Here at Europcar, we believe in exploring on our own schedule. After all, that’s exactly what our huge range of hire cars and vans are there for. This month, we headed to Edinburgh to continue our series of alternative destination guides. So forget the castle – read on to delve deeper into the hidden highlights of Scotland’s majestic capital.
This artistic escape is still elusive even to many Edinburgh locals – but it won’t stay that way for long. In the surrounds of the Jacobean Bonnington House, this beautiful 100-acre estate has been transformed into a sculpture park. Amazing art installations ranging from the wonderful to the bizarre sit nestled within the landscape, designed to work in harmony with their natural surrounds. Pick up a hire car at Edinburgh Airport and you could be strolling these scenic grounds within 15 minutes.
All the tourists see Edinburgh castle, but nearby, Linlithgow Palace holds just as much history. Birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and home to a host of royals, the ruins of the palace are a fascinating sight to behold. Once you’ve soaked in the history, take a stroll round the adjoining Linlithgow Loch and stop in at the famous Oliphants bakery, a local institution and a great place to get your hands on a hearty haggis pie for the full Scottish experience.
Ok, so it’s not very alternative, but a trip up Arthur’s Seat is an unmissable experience. Most tourists hike up to the top of this extinct volcano for views of the city, but a drive up the winding road gives you a number of unique vantage points, and the chance to explore the surrounding Holyrood Park in more depth. From the majestic palace to lonely lochs and volcanic cliff faces, this huge green space takes you from the city centre to the middle of nowhere and back again. Wherever you ramble, make sure you finish at the Sheep Heid Inn. This is Edinburgh’s oldest watering hole (no mean feat) and famous for its top notch food and old-fashioned bowling lanes.
The Champany Inn
Looking for something extra special? You’ll be spoiled for choice in Edinburgh. But away from the throngs of tourists and overpriced city centre eateries, there are a few spots those in the know swear by every time. For a memorable evening, head about 20 minutes out of the city to the beautiful Champany Inn. Combining history, tradition and indulgence, this iconic establishment is one of Scotland’s finest. Complete the experience with a luxury hire car to take you there in style and prepare to taste what is perhaps the best steak you’ve ever sunk your teeth into.
Lying on the outskirts of Edinburgh, you’d be forgiven for thinking the area of Cramond was a forgotten seaside village rather than part of a capital city. Take in some fresh air with a long walk around the beach or out to the famous Cramond Island – just make sure you don’t get caught out by the tide!
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the18th century Cramond Inn. With a big sunny beer garden for the summer and roaring fires and low-beamed ceilings for the winter, nowhere else in Edinburgh quite does Sundays like this charming traditional pub.
Just 10 miles away from the city, South Queensferry offers great water views, lovely cafes and restaurants and a smattering of quaint gift shops and galleries to while away an afternoon. But the best bit of South Queensferry has to be the journey there. Hire a car from Edinburgh and take the drive across the iconic Forth Bridge for breathtaking views of the Firth of Forth and the famous red diamonds of the neighbouring railway bridge.
Surrounding Edinburgh at its southern edge are the Pentlands, a rolling range of hills that are a paradise for walkers, climbers, nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts in general. A favourite spot of many Edinburgers is the Bonaly Reservoir. The area offers stunning views and a sense of being deep in the Scottish countryside, all just minutes away from the centre of the city.
Even closer to town, the Midlothian Snowsports Centre (better known as Hillend) is home to the longest dry ski slope in Europe. Skiiers and snowboarders of all levels can find a place to fit in here. Even if you’re not feeling active, it’s worth a visit for a ride on the chair lift alone. Rising high into the Pentlands, this is the best way to capture unbeatable panoramic views of Edinburgh and its main scenic attractions.
Heading away from the city through the adjoining seaside towns of Portobello and Musselburgh, the coastline of East Lothian is a favourite escape for Edinburgh’s city dwellers. Whether you’re looking for world class ice-cream (S. Luca of Musselburgh is famous), surfing, scenery or some of Scotland’s best golf courses, this part of the country will not leave you disappointed.
One of the highlights is North Berwick, a bustling harbour town that has retained the distinct feeling of a Victorian seaside destination. You might have to hunt for a parking space in summer, but once you’re outside, there’s enough sand and sea for everyone to spread out. Try the famous Lobster Shack for the freshest seafood around (opens seasonally).
What’s your favourite Edinburgh escape?