The city of Edinburgh is an amazing place with a ton of history, culture, great food, and activities for the whole family. It is also a great jumping of point for exploring the rest of Scotland as well. During our recent two week long stay in the UK we spent 5 days in Edinburgh, and could have stayed much longer, but we also wanted to visit other locations in the UK including London, Cardiff, York, Stirling Castle, Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, and St. Andrews. In this post we will highlight some of our favorite places to visit in Edinburgh and some of the fun attractions you can take advantage of especially for those traveling with small children.
Old Town Edinburgh
We were lucky enough to be able to book an Airbnb apartment in the middle of Old Town Edinburgh at 1 Parliament Square (see picture below). This was an amazing location and just steps from the St. Giles’ Cathedral, excellent food and shopping, and a short walk to the main train station and Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh is a great city to walk and explore on foot and there are many different walking tours you can pick up from this section of town. One thing we did that was also a lot of fun and informative was take a walking ghost tour of Edinburgh. Even if you don’t really believe in these kinds of supernatural things (I personally don’t myself) the tour is still a lot of fun and along the way your guide will share a lot of interesting information on the history of the city and you will also gain access to places that are not open to the general public. Finally, another fun thing to do in the Old Town section of Edinburgh is to explore some of the narrow alley short cuts between streets knows as “Closes”. Many of these streets even have their own unique hidden away stores, restaurants, and pubs.
Edinburgh Castles location on a rocky cliff over looking the city is one of the most iconic and photographed locations in the UK. The views both of the castle and from the castle are amazing and should not be missed. The castle is a moderate size and contains several museums, buildings, and ground that can be explored. To really take in all the sites and fully explore the castle grounds you should plan to spend at least 3-4 hours for the visit. If you are the type of person that likes to read and study every exhibit in detail you might need even longer. Whatever the case just make sure not to miss this amazing castle and if you can come on a clear day the views of the city, Firth of Forth, and Arthurs Seat are spectacular.
Greyfriars Kirkyard is home to one of the oldest churches and graveyards in all of Scotland. The area is open to the public from dawn till dusk and at night as well but only for approved guided ghost tour groups. As you can see below the graveyard area is a very peaceful and calm space located in the heart of Old Town Edinburgh. Despite it being a graveyard the grounds are very inviting and during the day a very relaxing place to stop and enjoy nature without leaving the heart of the city. There is also a touching monument to Greyfriar’s Bobby, a Skye Terrier who is said to have guarded the grave of his owner for 14 years until he died in 1872. Locals and visitors alike leave sticks at the foot of his monument for him to play fetch with in the afterlife and was something our children really appreciated and I think can help more gently introduce the concept and purpose of a graveyard to young children.
Princess Street Gardens and Scott Monument
The Princess Street Gardens is a large park just down hill from the Edinburgh Castle and Old Town area. In medieval times it was a large lake (or Loch) and cesspool where much of the city’s waste and garbage ended up. However in 1820 the Loch was drained and filled in and now is a large park. This is a great place to walk and enjoy nature and there are some nice playgrounds for the kids to use as well. You can also stop by and check out the Scott Monument as well which is located on the northeastern edge of the park.
Firth of Forth Boat and Bridge Tour
The Firth of Forth is the name of the waterway where several Scottish rivers including the River Forth meets the North Sea. You can book a boat tour out of the neighborhood of Queensferry which will take you under the three main bridges of Edinburgh as well as out into the opening of the Firth to the North Sea where you spot seals sunning themselves next to Inchcolm Abbey Island. The water is relatively calm and protected in this area so no need to worry about sea sickness as long as the weather is nice.