When to fly?
Mention Edinburgh and two events come to mind - the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world's largest arts festival that takes place in August, and Hogmanay, the celebration that sees in the New Year with hedonistic joy. It may be more difficult to find cheap flights during these times, but booking in advance should help.
August sees other events in the city including the Edinburgh International Festival, which is a performing arts festival running for four weeks and showcasing world-class displays of dance, music and theatre. The Festival finishes with an outstanding firework display at Edinburgh Castle. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo also taking place in August, invites people to watch almost a thousand musicians, drummers, pipers, singers and dancers who fly in from around the world perform on Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.
There's no off-season in Edinburgh and if you're going for the Fringe or Hogmanay make sure you book as far in advance as you can. Rates rise dramatically around August and Christmas.
Why visit Edinburgh?
Attracting millions of visitors each year, Scotland's capital seamlessly blends ancient with modern living. Examples are dotted throughout the city from the modern Scottish Parliament building to the imposing Edinburgh Castle that sits high on the hilltop commanding every visitor’s attention. Make sure to book a tour of the castle well in advance to beat the crowds.
It may sound ironic that an ancient city with its winding medieval streets and Gothic architecture would be one of the liveliest cities in Europe. Not only does it have a buzzing nightlife scene but every August four festivals including the world’s largest, “the Fringe”, take place there transforming the city into one big celebration. Beyond the city walls, visitors can explore the rural area of the Lothians: East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian. All three areas provide a relaxing break to the hustle and bustle of modern day life. Midlothian is probably the most visited thanks to its Rosslyn Chapel being featured in the Da Vinci Code films.
The city is packed with great museums such as the Scottish National Gallery and National Museum of Scotland, galleries and attractions (Camera Obscura, a rooftop periscope in Castlehill, and Edinburgh Zoo to name a few) but just soaking up the atmosphere on the streets, browsing through little shops, having a meal in one of the many restaurants, will provide all the Scottish charm you need.
One attraction that’s great for kids if you’re on a half-term break is the Scottish Parliament. There are free guided tours when Parliament is in recess. This amazing building is situated in the Holyrood area of Central Edinburgh at the foot of the Royal Mile, opposite the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Edinburgh is also a stellar city for shopping. There are some old-style department stores (Jenners), some A-List shops (such as Harvey Nichols), and lots of quirky vintage stores that are laden with great-value finds. If you're desperate to find your family tartan the Royal Mile is worth a wander.
Whether you’re into shopping, sightseeing or want to take the kids somewhere great for their school holidays, getting on a flight to Edinburgh will tick all the boxes.
The Gulf Stream keeps Edinburgh’s climate mild, although the weather can change quickly when a rainy morning can give way to a sunny afternoon. Edinburgh is also subject to the haar, a cold mist or fog that blows in from the North Sea.May and June are dry and sunny, with average temperatures ranging from the single digits to mid-teens, and the temperature rises to the high teens for July and August. Summer days are long, staying light until 10pm or 11pm. Winters are damp and chilly, with temperatures close to, but rarely dropping, below freezing. Getting from the Airport to the City Edinburgh Airport (EDI) is situated some 6 miles away from the city centre but there are plenty of transport options to take visitors into town. Stops for public buses are situated on the terminal forecourt road outside the arrivals hall. There are buses that run directly to the city centre via a couple of stops en route. Journey time to the city centre is about 25 minutes. The designated taxi rank is also located outside arrivals hall. There is a tram offering an easy transfer to the city centre as well.
Getting around Edinburgh
Bring some sturdy shoes with you to Edinburgh as walking is the best way to explore the city. Biking is popular as well and if you can get past the ups and downs of the hills, there are plenty of bike paths and lanes to pedal on. It shouldn’t take you more than half an hour to get anywhere. Buses are extremely efficient. They blanket the city and there’s a night bus service if you’re out late. Make sure you have exact change on you for a bus ticket, or purchase a day ticket if you’re planning on riding around all day. Sightseeing hop-on, hop-off buses offer guided tours and stop at major attractions.
Edinburgh insider information
- There are many places in Edinburgh to enjoy the views. One of the more unusual is the Scott Monument, a huge black Victorian gothic monument to honour Sir Walter Scott, directly opposite Princes Street. You can pay to walk up to the top of the 200ft tower to experience the fabulous views of the city centre from the top.
- One of the most exciting times to visit is during the Edinburgh Festival in August, however, the city is packed during this time, so be sure to reserve your hotel or hostel well in advance.
- The annual Edinburgh Tattoo has been running for more than 50 years. Taking place in front of Edinburgh Castle, around 1,000 performers take place in the Tattoo, in front of an audience of more than 200,000. Tickets for the Tattoo sell out extremely quickly, often six months in advance.
- If you want to buy tartan while you're in town, head for the Royal Mile. There are lots of kilt makers' shops and you can pick up anything from the genuine article, made in your own tartan.
- Edinburgh is a very green city: there are plenty of parks and public spaces to enjoy within the city centre. The Royal Botanic Garden is especially worth a visit. Founded in the 17th century as a place to grow medicinal plants, today the Botanics is one of the most popular tourist spots. Entrance to the gardens is free, but there is an admission charge to the glasshouses.