Edinburgh Festival by Allan McLean

Festival City welcomes the world

Published: 12th July 2015

Best forget the car and take the train to enjoy the Edinburgh Festival!

There can be few more depressing sights than to see tourists attempting to get around Edinburgh by car.

It doesn’t take many vehicles to create impossible traffic jams in the historic streets at the heart of Scotland’s capital city. Whatever means of transport is used to get there, the City of Festivals is best enjoyed on foot and by public transport.

August is the busiest month for visits to Edinburgh when there is much to be enjoyed there. There are Festivals of all kinds at other times of year, but August is the main month for Festivals, most notably the Edinburgh International Festival from 7 to 31 August which largely coincides with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which this year runs between the same dates.

Together these events at a wide range of venues represent the biggest arts festival season anywhere on the planet. There is something for everybody.

Military Tattoo and Book Festival

Tattoo anybody?

Also taking place are the world-famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the Castle Esplanade from 7 to 29 August and the fascinating Edinburgh International Book Festival, which is featured at Charlotte Square from 15 to 31 August.

Visitors should note the advice in the Book Festival programme: “We advise the use of public transport wherever possible as Edinburgh is very busy during August and parking spaces are limited.”

Fortunately, it is possible to walk around the city centre, an area which includes Waverley Station, the main stop for trains. The city’s second main station at Haymarket is to the West of the central area.

By train to Edinburgh Waverley

Virgin Trains East Coast link Edinburgh Waverley and Haymarket with stations from London King’s Cross along the East Coast Main Line through Peterborough, York and Newcastle. The Virgin Trains franchise on the West Coast Main Line includes trains to Edinburgh (Haymarket and Waverley) from London Euston through the West Midlands, Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. CrossCountry Trains and the overnight Caledonian Sleepers also link Edinburgh with stations in England.

The main passenger train operator in Scotland is ScotRail, which links the Edinburgh stations with Glasgow, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness, among other places. It’s also worth noting that local trains serve stations in Edinburgh with hotels nearby, including Edinburgh Park on the West and Newcraighall to the East. It’s a good idea to check which railway station is most convenient for your chosen holiday accommodation.

Within Edinburgh itself, Lothian Buses provide a fully comprehensive network with one of the world’s best bus services. It’s worth using the “My Bus Edinburgh” app on your smartphone for easy information.

Trams bring relief

Edinburgh Trams run on a route between Edinburgh International Airport and York Place, including stops at Edinburgh Park and Haymarket stations, are also operated by the same publicly-owned company, Transport for Edinburgh.

Tickets offering unlimited travel are available for use on buses and trams, but make sure to buy a ticket before boarding a tram (bus drivers sell tickets at the door of their vehicles).

Bus tours operate from Waverley Bridge, with easy access from Edinburgh Waverley Station.

Note that there is no longer a taxi rank inside Waverley or Haymarket stations. It is possible to exit either station by lifts or escalators as an alternative to stairs or ramps. The main taxi rank for Waverley is in Market Street, just to the left of the platform 8 exit, and the main rank at Haymarket is just across the street from the main exit via a pedestrian-controlled crossing.

Royal Mile free events

As well as paid-for events there are many opportunities to enjoy entertainment free of charge. A notable location for open-air shows is on the Royal Mile, a few minutes’ walk from Waverley station.

The Royal Mile is the historic street that runs from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood House, adjacent to the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.

With lots to do and see, Edinburgh is well worth a visit. And you really do not need a car.

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