Edinburgh Spotlight tests out the Edinburgh Pass
The Edinburgh Pass is the top tourist attraction pass for those visiting Edinburgh. We thought we would use our local knowledge and give a shot at cramming in as much as possible to get value for money.
Adult prices: 1 day pass £29, 2 day pass £39 & 3 day pass £49
Child prices: 1 day pass £18, 2 day pass £24 & 3 day pass £30.
Our review covers the use of 2 adults passes over 3 consecutive days (£49 each).
There’s a section of FAQ’s on the Edinburgh Pass website, but the main ones we thought about were:
Does the Edinburgh Pass cover Edinburgh Castle? No.
When does the card activate? As soon as your visit your first attraction.
Do I have to use the 2 and 3 day passes on consecutive days? Yes.
Does the Edinburgh Pass include travel on Lothian Buses? No, you will need to pay for your fares separately, but most of the attractions visited can be done on foot.
Bearing all of these in mind, we used the free information book and got planning! Taking into account logistics and opening hours, we came up with 3 full-on days of activities. Each of the days are broken down with what we did and the total cost (if you were visiting without the Edinburgh Pass) which clearly demonstrates how much you can save. We didn’t use the free airport bus ticket since we already live here, but that’s worth £6 and can be used on any day before or after the pass is valid. We made substantial savings, making the Edinburgh Pass suitable for residents as well.
Highlighted attractions are linked to individual reviews of the property or their own website.
Taking advantage of the 9am opening at Edinburgh Zoo (£15.50) we spent 2-3 hours exploring this animal attraction. The highlights were the chimpanzees in the Budongo Trail and the sunbears. We made use of the free hill-top safari to save our legs and left just before noon having seen the majority of what we wanted to.
Using the bus stop directly outside the zoo, we heading into town and the North Bridge. Taking a left down the Royal Mile, we were at the Queen’s Gallery (£6) by 12.25pm where we enjoyed 40 minutes (including the free audio tour) of photos of the Queen from birth.
Our next stop was the Surgeon’s Hall Museum (£5) which is a fascinating series of exhibitions themed around surgery and anatomy in a building that is home to the Royal College of Surgeons. There are exhibits from years gone by, right up to information on modern-day sports surgery and a chance to try out keyhole surgery for yourself (simulated).
We had to leave there by 3.30pm to get to the Mercat Cross in the High Street to start our 4pm tour with Mercat Tours – the secrets of the Royal Mile. (£10) This was an interesting tour that informed us of the secrets that lurk in the history of Edinburgh’s most famous street.
As this tour finished in Blair Street at 5.15pm, we walked the short distance to the timber-panelled John Knox House (£4.25). Since it closed at 6pm, we quickly walked through this house (circa 1490). It’s doubtful that John Knox ever lived here, but instead, preached from the window. Although it was a quick visit, it was definitely worth taking the short tour for a glimpse of this old house.
Our next stop was outside the Witchery on the Royal Mile to start our Murder and Witchery Tour (£7.50) at 7.30pm (pre-booking essential). Adam Lyal (deceased) told us stories from Edinburgh’s history with the help of a few characters from its past. The tour is not frighteningly scary, but there’s a few ‘jump out’ moments, but all done in good fun. This is an excellent tour and one you should make sure you fit in during your visit to Edinburgh.
Total cost without Edinburgh Pass for the day – £48.25. Saving of £18.25 per adult on standard 1 day pass (+£6 for airlink bus).
We visited Calton Hill first thing in the morning and soaked up the magnificent views that can be had from here, before the Nelson Monument (£3) opened at 10am. This monument was erected in 1807 and stands 30 metres high. There are 143 steps to reach the top of the public access and a further 27 that are private. The viewing platform is small, but offers unrivaled views of Edinburgh.
Plan your itinerary and you can save substantial amounts of money
We took lots of photos before walking towards Charlotte Square (approx 25-30 mins at slow pace) and arrived at the Georgian House (£5.50). This property was formerly owned by the family of the Marquess of Bute before it was refurbished by the National Trust. It’s a delightful way to spend an hour and gives visitors a glimpse of life in the New Town in the 18th century.
We headed towards Kingstables Road and the shadows of Edinburgh Castle, through the Grassmarket and up picturesque Victoria Street to Gladstone’s Land (£5.50) at the top of the Royal Mile. This six-storey was home to a prosperous 17th century merchant. The painted ceilings are incredible and the reconstructed shop booth is excellent with its 17th century replica goods.
Camera Obscura is a must-see
Our next stop was one of our favourite attractions in Edinburgh – Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions (£9.95) which has a 150 year old observatory with a roving mirror that projects a 360 degree panorama of the city. The rest of the displays and interactive exhibitions drop you into a world of illusion and warped images. The views of Edinburgh Castle and down the Royal Mile are impressive, but we loved the shrinking room and mirror-maze the best. Certainly a great way to spend the rest of the afternoon until it closed at 6pm.
At 7pm, we started the Ghost and Gore Tour (£7.50) outside the nearby Witchery. Pre-booking is essential. We learnt about Alexander Clapperton, Jimmy Tamson and other characters from Edinburgh’s history and was an excellent (and not scary) way to the end the day.
Total cost without the Edinburgh Pass for the day – £31.45. Savings so far on a two day pass (£39) per adult is £41.45 (+£6 for airlink bus)
A more leisurely day was planned for our third day that involved our car. If you’re a tourist, you could still do this day tour with a hire-car, picking it up early and dropping it off in the evening (or leaving town the next day).
We chose to do it in the following order for a reason.
Starting off at Hopetoun House at 10.30am (£9.20) we explored the impressive family home of the earls and marquesses of Linlithgow. Most of the original 18th-century furniture and wall coverings can still be seen. The grounds of Hopetoun House are also very impressive and we managed a brief walk around the parkland before heading down the east coast at 12.30pm. The car journey took us approximately 1 hour to reach the National Museum of Flight (£9.50). We explored the hangars and parachute store and were amazed by the concorde experience which allows you to step inside a real plane. The new interactive exhibits are excellent and we spent time learning how things fly and making the most of this hands-on museum.
A short 15 minute journey saw us arrive into North Berwick at 4.15pm and into the Scottish Seabird Centre (£7.95). We loved the live cameras that allowed us to snoop on birds nesting on Bass Rock and neighbouring islands. The puffins were extremely cute and we made good use of the information boards to learn about the animals. There is also an outdoor telescope deck that allows you to look at the islands more closely.
Choosing to do these 3 activities in this order made perfect sense as we wandered round the streets of North Berwick and had a well-deserved ice cream. The beach also makes a pleasant stroll and for anyone with any energy left after 3 full days of sight-seeing, you could make the effort to walk up Berwick Law.
Total cost for the day without the Edinburgh Pass – £26.65
Total spendings with the 3 day Edinburgh Pass – £106.10
Cost of 3 day Edinburgh Pass -£49.00 per adult
Total savings – £57.15 per adult (+£6 airlink bus)
Of course, there’s different combinations you can do, but that’s the itineraries that we came up to get exceedingly good value from the passes.
Other attractions included
Dynamic Earth normally costs £10.50 and the Edinburgh Dungeons £15.84 (the Edinburgh Pass also giving you priority entry). One tour that we highly recommend is one of the Greenyonder Tours run by Edinburgh woman, Jean Bareham. You can see the full list of attractions also included in the pass on the website.
With a little bit of planning, tourists and Edinburgh residents can get good value out of the Edinburgh Pass.
There are also good food discounts available with the Edinburgh Pass, all of which are listed here.
All offers associated with the Edinburgh Pass can be found here.