Make sure to buy your skip-the-line tickets online before your visit!
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Tips to avoid the queues at Edinburgh Castle
The best way to avoid queues in the Castle is to prebook your ticket on the official website. That will guarantee you a queue-free entrance, though you won’t be able to skip crowds on place, that’s why choosing a good hour is very important.
The queue for the ticket can easily take an hour of your time during high season, so plan ahead!
One of the Castle’s main highlights is the One o’clock Gun, fired at 13:00 every day except Sunday. That’s the peak hour at the Castle, as most visitors try to assist at the event, and visitors’ number is the highest during the day.
Prefer a weekday for your visit. Weekends always attract bigger crowds.
Try to visit the Castle during off-peak hours: either come right at the opening, or in the afternoon. The second option is more risky, as the territory is big, with a significant number of buildings, museums, towers - and you’ll need at least a couple of hours to explore it. In case you don’t have time, check the 1-hour itinerary that will let you see the main highlights in a short time.
Coming at the opening will let you be ahead of crowds. In summer it’s quite common to see a queue for the tickets at that time already - it may take up to 10 minutes. Consider that’s nothing compared to what will be on place an hour or two later. In case you arrive one of the first - the best thing would be to head immediately to the Honours of Scotland (Scottish crown jewels) exhibition: that’s the place in the caste where the crowds are most bothersome. Three hours suffice in most cases to discover the Castle at your pace and come to the One o’clock Gun’s place about 10-15 minutes before the gun fire - to find a good place to make photos without people’s heads in front of you.
The tour groups are common and may seem rather oppressive. They are rare to see before 10 AM and after 3 PM.
Check the opening hours before going, especially if you plan the afternoon visit: the Castle is open until 6 PM from April to September, and closes at 5 PM the rest of the year. The last entry is one hour before the closing time.
Sunday is less crowded compared to Saturday, mostly due to the fact that it’s the only day when the Gun doesn’t fire. Prefer it if coming during the high season if assisting to the Gun’s fire is not so important to you.
Photo credits to Alan Findlay via geograph (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Best time to visit Edinburgh Castle
The main thing you should know about Edinburgh is that it is incredibly crowded during the month of August: the Edinburgh festival (which in fact includes a dozen of separate festivals taking place at the same time) attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors during the month. The prices are at their highest, and you should book everything well in advance.
If you’re not really into theater and arts, then August is definitely the month to avoid. Your stay will therefore be cheaper and quieter. Try to avoid the month of July as well, as it’s the second busiest one.
Another peak period falls on winter holidays - from Christmas to the beginning of January. Hogmanay (the New Year night), by the way, is usually a far bigger party than Christmas in Scotland. Though this time is very special and unique, with street parties, lights, concerts, torchlight procession - it gets rather crowded, and the rates are almost equal to those of August.
To get the most of good weather and dissipated crowds, visit Edinburgh during the shoulder season: in May, June or September.
Winter is the calmest time of the year (except for holidays’ period). Though the weather is not perfect, you won’t be bothered by crowds and will get the cheapest rates.
Queue for the tickets at Edinburgh Castle - photo credits to Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
- Adult (16-59 yrs) : £16.50
- Child (5-15yrs) : £9.90
- Concession (60yrs+ and unemployed): £13.20
If you plan to visit several castles - consider buying Explorer Pass. The price for a 3-days-pass (you can use it any 3 days within a 5-days period):
- Adult (aged 16 to 59): £30.00
- Child (aged 5 to 15): £18.00
- Concession (60+ or student): £24.00
- Family (2 adults and upto 6 children): £60.00
- By air: BAA Edinburgh is the nearest airport.
- By rail: Waverley Station or Haymarket Railway Station.
- By bus: there is an express bus service from the airport - Airlink 100 - to Edinburgh city centre.
- By car: the nearest city parking zones are located at Castle Terrace and Johnston Terrace.
- By bike: the closest bicycle racks are located within walking distance of the castle at Victoria Street, Waverley Station or Chambers Street.
Photo credits to Christopher Aitken via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)