Taking an Open Top Tour Bus Around Edinburgh

Travel to many cities in the UK and around the world and you'll find the 'hop on, hop off' tour buses offering you the option of seeing points of interest from the comfort of a bus with a guided tour thrown in too. Over the years we've done many of these and have often found them a useful way to see a city, especially if we're only going to be there for a couple of days. We typically use them to get an idea of where places are in relation to others, what we definitely want to see and where we want to go back to, all with the idea of maximising our time there. Naturally Edinburgh offers these tours too and we've made use of them a couple of times when we've had visitors.

Whilst they aren't for everyone, Edinburgh (as many of you will know) is a very hilly city, it's built on seven of them! It's a small city so is easy to walk around but those hills can also pose a challenge if you perhaps aren't quite so mobile. We've hosted a few guests who aren't in a position to be walking long distances up and down relatively steep hills so letting the bus take the strain has proved a very good solution.

The beauty of most of these tours, wherever you go in the world, are that the tickets are usually valid for twenty-four hours and, as the name suggests, you can hop on and off as many times as you like in that period. Therefore I think they are great for initially doing a complete tour around and then using them as a convenient way of returning to a point in the city that you want to see more of. For example the tours in Edinburgh have bus stops for the castle, Holyrood palace, the New Town and so on and some of those would otherwise involve quite a climb or walk to reach. In addition you'll always get a tour, no matter how briefly you are on the bus for, and as different guides will throw in different stories etc. there's a good chance you'll still learn something new on that second, third or forth use. For example, did you know that the clock on the Balmoral hotel is always a few minutes fast? This originally dates from when it was the railway hotel and it was done to ensure that none of the guests missed their trains. The only time it's correct is on New Year's Eve when being right is obviously pretty important!


St Andrew's and St George's West church on George Street in Edinburgh's New Town

In Edinburgh it's very convenient to purchase tickets for which ever company you choose to go with, we picked these for our tours. They offer a range of choices depending on whether you just want to get a good overview of the city or want to go a little further out. The buses (for whoever you decide to go with) all leave from near Waverley train station, though, as I said, you can hop on and off at any of the designated stops along the route. You can buy tickets from a booth in the nearby Princes Street gardens, from ticket sellers by the buses as well as online. Then you simply board the next bus for your chosen tour and once it's reasonably full you'll be underway.

Personally I am all for an open top (or downstairs in the dry if the weather isn't so great) tour bus, particularly if it's somewhere that I am not familiar with. It's interesting to listen to the guides and with twenty-four hours in which to use your ticket you can definitely get your moneys worth. So if you're planning a visit to Edinburgh or have visitors coming who you know may not be able to manage the hills, cobbles and uneven Wynds and Closes of the Old Town get yourself (and them) on one of these tours next time you or they come to stay!

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