Finding new things to do in a city where you thought you’ve seen it all on numerous trips in the past is always exciting. It was on my tour around the UK to visit all four Safestay Hostels (two in London, one in York and one in Edinburgh) that I stumbled across a couple of things in Edinburgh that were completely new to me. Rabbie’s ‘Edinburgh City Tour’ was one of them – but it was not only new to me, but it is also the newest addition to Rabbie’s tour programme with trips all over the country, the British islands and even across the channel to France.
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The tour around Edinburgh takes roughly 1.5 hours and offers a great introduction to the city’s highlights told from a local’s perspective. Read on to find out where the tour takes you and what I thought about it!
Rabbie’s Edinburgh City Tour starts in the heart of the city on Waverley Bridge at the bottom of Cockburn Street. During the summer it runs every full hour from 9am to 7pm, which was when I boarded the open-deck mini van. Yes, you’ve heard correctly: Rabbie’s drives you through the city of Edinburgh in a convertible 16-seater – when it rains or it’s too cold the driver will simply close the roof, but when it’s sunny and warm you can feel the wind in your face.
It’s this small group size that makes the difference – the usual suspects of city bus tours cram as many people as possible into a double-decker bus, whereas Rabbie’s focuses on small group trips and a personal experience with the driver. It’s not a hop-on hop-off tour, but the driver stops at certain key points so you can get off to take photos.
There is no live tour guide, cause there’s way too much to see, but instead you plug into your seat’s audio system to listen to a pre-recorded audio guide with stories and tips by locals.
You can get your tickets online or at Rabbie’s Cafe in Waterloo Place, approximately 6 minutes from the starting point of the tour. The cost is £20 per person. While you’re there have a coffee and a cake!
Where does Rabbie’s Edinburgh City Tour take you?
The short version: the tour goes past most of Edinburgh’s attractions. But of course, you want the long version.
From Waverley my driver Dave set out past the Scott’s Monument on Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle that towers above Princes Street Gardens. We continued through Edinburgh’s West End which I had actually never been to.
I loved these first glimpses of Dean Village, the Water of Leith, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and St Mary’s Cathedral – I need to make sure to come back here. And when I do, I will definitely keep this self-guided tour on the Water of Leith Walkway handy!
Back in the Old Town we headed along the Grassmarket, past Bobby the dog and Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar, along George IV Bridge (which is a bridge, even if it doesn’t look like it these days) and up the Royal Mile towards Edinburgh Castle. This is where you we stopped for the first time, giving me the opportunity to stroll towards the Esplanade and take in the views over Edinburgh.
The third section of the tour lead us back across Waverley Bridge, but this time turning east towards Calton Hill and Holyrood. After we passed Calton Hill Dave stopped again, along Regent Road, as from here you can enjoy splendid views over Arthur Seat. Why I had never walked to this photo spot, I don’t know – by foot I’d estimate it’s probably around 15 minutes from Waverley Station…
This was probably my favourite part of the tour, because the setting sun cast the most beautiful light over the hill and the roofs of Edinburgh. To finish off the tour we drove past Holyrood Palace, the Scottish Parliament and back up the Royal Mile.
The tour ended where it began, only that I left the minibus with a lot more knowledge, a better idea of the city’s layout and a few things to add to my bucket list!
Would I recommend this tour?
Book the Edinburgh City Tour with Rabbie’s here!
But what about getting off the bus to explore? Edinburgh is so walkable, that you don’t really need a hop-on hop-off bus to tick all the boxes. You can easily start your stay with Rabbie’s tour to get an overview and make a list of the places you particularly liked, and then head out on foot for the rest of the day (or days).
I like that you’re not seated in a double decker bus, but a small mini van – it makes for a much more intimate and exclusive feeling. The open roof is just the icing on the cake.
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