be supplemented by a valid International Driving Permit.
You must also have a confirmed method of payment in the name of the driver. Additionally,, any UK residents are required to carry two proofs of address from the last three months. Meanwhile, non-UK residents are required to provide either a valid passport or a national ID card.
Can I add an “Additional Driver”?
You can always add additional drivers, which makes longer journeys usually more comfortable, safer, and less stressful.
Any additional driver must also hold a valid driving license. Additional driver(s) are required to be present during vehicle pick-up to validate them beforehand.
How do I cancel or change a booking?
You may change or cancel your booking for several different reasons. If you have set a schedule through a third party, such as a travel agent or broker, please contact the booking source in any way directly for immediate assistance.
You must also be aware and have understood the car rental company’s cancellation policy which is included in your booking terms and conditions.
Can I extend my rental?
You can email them, or contact the car rental company directly about the extension of your rental car. Just don’t forget to quote the rental agreement number or the registration number of the rented vehicle.
Please be also aware that extra days will be charged and your pre-authorization will be renewed to cover any anticipated additional costs.
What type of car is best to drive in Edinburgh?
When choosing a rental car that you want to drive in Edinburgh, it is essential that you also consider your travel requirements. This includes finding the right vehicle size that can hold your party during your trip.
If you plan on spending the majority of your time alone, a compact or medium-sized vehicle may be most suitable. If your tour is a family vacation and luggage space is a concern, consider hiring a 7-seater or a van.
Where can I purchase extra insurance to lessen the excess?
You can purchase additional insurance directly from the car rental company during the booking process. This will lessen the risk to zero. Please be informed that this insurance does not decrease nor take off the security deposit charged on your credit card for the whole rental period.
What is a Collision Damage Waiver?
Collision Damage Waiver or Loss Damage Waiver with excess narrows the customer’s financial liability for loss or damage to the vehicle to certain amounts, for as long as it is not caused by driver/renter negligence or portion of insurance exclusions.
How can I pay for my booking?
All car rental companies accept Visa, Mastercard, and American Express for online fees. Please be aware that the time of pick up from the local supplier will expect a security deposit to be left for the vehicle. This takes the structure of an amount (minimum: Excess + VAT) being charged on the main driver’s credit card. You must also bring a credit card to the rental desk.
Can I drop the car at a different location?
This method is possible upon request. However, please keep in mind that a One-Way fee will be payable, which could be costly, and minimum hire periods may be implemented. If you have already picked up your car and would like to modify the drop-off location, you have to call the car rental company.
Driving in Edinburgh provides you the unparalleled opportunity to traverse the whole length of Britain, pausing wherever you choose and taking as much time as you want.
As the capital of Scotland, the drive between this stunning city showcases the variety of the county. With hundreds of miles of spectacular countryside, innumerable sites of historic importance, and a host of culturally and socially significant cities to stop at. There is no shortage of things to do along the way.