We recently got back from a fun trip to Europe with our 5,7, and 9 year old. We spent a week in Edinburgh which is one of our favorite cities in the world. We moved to Edinburgh 7 years ago when my husband started a home and away Phd program. We lived there for 3 months with a 2 year old and 7 month old and after 7 years we were so eager to get back to Edinburgh to celebrate the completion of my husband's PhdD. Based on our time there I want to share with you some of our tips, tricks, and favorites when exploring this amazing city.
(Having lived there before it was a treat to catch up with old friends)
If you fly into Edinburgh and it's easy to take a double decker bus from the airport to downtown. You can also get to Edinburgh easily by train from London. Within the city we've found walking is the best way to get around. The city is very compact and it's easy to hop from one place to the next. If you want to see more of Scotland then I'd recommend renting a car which you can do from Waverly Station or the Airport. The Airport might seem less convenient however driving in downtown Edinburgh is not easy- We've done both and when we go back we will likely rent from the Airport because it's easy going in and getting out of the city.
We went with AirBnB and was pleasantly surprised. The flat we stayed in was recently remodeled and right off of the Royal Mile and the price was great.
When I think of food in Edinburgh the first thing that comes to mind is Fish and Chips as well as hearty meat pies. In general think pub food when visiting and with that in mind keep your eyes peeled for happy hour specials. Also keep in mind that if you are traveling with kids most pubs won't let you in with your children after 7 as you need to be out of pubs by 8 with children as law. One of our favorite spots for food was the Mosque. At the Mosque you can find amazing chicken curry as well as Tiki Masala. We tried several different middle eastern curry spots and found that the best was in the back of the actual mosque- bring cash and the portions are big and so yummy!
Edinburgh Castle- We did this last time we were in Edinburgh and I thought it was great- you can learn more about the history of Scotland, Robert the Bruce, and William Wallace. It's a bit pricey but I think it's well worth it.
Camera Obscura- Next door to the Castle on the Royal Mile we love to stop and view ourselves in all sorts of different circus mirrors. We've paid to go inside but I've heard its a great place to visit with kids.
Walk the Royal Mile- This is the main thoroughfare through Edinburgh. From Holyrood Palace all the way up to Castle. This walk transports you back in time with the cobblestones and closes (Alleyways that lead off the Royal Mile). You'll also see lots of street performers. The Museum of Childhood is a fun free museum on the mile to walk through and dry off (assuming it's raining). Also check out the Fudge Kitchen for free samples of amazing Fudge on the mile.
Holyrood Palace- This is the queens palace when she comes to town.
Real Mary Kings Close Tour- This is a great way to learn about Medieval life in Edinburgh. This tour takes you through Edinburgh in 1645 down Mary King's Close, a real alleyway in the heart of the city when the black death took 1/3 of the population. This tour makes you feel like you are there during that time- it makes history come alive for you kids, we enjoyed it.
Greyfriars Bobby- snap a pic with this famous statue pup and read up on the sweet story behind it. Also explore the Kirkyard behind the statue- I heard a tour guide mentioning this is the most haunted spot in all of Europe. I thought the headstones were captivating and was blown away at how long the graveyard had been there.
National Museum of Scotland- This is one of the best museums we've been to in Europe and it's FREE! We've spent a lot of time here because our kids never want to leave. This is a must see spot for all ages.
Royal Botanic Gardens- From the Conservatory to arches of Ivy this place was so lush and beautiful.
Edinburgh Zoo- Home to the only Giant Pandas and Koalas in all of the United Kingdom. If you are with kids this place is awesome. They have a fantastic penguin parade where the penguins leave their enclosure and follow the keepers along the route for all to see. They also have a high ropes course for kids.
Colton Hill- Here is your best place to take pictures in all of Edinburgh a top a hill over looking the entire city and firth of forth waterway. If you want to go higher you can climb the Scott Monument which is about 287 steps to the top and costs around 5 pounds.
Climb King Arthurs Seat and the Salisbury Crags- Arthur's Seat is the grassy hill jutting up from the city of Edinburgh. It is the remains of a volcano that erupted here millions of years ago. If you're intimidated by the hike do the Crags instead which is easy for the whole family and also offers great views of the city. Behind the crags explore the ruins of St. Anthony's.
Princes's Street Gardens- These gardens are beautiful! you can walk them daily and it would never get old. Waiverly station cuts through it with bridges where you and your kids can watch the train go by. The playground here is below the Castle and is beautiful with a park cafe next door, and gigantic fountain.
Meadows Park- I can't say enough good things about this park with a tree lined walks to it's awesome playgournd with areas for all ages. It also has a zip line which my kids LOVED. It's located on the edge of the campus of the University and is a great spot to have a picnic and let the kids play.
We met up with old college friends at this park that happened to visiting Edinburgh at the same time.
Shopping- Check out the Charity Shops. Some are great some are terrible, you kind of need to explore to find the good ones. Stockbridge has some great ones but you'll also pay a little more for these. If you like to shop you can find some steals and deals at Charity Shops in Edinburgh. Armstrong's in grass market is the best place to find a used Kilt. We outfitted my hubby and he looked seller with everything you need from Armstrongs.
Grassmarket- The curvy walk down to Grassmarket from Greyfriars to Armstrongs is one of my favorite sites with fun shops along the way and buildings that are crazy old, don't forget to look around and take in all the sights.
OUTSIDE OF EDI:
St. Andrews is one of my favorite places- Mecca to golfers and the ruins of the original cathedral and graveyard and amazing to explore. The beach is beautiful and the town is easy to walk. Go here, you won't be disappointed. There's also a pretty amazing Ice cream shop that I think of often. I ordered the Orange and Mascarpone and it was amazing!
Falkirk- This is a must see. Go to Falkirk and see the Kelpies (metal statues of water horses that are huge) you can also see the Falkirk Wheel which is an engineer marvel. The Calendar House Estate is close to here and is a great place to walk around and explore as well as stop to eat.
Again we met up with good friends from the States that now live in Scotland
Kelpies in Falkirk
We met up with some of my hubby's old students that are doing graduate work in St. Andrews
I love stopping to read all of the plaques on the benches in the parks of Scotland. They all tell such sweet stories and I imagine meeting the people they speak of
Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, and Oban are all fun cities to explore and the countryside and castles, and highland cows in-between won't disappoint. Keep a lose schedule so that you can pull off the road when you see something that peaks your interest. Also take the time to taste Scoth- my husband was never a fan until we lived in Scotland and now he loves to taste and can differentiate the ages and locations of where it comes from.
The Fringe Festival- Some say avoid Edinburgh during this time because the city gets packed with people- I say coming during the Fringe is a cultural experience in and of itself. There are thousands of shows from music, to theatre, to comedy going on at venues all over the city during this week in August. Some shows are even free and some are for kids.
The Royal Tattoo- Again this show is Awesome. You have to buy tickets well in advance but thinking about what we saw gives me the chills. Sitting in bleachers right outside of the Castle you can watch an amazing show of bagpipes, dancers, military, and more perform in true scottish style.