The Royal Edinburgh Ticket is a great way to save money when visiting the top royal attractions in Edinburgh Scotland! The ticket covers all three of our favorite royal sites in Edinburgh: the mighty and historic Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace (official Scottish residence of the royal family), and Royal Yacht Britannia (royal yacht used by the royal family from 1954 to 1997). Not only are these the three most important royal attractions in Edinburgh, they are three of the most popular and visited attractions in the city. If you want to visit all three during your trip to Edinburgh, you can save up to 25% by using the Royal Edinburgh Ticket versus buying each entrance ticket separately. The ticket also includes unlimited hop-on hop-off bus transportation around the city for 48 hours! We’ll tell you how to purchase and collect the pass, what it covers, how to calculate your cost savings, and tips on how to make the most of your pass.
Edinburgh is one of our favorite UK cities, and there is a lot to see here. We’ve lived here now for over a year and we discover new places to visit almost every time we visit! However, as a first time visitor, there are definitely some highlights that most visitors want to see and Laurence and I have both separately written articles about the top things to do in Edinburgh (my post) and top things to see in Edinburgh (Laurence’s post). The two lists cover some different places, but all three of the attractions covered by the Royal Edinburgh Ticket happen to appear in both of our lists as these are three of the most popular things for visitors to do in Edinburgh. The ticket can be a great money saver for those planning to visit all of these places and it also provides a convenient transportation option that allows you to get between the attractions. But the ticket is not a great option for everyone and we’ll tell you about it below so you can make an informed decision!
What is the Royal Edinburgh Ticket?
The Royal Edinburgh Ticket is a pass that includes free entrance and fast-tracked entry to three of Edinburgh’s most popular attractions: Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse, and The Royal Yacht Britannia. The ticket also includes unlimited hop-on hop-off bus tour services for 48 consecutive hours on three of Edinburgh’s sightseeing buses.
What attractions does the Royal Edinburgh Ticket include?
The pass includes free entry into Edinburgh’s three most popular royal sites:
Edinburgh Castle is the most recognizable landmark in the city and dominates the city skyline from its place atop a volcanic peak. The castle is steeped in royal history, having served as the residence for many famous monarchs such as Mary, Queen of Scots. The 800-year-old castle is home to the Honours of Scotland (the “Scottish Crown Jewels”), the 12th century St. Margaret’s Chapel, Mons Megs (one of the oldest surviving canons), and two museums, the Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum (entry to both are included). Inside the castle you get to see a large collection of artifacts and learn information about the people who once lived in this mighty castle. Outside from the castle terrace, you have access to some amazing views over the city. A popular time to be on the terrace is for the 1:00 firing of the gun that takes place almost every day of the year to mark 1pm. Edinburgh Castle is one of the most popular visitor attractions in the city, so it is a good idea to visit in the morning if you want to visit at a less crowded time of day.
NOTE: An audioguide is not included with entrance tickets, but an audioguide can be rented for a small fee for those wanting to have more information during their visit. The castle also offers short free guided tours at various times throughout the day to visitors and you can check times upon arrival at the castle.
Officially called the Palace of Holyroodhouse, it is often referred to as Holyrood Palace, and is the official residence for the British monarch in Scotland. Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the monarchs of Scotland since the 16th century. The royal history here includes everyone from Mary Queen of Scots to Queen Elizabeth II, and you get to see both the historic rooms (including those once occupied by Mary Queen of Scots) and the contemporary state rooms still used by the royal family for events. In addition to the Royal Apartments and State Apartments of Holyrood Palace, visitors can also visit the gardens, grounds, and the remains of the 12th century Augustinian Holyrood Abbey. Photography is not allowed inside the palace but is allowed in the grounds, gardens, and abbey. A helpful and informative audioguide is included with all visits which helps provide a lot of context to the palace visit.
NOTE: Entrance to the Queen’s Gallery is not included in the Royal Edinburgh Ticket. However, visitors who wish to visit the Queen’s Gallery can buy a separate ticket. The Queen’s Gallery is located in a separate building (in front of the palace) and contains a rotating exhibition of art and historical artifacts from the Royal Collection.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Officially known as Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia, this yacht was first commissioned just after Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne. The yacht was in service to the Queen and the royal family for over 40 years, from 1954 to 1997, and sailed over 1 million miles on hundreds of state visits and royal honeymoons. According to Wikipedia, Britannia is the 83rd royal sailing vessel owned by the British monarchy since King Charles II first vessel in 1660. Today the Britannia is docked at the Port of Leith and is often voted as Scotland’s Best Visitor Attraction by VisitScotland. Visitors to the yacht get to see the bedrooms of the royal family, the Bridge, the state dining room, crews quarters, and workspaces. Visitors can also have tea or lunch aboard the royal yacht at the Royal Deck Tea Room. All visits include an informative audioguide to help guide your visit. Within walking distance are shopping and dining opportunities (including the Ocean Terminal shopping center) as well as the opportunity to explore the Leith district.
NOTE: The yacht is well outside central Edinburgh (in Leith) but can be reached by taking the Majestic Hop-on Hop-off bus service that is included for free as part of the 48 hour bus ticket with the Royal Edinburgh Ticket. It can also be reached by public bus service.
How does the Hop-on Hop-Off Bus Ticket work?
The Royal Edinburgh Ticket includes 48 consecutive hours of unlimited travel on three of Edinburgh’s sightseeing bus tours. Your ticket is good for 48 hours from the first time you use it, and you can hop-on and off of the three buses as much as you want during that time frame. Buses arrive at each designated stop every 20-30 minutes depending on the time of year (you’ll be given a schedule with your tickets). Bus services run year-round and normally start between 8:30 and 10:00 (8:30am and 10:00am) and end between 16:00 and 18:00 (4:00pm and 6:00pm), depending on the time of year and specific bus service.
The specific buses (each are a different color) included are the Edinburgh Tour (green), City Sightseeing Tour (red), and Majestic Tour (blue) buses. You can use these hop-on hop-off buses to reach all three of the attractions on the Royal Edinburgh Ticket as well as many other sites in Edinburgh (e.g., National Museum of Scotland, Calton Hill, Royal Mile, New Town, Royal Botanic Gardens, Leith cruise terminal). You should note that none of the bus tours include all 3 attractions, so you just need to be sure to catch the right bus depending on where you want to go but many share the same bus stop (e.g., all the tours start and end at Waverley Bridge and all three stop at the Palace of Holyrood so you can connect to any of the buses from these two places).
- Edinburgh Tour (green) buses have live guides, cover Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town (full tour about an hour), and include stops at both Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This tends to be a visitor favorite as it includes the live guides aboard.
- City Sightseeing Tour (red) buses have pre-recorded commentary in several languages, cover central Edinburgh (full tour about an hour), and include stops at both Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood.
- Majestic Tour (blue) buses included pre-recorded multi-language commentary, cover parts of Old & New Town as well as the Royal Botanic Gardens and Leith (full tour about an hour), with stops at both the Palace of Holyrood and Royal Yacht Britannia.
Royal Edinburgh Ticket Cost?
Royal Edinburgh Ticket prices as of March 2017:
- £51.00 – Adult tickets (age 16 to 59)
- £45.00 – Concession tickets (senior 60+ or student with valid ID)
- £28.00 Child tickets (age 5 to 15)
- Children under age 5 are free to ride the bus and enter the attractions as long as they are accompanied by a paying adult (up to 2 children per adult)
Be prepared to show valid ID at the ticket booth. Seniors may be asked for proof of age and students will need to show a valid student ID. Also good to have IDs for children with proof of their ages.
How to buy the Royal Edinburgh Ticket?
In Person. The Royal Edinburgh Ticket can be purchased in person from the ticket sellers at the Edinburgh Bus Tours Tickets Sellers kiosk, 31 Waverley Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1BQ (open daily 8am – 8pm). Phone: 0131 220 0770
Online. The Royal Edinburgh Ticket is easy to purchase online in advance. There are a few options, but we’d recommend buying it either here from the online store run by the Visit Britain tourism board -OR- from the Edinburgh Bus Tours website here.
Prices are normally the same on both websites. The e-voucher from the Visit Britain store is valid for redemption for 1 year after date of purchase and the e-voucher from Edinburgh Bus Tours is valid for 6 months after date of purchase.
After you make the online purchase, you’ll then receive an email with the Royal Edinburgh Ticket e-voucher to print that you will need to print to pick up the ticket once you are in Edinburgh. Once you arrive in Edinburgh and want to begin using your ticket, you just need to take your printed voucher to the Edinburgh Bus Tours Ticket Sellers kiosk, Waverley Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1BQ (open daily 8am – 8pm). Waverley Bridge is located near the Waverley Train station and at the end of the AIRLINK 100 bus journey if you are coming from Edinburgh Airport. They’ll provide you with your Edinburgh Royal ticket and information brochures.
NOTE: E-vouchers are generally non-cancellable, non-refundable, and non-exchangeable so be sure you plan to visit when you make the purchase. Also you must physically print the vouchers in order to redeem them.
Is the Royal Edinburgh Ticket worth it?
The Royal Edinburgh Ticket is designed for people who plan to visit all three of the royal attractions in Edinburgh and would like to also use the sightseeing buses. If you only plan to visit one or two attractions, then you won’t get as much value out of the ticket and the savings will be minimal. Those who plan to use the hop-on hop-off buses are also going to get much more value out of the tickets, and the bus services are useful for those visiting without a car as some Edinburgh attractions are quite far from central Edinburgh (e.g., Leith, Royal Botanic Garden, Royal Yacht Britannia). However, if you’d rather take the public bus services (about £4/day/adult) than the sightseeing buses, then you probably won’t save much money by purchasing the Royal Edinburgh Ticket.
The cost savings can be up to 25% according to the ticket information, but the actual savings depends on the person’s age and whether or not they are eligible for special discounts or concessions. We’re going to assume that visitors are planning to visit all three royal sites including on the Royal Edinburgh Ticket and are also intending to use the hop-on hop-off bus services.
Here are some examples of cost-savings based on March 2017 entrance fees and ticket prices:
As you can see the exact cost savings will depend on who is traveling, but just about anyone will save some money by using the pass if they visit all the sites and use the bus service.
Example. Laurence and I would pay £33.00 (£16.50 X 2) to visit the Edinburgh Castle, £25.00 (£12.50 X 2) to visit Holyrood Palace, £31.00 (£15.50 X 2) to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, and £44.00 (£22.00 X 2) for the 48 hour hop-on hop-off bus tickets. We’d pay £133.00 in individual entrance and bus tickets versus £102.00 (£51.00 X 2) for two Royal Edinburgh Tickets.
Our cost savings = £31.00
Most people can probably use the table above to figure out what their cost savings will be, but if you are a student, disabled, unemployed, or traveling with a number of children you may want to double-check as some of the attractions offer discounted ticket prices. You may also want to double-check the ticket prices in case they have changed although they are unlikely to change greatly.
In addition to cost savings, the Royal Edinburgh Ticket can also save you time as all three attraction tickets include fast-track entry. This is most advantageous at Edinburgh Castle which is often busy as ticket holders can head straight to the entrance line and bypass the ticket desk. Your Royal Edinburgh Ticket will be scanned by staff before entering the castle. At Holyrood Palace and Britannia, during busy times they’ll open a second line and desk for ticket holders. If in doubt, just ask a staff member so you get in the correct line.
Tips for making the most of the Royal Edinburgh Ticket
- Before purchasing, be sure you have the time to make the most of the Royal Edinburgh Ticket. You’ll need 2 days to visit all three of these Edinburgh attractions unless you rush through them very quickly (not recommended). With only 1 day, the ticket is probably not a good value as you will probably not get a chance to visit all three attractions and won’t be able to take full advantage of the 48 hours bus pass.
- Be sure to check before purchasing the Royal Edinburgh Ticket that all three attractions are open during your visit. For instance, Holyrood Palace closes for a week or two each year when the Queen is in residence as well as during other occasional royal or state functions.
- Do a little planning to figure out how you want to use your time to visit all three attractions. I would allow at least 2 hours to visit each attraction (many can spend more time, some less) and at least one hour to get from one attraction to another. Check on the attraction opening hours during your visit and note that you need to arrive at least an hour before closing at most attractions to enter. Also keep the bus brochures with you or download the app with the tour bus times so you can make the best use of your bus tickets.
- Example Itinerary: Day 1: Pick up your tickets at Waverley kiosk in the morning and then do the full Edinburgh Tour (green bus) on the hop-on hop-off bus to get an introduction and orientation to the city. Then in the afternoon head to Leith using the Majestic Tour bus (blue bus) to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, perhaps stopping at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh on the way. If you are hungry, you might want to have lunch or afternoon tea aboard the yacht. Spend the late afternoon/evening exploring Edinburgh’s New Town and find a spot for a nice dinner. Day 2: Head to the Royal Mile and being the day at Edinburgh Castle on one end and then heading to Holyrood Palace which stands at the opposite end. Visit Edinburgh Castle in the morning when it opens, stroll down the Royal Mile (there are many shops and museums along the way) and have lunch, and then visit Holyrood Palace in the afternoon. You can walk the full way from the castle to the palace or pick up the City Sightseeing bus along the Royal Mile. Spend the evening exploring more of the Old Town.
- If you purchase your tickets online, be sure to only exchange your e-voucher once you want to start using your Royal Edinburgh Ticket. Once validated, the ticket will then be good for 48 consecutive hours (2 days). It is convenient that the pick-up point is right next to the hop-on hop-off bus stops so you can begin your travel almost immediately.
- Most people have no problem seeing the 3 attraction in 2 days but if you are the kind of person who enjoys spending half a day in a castle or museum, and are worried about getting to all three attractions in 48 hours, don’t worry. The bus pass is only valid for 48 consecutive hours but if you need to use one of the attraction passes on a third day, they’ll still honor your ticket. You can’t save it for another visit, but you can use it a bit later in your visit if needed.
- Remember that the three attraction tickets include fast-track entry. This is most advantageous at busy Edinburgh Castle, and ticket holders can head straight to the entrance line and bypass the ticket desk.
- Audioguides are included at both the Royal Yacht Britannia and Holyrood Palace. These are great guides and I strongly recommend using them as can provide a lot of context to your visit. Edinburgh Castle also offers a good audioguide for a nominal fee that is worth using.
- If you have to choose one of the three hop-on hop-off buses for a city sightseeing tour, I’d recommend the Edinburgh Tour buses (green) as they have live guides and visitors tend to prefer them. However, if English is not your (or your traveling companions) primary language then I would recommend the City Sightseeing buses (red) as they cover most of the same places and includes information in multiple languages.
- Your Royal Edinburgh Ticket will also come with some accompanying information, and this information will likely include city discounts on other attractions, restaurants, and shops. Be sure to take a look at the discounts in case there are any places you want to visit on the list.
- All three of the royal attractions are interesting and well worth visiting, but I’d strongly recommend leaving some extra time in your trip to have some free time to wander around the city (the Old Town and New Town are excellent areas to wander) and explore some of the other great attractions in Edinburgh. Most of Edinburgh’s museums are free and interesting, and if you are a fan of J. K. Rowling you can find several Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh. Use your time on the bus tours to find places you want to return to and visit later in your trip. You’ll also likely want to save time to sit down and enjoy some good Scottish food, sample some whisky, and do some shopping. Enjoy your visit to Edinburgh!
So that’s the Royal Edinburgh Ticket! Have you used the Royal Edinburgh Ticket or visited any of the attractions included on the ticket? If so, we’d love to hear about your experiences. If you have any questions about the Royal Edinburgh Ticket or about planning your trip to Edinburgh, just ask us below! As always, we appreciate all your comments and questions and do our best to provide timely and helpful responses.