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Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom Scotland Edinburgh

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Introduction

Royal Mile

Royal Mile

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Edinburgh may be dubbed the Athens of the North, but in truth it is an exceptional and unique city. While it's surpassed in size by Glasgow, Edinburgh is Scotland's most popular attraction as well as its capital. It is home to the Scottish Parliament and features a historic combination of Georgian and Medieval architectural styles. Not surprisingly, its Old Town and New Town have both been named as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Edinburgh's major drawcard each year is the world-famous Edinburgh Festival, which is held in August. This 4-week collection of festivals generally attracts as many visitors as there are permanent residents in the city.

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Neighbourhoods

Old Town

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, and Holyrood Palace all reside in Old Town. The area is filled with budget hostels, pubs, restaurants, and tourist attractions. Other places of interest in Old Town include Greyfriar's Kirkyard, St Gile's Cathedral, Mary King's Close, and the Royal Museum of Scotland. The Edinburgh Vaults are also located in Old Town.

Old Town, along with neighbouring New Town (see below), was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Greyfriars Bobby Statue

Greyfriars Bobby Statue

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

New Town

The New Town, located just north of Princes Street Gardens, is home to many shops, banks, restaurants, and internet cafes. Along with vast amounts of commercialism, New Town has a great view of Edinburgh Castle. The Scott Monument is also located in this district, which gives incredible views of the city.

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Leith

You can experience the 'real' Edinburgh by walking down Leith Walk (or hopping on a bus). Leith has lots of bars such the infamous Port o' Leith (expect dancing on the bar Friday and Saturday night) and the quaint Roseleaf (cocktails in teapots). Young professionals tend to live in Leith as the council tax is unaffordable in The Old Town. On a nice day a stroll along Barnton beach is recommended.

Stockbridge and Canonmills

These neighbourhoods lie just north of New Town and contains the Royal Botanic Garden.

South Queensferry

South Queensferry rests at the foot of the Forth Rail Bridge on the banks of the Firth of Forth. There are many quaint restaurants along the shore as well as ferry docks that lead to numerous places around the Firth.

=Portobello Beach=
Portobello Beach is a quick bus ride out of the city. If you do like to be beside the seaside this is the place for you.

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Sights and Activities

Edinburgh Castle Guns

Edinburgh Castle Guns

© All Rights Reserved StephenJen

  • Edinburgh Castle is a must for anyone visiting Edinburgh City, sitting atop a massive rock overlooking all of Edinburgh and offering the best views of the city, particularly on a clear day. See the Scottish Crown Jewels when you are here. Save money on the already reasonable entrance fee by booking online. Listen out for a bang at one o'clock!
  • You can go under ground to experience old Edinburgh tales at Mary Queen's Close.
  • Start at the Castle and walk down towards The Scottish Parliament - this is The Royal Mile.
  • If you fancy an easy climb, Arthur's Seat (hill) sits behind The Scottish Parliament. Great views of the city.
  • Lots of unusual cinemas to catch a film at Edinburgh Film Theatre; The Cameo (old school) and The Dominion (you can book a couch and take in a drink).

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Events and Festivals

  • St Andrew's Day (30 Nov 2013 - 30 Nov 2013) - The Scottish bank holiday is to commemorate Scotland's patron saint. The weekend usually hosts a range of free events, for example, free entry is granted at several attractions in Edinburgh. Edinburgh Castle Esplanade hold exciting winter celebrations too on this weekend. Ceilidhs (traditional Gaelic social gathering) often takes place on this day too which allows you to try out some traditional Scottish country dancing to lively bands.
  • Edinburgh Sparkles - Winter in Edinburgh is packed full of events and festivities - too many to list! In 6 weeks of festive celebrations, there's ice skating rinks, treasure hunts, hogmanay, dancing, snowsport fefstivals, food and drinks. Check out the listings and suggested itineraries!
  • The Royal Highland Show (June) - This four day event provides fun for the family! Entertainment, outdoor living and countryside, shopping/fashion, food and drink and some of the farmyard's finest animals make this event one of the best days out in the country. Falconry, gun dog displays, terrier racing, inspiration for your larder, competing. You name it, it features everything to do with the countryside. Over 183,000 visitors come every year.
  • The Edinburgh Military Tattoo (August) - Dazzling and spectacular events are held on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castleto over three weeks. Annually, a series of military tattoos (army displays) performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and International Military Bands and display teams perform to a huge audience, and is also broadcasted on international television. The Tattoo includes massed pipe and drum bands, lively dancing, routines, light shows and fireworks. It is performed every weekday evening and twice on Saturdays, but has consistantly sold out so buy buying in advance is a must!
  • Beltane Fire Festival (30 Apr 2014) - Up on Calton Hill, the Beltane Fire festival attratcs crowds up to 12,000 who turn up to watch the fire, drumming and revelry of the Celtic fertility festival. Beltane, meaning "bright/sacred fire", is held to mark the blossoming of Spring and the ancient pastoral tradition of moving livestock to summer grazing grounds.
  • 6 Nations Rugby - Held at Murrayfield Stadium, this huge rugby event gets the city buzzing with energy and excitement. The whole country gets behind the matches attracting thousands of visitng fans, making it a busy yet fun time to visit the city.
  • Edinburgh Mela Festival (End August - Beginning September) - This is one of Europe's largest multi-cultural events where diversity is celebrated through music and style. "Mela" meaning "gathering" in Sanskrit showcases worldwide cultures to celebrate their communities. A load of events are put on, such as visual exhibbitions, dancing, theatre, film, food stalls, crafts, and performances from international and local talent. Address: Leith (minutes from downtown Edinburgh)
  • Edinburgh Fringe Festival (03 Aug 2013 - 27 Aug 2013) - The Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes place in August every year, and is the largest arts festival in the world.There are a number of varied performances from classic works, alternative arts and more mainstream fare. The festival takes place in a number of venues (over 250 in 2006) throughout Edinburgh, including a number of street performers on the "Royal Mile" in Edinburgh's old town.

Hogmanay Festival is the Scottish celebration of the last day of the year and is part of the festive events. On December 31st, Edinburgh holds one of the largest in the world as it spans for a three day spectacular. It begins with a massive torch light procession from Parliament Square to the Son et Lumiére on Calton Hill, ending in fireworks to signal the beginning of the festivities. The city hosts an all night street party and features many popular bands/DJs/live entertainment by the impressive Castle. Loony Dook takes place on New Years Day where the brave (or crazy) wade into the freezing waters of th River Forth.

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Weather

Edinburgh has a typical maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. June to September is summer season with temperatures between 16 °C and 18 °C and nights around 11 °C. Winters are still above zero, even at night. The highest and lowest temperatures possible are 28 °C and -9 °C. Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year, with autumn and winter being the wettest time and spring being the driest time. May is the driest and most sunny month of the year.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max6.2 °C6.5 °C8.7 °C11.1 °C14.2 °C17.3 °C18.8 °C18.5 °C16.2 °C13.2 °C8.7 °C6.9 °C
Avg Min0.3 °C0 °C1.5 °C3.1 °C5.7 °C8.7 °C10.3 °C10.2 °C8.4 °C5.9 °C2.1 °C0.9 °C
Rainfall57 mm42 mm51 mm41 mm51 mm51 mm57 mm65 mm67 mm65 mm63 mm58 mm
Rain Days17.213.616.21414.413.313.115.216.516.716.316.3

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Getting There

By Plane

Edinburgh Airport (IATA: EDI, ICAO: EGPH) is about 10 kilometres from the city centre. Flights to Europe and Canada reach dozens of locations. Low-cost airline Ryanair has many flights, including to Alicante, Berlin, Bologna, Bordeaux, Bournemouth, Bratislava, Bremen, Brussels, Cagliari, Dublin, Gdansk, Girona, Frankfurt-Hahn, Haugesund, Krakow, Lanzarote, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Limoges, Málaga, Malta, Marseille, Palma de Mallorca, Pisa, Poznan, Oslo, Rome, Shannon, Stockholm, Tenerife-South, Weeze (near Düsseldorf), Wroclaw and Zadar.

To/from the airport

  • Car: The airport lies on the A8 Glasgow-Edinburgh road, and can be easily reached by the M8 (from Glasgow) and the M9 (from Stirling). The airport is also within easy access from the M90 motorway (from Perth) via the Forth Road Bridge. Taxis and rental cars are both widely available at the airport.
  • Bus: Lothian Buses provides public transportation to the airport with the Airlink 100 express bus from Edinburgh city centre, as well as local bus services. Stagecoach operates the AirDirect 747 express bus service between the airport and Inverkeithing railway station and Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife, and the Gyle Shopping Centre and Heriot-Watt University.

By Train

The main railway station in Edinburgh is called 2 Waverley Station (EDB) (owned and managed by NetworkRail) and is an attraction in itself. First opened in 1846, Waverley Station was rebuilt 1892-1902. It lies between the Old and New Towns, adjacent to Princes Street, Edinburgh Castle and the Princes Street Gardens, where it serves over 14 million people per annum. Despite various refurbishments, the past still survives in the station's elaborate, domed ceiling where wreathed cherubs leap amid a wealth of scrolled ironwork.

The vast majority of train services to Edinburgh from London (and most of eastern England) are operated by Virgin East Coast; an hourly service leaves from London Kings Cross station throughout the day until 6PM. Journey time is between 4hrs 20min and 5 hours. The cheapest tickets (£16 to £90) are advance single (one-way) fares for a fixed train time bought 2–12 weeks in advance, and the flexible Saver Ticket (roughly £100 single or return) is not valid at some times to/from London. Virgin Trains operate a 2 hourly service from Birmingham (New Street) via the West Coast Mainline with an average journey time of 4hrs 4 mins.

For a different travel experience from London, try the Caledonian Sleeper service, which runs every night from London's Euston Station except Saturdays, and the journey takes approximately 8 hours. Bear in mind that if you are travelling alone you may have to share the sleeping compartment with a stranger of the same sex. Tickets can be booked in the usual manner at any main line railway station in Britain, and the cost of a return journey to Edinburgh from London varies from around £100 for two one-way "Advance" tickets rising to the full open return fare of £165. You can also travel for around £23 one-way in a seated carriage or £95 return (full fare). BritRail passes can be used to reserve tickets on the sleeper trains.

There are also links to Aberdeen, Inverness, Manchester, Newcastle and York, amongst others.

There is a second railway station in the centre of Edinburgh, 3 Haymarket (HYM), around a mile to the west of Waverley. If you are arriving from the north, west or southwest, Haymarket is a better station to exit at if you are heading straight for the airport, zoo, or modern art gallery or if your accommodation is on the west side of town as you will avoid the city centre traffic, and it is on the major westbound bus routes. The Edinburgh tram also has a stop right in front of the Haymarket railway station. Haymarket station opened in 1842, but was basically rebuilt in 2013 with a much larger concourse and better access to the platforms.

By Car

By road, Edinburgh can be reached most immediately by the M8 motorway (from Glasgow and the west), M9 (from Stirling and the north-west), A90/M90 (from Perth, Dundee and northern Scotland), the A1 (from Newcastle upon Tyne and north-east England) and A702/M74 (from Carlisle and north-western England).

From London the fastest route to Edinburgh is the M1 motorway, followed by the A1(M) and the A1 - a journey of 640 km (398 mi) and approximately 8-9 hrs driving time.

By Bus

The city is served by the major inter-city bus companies from around Scotland and England. Most long distance services start and end at the 5 Edinburgh Bus Station at St Andrew Square. There are two entrances one at North St Andrew Street (to the left of the Louis Vuitton shop) and the other one at Elder Street. The Edinburgh tram has a stop called St Andrew Square a couple of meters away from the first entrance. The main railway station, Waverley Station, is within walking distance (about 400m, 5-10min). Services to major cities and towns in Scotland are provided by Citylink amongst others, whilst longer distance coaches to other parts of the UK are mainly provided by National Express and Megabus.

By Boat

A ferry & bus service from Belfast to Edinburgh can be booked through Citylink. It takes about 7.5 hours and costs around £30.

Alternatively, a combined Rail & Sail ticket from Belfast Central (BFC) is available through ScotRail. It costs £30 one-way and you travel via Cairnryan and Ayr (to any location in Scotland, not just Edinburgh). The suggested connection takes about 9 hours (travel time without waiting time is 7 hours).

Passenger cruise liners are a common sight in summer at Leith Docks, where a new terminal has been built next to the Ocean Terminal shopping/leisure complex.

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Getting Around

By Car

Edinburgh is not a particularly car friendly city (the worst city to drive in outside of London in the UK) with the myriad of one-way streets and the Old Town's medieval layout, and the dedication of parking wardens to ticketing anything that is not moving is legendary. Finding parking can be difficult, though there are several multi-storey car parks in the city centre (Castle Terrace for the West End, try St James Centre or Greenside at the East End). If visiting for the day, it is often cheaper and quicker to use the new Park and Ride systems now in place on all approaches to the City so it's even easy to leave your car on the outskirts. For visitors arriving from the M8, follow directions for Edinburgh Airport to reach Ingliston Park and Ride. This facility is half a mile from the airport terminal.

Taxis are fairly expensive. The minimum charge is £1.50 (£2.50 at night) for the first 300 metres or so.

By Public Transport

Many local trains depart from Waverley Station and run to the outer edges of the city, such as South Queensferry. There is also a two bus companies that provide service to the area, Lothian and First. Buses typically require exact change. Check with the bus company for the current rate.

A small number of suburban rail routes run from Waverley station, most of the stations lying in the south west and south east suburbs of the city, and are useful for reaching the outer suburbs and towns of Balerno, Currie, Wester Hailes, Wallyford, Prestonpans, Musselburgh, South Queensferry, Newcraighall and a useful link to Edinburgh Park which is adjacent to the Gyle shopping complex. Services to North Berwick, Bathgate, Fife or Glasgow Central will make stops at these various stations. Note that standard National Rail fares apply to these trains - there are no credible daily season ticket options available. Check at the station before you board!

By Foot

Edinburgh is a very walkable city. Most of the major tourist attractions are within walking distance of the Royal Mile. The charm and beauty of the city make your feet the perfect mode of transportation. Walking along elegant or atmospheric streets is one of the pleasures of the city. There are however, a number of hills to be navigated; for example from Princes Street, up The Mound towards Edinburgh Castle requires some significant legwork, but it's worth it for the views en route.

By Bike

The Edinburgh Innertube map gives a good overview of off-street cycle paths in and around the city center. Many paths are along canals or rivers, through parks and on former railway lines.

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Eat

Edinburgh is a great city for the food lover. There is a vast selection of eateries scattered throughout every part of the city, catering for all tastes, prices and styles - from fast-food to Michelin-starred grandeur. Just be careful around the castle and in the Grassmarket area, where many restaurants are tourist traps. Rose St, running parallel to Princes St is a pedestrian precinct that has a huge number of pubs offering a variety of pub fare food. As well as the centre of Edinburgh, it is also worth checking out Leith and the West End when looking for a place to eat.

There are quite a few restaurants that have a BYOB policy which means you can bring your own wine or beer for consumption during your meal. Some charge a corkage fee per bottle. Be sure to check and ask before you start drinking.

The Scots are well known for having a penchant for fried food which has resulted in such gastronomic delights as deep fried pizza, deep fried hamburgers, deep fried Black Pudding (a type of blood sausage), deep fried haggis and deep fried Mars bars. If you're up to it, be sure to drop by a chippy (fish and chip shop) and experience these Scottish delights. Edinburgh chippys are unique in the UK for offering salt'n'sauce as standard in place of the salt'n'vinegar usually provided elsewhere in the country. The sauce is a kind of runny, vinegary version of HP or Daddys style brown sauce. Most chippys will provide vinegar on request if you prefer, but you really should try salt'n'sauce at least once!

Edinburgh Rock is a soft confectionery, made from sugar and cream of tartar with various flavourings and colours, including peppermint and ginger. It can often be seen in tourist shops in tartan boxes.

Maxies Bistro & Wine Bar is a fantastic place to eat when up the Castle end of the Royal Mile, with a great menu and fabulous atmosphere, especially on a sunny day where you can sit out on the terrace. Address: 5b Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh, EH1 2PW

A nice Italian on george street is Centotre, 103 George Street, Edinburgh, Lothian EH2 3ES, United Kingdom, tel: +44 131 225 1550, fax: +44 131 225 2578, Transit: Edinburgh Rail Station (900 metres). Close to some nice shops if you are in for a lunch, also a great location for heading to some nice cocktail bars afterwards.

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Drink

For a non-alcoholic beverage give Scotland's second national drink a try Irn-Bru. It's a great cure for hangover.

As for Scotland's first drink, you will find The Scotch Whisky Experience at the top of The Royal Mile, which offers an interactive "tour" of the history and practice of whisky distilling. For a less touristic experience simply enjoy your whisky in one of the many pubs. The closest single malt whisky distillery to Edinburgh is the Glenkinchie Distillery. The North British Distillery in Edinburgh (near Murrayfield) produces grain whisky which is all used in blending and the distillery is not open for visits.

Recently a few gin distilleries opened in and around Edinburgh producing Pickering's Gin, Edinburgh Gin or NB Gin (from North Berwick).

The two major local beer breweries are the Caledonian Brewery and Stewart Brewing. Smaller local breweries are the Eden.Mill in St Andrews and Barney's Beer.

There are lots of (traditional) pubs all around the city and many of them offer - next to all the standard choices - a changing selection of guest ales. The bartenders can usually give you detailed taste information about each guest ale and are often willing to let you try a small sample. Most pubs also have a great selection of whiskies. Try to avoid obvious tourist trap pubs around the Grassmarket, Old Town and the Royal Mile. Some of them tend to be very popular with visiting stag and hen parties.

Lots of modern clubs are around Cowgate and Lothian Road including Base, Gig and Diva. George Street in the New Town hosts many of Edinburgh's trendier bars. George IV Bridge in the Old Town is another trendy style bar area. Other night clubs around the city include Espionage, Opal Lounge, Shanghai, Bacaro, The Hive, and Why Not.

There are establishments to suit all tastes scattered throughout every pocket of the city. Be careful, some of the more local pubs can be a little rough around the edges, especially in Leith.

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Sleep

Edinburgh has been established as a tourist destination for centuries, and so there is a huge choice of accommodation available for travellers. If you're planning a visit during festival time (Aug), around Christmas and New Year, or on the weekend of a Scotland home game in the 6-nations Rugby (Mar/Apr, 2 or 3 matches per year), then you will find that all types of accommodation get booked up well in advance, and a premium may be applied to the room-rate. It's not impossible to get somewhere to stay at short notice at these times, but you won't be able to be fussy and it will probably be expensive. Note however that the average cost of hotel accommodation in Edinburgh is higher than anywhere else in Scotland.

For those on a budget, there are cheap youth hostels available with prices from £10 and above. The private/independent hostels centre around the Cowgate area, the lower Royal Mile and its side streets. The hostels of the HI affiliated Scottish Youth Hostel Association can be booked on-line and are an especially good deal during summer, when the SYHA rents student accommodation as summer hostels: Single rooms in the city centre for a very modest price.

There are Guest Houses and small hotels dotted around almost every part of the city, however there are high concentrations in 2 areas, namely around Newington Road and Minto Street on the South side, and on Pilrig Street and Newhaven Road in Leith. Both areas are within a brisk 15-20 minute walk of the city centre and both have excellent round-the-clock bus services. If arriving in town without having booked accommodation, it may be worth heading for one or other of these areas and looking out for the "Vacancies" signs, though probably not during the festival or around Hogmanay.

Some of the Guest Houses and even hotels can be booked for as little as the hostels at certain times of year, while more upmarket accommodation ranges from boutique B&B's, with just a few rooms, lovingly run by a family, to world-renowned large 5-star hotels.

Another good alternative for accommodation is self-catering holiday apartments. Edinburgh has a wide offer of short term holiday apartments steps away from its main tourist attractions. It is a great opportunity to experience the city as a local. Apartments can be booked on-line. For summer months, especially August, it is highly recommended to book well in advance as most tourists tend to make their bookings in February for this period.

Due to the excellent and frequent rail links between the two cities, savvy travellers can cut the costs by basing themselves in Glasgow, where deals in mainstream chain hotels are easier to come by - and you get the advantage of being able to "do" both cities - bear in mind of course when your last train leaves!

Budget

View our map of accommodation in Edinburgh or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

The easyInternetcafe at 58 Rose Street in New Town is easy to find with its' bright orange logo. It has good rates, a helpful staff, and an extremely convenient location.

Internet cafés can be found in many cities and towns. All UK public libraries provide access, often branded as "People's Network", usually at no or little charge, though there is usually a time limit. Some hotels/hostels also offer internet access, including wifi, but most times at a cost. Using the internet on your personal phone can become expensive very quickly, with carriers charging 100's of times the local rate for data. To avoid these expensive roaming charges, you can hunt for wifi at a local cafe or hotel, or rent a mobile hotspot via several providers including DATAPiXY, and XCOM Global.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to the United Kingdom is: 44. To make an international call from the United Kingdom, the code is: 00

In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone. Such calls are free and will be answered by an emergency services operator who will ask you for your location, and the service(s) you need (police, fire, ambulance, coastguard or mountain rescue). You can call this number from any mobile telephone as well, even if you do not have roaming.

Although the number is declining, you can still find payphones in many public areas, especially stations, airports etc. You can usually pay with cash and sometimes by creditcard or, for international calls, special phonecards are still available.

Mobile phones are heavily used. The main networks are T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and O2. 3G data services are available, usually priced per megabyte and coverage is usually very good in the UK, however it may lack in rural areas. Roaming on your personal phone plan can be expensive. To manage costs, consider purchasing a local UK SIM card for your phone. Several companies offer local SIM cards including Telestial, and CellularAbroad.

Post

The Royal Mail provides postal services in the United Kingdom. The Royal Mail's store fronts are called Post Office and offer services ranging from sending letters and packages to foreign currency exchange. Use the branch locator to find the nearest Post Office branch. There will be at least one post office in any town/city and there are quite often post offices in larger villages. It's common for a post office to be incorporated into a grocery store, where there will be a small counter located at the back of the store for dealing with post related matters. All post offices are marked with signs that say 'post office' in red lettering. Post boxes can be found at any post office and standalone large red post boxes on the streets or red boxes in the sides of public buildings.
For sending packages overseas, it might be a good idea to check prices and services with international companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.

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Quick Facts

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Population
468,070
Postcode
EH
Area Code
0131
Coordinates
  • Latitude: 55.950254
  • Longitude: -3.187606

Accommodation in Edinburgh

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Edinburgh searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Edinburgh and areas nearby.

Contributors

as well as Oz_Travelette (10%), slugtrek (6%), Hien (3%), dr.pepper (2%), Lavafalls (2%), StephenJen (2%), KellieBarnes (1%), nigelpeaco (1%), Peter (<1%), clm89 (<1%)

Edinburgh Travel Helpers

  • IainT

    I spent 13 years growing up in the city. That was a while ago now. These days I live just across the water in Fife and I'm in the city for work or socially almost every week.

    Ask IainT a question about Edinburgh
  • Kate T.

    I stayed for 3 days in Scotland last 2011. I will go back again this June. Hopefully I can help other travelers by answering queries about transportation, hotels, food, and places to see. While locals would definitely be more knowledgeable, its nice to hear feedback from tourist like me :)

    Ask Kate T. a question about Edinburgh

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