In mid-June my husband and I are looking at flying into Edinburgh and then traveling up to Inverness; it is around the same price to fly directly to Inverness but even after the train ride from Edinburgh the direct flight to Inverness is about 3 hours longer. So we thought why not enjoy a couple hours in Edinburgh instead of wasting the time on a plane or in an airport. The flight would arrive in Edinburgh around 8AM so we were thinking about spending half the day there and then taking a train to Inverness where we would rent a car to explore the highlands the rest of our stay in Scotland. We wanted to know if the train station in Edinburgh would have a place for us to store our luggage while we explore and if it was easy to find a car rental in Inverness. This is our first international trip so any advice is much welcomed.
There is a left luggage office at Waverley Station. You can leave your cases there while you travel about Edinburgh.
There are several car hire offices in Inverness. Hertz is probably the closest to the train station. There are many out at the airport, but it's several miles outside of town. If you decide to rent at the airport, there are buses every half hour from the central bus station, or you can take a taxi. It's about a nine mile journey.
As Inverness is a much smaller city than Edinburgh, the car hire offices close down really early. However, the airport offices keep much later hours. If you're taking the train from Edinburgh, it's the better part of four hours by rail. If you're planning to hire your car the day that you arrive in Inverness, you need to be aware of the closing time of the hire office, and give yourselves enough time to get there, fill out the necessary paperwork, and give the car a once over. If you're overnighting in Inverness, and picking up your car the next day, you'll have more time to spend in Edinburgh.
Hope that gives you a start in your planning.
p.s.: If you're planning to drop the car off at a location other than Inverness, you're going to pretty much have to hire from one of the majors.
How long are you going to be in Scotland? It might be less expensive per diem ( then taking the train) to rent a car in Edinburgh and do a circle tour up the West "Outlander" and down the East "Victoria" circling back to Edinburgh. Or check out a Spirit-of Scotland Rail Pass which is good for Trains, Buses and Ferries and 2 for One admissions for some sites. You have to purchase this online in advance to get the best deal for Overseas Visitors..
We plan on being there for 8 days. We had thought about renting right in Edinburgh but saw on a lot of sites that people didn't recommend driving in Edinburgh. Figured then it might be better to use other transportation to get out of the city. We have driven in bigger cities like Boston (we live in a very rual place so driving in a city isn't our daily routine) but this would be our first time on the other side of the road and weren't sure how comfortable we would be. Thank you both so much for your advice so far!
If you rent out of Edinburgh airport, you won't have to drive in the city. The airport is well connected to the main highways. Just be sure to ask the rental agent (the person in the parking lot who puts you into your car) which signs to follow at the roundabouts leaving the airport campus to get onto the motorway in your desired direction.
You say you only plan to spend a couple of hours in Edinburgh, which seems like a waste. It is a fascinating city brimming with history. If you're arriving at 8 AM after a redeye transatlantic flight, you really should not try to sightsee followed by driving on the left for the first time. Book a place to stay in Edinburgh for your first night. There's a tram from the airport into the city, or you can take a taxi -- our taxi gave us a 5-pound coupon to save on the return trip to the airport. Do as much sightseeing as your energy level permits, then get a good night's sleep. Next morning return to the airport and pick up your car.
Similarly, on the night before your departing flight, either stay in Edinburgh or somewhere within, say, an hour of the airport. You do not want to be stressing about traffic or road construction or car trouble when your airport check-in time is at hand.
It's not so much don't drive in Edinburgh, rather that parking is hard to find and expensive in the historic part of town with a lot of the streets just for pedestrians. We stayed in a small hotel near Greyfriars a couple of miles away and just walked. Or stay in a B & B on the edge of town and bus in. You should spend at least 2 days in Edinburgh. PS: Edinburgh is way easier to drive in than Boston!