Edinburgh insider tips

The Balmoral Clock - always a few minutes fast.

By Alison Craig, your Edinburgh expert

I write for BBC radio, The Scotsman, .... Read more

How to save money plus other advice on Edinburgh

If you have seen footage of Edinburgh at New Year and fancy coming to the best street party in the world then click onto www.edinburghshogmanay.org and plan ahead as far as you can. Tickets for the big night go fast.

At 1pm every day on the button a cannon is fired from the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle. It is LOUD. If you remember a few minutes before it is well worth standing back and watching as at least half the people wandering around jump out of their skins when it goes off. If you don't remember you will do the same but the difference is you can inform the worried people around you there is nothing to worry about: it is just a strange local custom.

Speaking of time. Another local peculiarity. The vast clock face on the tower of The Balmoral Hotel, which stands on Princes Street overlooking the centre of town, runs about five minutes fast deliberately. Originally this was to help the bad timekeepers of Edinburgh catch their trains at Waverley Station just next door on time. This works brilliantly until new Year when in the midst of the huge street party those referring to the Balmoral clock start celebrating the dawning of a new year five minutes before the rest of the world.

Greyfriars Bobby: the statue is tiny. I mean life-size wee dog tiny. The bar of the same name is great for a pint but it will be a letdown if you travel all the way expecting a fabulous big dog statue. However, grim as this may sound, the graveyard where Bobby lay on his master's grave is a peaceful and fascinating way to pass an hour.

Most restaurants do a pre-theatre menu which is available early evening. If you don't mind eating early then it is well worth it. Each restaurant has specific deals and there is a great website (5pm.co.uk). If you put in your location and what time you want to eat they will list the deals of the day.

If you have ignored all advice and insisted on taking your car into Edinburgh then Saturday and Sunday parking restrictions are lifted in certain areas of town. Read all signs carefully though as there is no logic as to why some areas are free and others still have wardens lurking.

If you do drive and then can't resist the lure of lager or wine then whatever you do, do not drink and drive. There is a new crackdown which can end with a driver over the limit having their car removed and scrapped. We all get over excited sometimes though, which is why there is a service called Scoot (www.scootltd.co.uk). Give them a call and they will come and get you and your car to take you home. They arrive on a small motorbike which they dismantle, put in the boot (trunk) before driving you, your party and your car home. Remember you will need a seat for the driver. I love this service so much they sent me a Christmas card last year. Too much information.

Rugby fans who travel to Edinburgh without tickets: this will make your day. There is a small wine bar called Whighams at the west end of Princes Street. During rugby weekends it is heaving with rugby fans from both sides enjoying some good chat, food and drinks before walking along to Murrayfield to see the match. Without exception this is the place to get your hands on face value tickets for the match in question. Ask the barman, he is your lynch pin for this, or just stand on the bar and make an announcement. Rarely, if ever, has there been a day when tickets have not become available. www.whighams.com Enjoy the match!

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