Car Hire in Edinburgh
This information is correct as of April 2015
While Scotland’s capital has an excellent public transport system, hiring a car can really help you make the most of your trip to Edinburgh. Whether you’re planning on exploring the local countryside during your stay or just need a run-a-round to get from sight to sight, our guide to hiring a car in Edinburgh will help you choose the perfect vehicle.
Where to hire a car in Edinburgh
Car hire locations are dotted throughout the city, with large brands like Hertz, Europcar and Thrifty offering a variety of different pick up locations. Many car rental companies are based at Edinburgh Airport and at Waverley train station. Edinburgh also has a few specialist hire companies such as Bonnie Campers (which specialises in VW Camper Vans) and Northern Ferrari Hire (specialising in supercars).
Driving in Edinburgh
Rush hour in Edinburgh lasts from 7:30am-9:30am, and from 4pm to 6pm. The city centre is always busy, but during rush hour it can become congested. During August its best to avoid driving around the Old Town: this is where the bulk of the Edinburgh Festival takes place. Road closures and large groups of tourists can make getting around difficult, but if you’re staying in the New Town, Stockbridge, or Leith you shouldn’t see any extra disruption.
In terms of hazards, some of the streets around the Royal Mile are very narrow: be careful with your wing mirrors. Watch out for trams in the city centre. Cyclists share the road with vehicles throughout most of the city, so look out for them when manoeuvring. There are no hidden charges when you drive in the city. The people of Edinburgh famously voted 3-1 against introducing a congestion charge, and the motorways around the city are also toll free. You don’t even have to pay to drive across the famous Forth Road Bridge.
Parking in Edinburgh
There’s plenty of metered on-street parking in and around the city centre. If you fancy a day of shopping on Princes Street the best place to park is George Street, which runs parallel. These spaces are very popular, so you might have to drive up and down a few times before finally scoring a space.
Further spaces can be found on Thistle Street and Queen Street to the north, around Charlotte Square on the West End and on St Andrew Square on the East End. Parking in these areas is charged at £3.20 per hour. As you head further from the city centre prices tend to drop, with rates of £2.60 per hour around the Old Town, £2 per hour in Stockbridge, and £1 per hour in Hillside.
City centre parking bays are usually operational between 8:30am to 6:30pm, Monday to Saturday. On evenings and Sundays you can park for free: just remember to check the signposts to ensure you’re definitely parking legally.
Multi-storey car parks are also available. On the west end of town you’ll find a large NCP car park on Castle Terrace: on Saturday mornings this plays host to the weekly farmer’s market. Another large NCP car park is available at Quartermile near the Meadows. If you’re looking for parking near the Royal Mile there’s an Apcoa car park on St Mary’s Street, an NCP car park on St Johns Hill, and Radisson Blu operate another large car park on Blackfriars Street. For the East end of Edinburgh there’s a Q-Park beside the Omni Centre, an NCP car park in the St James shopping centre, and an Apcoa car park beside Waverley Station.
Great day trips from Edinburgh
The Pentland Hills Regional Park
This natural beauty spot is a short drive from the city centre, and takes around 25 minutes in traffic. You will feel like you’re in the middle of the countryside, with lots of beautiful walking trails around lakes, through forests, and past fields of grazing sheep. Stop for a bite to eat in the Flotterstone Inn, or drive a little further for a visit to the famous Rosslyn Chapel.
The world’s largest equine sculpture, the Kelpies are one of Scotland’s newest tourist attractions and provide plenty of fun photo opportunities. The Kelpies are a 25 mile drive from Edinburgh, a journey which takes around 50 minutes. While you’re in the area, pay a visit to the Falkirk wheel (another 12 minutes) or enjoy some water sports on the Helix Lagoon.
If you’re blessed with sunny weather, take a drive out to North Berwick: a seaside town to the east of Edinburgh. This is a wonderfully scenic drive for 45 minutes along the Forth Coast. Once you arrive you can climb up the imposing Berwick Law hill, take a boat trip out to the bass rock, or enjoy a lunch of zingingly fresh lobster from the Lobster Shack on the harbour.