City Extras: Edinburgh

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The Concise and Opinionated Guide to the City

Grab the 2021 edition here.

UK MANDATORY QUARANTINE FINALLY LIFTED FOR AMERICAN VISITORS – August 2021

For those planning to enter the United Kingdom from August 2021 onwards, the five day quarantine and the “eighth-day” negative Covid test in Great Britain will no longer required for fully vaccinated citizens of the United States. This comes as pressure from the travel industry reached an all time high in that country and is great news for the hospitality industry.  And even though Scotland has been left to make its own decisions regarding the pandemic, it too has lifted the requirements.  The UK will now accept the infamous CDC paper card as viable proof of your full vaccination.

Even so, the U.S. still warns against travel to and from the UK.  We have been awaiting a change to this status but none so far.

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IMPORTANT:  For those “re-entering” the USA in the coming weeks – July/August 2021

If you’re a Covid vaccinated or antibodied American citizen and you go overseas, please know that you must still prove you are “virus free” in order to be allowed back into the United States. This can be done by showing proof of a negative Covid test that was taken within 48 hours of your departure flight home. If your test turns out to be positive for any reason (including test malfunction etc.) be prepared to quarantine in the country you were trying to leave until you test negative. (For some folks this might mean bringing a larger quantity of prescription medication, just in case!)

We are mentioning this because it is in effect now (July 2021) and few travelers seem to know about it. More information can be found on the government’s CDC website here.  Look for the paragraph, “Before You Arrive in the United States”

Luckily, the Covid test is now quite easy to find at most pharmacies in the UK (not sure about elsewhere) but is not given for free to foreign travelers. You will have to pay for the test which currently ranges from around 29 pounds to 50 pounds. We hope this changes soon because it is clearly an overreach. American citizens should always be allowed to return home.

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Summer Happenings / July 2021

   There’s always something going on in Edinburgh, especially during the long daylight hours of the summer months.  With the pandemic under control, the performing arts are definitely making a comeback even before the Edinburgh International Festival begins. This month, at the city’s historic Lyceum Theatre, the focus is on their youth festival. All kinds of great shows are offered for the little ones and their website gives age recommendations for each. If you are traveling with little ones, check it out.

theatre lyceum

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The Edinburgh International Festival is coming back!  

     For those who may not be familiar with the Edinburgh Festival, let’s just say that it’s a big deal. Not last year, of course… it was cancelled for the first time in its history. But it will be back this year in August as usual, and will run concurrently with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as usual. So what are these? They are performance festivals the size of which are unheard of anywhere else. That’s why the world comes to Edinburgh in August. It’s like a big party with high brow performances by stars in the city’s best venues, talented unknowns in the medium venues, enthusiastic performers in the little venues, and everyone else performing in the pubs and in the street. It’s wild! Even various musical and military groups participate in something called the Military Tattoo. And it all culminates with a fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle. 

      This year it will be a bit reimagined, however. There will be specially built outdoor pavilions in iconic spaces throughout the city.  Social distancing in the venues will be in place. Out of necessity, the Military Tattoo is postponed until 2022. Even so, you can rediscover the magic of live performance right here from August 7th to the 29th and can grab the tickets online. Full details can be found at this link.  What a way to celebrate mankind returning to life!

2021-tattoo

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We’re back!  May 2021

    Clued In cities all over the place are beginning to come back to life. Because of all the recent positive changes, we have just updated our travel books to be current for summer 2021. We will continue to update them as things change further.  In anticipation of future travel, we welcome you back to Edinburgh and to the world!

(Included info could potentially be affected by the pandemic)

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Restaurants beginning to reopen – May 2021

     There’s a glimmer of hope for Edinburgh’s restaurants, shuttered for weeks during the worst of the pandemic scare.  Hopefully we’ll have even more good news to report next month.  Baby steps, we know.

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Taxi Clues for Edinburgh – March 2020 

     Since some travelers are looking to avoid crowds and mass transit this spring, we’re providing at-a-glace info regarding official taxi cabs in the Scottish capital. While not as inexpensive, a taxi will make you feel more confident and get you where you’re going in style. And if your party is more than a single rider, it can be a great value. We always budget it in!

  • Only hire the city’s official, metered taxis displaying a lit roof light. They come in all colors and shapes, so it’s these roof lights that will distinguish them.  You can hail a taxi from any Edinburgh curbside, as long as it’s not too near an official taxi rank. They must be “available” of course, with their roof light lit up.
  • Taxi queues are called taxi ranks by the locals
  • Most taxi fares within central Edinburgh range between £5 to £8 and tipping is unnecessary. It’s appropriate to round up to the nearest pound, especially if the driver was helpful.
  • The taxis usually accept credit cards, but always have cash on you in case their credit machine isn’t functioning or can’t find a signal. There’s an additional 5% added to any taxi fare paid with plastic.
  •  Do not expect cab drivers to change a £50 or £100 note; they are not required to.
  • If a taxi is called to your hotel or restaurant, it will already have its meter running from when it started to come get you. Don’t be alarmed by this as it’s completely legit and is the norm.
  • Official taxi ranks can be found near main squares or sights, so note where they are in your area is case you need one quickly at some point. 
  • Supplements are imposed on top of the timed fare, such as late night fees, weekend fees, etc. Watch out for meters that seem suspicious in the pricing. If there’s any confusion regarding your fare, remember that the current rates and surcharges should be clearly displayed. Always get a receipt from the driver.
  • Tip: If you know you’ll be taking taxis (as opposed to Uber) than we recommended getting the local Edinburgh app called www.cheaper.taxi . It’s a fleet of by-hire-only taxis that are usually less than Uber and about 40% less than regular taxis.
  • At the time of our publishing, the city’s basic, non-Christmastime taxi fares are as follows:

Weekdays:  Mondays from 6am to Fridays at 6pm the fare is £2.10, plus each additional 188 meters £0.25

Weekends:  Saturdays from 6am to Mondays at 6am the fare is £3.10, plus additional 188 meters £0.25

Extra fees:  More than two passengers: £.20 per passenger, Call out charge: £.80, Airport pickup: £.80 Payment by credit or debit card: increase of 5%, £1 for luggage.

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Our Edinburgh NTK – February 2020

     Every so often, we like to add a Need-to-Know for our favorite cities. With a new year and new decade upon us, it’s time to mention the newly-approved “hotel tax” that will soon be charged to visitors in Edinburgh. (If you’re staying in a serviced apartment instead, this still applies to you!)  We want you to know what you’re up against, especially if you’re the type of person who hates to read the fine print.

     Also called a “tourist tax,” it is separate from the regular city tax that will be applied to your bill and is paid directly to the proprietor. It will most likely be accepted in cash pounds only so be prepared. How much will it be? Beginning sometime in 2020, visitors will be expected to pay aounnd £3 per person, per night. One more thing… if you book through Expedia or some other hotel website, your grand total will not include this special extra tax.  You’ve been warned!

Edinburgh Hotel

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Night owls rejoice – January 2020

     If you’re one of those people who just comes alive at night, Edinburgh in January is for you! Being a northern city, the winter daylight hours run from about 8:30am to 4pm giving you plenty of darkness to run around in.  Don’t worry, the temperatures only get down into the high 30’s so it’s not that bad, and their multitude of quaint pubs will be going strong. Nothing like a hot toddy to warm your cockles. We recommend the gorgeous Deacon Brodie’s Tavern located just a stone’s throw from the famed Edinburgh Castle.  Say hello for us!

pub deacon

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Where to enjoy an amazing holiday dinner – December 2019

     We love having a meal with a festive menu at holiday time, and in Edinburgh that means the Rhubarb Restaurant at the Prestonfield House Inn. Their special three-course menu will be offered throughout the month of December but must be booked as soon as possible while tables are still available. Note that this amazing mansion hotel is a ten minute taxi ride from the old town. Here are the main courses offered:

Roast pheasant breast, confit pheasant leg and black pudding pithivier, sage and onion barley risotto, roast Granny Smith apples, cider jus
Blade of Scotch Beef Wellington, Arran mustard pommes mousseline, skirlie, braised leeks, pickled turnips, Madeira jus
Seared cod fillet, romesco crumb, saffron gnocchi, spinach, broccoli, blood orange butter sauce
Roast butternut squash, muhammara, tabbouleh, barrel-aged feta, mint and coriander dressing

Rhubarb Restaurant

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Join a special Christmas walking tour – November 2019

     Edinburgh lights up for the holidays and its charming Christmas Markets should not be missed. Now you can join a walking tour of its best holiday sights, including a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine to warm your cockles. If you’re sentimental about the holidays, don’t miss it. Offered November 20, 2019 through January 6, 2020 but you’ll need to book ahead! A 24-hour cancellation refund is offered in case your plans change.

Christmas Market

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Explore the creepy underground vaults of Edinburgh – October 2019

    Our recommendations for Edinburgh in autumn would normally include music events or new restaurants, but our new series of “Bored In” travel books have inspired us to go in a spookier direction this year. Below is one of the scary things you can visit that will be included in the upcoming Bored in Edinburgh–Awesome Experiences for the Repeat Visitor:

     Below Edinburgh’s South Bridge area (one of the oldest sections of town) lies a series of disused underground vaults from the 1700’s. You can tour them at night when they’re at their spookiest and rub shoulders with the spirits that dwell there. With an informative guide from Mercat Tours, you’ll brave the dark passageways and hear historic tales in a way that only a true Scot can tell them. You’ll see excavated spaces, previous human habitation, and even a tavern  with wine vaults. This 75-minute walking tour of subterranean Edinburgh even offers a special Halloween tour of the vaults but you’ll need to book as soon as possible though their website here.

night walking tour in Edinburgh

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It’s the start of the social season in Edinburgh – September 2019

    There’s a lot going on in the Scottish capital so if you’re planning to visit during the fall season, snag a ticket to something soon. We recommend the new play by David Greig, Solaris, which will be performed at the gorgeous Lyceum Theatre. As of this posting there are still tickets available.

  In addition, Edinburgh’s Doors Open Days takes place on the weekend of September 28th and 29th. You can see places you can’t normally get into, like the famous Assembly Rooms or the historic Drumsheugh Baths Club which dates from the late 1800’s. Booking for all visits and events started on September 2nd and the extensive list can be found at this website.  

baths club Edinburgh

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How to stay afloat in Edinburgh – August 2019

     If you’re heading out to our favorite city in Scotland and haven’t made your hotel reservations yet, consider a stay aboard a ship permanently docked in the Firth of Forth! The Fingal, a stunning decommissioned ship (stationed very near to Her Majesty’s Royal Yacht Britannia) in the suburb of Leith might be just the kind of unusual experience you’ve been looking for. Consider staying there for a night or two, just to take it all in and make some very special memories. Then switch to another hotel in Edinburgh’s city center. We won’t tell.  “An exquisite five star, twenty-three cabin boutique hotel complete with ballroom and sweeping grand staircase.”   Just look at those pictures!

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In Focus: the Tolbooth Tavern – July 2019

        The famously haunted Tolbooth Tavern is both a historic sight and a great place to grab an ale.  Built in 1591, it used to be part of the official tollbooth of the Canongate neighborhood’s administration and was at that time outside the gates of Edinburgh’s Old Town.  Located on what is now called “the Royal Mile” (the main boulevard of the Old Town) it is closer to Her Majesty’s Holyrood palace than it is to the city’s famous castle. Even so, it’s worth a stop and offers all the traditional pub food you could want. You might just make a new friend there, from this century or a previous.

tolbooth taverntolbooth tavern interior

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In Focus: Edinburgh’s Peacocks – June 2019

     Peacocks in Edinburgh? You betcha.  They stroll around the lovely grounds at the Prestonfield Manor House, home of the exquisite restaurant Rhubarb.  This place has the best Afternoon Tea service in town to begin with, and as you bite into a just-baked scone, a peacock walks by outside the window. Amazing! (Rhubarb’s afternoon tea is offered everyday from noon to 7pm.)

Peacock at-PrestonfieldAnother Peacock at Prestonfield