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Three Days in Edinburgh in August - Sightseeing Musts and Lodging Recommendations Please

Oh all knowing wise travelers, my husband and I will be spending three days in Edinburgh prior to a 2.5 week trip of the British Isles. What should we absolutely see and do? We have tickets for the Tattoo already but that is it. We'd prefer a centrally located apartment given that we will not have a car, or B n B but have no idea regarding location. Brownie points for a washer (and dryer if possible) or a self service launderette. We are no frills people but do want our own bathroom.

In order to maximize our time I am assuming we would need to partake in day long tours and then fill in the gaps on our own.

We are fine with all day sightseeing (and plan to do a ghost walk tour one night as well) so please help fill our days!

Thank you for any assistance you can provide. We promise to raise a glass in your honor.

First big question: are you aware of the Edinburgh Festivals? The Tattoo is merely a tiny part of the huge arts & entertainment activity that hits Edinburgh in August. Thousands of performers hit the city, as do festival goers. With the result that prices for hotels & rental apartments can be three times the cost of other months. The city is crazy & wonderful in August but you need to be prepared for the cost and the crowds.

I find that many of the posters in this forum, while aware of the Tattoo, seem completely unaware of all the other festivals: this website gives you an idea.

The Fringe is the world’s biggest arts festival, and yet that is only one of the festivals happening throughout August.

That said: obviously it means there is loads of entertainment. Fringe shows don’t usually need pre-booking and you can just pick something on the day that you fancy.

In Edinburgh the obvious sights are Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and the excellent free Museum of Scotland. A short train ride away is Stirling, with its excellent castle. Also a short train ride away is the lively fun city of Glasgow. None of these things need tours to visit - you can do them by yourself.

Posted by
2254 posts

There are more things to see and do in Edinburgh in August than anywhere else on Earth. The only gaps will be when you're sleeping and even that's optional.

Posted by
11294 posts

Do you have Rick Steves Great Britain or Rick Steves Scotland? Each has the same excellent Edinburgh chapter, with loads to see and do, even not counting the extra stuff from all the festivals in August. I had three nights there; before I went I wasn't sure I'd fill them, but once I was there, I realized I needed a fourth day just for the art museums that interested me (so I didn't get to them).

For me, some highlights were the Georgian House at 7 Charlotte Square in the New Town, the Royal Yacht Brittania in Leith, and just walking around the city (it's among the most picturesque, with great views from lots of vantage points). I also went into several of the free museums along the Royal Mile, the Scottish Parliament, Mary King's Close, Gladstone's Land, The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art...

So, look at a guidebook and see what interests you. Then, be prepared to change your plans depending on what you want to partake of from the festivals.

Posted by
1133 posts

Hi, Ellen,

You've been given some excellent information already. Although Edinburgh is a big city, the central area is compact, and just about everything that you want to see is within walking distance. And if it all gets to be too much, taxis are everywhere. And they're relatively inexpensive.

If you haven't already done so, get a copy of the RS and Lonely Planet Guides. Lonely Planet has a guide that is specific to Edinburgh. You can obtain copies through interlibrary loan from your local library, before you decide to invest.

When you're looking for accommodation, look for en-suite accommodation. That means that you have your own private bath/shower and toilet. Every hotel is en-suite. Most of the B&Bs are en-suite as well. You'd be better off with a B&B rather than an apartment, as you're only going to be in Edinburgh for three days. You won't have to do your own cooking, and you'll get a huge and delicious breakfast which will last you through until supper time.

Most of the good B&Bs are south of Princes Street, on Clerk Street or just east of it. If you're looking for hotel accommodation, there are a lot of good ones in and around the Grassmarket, as well as near York Place in the New Town. If you're going to be in Edinburgh during the Festival, you should make accommodation arrangements in the near future, before all the good places are snapped up.

Best wishes for your holiday!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you everyone for your great advice, especially about the number of festivals taking place while we will be there. Boy do the prices go up in August and the availability goes way down. I booked the LAST room at Ramsay's Bed and Breakfast after checking out hotels, apartments and B and Bs. With that accomplished I can relax and read the Rick Steve and Lonely Planet books I got today to plan out sightseeing.. Thank you all for your invaluable insights.

Posted by
12 posts

We have been to Edinburgh in August of 2017, 2018 and are going back this August as well. Obviously we love the city and all it has to offer. The only time we rented a flat was the year we stayed the full week, for 2-3 nights I would chose a B&B or hotel (we stay at the Sheraton and love it - perfect location)

In addition to all the obvious things to do we highly recommend making the 10 minute walk to Dean Village and walk along the water of Leith. So quaint, quiet and peaceful it’s hard to believe you are so close to Princes St and all the hustle and bustle of the city.

We also booked a private walking tour with Gareth Davies of - he was so knowledgeable and personable and you choose where you’d like to go or what interests you most and he tailers the walk to what would suit you best.

Have a wonderful trip

Posted by
4680 posts

If you have spare time, you can always take a bus to Rosslyn chapel or Craigmiller castle. Each is about a 40 minutes ride from downtown Edinburgh.

Posted by
2181 posts

You have booked to stay in a good location.
A bit out of the way of huge crowds, but very easy walking distance to the main attractions.
The bus system in Edinburgh is really great.
A Day Pass Ticket is 4 pounds, and you can hop on and off at will all over the city.
You must have correct change, as the drivers carry no money.
You might be glad of a Day Pass after walking all day!
Edinburgh is quite hilly in parts, with a lot of cobblestone roads still around too.
I'm sure there will be a laundromat close by Ramsey's for you.

Posted by
50 posts

Agree with SJ on the buses. Edinburgh has a great local bus system, so take advantage of it.

I would recommend the Royal Botanic Gardens as a very pleasant walking opportunity. The Royal Yacht Britannia was also surprisingly enjoyable. And Edinburgh Castle is absolutely a must-see.

Posted by
3515 posts

To me, must sees are the National Museum and St. Giles Cathedral. We liked the Hop On Hop Off bus for an overview and transportation to the Georgian area.