Category Archives: Scotland

What to do in Scotland; attractions in Scotland and the best places to visit in Scotland.

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Review of Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith

I stayed at Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith for one night on Sunday 23 January 2011 after the Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up that afternoon. I paid £19 for the night (room only) booked during the Premier Inn Christmas sale in December 2010.

Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith on the Forth Estuary

I was looking forward to staying at that Premier Inn as I really like the location down on the Forth Estuary next to Newhaven Harbour.  One big benefit of staying here is the free parking, as parking around Edinburgh city centre is expensive and it can be hard to find a space. The hotel is located around 2 miles from the city centre but there are regular buses from a stop just across from the hotel.

I was delighted with my room at it was on the first floor with an estuary view. The room was a good size with two comfy chairs and a coffee table, as well as a chair at the desk.

My room at Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith

I’d recommend the Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith if you prefer not to be in the city centre and/or are coming to Edinburgh by car. You’ll either need to book well in advance on the non refundable rate or during a promotion, if you want to get a cheap room here.  There’s a Brewers Fayre restaurant attached to the hotel, a large Asda supermarket and another couple of pubs within walking distance.  The Ocean Terminal shopping and leisure centre and the home of the Royal Yacht Britannia is around half a mile away from the hotel. You can see all my photos/videos of the Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith on Flckr.

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It’s also worth checking prices for the Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith on the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

Search for the Best Deals on All Edinburgh Hotels

Click here to search for low prices on all hotels in Edinburgh on the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

Tips for Things to Do in Edinburgh

We’ve lots of Edinburgh tips on Europe a la Carte.

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3rd Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up, Sunday 10 April 2011 at the Missoni

The 3rd Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up took place at the Hotel Missoni Edinburgh on Sunday 10 April 2011 from 3 – 6pm.  The Missoni kindly provided chefs choice canapes, Prosecco and soft drinks for attendees.

3rd Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up at Hotel Missoni Edinburgh

This event followed on  the success of the 2nd Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up in January 2011 and the 1st Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up in July 2010.

3rd Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up at Hotel Missoni Edinburgh

You can see all my photos from the event on Flickr here.

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Review of the Hilton Edinburgh Airport

We stayed for one night in February 2011 at the Hilton Edinburgh Airport, on a complimentary basis arranged by hotels.com from their selection of Edinburgh hotels.  As we had to be at the airport by around 5am the next morning, we were concerned if there was bad weather we wouldn’t be able to reach the airport in time, so wanted to play it safe by staying close to the terminal.

Review of Hilton Edinburgh Airport

Lobby of Hilton Edinburgh Airport

We were allocated a double deluxe room on the 3rd floor. The room was very spacious and decorated in muted brown/cream colours. I appreciated that the chair by the desk was padded and very comfortable. There was a good selection of tea, coffees and drinking chocolate sachets.

The Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries in the bathroom had a lovely scent. The towels were thick and fluffy. The bed was one of the best I’ve come across in a hotel. There was a padded mattress cover and I was sorry that I had to get up at 4.30 to catch a flight, as I’d have loved to have a long sleep in that bed.

Review of Hilton Edinburgh Airport

Deluxe double room at Hilton Edinburgh Airport

There was some exterior noise of banging doors and guests laughing loudly around 3am in the corridor. However I didn’t hear any noise from outside the building.

The negatives were a large crack in the sink and some cracks in the tiles of the bathroom floor and the fact that there’s a £15 charge for internet connection.  I think that the Hilton is charging far too much for internet connection and this should be provided free of charge to guests.

We had a takeaway breakfast consisting of fresh fruit salad (heavy on apples), a bacon roll (delicious lean bacon), croissant (very doughy), a muffin (some of the best I’ve had) and an apple. I was a bit surprised that there was no drink included, I thought there would be at  least a carton of fruit juice.

The hotel offers a free shuttle bus to and from the airport but as it’s such a short distance, we walked there.  You can park your car at the hotel at a guest rate of £6 per day.

Overall I’d recommend the Hilton Edinburgh Airport if you have an early flight departure time or a late arrival.  The deluxe rooms are very comfortable and beautifully furnished and it’s great to be so close to the airport.  The only thing that let down the room were the cracks in the bathroom sink and floor, which is a pity as everything else was of very high quality.

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Click here for the lowest prices on Edinburgh hotels

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Tips for Things to Do on a Glasgow Short Break

The Scottish city Glasgow is a great UK short break destination. It’s on the main west coast railway line and served by Glasgow Airport (Ryanair flies into Prestwick Airport), making it easy to get to from many parts of the UK and Europe.

River Clyde Walkway in Glasgow

Glasgow has come a long way since the days of post industrial gloom, to become top UK tourist destination. Below are some ideas for things to do in Glasgow during your short break.

Things to Do on Glasgow Short Break Podcast

 

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Take in Some Culture

One of my favourite Glasgow museums is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. The Burrell Collection and the Gallery of Modern Art are also very interesting.  It’s free to enter state museums in the UK, although there is sometimes a charge for special exhibitions. You can follow the Rennie Mackintosh Trail and admire the work of the Scottish architect. We had fun at the Glasgow Mela, a free multi cultural event held in Kelvingrove Park, in June.

Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art

The Riverside Museum, Scotland’s Museum of Transport and Travel, opened in June 2011.

Reflective exterior wall of Riverside Museum

Admire the Parks and Gardens

Glasgow has some beautiful parks and gardens. Glasgow Green is the city’s oldest park, home to the Winter Gardens. The Botanic Gardens have so many colourful orchids and begonias in the main glasshouses and the recently restored Kibble Palace has a collection of trees and ferns.

Winter Gardens at Glasgow Green

Shop ’til You Drop

There’s ample opportunity for shopping in Glasgow, with Princes Square, the St Enoch Centre, Sauchiehall Street & the Argyll Arcade, all in the city centre.

Princes Square Shopping Centre, Glasgow

Enjoy the Music

Glasgow has a very vibrant music scene, one of the main reasons our son Simon, a part time DJ, lives there.  There’s traditional music in pubs, techno in trendy night clubs and big names performing at the SECC.

Simon’s gig at the Lite Club by subcityphotos

Sample the Restaurants

Glasgow has the widest array of restaurants in Scotland, catering for all tastes and budgets. It’s not all fish suppers and deep fried Mars Bars! Two of my favourite Glasgow restaurants  are the Kama Sutra and Rogano.

Rogano, Glasgow

Where to Stay in Glasgow

If you can find a good deal at a hotel, as I did with my £20.12 room at the Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside, in January 2011, then you’ll have even more spending money for your Glasgow short break.

More Tips for Things to Do in Glasgow

You can also read more ideas on things to do in Glasgow collated from Europe a la Carte readers’ tips.

Click here for the lowest prices on Glasgow hotels

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Review of Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

I managed to bag a room at Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside for a stay on Saturday 8 January 2011, for only £20.12. Rooms at this price were only available for one day (20 December 2010) on the Holiday Inn site, to publicise that they are one of the sponsors of the 2012 Olympics in London.

Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

The hotel is a perfect location for a Glasgow short break. The hotel doesn’t have its own car park but I saw a car park close to the hotel which advertised all day stays for £5. We managed to find free on-street parking close to George Square (chargeable hours are Monday to Saturday 8am-6pm). It takes around ten minutes to walk to the hotel from either Queen St or Central rail stations. The hotel is a two minute walk from the St Enoch Shopping Centre and Argyle Street. The hotel is by the River Clyde, and Glasgow Green park (home to the People’s Palace) is just along the river.

Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

Doulton Fountain in Glasgow Green

Although the hotel is by the riverside, only the two rooms at the end of the corridor on each floor have full river views. It may be worth checking in early to try to get one of these rooms?

We were allocated room 523 on the top floor. Our room was at the front of the hotel facing the street, so there was some traffic noise, made more audible by the fact our window was missing one of its catches, so wouldn’t close properly.  I have to admit that I always find it noisy in city centres, as it’s very quiet where we live.  I did hear a bit of door banging and some loud voices during the night, but nothing too bad. The room was fairly comfortable but the bed had an inclination to roll together in the middle.

There was free wifi in the lobby which had a reasonable signal, although it struggled to upload a short video to Flickr.

Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

Lobby at Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

Continental breakfast was OK but the fruit juice tasted a bit watery and one of the hot drinks machines was low on supplies, so my hot chocolate appeared as watery hot milk. However the croissant and fruity cereal were good.

Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

Continental Breakfast Buffet at Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

Overall, I’d recommend the hotel as a good budget option for a Glasgow short break, with reasonable rooms, free wifi in the lobby and breakfast included, as I’ve noticed more and more hotels with room only offers. 

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There are plenty of opportunities close at hand to sample three of the reasons to visit Glasgow, restaurants, music and food. You can also read our tips on things to do in Glasgow.

You should also check out room prices at the Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside on the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

 

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25 Unusual & Fun Things to Do in Scotland

I love Scotland but then I would say that as I’m Scottish. However, I’m sure you can appreciate why, once you’ve read about some unusual and fun things to do in Scotland,  selected from posts about Scotland written by the Europe a la Carte blogging team. If you want to explore beyond the major Scottish cities, you’ll need to hire a car, as there’s isn’t much public transport in rural areas.

North of Scotland

Admire the Beauty of St Ninian’s Beach, Shetland Islands

I visited the Shetland Islands for the first time in May 2010 and they are absolutely beautiful.  My favourite spot was St Ninian’s Beach, which was recommended to me by the taxi driver who picked me up at the airport. Which just goes to show it’s always worth asking locals for tips. If you stay in the Shetland capital Lerwick, you can explore the main island from there and/or take day trips to some of the smaller islands.

Things to Do in Scotland

St Ninians Beach, Shetland Islands

Go North at Dunnet Head

Andy visited Dunnet Head, which is the most northerly point of the UK mainland and not John O’Groats as popularly believed.

Things to Do in Scotland

Dunnet Head by ifry

Get in Touch with Your Mystical Side at Callanish Stones, Hebrides

Andy also wrote about his visit to the Callanish Stones, a stone circle on the Island of Lewis in the Hebrides. I’ve been to the stones on a misty morning when no-one else was there and it was a really mystical experience. 

Things to Do in Scotland

Callanish Stones by luxpim

Marvel at the Cliffs on Staffa, Hebrides

Andy thought that the hexagonal basalt cliffs on the island of Staffa look like they’ve been sculptured but it’s all natural.

Things to Do in Scotland

Staffa by wjmarnoch

Go Underground at Smoo Cave, Durness, Highlands

Durness is the most north westerly village on the UK mainland. Taking a boat trip into Smoo Cave is the best way to see the interior.

Things to Do in Scotland

Smoo  Cave

Be Amazed You’re so Far North at Inverewe Gardens, Highlands

Inverewe Gardens, located on the west coast close to Poolewe in Wester Ross, lies in a sheltered bay warmed by the Gulf Stream. I’ve been there twice and it’s hard to believe that you’re in the north of Scotland.

Things to Do in Scotland

Inverewe Gardens

Be Wowed by Colour at the Biblical Garden, Elgin

The very colourful Biblical Garden in Elgin contains all 110 plants mentioned in the Bible.  The sculptures around the garden are based on characters in various parables including the Good Shepherd and the Prodigal Son. You can see all my Biblical Garden photos on Flickr.

Things to Do in Scotland

Biblical Garden, Elgin

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Imagine Watching Horse Racing from Pitfour Observatory, Aberdeenshire

Pitfour Observatory was constructed by a rich Lord to get a good view of the race track he had specially made, so he could indulge in his hobby of horse racing while still on the grounds of his estate.

Things to Do in Scotland

Pitfour Observatory

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Central Scotland

Visit the Queen Mother’s Birthplace at Glamis Castle, Angus

Andy asked if Glamis Castle is Scotland’s prettiest castle.  I’m not sure about that as it’s got some stiff opposition and it didn’t make my three favourite Scottish Castles. It was the birthplace of the mother of the current UK monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

Things to Do in Scotland

Glamis Castle by Andy Hayes

Imagine Yourself in Antarctica at Discovery Point, Dundee

Board the Antarctic explorer Captain Scott’s ship at Discovery Point in my city of birth Dundee, where the ship was built. You can buy a joint admission ticket for the Verdant Works which tells of the history of Dundee’s jute industry. Here are my recommendations for hotels in Dundee.

Things to Do in Scotland

Discovery Point, Dundee

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Meet Robert Burns at the Birks of Aberfeldy, Perthshire

The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the Birks of Aberfeldy after taking a walk up to the Mo’ness Falls. The sculpture was unveiled in 2009, in honour of the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Scottish poet.

Things to Do in Scotland

Robert Burns Sculpture at the Birks of Aberfeldy

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Explore Two Follies at the Hermitage, Dunkeld, Perthshire

The Hermitage was created as a landscape garden for the local Duke, complete with two follies, Ossian’s Hall overlooking the Falls of Braan and Ossian’s Cave.

Things to Do in Scotland

Falls of Braan and Ossian’s Hall at the Hermitage, Dunkeld

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Walk for Miles along West Sands Beach in St Andrews, Fife

Although St Andrews is synonymous with golf and the University where Princess Diana’s elder son William studied, there’s a lot more to this lovely historic town.  There are two beaches, West Sands (pictured below) and the smaller East Sands and a very tempting ice cream shop.

West Sands, St Andrews

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Go Back in Time at Culross, Fife

Step back to into the 17th century in Culross, with its palace and abbey.

Things to Do in Scotland

View from Culross Palace Garden

See Pictish Cave Art at Wemyss Caves, Fife

In the Wemyss Caves you can see several drawings believed to date from over 2000 years ago.

Things to Do in Scotland

Trident in Jonathan’s Cave

Explore the 14th Century Alloa Tower, Clackmannanshire

Alloa Tower, renovated in the 1990s, is the largest surviving medieval tower house in Scotland.

Things to Do in Scotland

Alloa Tower

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Discover History at the Old Town Cemeteries, Stirling

On the way up to Stirling Castle it’s worth spending some time in the cemeteries. The Old Kirkyard has headstones from as early as the 16th century.

Things to Do in Scotland

The Valley Cemetery, Stirling

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Be Spoiled for choice by Glasgow Restaurants

I reckon that Glasgow has the best selection of restaurants you’ll find in Scotland. Two of my favourites are the Kama Sutra and Rogano.

Things to Do in Scotland

Rogano Restaurant Glasgow

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Stroll along the Water of Leith Walkway, Edinburgh

The Water of Leith Walkway stretches for 12 miles from Balerno through the city centre, with an Aids and HIV memorial between the exits for the Gallery of Modern Art and Dean Gallery. The river flows into the Forth Estuary at Leith. The Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Waterfront is located a few minutes walk from the Water of Leith.

Things to Do in Scotland

Water of Leith Walkway Edinburgh

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Follow the Prestonpans Murals Trail, East Lothian

I love the Prestonpans Murals Trail which celebrates the industrial heritage of the village. The cow below is at the site of a former dairy. You can get to Prestonpans by bus from Edinburgh city centre.

Things to Do in Scotland

The cow mural at Prestonpans

Fly 1st Class at the National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, East Lothian

The big attraction at the National Museum of Flight is a Concorde. I was fascinated to learn that the first return crossing of the Atlantic by air was undertaken by the airship R34 which took off from East Fortune in 1919.

Things to Do in Scotland

The Concorde Experience at the National Museum of Flight

South of Scotland

Learn About One of the Fathers of Conservation in Dunbar, East Lothian.

Discover the life story of the conservationist John Muir at his birthplace in Dunbar. You could then walk along the beautiful red cliffs. It’s easy to get to Dunbar by rail from Edinburgh.

Things to Do in Scotland

Display at John Muir’s Birthplace, Dunbar

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Contemplate the Power of the Sea at St Abbs, Scottish Borders

St Abbs is a pretty little fishing village which is now a marine reserve and popular with divers. The Eyemouth Fishing Disaster Memorial in St Abbs portrays some of the anguish caused by the death of 189 fishermen on October 14 1881.

Things to Do in Scotland

Eyemouth Fishing Disaster Memorial, St Abbs

Find Out About 1930s Motorcycling at Hawick Museum, Scottish Borders

Hawick Museum, located in Wilton Park, has a display about the 1930s motorcycling champion, Jimmy Guthrie, who was born in Hawick. There’s a lovely walk along the River Teviot through Wilton Park. If you walk along the river toward the town centre, you’ll find the James Thomson Bridge, opened in 2006 to honour the 19th century local poet.

Things to Do in Scotland

Hawick Museum in Wilton Park

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Take the Waters at St Ronan’s Well, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

Drink from the Spa in the village of Innerleithen, featured in Walter Scott’s novel, St Ronan’s Well.

Things to Do in Scotland

View from St Ronan’s Well, Innerleithen

Enjoy Threave Gardens, near Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

Threave Gardens consists of several themed areas; a secret garden, a rock garden, a rose garden and a peat garden. If you’re lucky with the weather, the cafe has an outdoor seating area.

Things to Do in Scotland

Threave Castle Garden

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Where to stay in Scotland

Find the best deals at hotels all over Scotland with the HotelsCombined price comparison site, which quickly searches through more than 30 of the best travel sites to find the lowest prices for you.

Podcast on Unusual & Fun Things to Do in Scotland

 

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Europe a la Carte Scottish Destination Guides

More Tips for the UK

We’ve articles on 25 Things to Do in England and 25 Fun Things to Do in the UK.

Click here for the lowest prices on Scottish hotels

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Review of Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Waterfront

I stayed for one night, the 27 of December 2010, at the Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Waterfront. I booked the room on the morning on 27 December, using the HotelsCombined price comparison site, at a cost of £45 for a double room for 2 guests, including breakfast.  The hotel is in Leith, very close to the Ocean Terminal shopping and leisure centre, which is home to the Royal Yacht Britannia. There is free guest parking at the hotel.

I was happy with my room on the fourth floor. It was an adequate size for a double room and had a desk area and a sofa bed.   These family rooms can sleep up to two adults and two children under the age of 18 but it would be pretty cramped with four people in the room.  The bed was really comfortable and there was a choice of soft or firm pillows. The bathroom only has a shower. Unfortunately you have to pay if you want to use wifi in your room, although it’s free in the lobby, for up to 6 hours per day. The signal in the lobby was good enough for me to upload a video.

Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Waterfront

Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Waterfront bedroom

My room was at the front of the hotel and the double glazing didn’t quite shut out all the noise from the road below but I wasn’t disturbed overnight by traffic noise.  Several buses stop just outside the hotel, so it’s easy to get to the city centre.

The self service breakfast was good with a choice of cereal, fruit juice, toast, sausage, scrambled eggs, plain yoghurt, pain au chocolat and tinned grapefruit.  There were no croissants and a very limited choice of fresh fruit, apparently due to it being a bank holiday. It did get quite chaotic once it became busy with guests milling around. The two toasters couldn’t cope with the demand.

Overall, if you don’t mind being a couple of miles from the city centre, the Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Waterfront is a good budget Edinburgh hotel, especially for families (kids sharing with adults stay and eat breakfast free of charge).  The hotel is also a good choice if you are going to Edinburgh by car, as parking is expensive and can be hard to find close to your hotel, if you stay in the city centre.  There’s a good choice of restaurants, cafes and pubs within a few minutes walk from the hotel, either at Ocean Terminal or at the Water of Leith.

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Dunnet Head, Most Northerly Point of Great Britain

Despite what it looks like on a map, the mainland of Great Britain and the Orkney Islands aren’t that far apart. This is the view from Dunnet Head, which is the most northerly point on the British Mainland.

From here, Orkney is only about 9 miles away.  You can’t see it in this photo very clearly, but if you’re a bit further west (such as, say, Scrabster) you can make out the Old Man of Hoy.  On a sunny day, that is.

Dunnet Head is rather unremarkable, but it is a peaceful and enjoyable drive.  From the A836, which runs along the north coast, Dunnet Head is down a narrow road that follows the miniature peninsula that juts out into the sea. There’s of course a lighthouse here, as well as a marker indicating the point (in some references it is called Easter Head).

John o’Groats is another small stopping point to the east.  It markets itself as the “last house north in Scotland” which confusingly makes you take it to mean it’s the most northerly point.  This is where the tourists ferries (pedestrian only) leave from, but this is not the most northerly point – Dunnet Head is.

In 2008, Karen reported on a planned makeover for John o’Groats.   Unfortunately I can report that it is still the same tatty, tawdry, and filthy car park it was two years ago.  If you must come here to catch the tourist ferry to Orkney, so be it, but otherwise avoid it if you can.  Dunnet is out of the way, but if you’re in the area and it’s a clear day, it’s definitely worth a stop for the view.

Photo Copyright Andy Hayes

Edinburgh Airport £1 drop off charge: Another Snatch at the UK Fliers Purse

On the 29th October 2010 Edinburgh Airport started charging £1 for passenger drop offs close to the terminal building.

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Entrance to the new £1 drop off facility at Edinburgh Airport

There is a new free drop off facility at the long term car park with a free shuttle bus running every 10 minutes to the terminal.  That leaves passengers with a choice of either paying the £1 to be dropped off at the terminal or adding another 15-20 minutes to their total journey time from home to the airport, to allow additional time to get from the new drop off point to the terminal.

Edinburgh Airport drop off charge

New Free Drop Off Area at Edinburgh Airport Long Stay Car Park

I’m not convinced that the bus shelter at the new free drop off area is adequate, as I can’t see more than about 12 people with luggage fitting in there. The shelter is also a pay station, so imagine someone who tries to get to the ticket machine when it’s full of people waiting for the transfer bus.

Edinburgh Airport drop off charge

Bus Shelter at the new Free Drop Off Area at Edinburgh Airport

What annoyed me most was the previous free drop off area is now being used as a taxi drop off point and was almost deserted when I was there in early November 2010.

Edinburgh Airport drop off charge

Deserted Former Free Drop Off Area outside Edinburgh Airport Terminal

In my opinion, Edinburgh Airport could have either left the former free drop off arrangements in place or allowed  a couple of minutes of free access at the new £1 drop off area.  I live in Berwick upon Tweed, 60 miles from Edinburgh Airport and if I have an early departure or late arrival, it’s just not possible for me to get to and/or back home from the airport by public transport.

It seems to me that UK fliers are viewed as cash cows; paying to be dropped off at the airport, paying ever increasing APD and being forced to buy expensive bottled water after they have come through airport security, as many airports either don’t have drinking water fountains or they are not clearly signed and hard to locate.  Edinburgh Airport does have two drinking water fountains (next to each other) on your left as soon as you come out of security.  It would be useful if there were more in various locations after security.