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Rental Car Drop-Off Edinburgh - Airport or City Centre?

Greetings from Los Angeles! We are picking up our rental car at Glasgow airport and driving through central Scotland, the Highlands, Isle of Skye and then back south towards Edinburgh where we will drop off the car and will be relying on public transport for three days. My question is, should we drop the car off at Edinburgh airport and take a bus/train into the city? Or the Hertz drop-off location, 10 Picardy Place (city centre), which is only 1 mile from our lodging? Of course it would be more convenient at the city centre location. However, as an American driver, I've heard driving in Edinburgh can be tough and I will mostly have driven country roads...
Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Posted by
6882 posts

I swore after driving a rental car into Edinburgh never to do so again — in fact, after dropping my parents off at our hotel ( and being less than a mile from that very Picardy Place!!), I drove back out to the airport to drop off that car rather than fight the downtown streets again.

I am sure that plenty of people will tell you it's just fine, but I am just sharing my own personal experience!! (And i consider myself a good driver and like to drive, and have driven/lived in Washington DC, New York, Boston and Paris. But Edinburgh was just one too much for me.)

Posted by
62 posts

We just got back after spending 3 weeks in Scotland. Drop the car off at the airport and take the bus/taxi/Uber back into the city! Driving in Scotland went very well. I upgrade to an automatic with a GPS and it went extremely well. However I would definitely spend a few bucks for a ride back into the city and eliminate hassle of driving into Edinburgh! spend a few bucks for a ride back into the city and eliminate the hassle...you'll be glad you did!

Posted by
941 posts

Hi, scotland2020trip,

Some places in Edinburgh are easy to get to. Picardy Place, as it's just off a roundabout, is not one of them. For the sake of your sanity, and the sake of your continued relationship with your travelling companion, I'd highly recommend dropping your car off at EDI and taking the bus or tram in to town. The most it's going to cost you is sixteen pounds (eight pounds each).

Edinburgh used to be a good city to drive in. However, once they put the trams in on Princes Street, and changed the turning capability on and off of Princes Street, everything changed. The streets are overcrowded with cars and pedestrians, and the roundabouts will drive you crazy. There has been considerable talk about instituting a "congestion charge" for non-residents, similar to what they have in London.

Having said that, if you have a really really good SatNav (GPS) in the car, you could give driving in to town a shot. But why not just spend the extra sixteen pounds and enjoy a leisurely sightseeing trip from the airport. Either the tram or the bus will drop you off a very short distance from where you'd be dropping off your car anyway, so you could walk to your lodging, or take a taxi from there at about the same cost as you would have from Picardy Place.

As they used to say in the old Esso commercials, "Happy Motoring!"

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
3424 posts

Another vote for the airport. The city seemed way too congested, especially if there’s any construction going on, to try and drive in it.

Posted by
5572 posts

If you are an experienced city driver and have patience, I really don't see that Edinburgh is all that different from US cities. If you are coming at it after having driven on left for a while you should be more comfortable driving in the city. It was a mess when there was construction. But I think that the tram construction is done. I just checked a route coming from the north and it looks really straight forward. If it were me and particularly if I had a navigator, I would do it. Then I would catch a cab for the last mile. I would not try to drop off my stuff at the hotel and then navigate to Picardy Place. It may depend though, on the time of day. Check out the google maps after times of the day to see if it makes a difference.

Posted by
5572 posts

Mike, I get the roundabout near Picardy Place but check out the map. If you are coming at this from the north and west, you don't have to even enter it. When I was leaving Picardy Place, that was tricky. It is one way to Leith Walk and you have to go down to the roundabout and do a 360 to get headed west. That was tricky. But even that was doable. To be honest, I would drive in Edinburgh before I would drive in Manhattan.

Posted by
941 posts

Hi, Pam,

Glad you added that bit about "experienced city driver." I think that even with a navigator, first time drivers to Edinburgh would have trouble getting about Edinburgh. You and I have driven there many times - I stayed for weeks at a time with a friend on St. Stephen Street, and at a B&B on Clerk Street for 10 days during the Edinburgh Folk Festival. However, anyone new to the city could run in to problems with bus lanes, bike lanes, and parking. Plus stopping on a hill while driving a stick shift.

I'm probably a bit older than you, and I've driven in just about every major city in the lower 48, and I've even driven tour buses and school buses in Manhattan. Driving a bus through the Holland Tunnel is a real treat! I give those NJT drivers a lot of credit. Anyway, I'm just not as comfortable driving in big cities as I used to be. Last year, when we made a day trip to Edinburgh, we left the car at Croy, and took the train in to town. It was so relaxing. Mind you, climbing the steps out of Waverley took a bit of wind out of our sails, but once we got above ground, it was enjoyable getting about the city by shanks' mare.

So I guess what I'm saying is that for folks unfamiliar with Edinburgh's streets, dropping the car off at EDI and taking a bus or tram in to town will save a lot of wear and tear on the nerves. I'd love to hear other opinions on this.

Slainte!

Mike

Posted by
5572 posts

Hah, hah Mike, I bet you are not that much older. :) I too have driven in many US cities. I've also driven in quite a few European and UK cities. I find Edinburg is small enough that even with mistakes you don't get in the trouble you can get into with cities like Florence where there area where you will pick up ticket simply by driving down the wrong street! I think one of my greatest driving victories was driving from Chartre to Senlis on the north side of Paris. I consulted with the TI in Chartre, who literally threw out the Map Quest directions and gave me verbal directions that got me from the southeast around the east side of Paris to the Senlis in the North. It was all on "Follow the signs for X" and "when you see a sign for Y, follow it. Do NOT lose FAITH!" I worship that woman to this day. I have no idea who she is, but what an amazing set of directions which worked perfectly. :) All that said, I think that time that you worry about city travel in Europe is most often when you have a deadline--I must catch X flight or Y train. Secondly, if there are zones in a city where you incur fines for driving add a tension that is stressful and not worth. The other thing is if you have never driven in a city before you will find it stressful. Personally, I would say that ANYONE who has driven in Boston is prepared for most European cities! :) If you have driven in LA or Atlanta or Chicago then you have dealt with traffic. City driving anywhere has to do with remaining calm and remembering that you can ALWAYS find your way back. It just might take time. For me, I make the "take time" part in European cities a bit of my vacation. It wasn't in a city, but I will always remember when I was trying to drive from near Penrith in the North of England up to Melrose. I was checking out Hadrian's Wall and then headed further North. I had in my head to see some of the places that MacDonald talks about in his book Steel Bonnets. I visited Hermitage Castle and wanted to find places like Bewcastle. Well, once I left Hermitage Castle I was thoroughly lost. I did not have GPS and my maps were not helpful. I was reminded of MacDonald's stories about the Debatable Lands and how the reivers could disappear into the hills. I felt that they were all sitting on a hill laughing at me. :) I decided to follow a car--it led me into a farmstead. So, I turned around. I finally found a lorry driver who set me on the path to Melrose. I still think the Reivers were laughing at me.

Posted by
941 posts

Hi again, Pam,

It's really easy to get lost on those little roads in the Borders. I find that a compass is handy, if there isn't one built in to the car. That way, I know whether to turn left or right at a T junction if there's no signpost.

I hadn't read G.M. Fraser's books in years. I still have a paperback copy of "Steel Bonnets." Have you read any of the "Flashman" or "McAuslan" books? What I really loved about the "Flashman" series was the way Fraser put him in to a well footnoted historical setting.

Anyway, here's to more serendipitous adventures on the little roads in Scotland!

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)