The Great Debate: Rental Car in Edinburgh, convenient or a waste?

Hello All! My 16 yr old daughter and I will be in Edinburgh for a week during 2-11 through 2-18 (I'm not including our travel dates). I've been hemming and hawing for the past few weeks over whether or not I should book a car. I've read enough to know that I won't need a car for the days we spend in Edinburgh (and we'll be staying within walking distance of the city center), But we'd also like to venture away from the city on a couple of the days we're there to explore some different Castles and Abbey's that appeal to us. Right now, car rentals are fairly affordable (About 220+/-) and I'm tempted by the idea of having our own means of getting around. BUT I'm also wondering if public transportation would be as easy and cheaper. (Every dime I can save helps!) Some of the sights outside of Edinburgh that we'd like to see are: * Stirling Castle * Glamis Castle * Blair Castle * Balmoral * Craigmillar Castle * Dryburgh Abbey * Rosslyn Chapel
* Linlithgow Palace Also, on a completely different note, my daughter is desperately wanting to see the dungeons in Edinburgh and maybe even take a ghost tour. The reviews I've read are so bipolar, I'm not sure whether it's something we should consider. Thanks so much for any help you can give! I appreciate it!

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1560 posts

Can't help you much with the car issue but can highly recommend going to Mary King's Close in Edinburgh, not a dungeon but worth seeing how people lived "underground". That was a highlight of trip as well as touring the yacht. Enjoy.

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
649 posts

Leslie , Given your total alotted time , I think that you need to trim your wishes and expectations way down . Edinburgh is a fascinating city and there is plenty to do and see there to fill your time . I appreciate your desire to venture away from the city but as Nigel ( a frequent poster here ) would say , you have a case of candy store-itis. The destinations you list are widespread and even attempting several of these will turn your trip into a chore. You could choose one destination ( We loved Stirling ) doable as a day trip by train , and spend the rest of your time in Edinburgh , which has more than enough to tempt even the most jaded traveler . Don't spread yourself too thinly , everything is only moments away on a map ! Have a lovely trip!!

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

We had a rental car in Edinburgh and we enjoyed day trips to Stirling, St. Andrews (particularly), and Rosslyn Chapel. Of course you're driving on the left, but the roads in Scotland are good, the distances aren't great, and the countryside is beautiful. We just like the freedom of having a car. Once you're in Edinburgh the locals will surely be happy to help you out with suggested day trips, driving routes, etc. You really don't have to plan it all out ahead of time.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
969 posts

Also recommend Rosslyn Chapel and you can get there by bus from Edinburgh, do a search here as there was a post a while ago about how to get there by bus. I think you could both. I'm not sure about Stirling but Rosslyn Chapel would only be 1/2 day (or a few hours).

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

I had a car out of Edinburgh a few weeks back and it was about twenty bucks a day for a couple of weeks. Gas was running nine plus per and I was getting about forty per. Stirling is an hour's drive from Edinburgh. The tours are going to depend on who's leading it, hence the disparity.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

That is a long and widespread itinerary, it might be possible to cover it by public transport (actually, I do not think you can), but it would be more a long march than a holiday. I suggest considering hiring a car for two of your days then using a route planner to see which make a feasible journey. For example investigate the route to Balmoral from Edinburgh and see where that takes you. You could easily find enough to fill the rest of our trip in Edinburgh and a day trip to Glasgow (which is better than Edinburgh, though we are not meant to mention that). I was confused by Ed's "9 per", but I assume he is talking about US gallons and US money - but yes fuel is highly taxed and so expensive compared to what you are used to. And a couple years back I was at a work meeting in Edinburgh and we went on the underground/ghost walking tour and all really enjoyed it (we were probably all two or three sheets to the wind but nevertheless I can recommend it).

Posted by Leslie
Russellville, TN, USA
11 posts

Thank you guys for taking the time to respond! I had absolutely no illusions that we'd see even half of the items on our wish list. We would like to see them, but I knew it'd be a stretch to see them all. I'm wondering though, can anyone think of a route where I could check off at least 3 of those in sights in one day on a long day trip?

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
649 posts

Leslie , at the risk of sounding disagreeable ( wich is not my intention ) I don't think you have the right perspective on this. You could , for instance , drive from Edinburgh to , say , Blair Atholl which is about 80 miles or two hours and start there , working your way back down ,but how you define seeing something depends on how much time you allow for a sight . If you mean breezing in for half an hour and then moving on , you are indeed " checking off boxes " . A plan like this is very little seeing and a lot of hopping around . Stirling Castle for example takes several hours to begin to do it justice. My personal opinion is that travelers in Europe , as well as here in the States have a tendency to cram too much into too little time which generally makes for what I might call " tripus interruptus " . This is only my view , consider what other posters can advise . Scotland is a very beautiful place and will charm your socks off . Don't rush through it !

Posted by Leslie
Russellville, TN, USA
11 posts

At Steven: It doesn't sound disagreeable at all! I appreciate all the input, even if it isn't what I want to hear. :) I'd definitely like to spend more time at fewer sights than see more sights in a limited amount of time, so you definitely hit the nail on the head there! Right now, we live in a TEENY, tiny town in the hills of TN, and I end up driving over an hour just to reach any major shopping. So, the thought of driving over an hour or two to see something doesn't intimidate me at all. I think my daughter and I will sit down tonight and choose two attractions outside of Edinburgh and plan two special day trips to visit the attraction and maybe even explore a bit around wherever it's located.

Posted by Thomas
Snyder, Texas
503 posts

Hi Leslie, You have 8 days, which is enough to spend some time in the countryside if you want to. If I were going to do that, I would give at least 3 days to it though. If you try to rent a car one day and turn it in the next, you won't have much time to explore. I would either stay all 8 days in Edinburgh, or split the time 4 and 4 if it were me. We stayed 4 days in Edinburgh, and that was enough to see quite a bit. We still have a lot we could have done, but we were happy with a 4 day stay. If you rent the car at the airport, it is very easy to drive out from there and back in when you leave. Look at the website undiscoveredscotland.com There are drives outlined and a lot more. You can click on parts of the map where you might go, and there are detailed routes outlined. There's a lot more too. Great site. I love driving there and getting out away from the city, so that's what I would do. Others will think that would be slighting everything and trying to do too much. You have to decide. Either way, you will have a great trip. By the way, spend the extra on an automatic transmission. Driving on the left is enough to get used to. They are not that easy to come by, so it is best to reserve from home. The airport will have the best selection. Try out that website. It is very informative.
Your days are going to be short in February, too.

Posted by david
washington
837 posts

Leslie, after looking at locations of your sights of interest, I see no problem. There are four that are somewhat out of the area: Glamis, Blair, Balmoral, and Dryburgh. I would spend about three days in Edinburgh without a car. It appears that Craigmillar Castle is in Edinburgh and can probably be reached by city bus. Then I would rent a car and see Linlithgow Palace and Stirling in one day. Rosslyn Chapel is south and should be easily done in a day. I think I would pass on Dryburgh Abbey. It is quite a drive south, but could be incorporated with Rosslyn. Additionally, there are a couple other border abbeys in close proximity to Dryburgh if you decide to make that jaunt. I would recommend spending a couple of nights in Pitlochry and visiting Glamis, Blair, and Balmoral from there.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

Leslie, Two of your sights outside of EdinburghLinlithgow and Stirling are very easy train rides. If you're picking between the two, in my mind Stirling wins hands down. You can see the Castle, Argyle's Lodging, have a nice lunch and be back in Edinburgh for dinner. You could stop off at Linlithgow on the way back. The Castle there is nice and easily walkable from the train station, but I wouldn't push it if you're tired. What you'll miss by doing this by train is stopping off at Bannockburn and going to the Wallace Monument. Google both sights and you can decide. I liked the Wallace Monument for the view, but to be honest the one at the castle is excellent and probably sufficient. Bannockburn does have new visitor's center, which may have upgraded the site. When I last visited there a few years ago there really was only a really big statue of Robert the Bruce. ; ) I've not been to Craigmillar Castle yet, so I can't comment on it. But your other sights can be grouped. First, I'm curious as to why you chose Dryburgh Abbey. I thought that Jedburgh was more impressive, but seeing an Abbey is worthwhile. You could easily spend a day in the borders visiting an Abbey, maybe Floor's Castle and Roslyn Chapel. I would highly recommend a car for this. I stayed in Melrose a number of years ago and enjoyed it. Or you could go back to Edinburgh. I think that you need a road trip for Balmoral, Glamis and Blair Castles. Pam

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

I think that you have an interesting mix of the three castlesGlamis, Balmoral and Blair. I have visited Glamis and Blair, and seen Balmoral. Because your are visiting in February, you can't benefit from the long summer days. I would recommend leaving Edinburgh early in the morning and heading straight for Glamis. There's a wonderful tour. You could spend the night in Kirrimuir. This is where James Barrie lived and there is a house you can visit where he lived. Or you can drive all the way through to Braemer or Ballater. The drive from Glamis to Balmoral is through the Cairngorms and so it's a high pass and in the winter you may have issues. I would do it in the daylight in winter. Double check on tours of Balmoral. I'm usually there in August September when tours aren't possible as the Queen is in residence. The Knock Gallery is lovely and has a great view of the Castle. You have to backtrack to get to Pitlochry and Blair Castle. And once again it's through the mountains. Pitlochry is a great little town to visit with easy access to the Castle. There's a distillery and lots of B&B's. And then it's an easy trek down the A9 to Edinburgh. Pam