Scotland Travel Blog

Do I Need a Car in Edinburgh?

I don’t enjoy driving. I have friends who wait all week for the chance to get out on the highway, less for any particular destination than for the freedom of the open road. I envy them that feeling, but it’s never been my preferred means of transit. So it’s always a very conscious choice for me to rent a car when I go traveling, rather than a default. There are some cities where a car is so much more of a pain than it is helpful, and others where access to wheels can be an absolute necessity. So, which is Edinburgh?

Hired cars. Creative Commons photo by Ted & Dani Percival.

Hired cars. Creative Commons photo by Ted & Dani Percival.

For the most part, I’d put Edinburgh in the “No” column for this one. The city center is compact and extremely walkable, there are good buses around the rest of the city, and parking and fuel can be a significant addition to your Edinburgh budget. Better to spend that money shopping, eating, drinking, basically doing anything but filling someone else’s gas tank.

Even if you’re looking to get out of the city, there are rail and bus options to a lot of the best nearby attractions, like Linlithgow Palace, birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Of course, there are exceptions. It all depends on how long you’ll be staying and what kind of trip you’re planning:

  • If you’re a golfer and want to check out the links outside of the city, I’d get a car, but probably only for your golfing days.
  • Castle junkies who aren’t satisfied with Edinburgh Castle will want to get out to some of the great fortresses of the Lothians, such as Dirleton, Crichton, or Seton, may want a car for a day of castle-to-castle touring.

Some travelers are just never going to be happy without four wheels and open road, and if that’s your kind of vacation, more power to you. It’s a great way to see the scenery, especially outside of the cities. But if you’re staying within Edinburgh, especially on a relatively short trip, you’re going to be fine relying on nothing but your feet and the city bus.

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