Our family will be arriving in Edinburgh from London by train, staying for a few nights in a city center hotel, then renting a car to travel to the Isle of Skye. We will be making the reverse trek back to Waverly station (minus nights in Edinburgh) after a week on the Isle of Skye. Any suggestions on best location to pick up and drop a rental car in Edinburgh? Airport? Waverly Station? Other? We have never driven in the UK before but have traveled in the UK.
If you have never driven in the UK the extra money to rent from the airport may be worth it. Edinburgh is not the most car friendly city in Scotland and can be confusing for Scottish visitors. The advantage of the airport is you will leave onto the A8 and then the M9, both dual carriageway roads, which are easier to adapt to when switching sides for the first time, the oncoming crowd is kept apart from you by a barrier.
Last summer we picked up our rental at the Edinburgh airport, and that worked out really well. Driving on the left in the city would have been very difficult to say the least, but it was easy getting on the A8/M9 from the airport location. If you do this I recommend blowing up a google map to get a very exact idea of the way from the rental lot to the A8; there are a couple little curves on the way, nothing tricky, but it is helpful to know they are there.
I've picked up a car in the city centre of Edinburgh and it wasn't that hard. The city really is not that big. Now that the trams are done you don't have to worry about the construction. When I picked up a Hertz car here: Edinburgh Picardy Place - City Centre Edinburgh EH1 3JT, I got out of the city by heading North and taking Queensferry road out of town. I also picked up a car at Thrifty one time, (Thrifty Car and Van Rental Edinburgh City Centre, 42 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH12 5LA) and that was a bit more complicated. There are also rentals right at Waverly.
If you are a city driver, I would just get the car there. Particularly if you have a navigator and don't worry about making a wrong turn or two. It might make a difference what time you are arriving in Edinburgh. You may have to go to the airport to pick one up. If you google car rental Edinburgh city centre on google maps you'll get a nice list. The other thing to consider is whether or not you can drive stick or if you need an automatic. If you have driven stick all your life, then it's not too difficult to drive stick in the UK. The pedals are the same, although obviously shifting is done with the left hand. You need to request the automatic. So, it's availability may make a difference for you as well.
My reference points for city driving include living and driving in Chicago, driving in Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta, Dallas, and DC and living in NYC. Compared to these cities, Edinburgh is most akin to Boston without the river. : )
Thanks for the thoughtful and very through replies! Your responses give us some encouragement and solid information to go on. We'll start by investigating where we can reserve an automatic car although driving a stick shift is something we've done in the past and can do if this is our only option. We'll study some maps and get on with our planning.
We rented our car (automatic VW Passat) through Celtic Legend who made arrangements with Arnold Clark Car Hire at EDI and were very pleased with the arrangements. Celtic Legend patiently answered my many questions and coordinated the rental. If I were to go again, I would possibly just rent directly with AC but it might depend upon the details of the rental as to whether I would start with Celtic Legend.
When we arrived at EDI, I called AC using the courtesy phone by baggage claim and as they are located very close to the airport, by the time we walked out to the rendevouz point, the van was there to pick us up.
We left the area immediately so it was easiest for us to pick up at the airport and get on the freeway from there. We also got a GPS which was very helpful at times during our trip. We used a combination of GPS, maps, and a terrific map app* whose name I can't recall but I had downloaded a detailed map of the UK before leaving on vacation and used it from the iPad alot. We did a lot of geographical corroboration with multiple sources!
*The app name is Galileo - download the country or state of choice map at home (or where you have good wifi), then pull it up and use while travelling. Very detailed.
Mona, I am from the US and in October had my first driving experience in the UK. I rented a car from a us company www.gemut.com tht got us a car via eurocar at EDI. I agree that the airport is a good location because it is on the edge of town, you are quickly on the "interstate" and tht allows for some wide roads and easy driving. A word of caution as I wanted an automatic. Because the roads on Skye and much of the roads to Skye are extremely narrow by US standards get the absolute smallest car you can squeeze into. The traffic is light over there but the narrow roads (often curbed or with walls on the ditch) are tuff. I did not follow my rental companies advice and allowed the car agency at EDI to put me in an intermediate size car (small my US standards and so I allowed it as the car looked small to me compared to my Saturn). The rental area guy at EDI had a real struggle finding me an automatic and thus I let them upsize me one click...I had reserved the smaller car 6 months ahead but still they did not have one the size I wanted. Hang tuff and stay small small small, dont let jet lag cloud your judgement. also i suggest you get on google earth and go to the street level area and motor out of EDI on google earth. It will give u some insight into the roundabouts that take you out to the interstate. I did the street level google earth for my trip all the way thru Ft. William and out to Skye and it ws very helpful but did not give a true feel for the narrowness of the roads or the change of the route profile. I also suggest some research into the etiquatte of the roads over there, to include how to drive on a single lane roadway. I wish I had Pamela's courage for driving in Edinburgh, I struggle there a bit and parking in Edinburgh is tight. Also as a point of reference, I live in rural Indiana and dont do a ton of big city driving so as Pam shared, folks accustomed to urban traffic may find Edinburgh a breeze. You'll have a blast over there!!
I'll also note that some rural places in Scotland (including our hotel that was maybe 5K from the Edinburgh loop highway) don't have traditional street addresses per se. Have your address list beforehand, and a typical rental car agent on the lot can walk you through using what I think is some sort of postal code into your 'sat nav' system if needed. They've seen all the major brands of those kinds of things and know how to get their Scotland maps set to work right.
For an awful lot of things in the UK the post code is one of the drivers. Sat Navs here work on them, theoretically all you need to send a letter is the house number or name and the post code.
If you have a sat nav the post code is virtually all you need, most cover only twenty or so addresses. If you have a post code for somewhere you can type it into google and the map should take you straight to the street in question.
I rented a car from the airport. Since I was on my own I wasn't confident to navigate through the city on my own, and it was easy to get to the Forth Road Bridge and get out of town from the airport. Since it was easy to get a bus from to the airport from down town I didn't waste too much time doing this, either.
We rented last August in rural Shetland, way up north, and got in some practice miles before heading south to Orkney (separate rental car), then onto mainland Highland Scotland in Inverness (third rental car on the trip). We ultimately turned in the car at the Edinburgh airport, which was convenient.
Starting off on the motorway will at least let you begin on wide lanes, compared to the narrow Skye roads.
For a little extra piece of mind, as suggested by MC on an earlier post in this Forum, rpurchase a green "L" over there to stick on the rear of your rental car. That will alert other drivers to give you some slack.
Try to keep you car from drifting too far to the left -- curbs and soft shoulders await, but obviously don't veer too far to the right, either. Other drivers (probably also tourists trying to figure our how to drive on the left) will be crossing over the center line occasionally, so you don't want to be hugging the center as well when they come at you.