Scotland's capital Edinburgh may soon take on a bigger role if the country gains independence this year, but it is already a hugely important business centre. Read about it in our monthly guide to business cities.
Each month our resident business travel expert Mark Frary writes the Heathrow Express travel guide to a major city. This month: Edinburgh
Business travel buzz
Edinburgh, a city of half a million on the southern banks of the Firth of Forth, is one of Britain's most important business centres. It is the UK's second busiest conference destination after London and a vitally important financial centre. It’s home to several key players in the sector, including RBS, Standard Life and Scottish Widows.
Image: Edinburgh Skyline, © Edinburgh Inspiring Capital
The region is also a leading science and technology centre – Dolly the Sheep was cloned here. It is centred on the BioQuarter life sciences hub and the Edinburgh Science Triangle. Key employers are Sun Microsystems and AstraZeneca.
Edinburgh draws many through tourism, bolstered by Hogmanay and August's festivals of music, comedy and theatre, injecting £2 billion into the economy.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic offshoot Little Red connect Edinburgh and Heathrow with regular services. BA flies almost hourly during daytime, while Little Red operates six flights a day.
Since May 2014, trams link the airport to the city centre; a single journey costs £5 and takes 35 minutes. A black cab from the airport to the centre costs around £20 and takes 20 minutes.
Edinburgh is relatively small and walkable, but public transport – now the tram is finally running – is reliable and quick.
Image: Edinburgh Georgian Facade, © Edinburgh Inspiring Capital
Here on business in August? The Fringe is a must-see. Book in advance if you want to catch a big name - but with thousands of shows on, finding something to watch is never a problem. Once the Fringe starts, reviews are plastered everywhere and promo people will be quick to tell you their show has scored rave reviews.
Image: Fringe on Princes St., © Edinburgh Inspiring Capital
The port of Leith is the final resting place of the Royal Yacht Britannia and is well worth a scoot around – just so you can satisfy your curiosity about the sort of bedroom the Queen sleeps in.
If you have a spare hour, discover the hidden Edinburgh by strolling round the small streets off the Royal Mile.
The Black Book
If you are looking to stay in traditional Scottish high style (think: grand, baronial style with high ceilings), The Balmoral and The Caledonian are hard by the Waverley railway station in Princes Street.
Image: The Caledonian Hotel, Edinburgh
A well-located hotel with reasonable rates throughout the year is The George Hotel on George Street. The hotel has modern rooms (with a hint of tartan) and there is a good bar for networking. Another business staple with even better rates is the Apex City Hotel on Grassmarket – it also has strong tech credentials and a more contemporary feel than the others above.
After somewhere casual for a business lunch? Hidden away on Rose Street is the Mussel Inn. Forgive the pun in the name – the seafood here is excellent; grab a kilo of mussels or a dozen chilled oysters from Scotland's western sea lochs.
The Witchery on Royal Mile has been established since 1979 and still impresses thanks to its beautiful interior and excellent locally sourced food; you can't go wrong with a business lunch of Loch Duart salmon and Borders steak.
Meanwhile, a recent addition to the dining scene is Timberyard on Lady Lawson Street. A former 19th century costume and prop warehouse, it has some brilliant private dining spaces.
The Grassmarket is packed with bars. Some of the best include The Last Drop, whose name swings with gallows humour (it refers to the hanging place for Edinburgh's criminals of yore) and Deacon Brodie's on the Royal Mile; an Edinburgh institution named after one of the real-life inspirations for Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
If you want a relaxing pitstop, Frederick's Coffee House on Frederick Street does great artisanal coffee, while Lovecrumbs at 155 West Port has amazing cakes and is a good place to catch up on the inbox.
Keen to see Edinburgh as the locals do? Just follow these influencers:
- Ian Rankin, @Beathhigh writer of the Edinburgh-based Rebus crime novels and a prolific tweeter about the city he lives in.
- This is Edinburgh, @thisisedinburgh glorious images from the city’s marketing body, showing off the best of the Scottish capital
- My Monkfish Edinburgh food blog for reviews of restaurants, details of secret supper clubs, local artisan food producers and more
- Terry Murden, @TerryMurden1 business editor of The Scotsman, with a finger on the pulse of Scottish business
- Leith-born novelist Irvine Welsh @IrvineWelsh best known for Trainspotting, is as acerbic with his tweets as his books
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