Planning your Scottish vacation and looking for ideas of ways to keep the kids happy in Scotland’s capital city? There is no shortage of things for the kids to do and many are great fun for the adults too! Here is my ultimate guide to Edinburgh with the kids.
This is one of my favourite attractions in Edinburgh and it’s brilliant for the kids (and adults too). Situated in what was once an old tenement block it started life as an outlook tower in the 1890’s. Each floor has a different theme including magic, optical illusions and 3D holograms. The Camera Obscura is in the Victorian rooftop chamber and the show is very likely to have the kids in stitches! Furthermore you get stunning 360 degree views from the roof top so the kids can play interactive games to their hearts content while learning at the same time and also getting pretty photos for Instagram. Perfect. Camera Obscura
Edinburgh is the best city in the world to spend New Years Eve, or as the Scots say “Hogmanay”, and with the airport a swift 35 minutes away from Princes Street on their brand new trams, and the train station and bus station right in the heart of the city, it has never been easier.
Edinburgh comes alive during the Christmas season, a magical winter wonderland filled to the brim with festive cheer. But fantastic as it is, it is New Years Eve that things really get going. Here are my top 10 reasons to visit at this thrilling time of year.
1. The Big Wheel and Star Flyer
For amazing views over the city take to the skies on the spine-tinglingly high Sky Flyer. At nearly 60 metres high you can get 360 degree views but you have to be brave. I’m not, and I watch from the side. The Big Wheel is a gentler alternative, and the pods are enclosed so you can stay cosy while hearing a brief history of the city, and taking in the views. At 42 metres high it is still colossal but since six people can fit into each pod it’s a great opportunity for a bit of less-noisy time with family or friends and a chance to take some excellent photos.
The Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh has been voted the UK’s number 1 attraction by Trip Advisor. How lucky then that it’s nearly on my doorstep! But with it being so close how weird is it that I’ve never been before? Last weekend I decided to remedy that fact while I was in Edinburgh and having survived the morning fighting my way through crowds of determined christmas shoppers on a mission I escaped intact and hot-footed down to Ocean Terminal for what was to be a relaxing glimpse into how the other half live.
The Royal Yacht Britannia, built in 1952 to be used by the Royal family, has sailed 1,087,623 nautical miles around the world on 989 official visits to 135 countries. It was built by John Brown and Company in Clydebank and stands at 126 metres long and 37 meters tall
Halloween is the time of the year when little kids dress up as witches, with painted on warts, scraggy black dresses and pointed hats. They chap on neighbours doors with a broomstick in one hand and a bucket for their sweets in the other. The images of witches that have formed in their minds come from films such as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. In the minds of children witches aren’t real or at least aren’t thought about as they giggle their way through the streets with their friends.
Chop Chop on Morrison Street in Edinburgh is unassuming and unpretentious, quietly cooking up a storm in the kitchen and dishing up dish after dish of authentic food full of flavour. I struggle to find a decent Chinese restaurant in Scotland with all the takeaways and buffet restaurants popping up on every corner. I endeavour to try though and this is one that’s been on my list for a while.
Owner and head chef Jian Wang arrived in Edinburgh from Changchun in North Eastern China, a region famous for its dumplings (jiao zi). Her passion for cooking these dumplings seem to be the key to this restaurants success. First selling them in 50 Chinese supermarkets and getting the contract to supply P&O ferries to then open up her first restaurant in 2006 Jian Wang’s dumplings have gained quite the reputation. I remember the first time I heard about the dumplings was while watching Gordon Ramsay’s F Word where Chop Chop won best restaurant in Scotland and second in the whole of the UK. In the programme Gordon visited the Morrison Street restaurant and tried the dumplings for himself claiming they were “f****** delicious. They have since won a coveted Scottish Excellence award ( the first ethnic food to do so), opened another store in Leith, and now one in Glasgow, and have won AA rosettes every year.
The final stop on my Outlander trail (for now anyway!) was in Edinburgh this weekend where I was very excited to embark on a brand new Outlander walk by Mercat Tours. For those who haven’t read the books and are just watching the series there may be a few spoilers here as this tour is based on the book when Jamie and Clare are in Edinburgh, funnily enough. Lasting two hours and stretching from the magnificent Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile to the Queen’s Scottish Home, Holyrood Palace at the bottom this is the ideal way to experience this historic street and walk in some Jacobite’s footsteps as you, a bit like Clare, are transported back, in your mind at least, to the dangerous and poverty stricken 1740’s.
We met at Market Cross which, at the time, was the hub of the city, where groups met, merchants sold their wares and ladies shopped. If you remember the scenes in Cranesmuir, it used to be like a little village square, only now of course Edinburgh has built up around it and it’s now in the centre of the Royal Mile. The poor little boy who had his ear nailed really would have had, and he really would have had to pull it off himself, unless there was a kind guy in a kilt near by! Around the corner in Parliament Square we were told of the Stuart families’ shoddy bad luck which included a succession of beheadings, and eventually lead to the famous Jacobite Rebellion.
Situated smack bang in the middle of Edinburgh’s new town, on the corner of Charlotte Square and George Street you couldn’t pick a more ideal location for your accommodation. If you are visiting Edinburgh, Scotland, to shop ’till you drop you are a two minute walk from Princes Street which then leads you across the bridges to the Royal mile. There are good shops on George Street and at end of the street is St Andrews Square, Multrees Walk and the St James Centre. The Roxburghe is also on the corner of Rose Street for those fab pubs and bars.
I stayed here recently and from the minute I stepped through the large traditional doors I was treated like a star. From the outside this Georgian mansion blends in with the surrounding buildings with nothing but two subtle gold plates on the wall. But the inside, with sleek black and grey decor, spectacular chandeliers and modern artistic furniture, is luxurious and extravagant .
Edinburgh Castle stands proudly on the top of Castle Rock, dominating the Edinburgh skyline. It has been through it’s fair share of turbulent times since building began in the 12th century, and it is now Scotland’s most popular tourist attraction. With unparalleled panoramic views and brilliant facilities provided by it’s caretaker, Historic Scotland, it’s good to have such a magnificent piece of history right on our doorstep.
Over the years the castle has been involved in several wars including the wars of Scottish independence in the 14th century and the Jacobite rising.in 1745. The prisoner block was used to hold prisoners during the Seven Years War, the American war of Independence and the Napoleonic war, and again during the the First World War.
It has also had many a Royal visitor. Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James V1 in the rooms of the Royal Palace and King Malcolm III and his descendants spent most of their time living here as well as King David I.
During the 12th, 13th and 14th century the castle changed hands between Scotland and England several times, in the 15th century it was used as a weapons arsenal and in the 18th and 19th century it was used as a prison, as well as during the Second World War.
The Castle is now run, mostly, by Historic Castle and is Scotland’s most visited tourist attraction, there has been two cafes/restaurants added, as well as some shops and an educational unit. The army still run the New Barracks block and the military museums.
There is so much to see here. Each part as exciting as the next. The prisoner of war block is a chilling reminder of how bad life could be during these famous wars, it is atmospheric, dark and just a little eerie, but I found it fascinating.
The Festival Fringe in Edinburgh is the biggest Arts festival in the world. With over 45,000 performances in over 250 venues dotted all over Edinburgh, it gets very busy in August, the population triples, and visitors from all over the world descend on the city.
But it gets that busy for a reason, it is a fantastic experience, and if it’s not on your bucket list, it should be. It has such a huge variety of acts – comedy, theatre, musicals, performing acts, children’s shows, music, opera, cabaret, and dance. A whole lot of bizarre, eccentric and hilarious performers line the Royal mile and streets around the Old Town with snippets of their shows to tempt you into the venues. The venues themselves can be anything from a café basement to a gothic church, to world class venues like the Assembly Rooms and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The food in Edinburgh is brilliant anyway but during the Fringe, tents pop up and stalls arrive selling food from every corner of the globe. Traffic gets hectic, accommodation fills up, and streets get crowded. So to make sure you enjoy yourself and experience everything a little planning is needed…
I'm a Harry Potter fan, I admit it, and I've visited Harry Potter world in Orlando. Because of that I'm often asked questions about Harry Potter related sights in Scotland as it is where I live after all. So I thought I would dig into the ol’ tinternet and see what I could find. First up I really wanted to see what there was in Edinburgh. After hunting around for a while I came across this website offering free Harry walking tours, and thought this was be perfect, save me trying to find them on my own.
The tour started at 5 o’clock outside Greyfriers Bobby and led us first into Greyfriers Graveyard where she stopped and explained a bit about the tour and JK Rowling and things, we then walked around and she pointed out some gravestones which the author had used as inspiration for characters. The guide was fantastic, very knowledgable, explaining not only the relevance to the novels but also the history of the real person too. We even got to see the real Tom Riddle gravestone!