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Explore Edinburgh

Explore Edinburgh with Expedia’s Travel Guides to find the best hotels, flights, holiday packages and more!

Surrounded by a series of beautiful hills that include the iconic Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh’s blend of cultural and historical attractions make it the UK’s second most popular attraction after London. From exploring the historic Edinburgh Castle to shopping on Princes Street and the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Scottish capital is a vibrant destination with plenty to offer visitors.

The annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival (often referred to as The Fringe) is the highlight of the city’s cultural calendar, held in August each year. The world’s largest arts festival, thousands of acts descend on the city, with everything from theatre, dance and circus to cabaret, opera and spoken word performances. As an open access festival (meaning no selection committee is used and anyone can participate), the choice of what to do and see can be overwhelming. Wandering along the Royal Mile (where performers flyer for their shows) can be a good way of scouting out what is worth seeing.

With your hire car, you can also explore beyond Edinburgh to destinations such as Dundee (an hour and 20 minutes’ drive), a coastal city on the Firth of Tay estuary with a strong seafaring heritage. The city’s two nautical museums – RRS Discovery (Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition ship) and HM Frigate Unicorn both provide a fascinating insight into the history of the area.


How to Hire a Car in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Airport connects Scotland to a vast mix of destinations and is the country’s busiest airport handling just over 1.1 million passengers a year. For those hoping to hire a car at the airport, the car rental centre features a direct walking path to the terminal and all the major rental car brands. Edinburgh Airport and the car rental centre are just five miles from the city centre, which can be reached via the M8 motorway.

Those arriving in Edinburgh by train at either Waverley Station or Haymarket Station can choose from numerous locations and car hire companies, which include the same major brands as those found at Edinburgh Airport. For the largest concentration of available services, make your way to the information point at Waverley Station, where you can receive directions to car rental centres within easy walking distance of the train station.


Suitable Car Sizes for an Edinburgh Trip

Scotland’s ancient capital Edinburgh is a perfect base from which to explore this beautiful country, and if you want the freedom to go where and when you want, the best way to get around is by hire car.

The city is packed with museums, galleries and historic buildings, including the famous castle that overlooks Edinburgh, and plays host to the world’s biggest arts festival each August. Smaller cars are more economic if you plan to drive around town and are best for negotiating the narrow streets of Edinburgh and those of nearby cities like Glasgow and Dundee.

Pick a larger model or a 4WD with space for hiking gear, golf clubs and even a tent if you plan to venture further afield and explore the countryside – but remember that in the more rural areas many roads are single track.

Car Type

Ideal Passenger Numbers

Luggage

Purpose of Travel

Mini

2-4

2

City break

Standard

4-5

3

Family holiday

Estate

5

5

Camping / outdoor

4WD/SUV

5-6

5

Group trip

Luxury

4

3

Business


What Car Hire Brands Are Available?

Most people rent a car at Edinburgh airport. The major brands can be found at the combined car rental centre outside the terminal building, although others are available nearby. Brands to choose from include Enterprise by Alamo, Europcar, National, Avis, Budget, Enterprise by Alamo, Hertz, Sixt, and Thrifty.

Brand

Opening Hours

Telephone

Location

Avis

7am – 11.30pm

0344 544 6004

Edinburgh Airport Car Rental Centre

Budget

7.30am – 11.30pm

0344 544 4605

Edinburgh Airport Car Rental Centre

Hertz

6.30am – 11pm

0843 309 3025

Edinburgh Airport Car Rental Centre

Europcar

7am – 12am

0371 384 3406

Edinburgh Airport Car Rental Centre

Enterprise / Alamo

6am – 12am

0131 333 0400

Edinburgh Airport Car Rental Centre

Sixt

7am – 12am

0844 499 3399

Edinburgh Airport Car Rental Centre

Thrifty

7am – 11pm

0333 332 1222

Edinburgh Airport Car Rental Centre

National

6am – 12am

0131 333 0400

Edinburgh Airport Car Rental Centre

5th Gear

9am – 5pm

01738 450440

Jubilee Road, Edinburgh

InterRent

7am – 9pm

0371 384 0134

Turnhouse Road, Edinburgh

Condor

8am – 5pm

0845 500 1500

Ingliston Road, Edinburgh

Green Motion

7am – 10pm

0131 285 0600

Eastfield Road, Edinburgh

Alamo, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt also have offices at Edinburgh Waverley Station, and other car hire companies including Esirent and Edinburgh Car Rental are located within walking distance. There are other offices dotted around the city, including at Haymarket Station. Tourist Information offices can provide directions.


Tips for Renting a Car in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Airport is just a 20-minute drive from the city, while the train stations are located in the centre.

Most rental cars are manual, so if you want an automatic book in advance. It also pays to plan ahead if you are visiting in the summer, particularly during the festival in August.


Things to Be Aware of When Driving a Car in Edinburgh

Edinburgh dates back thousands of years and the old city centre was not built with vehicles in mind, so it pays to stick to the main roads and hire a car with built-in GPS to make navigating easier.

Speed limits will be signposted, but vary from 20mph in residential areas to 70mph on motorways. There are no toll roads or bridges in Scotland, but expect some single lane roads once you venture into the countryside.

There are pedestrian areas in the city centre and bike and bus lanes, as well as tram lines running along many streets. Parking can be hard to find in Edinburgh and you run the risk of being clamped if you park illegally. However, there are several multi-storey car parks around the city centre.

If you are staying outside the city centre and want to avoid the congestion consider leaving your vehicle at a Park and Ride and taking a bus or train into Edinburgh.

The drink-drive limit in Scotland is lower than in the rest of the UK.


Must-sees Within an Easy Drive of Edinburgh

Located at the eastern tip of Scotland’s Central Belt, the capital city of Edinburgh is within easy driving distance of the country’s most iconic attractions, most being less than two hours. The city of Glasgow is an hour and 10 minutes’ drive in your hire car, where you can explore the spectacular Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, one of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions, housed in an ornate Spanish Baroque style building made from red sandstone. The opulent Central Hall is worth visiting as much as the exhibits themselves. Further afield, Loch Ness is a three and a half-hour drive away, where you may be able to spy the elusive Loch Ness monster.

Visitors interested in driving through some of Scotland’s most scenic landscapes should be sure to plan a visit to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, whose many beautiful sites have inspired artists to create iconic works such as The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, a national folk song, and The Lady in the Lake, a poem by national man of letters Sir Walter Scott. Known to be one of Britain’s most atmospheric drives is the route of Duke’s Pass, which can be found in the park along the A821.


Ready to Plan Your Edinburgh City Break?

Feeling inspired to start exploring Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland? Check out this city guide and use the Expedia search tool to help you find the best car hire in Edinburgh, as well as flight and hotel deals and research the best attractions and activities.

To plan your driving tour of Scotland and to reserve local hotels or research attractions, try using the Expedia search tool, which will help you create an itinerary that best suits your travel needs.