Moving to Edinburgh
Are you moving to Edinburgh? Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, although it’s second most populous city after Glasgow. It is, however the seat of the monarchy in Scotland, home to the Scottish Parliament and the UK’s second largest financial centre. It has a solid reputation as a centre of education and it’s rightly famous for hosting the world’s largest annual international arts festival. It’s a cultured city with a highly skilled workforce, and the financial locus makes it a popular destination for expats.
Our free, in-depth Moving to Edinburgh report includes info on:
• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city
Putting Edinburgh on the Map
Edinburgh sits on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, some 25 miles inland from the North Sea. The city is built over seven hills, bringing comparisons with Rome, and occupies a narrow strip of land between the Forth to the north and the Pentland Hills to the south. To stop the city from sprawling, it’s ringed by a strictly controlled green belt, while areas of land within the city are also designated as green belt. The town centre is dominated by Edinburgh Castle atop Castle Rock, sitting between the narrow cobbled alleys of the medieval Old Town and the wider boulevards of the Georgian New Town.
Naturally, as Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh boasts good transport links.
- Edinburgh Airport is Scotland’s major international airport, handling more than 10 million passengers per annum.
- The airport is eight miles from the centre, which can be reached by taking the Airlink 100 bus service.
- Buses are the main way to get around within the city, and Lothian, the biggest bus operator, sells a day ticket allowing for unlimited daily travel.
- Waverley is the city’s main railway station, and the second biggest in the UK by number of platforms. As well as intercity trains to Glasgow, London and other major destinations, there is a good suburban train network to serve commuters.
- Traffic congestion is a problem which is being tackled by the introduction of six park and ride sites on the outskirts of the city.
- Since 2014, Edinburgh has boasted a tram service, running from the airport in the west to the east of the city. There are plans to extend the service.
- The city’s plentiful hills and cobbled streets can make cycling something of a challenge. However, cyclists have a good chance of beating drivers during the rush hour.
Edinburgh is a compact city and its districts and suburbs all have their own distinctive characters. The centre of Edinburgh is one of the UK’s most expensive places to live, but further out in the suburbs, rentals are much more affordable and, of course, spacious. Good commuter trains mean there’s plenty of choice of where to live; the more pressing concern is identifying a local school if you’re bringing children with you.
Both the Old Town and the New Town are World Heritage Sites, and Edinburgh has the highest concentration of listed buildings in the UK. This means that much of the accommodation in the city centre is in period properties that may not offer all the modern conveniences one might expect. You should be able to find both furnished and unfurnished properties for rent, but be ready to act quickly as the most attractive ones are never on the market for long.
Living in the heart of the city, close to the financial centre and the main shopping streets is appealing, but of course this is where the rents are highest. There are some beautifully restored historic properties but if you’re looking for space and a garden, you’ll need to be further out.
North of the New Town, Stockbridge is named after a bridge over the Water of Leith. Raeburn Place and St Stephens Street feature a good choice of restaurants and lots of vintage, antique and craft shops. The Royal Botanic Gardens will make up for any lack of a garden of your own. The Stockbridge Colonies is a grid of 11 streets of late 19th century workers’ cottages which are now considered highly desirable residences. Stockbridge is very popular with families.
Like other historic dockyards, the port of Leith has undergone a transformation in recent years. Smart hotels, swanky shops and cutting-edge apartments have made it one of the most dynamic parts of the city. Ocean Terminal is a vast shopping and entertainment complex and the area has a number of award-winning restaurants. Head here if you’re looking for waterfront living.
A short walk from the Royal Mile, Newington is Edinburgh’s most bohemian neighbourhood, and an area very popular with students and young professionals. Buzzing with shops and restaurants, and student flats in tenements, if you venture a little further out you’ll find some stunning Georgian townhouses in quieter streets.
In the shadow of Thomas Telford’s famous Dean Bridge, this is a village rich in character with an eclectic mix of modern and traditional architecture. Take your pick from workers’ cottages, converted warehouses and mills or modern apartments. The Water of Leith runs through the area with wooded banks and the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Dean Gallery inject culture.
Morningside and Bruntsfield
South of the centre, Bruntsfield is a smart overflow for the adjacent elegant suburb of Morningside. The local shops—florists, delis, wine merchants—reflect the demographics of the area and the accommodation comes in the form of smart Victorian tenements and spacious villas. But there are also less expensive pockets, popular with the students at the nearby Edinburgh Napier University. Good schools in the area make it an excellent choice for families.
This is a smart area just south of the centre where you’ll find Victorian and Edwardian properties with high ceilings and glorious period features. Good schools, a pleasant selection of local eating and shopping and easy transport links all contribute to its popularity.
Fifteen minutes’ drive from the centre of town and you’re in a different world. This quiet conservation area features traditional architecture and an old-fashioned village feel.
Who Lives and Works in Edinburgh?
The city’s population is approximately 490,000, while the wider metropolitan area is home to just over 1.3 million. Edinburgh is Scotland’s second largest city after Glasgow and the seventh largest in the UK. Nearly 16% of its residents were born overseas, with the largest groups coming from Poland, Ireland, China, India and Pakistan.
Edinburgh boasts the strongest economy of UK cities outside London and the highest percentage of professionals in the UK, with 43% of the workforce educated to degree level. The economy is based on financial services, tourism, higher education and scientific research. Unemployment in the city is low and Edinburgh has the second highest wage rate in the UK. It has a long history of banking and is particularly strong in the insurance and investment sectors, and is Europe’s fourth largest financial centre in terms of equity assets. Major financials based here include The Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Bank, Virgin Money, Baillie Gifford, Sainsbury’s Bank, Tesco Bank, TSB Bank, Scottish Widows and Standard Life.
The public sector is also a significant employer in the city as many of Scotland’s government departments are housed here. Technology companies based in the city include Amazon, Dell and Adobe, while there are a growing number of start-ups and university spin-outs. Notable home-grown tech companies include Skyscanner and FanDuel. Innovation in renewable energy, electronic technologies, life sciences, textiles, gaming, animation and fashion are also notable.
The Best Bits
With low crime rates, affordable living costs, fast broadband and good salaries, Edinburgh topped a recent quality of life index as the best place to live in the UK. Here are some of the other highlights:
- Dating back to the 12th century, Edinburgh Castle overlooks the town from its commanding position high on the plug of an extinct volcano.
- The Edinburgh International Festival runs between the end of July and early September each year, featuring theatre, classical concerts, opera, dance and other live performances. The Edinburgh Fringe runs alongside with comedy and fringe acts.
- The Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place in the Castle during the Festival, with massed pipers and military bands from around the world. Worth going to for the spectacular fireworks.
- Hogmanay—there’s nothing like seeing in the New Year in Scottish style.
- Edinburgh supports several theatres and classical music venues throughout the year, and there’s also a good rock/pop scene in the city.
- With its long-standing educational links, the city boasts a wealth of museums and galleries, including the National Museum of Scotland, the National War Museum, the Museum of Edinburgh, Surgeons’ Hall Museum and five National Galleries of Art.
- Other attractions include Edinburgh Zoo and the Royal Yacht Britannia.
- The main shopping area is Princes Street and there are also several out of town retail parks.
- Edinburgh has three professional football teams and a rugby team, which plays at the national rugby stadium, Murrayfield.
Bringing the Kids
Edinburgh is a compact city with a high quality of life, so it makes a great place to bring the family. It also has a reputation for education and there are good schools to choose from around the city.
- Edinburgh has four universities and students account for approximately 20% of the city’s population.
- Edinburgh’s state schools do not charge and operate on a catchment system. If you plan to use the state system, you’ll need to research where to live to be within the catchment area of your preferred school.
- There are 84 state primaries within the city and 20 state secondary schools.
- Private schools charge fees and generally offer higher academic standards. They may require pupils to sit an entrance exam.
- There are 15 private schools in Edinburgh, many of which span both primary and secondary years. Notable schools include Edinburgh Academy, Fettes College, George Heriot’s School, George Watson’s Collage and the Mary Erskine School.
- Although there are no international schools in Edinburgh, some of the private schools may offer the International Baccalaureate.
Relocating to Edinburgh
Scotland’s capital is one of the United Kingdom’s most beautiful cities, dominated by the castle which looks down on two UNESCO World Heritage sites. The medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town give the city its distinct character, while the elegant Victorian suburbs offer superb quality of living. Good education, low crime, an educated workforce and a surfeit of culture have earned the city a reputation as one of the best places to live in the UK. It also has a thriving economy, with strengths in finance, tourism, education and the hi tech sectors, making it an excellent city for expats to work in. There’s a good choice of areas in which to settle, with plenty of period accommodation in Georgian houses, Victorian tenements, Edwardian villas or warehouse apartments. However, if you don’t know the area and need to find suitable schools, using the services of a relocation agent will considerably smooth your path.
At Saunders 1865, our teams of experts combine local knowledge with first-hand experience to pinpoint the right area and the right property that will tick all your boxes. Do you have children that need to be enrolled in school? Are the transport links convenient for your needs? Does this location fit with your expectations of expat life and is the space configured in a way that suits your requirements? We can bring expertise to all these factors and help to arrange smooth, efficient and stress-free relocations – to Edinburgh, London and destinations across the world. Our services include home finding assistance, school finding, lease negotiations, temporary accommodation, move management and immigration assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact us to find out how we can help you.
Average Monthly Rent - Edinburgh