According to statistics, Edinburgh, is the second most visited city in the UK, which is not surprising, given its scenic views, old age and a large of sightseeing attractions. The famous Edinburgh festivals that usually take place in August also play their role in promoting the capital of Scotland. Visiting the city during this time is particularly interesting because the entire city is packed with street performers with their incredible acts and amazing theatrical performances, plus the weather in Scotland in August is relatively good – it is a little less rainy than usual, and you might even be lucky enough to catch a few clear days. At the same time, the crowds on the main streets and squares can be annoying because of all the noise; and you should not forget to carefully look after your belongings, because street festivals are a good playground for thieves. You also should keep in mind that hotel prices during this period of time hotels will charge extra high prices. If you are interested, you can take a look at the dates of the next festival at www.eif.co.uk.
What Area is the Best to Stay in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station
When you come to Edinburgh by train (for example, from London or Glasgow) you arrive at the Edinburgh Waverley railway station. The location of the station is pretty convenient: go up the long staircase and you find yourself in the middle of The Royal Mile, city streets that connect the Edinburgh Castle to the Holyroodhouse. On this long “street” you will find lots of shops, restaurants and a great number of hotels. I will discuss hotels located on the Mile itself a bit later, and now I will tell you a bit about hotels near the station. In contrast to many other European cities, the railway station in Edinburgh is located right in the inner city. Historically, this is a very respectable district, and that is why hotel rates here are quite high. So you should keep in mind that you will have to decide for yourself what is more important – to have a great location or stay within a limited budget. Finding accommodation near the railway station is also a great option, if you do not plan to stay in Edinburgh only but would like to explore other regions of Scotland. Not far from the railway station you will also find the bus station (it is easier, faster and cheaper to travel to some cities by bus but make sure you have some cash), the airport railway station, and tour buses stop. Plus, the entire city’s infrastructure is within walking distance. If you are fond of historical buildings and antiquities, take a look at the Balmoral Hotel, one of the city's attractions. The tower clock of the hotel is traditionally two minutes fast, so that you do not miss your train. There are also less expensive options, such as apartments The Chambers or the Motel One Edinburgh-Royal.
The Royal Mile, Edinburgh's main area, is a succession of four streets. All the alleys and blind streets branching off these main roads also belong to the Mile making the area look like a fishbone. During the August festival you can enjoy a variety of street performances here; the district is also well-known for its numerous bars, restaurants and shops (including souvenirs).
On the one hand, it is quite convenient: walking down the street you can enjoy a few performances, find a great place for dinner, buy gifts for your loved ones, and then you can return to the hotel which is located very close, without any need to use public transport. On the other hand, hotel rates here are probably the highest in the city. In addition, it can be very noisy in this district, especially if your room is facing the street and not the courtyard. It should also be kept in mind that most of the buildings on the Mile are really old and, as it often is with such buildings, have many issues, such as squeaky floors, narrow staircases and no elevator, but if your window is overlooking the yard, it may mean that you will be forced to admire views of the adjacent stone wall because the houses have been built quite close to each other. Finally, if you are planning to travel in Scotland by car, remember that accommodation in the center of almost every city has problems with parking: either there are no parking lots at all, or there are various important limitations and additional conditions (including high cost, the need to book parking in advance, etc.). However, if you consider the above-mentioned not to be disadvantages but rather a part of local culture, you should avoid having a lot of negative emotions. However, it is still recommended to find all the information relevant to your accommodation in advance, before you book a hotel in this (or in any other) district of Edinburgh (for example, you may check out reviews by travelers posted on booking websites).
Taking into account that the Royal Mile is quite long, I will try to provide some personal recommendations on how to choose accommodation. In my opinion, if you want to live in a more or less peaceful area and come back in the evening without pushing through the crowd, you should go for the lower part of the Mile, close to the Holyroodhouse there are less people there (both tourists and artists) than in the central part of the Mile. In addition to the Holyroodhouse you will live close to the Calton Hill, that offers great scenic views of the city. There are lots of footpaths for walking in this area (they begin at the palace). From here you can reach the castle at the top of the Mile in just 20 minutes on foot, and the Waverley Station is within 15 minutes. In the area of the Holyroodhouse take a closer look at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel and Holyrood Aparthotel. If you would like to stay in the central part of the Mile, I recommend such options as Apex City Hotel, Grassmarket Hotel, Edinburgh City Centre by Reserve Apartments or Stay Edinburgh City Apartments – Royal Mile.
Another interesting place to stay in Edinburgh is the so-called New Town, which is easy to spot on the map of the city because of its square layout of streets north of the railway. In New Town there are several city museums and theaters, and during festivals here, at the foot of the Castle Rock, is not less crowded than on the Royal Mile, except that here you will have a lot more space. In this area you will find a large number of bars, restaurants and shops, however, I would say that they are focused not on souvenirs but rather on regular shopping. The main advantage of the local hotels is the view. Many hotels in New Town offer a wonderful view of the castle. The perfect addition to that is a couple of nice parks and several museums that are definitely worth a visit (by the way, the entrance is free, just like for all public museums in the country). The area is well located in terms of transportation. The railway station is just a 10-15-minute walk away, plus, from here you can easily climb the Calton Hill – that is the place with the postcards’ views of Edinburgh. In my opinion, in this area you should choose one of the following hotels: Princes Street Suites, The Glasshouse, Hotel Indigo Edinburgh and Destiny Scotland Q-Residence, although, of course, there are other really good options available, too (see the list here).
Finally, I would like to introduce a very interesting and original location for accommodation in Edinburgh, Leith – the district of docks and the port. It offers beautiful views over the harbor and snow-white yachts. As a rule, local hotels also have a restaurant and a terrace with amazing views, where you can dine al fresco; and the rooms here are much larger than in the downtown. From Leith you can reach the Royal Mile in about 10 minutes by car, but it would probably be even better to walk there – there are very nice footpaths. In addition, many hotels and apartments here have private parking, so Leith is a great option for those traveling to Scotland by car. Really good options here are Malmaison Edinburgh, Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Waterfront and Ocean Apartments.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Hotel in Edinburgh
Scottish hotels have their own peculiar characteristics that you should keep in mind when you plan to visit this seemingly inhospitable region. The main problem, in my opinion, is heating and hot water, or lack thereof. Despite the relatively cool and wet climate, insulation of many buildings is not done very thorough: often in rooms you will see thin window frames and large gaps between them. No wonder that all year round guests can really freeze in the room, no matter if it is a hotel or an apartment. Heating could, of course, help out here, and preferably if you actually have an option to control it, otherwise you will see that owners are eager to save and maintain the lowest possible temperature for their guests not to freeze to death. It is still probably wise to bring warmer pajamas, or you will have to buy it right there. There is a similar issue with hot water. It is very limited and if you plan to enjoy a long bath, forget about it, there will just not be enough water. There is nothing you can do about it: even if your apartment has its own boiler, you will have to wait for about half an hour until it heats up some more water for you.
The second big issue is prices (hotels, apartments, etc.) Edinburgh is a very popular place, so the hotel rates are really high, and during the festival they are even higher. Public transport is just as expensive. Therefore, a trip to Edinburgh can turn out to be very costly. However, you can save by booking an apartment instead of a hotel or a room in a guesthouse (when you book only a part of an apartment or a house, and as a rule the rate includes breakfast). Advantages of the first option are obvious: you can prepare your own meals, and local supermarkets and department stores (Waitrose, Tesco and especially the food departments of Marks and Spencer) provide a great opportunity to cook without much effort, offering a lot of ready-to-cook food that you only need to heat up. The second option often implies that the owners live in the same house with the guests, and you will have to communicate with them, especially if you have paid for breakfast. This option is ideal for people who like to socialize. A good option for accommodation, which is also worth mentioning, is getting an apartments above the pub here you will have everything under one roof the food, accommodation, and local atmosphere, however, you should understand that it will be somewhat noisy. If we talk about apartments or rather an aparthotel, I would recommend a member of a well-known chain in England Fraser Suites Edinburgh, where the rooms are equipped with a kitchenette.