5 things your kids will love to do in Edinburgh

The Scottish capital is compact, manageable and packed with family fun. Sally Wray reveals the places you must visit...

8 mins

1. Check out the toys at the Museum of Childhood

Plane made from Meccano (Museum of Childhood)

Plane made from Meccano (Museum of Childhood)

Up on the Royal Mile, the Museum of Childhood doesn’t look very grand from the outside. And inside, the ramshackle nature continues with six floors of glass cases crammed with toys and books from different decades.

The collection is just as much fun for parents as for kids. You’ll probably spend a lot of your time saying “I had one of those”, to the astonishment of your kids. It is a real trip down memory lane. I had practically all the original Ladybird books they had on display.

It’s also a good opportunity for kids to see how children have played throughout the years. They get so much so easily these days, and exhibits like the old boot fashioned into a doll from the 1800s is a gentle reminder of how circumstances have changed.


2. Learn a terrifying lesson on a Ghost Walk

Edinburgh Ghost Tour leader (Merkat Tours)

Edinburgh Ghost Tour leader (Merkat Tours)

If you go to Edinburgh these days, it's almost become mandatory to go on a ghost walk, especially if you go any time near Halloween, like we did. The good news is that they sneak in a lot about the city’s history, much of it gruesome, that the kids lap up. If your kids love watching Horrible Histories, they'll love this.

Most of the Ghost Walks set off from the Royal Mile and spend time underground in the city’s vaults. Some of the guides dress up. Some are scarier than others. We did a ghost and torture walk, and it was definitely not for the under 12s. There are plenty of less scary walks. Just ask around.


3. Meet Dolly the Sheep at the National Museum of Scotland

Natural World gallery (Dreamstime)

Natural World gallery (Dreamstime)

The National Museum of Scotland is one of the best museums I’ve ever visited. It has great collections and is imaginatively set out. Putting a giant sloth skeleton next to a giraffe and not far from a T-Rex gives you a new perspective on the scale of different animals, as well as their similarities and differences. The skeletons strung from the roof make an impressive display too.  

The science section is really strong, featuring everything from Dolly the Sheep to robots.  There are loads of good interactive displays to challenge and educate your kids. Make sure you swing by the World section too. The display on Inuits is very good. 

The staff at the museum are particularly helpful and well-informed. There are plenty of people happy to answer your questions. It's also worth checking out the great view of Edinburgh from the top floor.


4. Summon magical powers at the Scott Monument

Scott Monument at night (Dreamstime)

Scott Monument at night (Dreamstime)

Rising conspicuously amongst the shiny department stores and posh hotels on Princes Street, and evocatively blackened by pollution, this elaborate gothic tower looks like something straight out of a Harry Potter movie or Ghostbusters.  287 steps take you to the top, but be warned: the stone spiral staircase is a bit of a squeeze, and you have to shout down or up the stairs before you set off.  

There are stained glass windows in the centre chamber on the first level. The man in the little wooden hut at the bottom will loan you a guide/info book, too, if you ask for one.


5. See the UK’s only pandas at Edinburgh Zoo

Giant pandas eating bamboo (Dreamstime)

Giant pandas eating bamboo (Dreamstime)

A 10 min bus ride from the centre of the city, the Edinburgh Zoo is the only place you can see pandas in the UK.  If you want to see the pandas you need to pre-book a 15-minute viewing slot before your visit.  If the pandas aren’t out during your timeslot you can come back at a later time and try again.  

Panda viewing is included in the entrance price, which is cheaper if you buy your tickets online at least 48 hours ahead. The Zoo is on a hillside so there’s a lot of walking up and down.  There are various enclosures you can walk through – wallabies, limas, monkeys ­­–a good program of talks given by keepers.



Main image: panda chewing leaves (Dreamstime)

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