Heather Mc (Pret-A-Mummy)
HomeAway travel expert
Edinburgh has long been a popular tourist destination for all, but what is there to do when children are added into the equation? For us, family holidays are a time of lovely togetherness, but can also entail a large amount of stress, which is why we have always opted to stay in the UK for our travels. This doesn't mean that we have a boring time with no adventures. In fact, there are plenty of places close to home that offer everything you need for a great family holiday!
We favour self-catering cottages over hotels, as it gives us much more flexibility, allows us to come and go as we please, as well as make our own meals (eating out can be problematical with a one year old!). As we live in the North of England, Scotland is an obvious choice for a week away. It's a lot nearer for us than Devon and Cornwall, the traffic isn't as bad, and there are loads of amazing things to see that our two little ones love. Edinburgh in particular holds great memories for us both as a couple, and as a family, and is a destination we never tire of. As with all cities, a short visit will never do it justice, there are always hidden gems to discover. For new visitors to the historic Scottish capital, here are some suggestions and ideas for "must see" attractions.
Family days out in Edinburgh
What child (or adult for that matter) wouldn't enjoy a visit to Edinburgh Zoo, home to the UK's only giant pandas and more than 1000 other amazing animals? Our favourite feature of Edinburgh Zoo that sets it apart from other places is the hill top safari, great for stimulating curiosity and imagination in young minds. There are regular events held at the zoo all year round, including a penguin parade and zoo nights (adult only, held after hours). For us, this is a perfect day out as there is so much to see and do without constantly getting in and our of the car. It's also really child friendly with plenty of baby changing stations, children's menus - and fun for the whole family!
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My oldest son is really into knights and armour, so what better place to take him than the city's most iconic attraction, Edinburgh Castle? With an all year round programme of events, Edinburgh Castle is great for a days visit - there is absolutely loads to see and do. Dominating the skyline of the city, perched upon the volcanic castle rock, this fortress offers something for everyone. Children love the gun salutes which take place everyday at 1pm (cover their ears), and the castle also contains the National War Museum of Scotland. The Royal Palace and Great Hall are also well worth a look, and you can find out more there about the Castle's famous (and ill fated) prisoners. There are also cafes, restaurants, shops and numerous historical displays with frequent re-enactments. Children will love exploring the turrets and corridors, pretending to be the knights and damsels of the past.
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Everyone loves being spooked every once in a while, and you really can't stay in Edinburgh without going on one of the city's famous ghost tours. A word of caution: this is probably better for people with older children who are less likely to be genuinely frightened by underground catacombs. Edinburgh boasts a rich history filled with stories of ghosts and ghouls, and is a great place to experience the mysteries of the underworld. There are numerous tours running around the old city from various providers so it shouldn't be too hard to find a suitable guide. The tours take you into underground vaults and cellars. For extra spookiness they may be best in the evening, wooohoo!
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Speaking of spooky, if this is your cup of tea then Edinburgh Dungeons are well worth a look, again, perhaps with slightly older children than ours (4 and 1). This involves an 80 minute interactive tour, two fantastic rides and numerous shows featuring professional actors and special effects that will have you all screaming with laughter (and fear!). Meet the patriotic William Wallace (otherwise known as Braveheart) and watch his severed head come back to life as he tells his terrible tale!
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Once you fancy a rest from all this spookiness, and if the weather is fine, a nice relaxing walk around the Botanic Gardens is just the thing for you. At just over a mile from the city centre (which has excellent transport by the way), Edinburgh Botanic Gardens is a beautiful escape from all the hustle and bustle of the city - but it's certainly not boring! Kids will love the glass houses, the Chinese hillside, the rock garden, and perhaps most of all, strolling amongst the giant redwood trees in the woodland walk. There are also frequent events such talking trees storytelling and lots of other family events designed to keep your little one both fascinated and entertained. Best of all, it's free to get in!
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All this without even mentioning the impromptu bag pipe strains that perennially wafts through city center, the city's various whiskey tasting opportunities (for mum and dad!), the vivacious hustle-bustle of Princes Street - and let's not forget Edinburgh's famous festivals! Edinburgh is one destination that genuinely warrants the phrase "It's got something for everyone"! What are you waiting for?