Check the dates for easing of restrictions in Edinburgh and Scotland before planning your visit.
With the school half terms falling right in the middle of autumn, it’s a great time to visit the city and surrounding area as a family. So what are our top recommendations for activities with the kids?
In the City
Most, if not all visitor attractions are open with ticketed timed entries. No visit to Edinburgh is complete without seeing Edinburgh Castle. This historic fortress dominates the skyline of Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, from its position on the Castle Rock. The audio tours are excellent and enable you to go at your own pace. With recommended itineraries, you can make the most of your visit whether you’re squeezing in just an hour, or can afford a more leisurely pace. Be there before 1pm and you’ll also get to witness the daily one o’clock gun (except Sundays).
Next stop down Edinburgh’s ‘Royal Mile’ is the brilliant Camera Obscura. You might think this is a visit purely to indulge the kids, but you’d be wrong. This is seriously good fun for all the family (believe us – we’ve tried and tested it more than once!).
One of the more curious features of Edinburgh’s ‘Old Town’ which centres around the Royal Mile (that runs from Edinburgh Castle at the Western end, to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament at the Eastern end) is that much of the historical buildings are underground. The best way to see and understand this is to visit The Real Mary King’s Close. Yes, it’s a little bit spooky (but not too frightening for the younger ones) but it’s also an absolutely fascinating delve into the 400 years of social history. Visit a warren of streets frozen in time and find out what it was really like for the people who lived, worked, and died on the Close.
All these attractions (and many more besides) have the ‘Good To Go’ seal of approval from the travel industry, so you know they’re operating within government guidelines for covid.
Fresh air and countryside
Perhaps surprisingly to some, Edinburgh is full of glorious big green spaces. The astonishing Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano that looms on the horizon above Holyrood Palace. Within walking distance of the city centre, this feels like Scotland in miniature. It has meadowland, moorland, lochs and of course, a mountain, but it’s incredibly accessible for all. Little ones can clamber up there from around the age of 3 (with a bit of patience) or carried by a willing parent in a papoose or kiddy backpack. The views from the top are simply fabulous, looking south to the Pentland and Lammermuir Hills, East towards North Berwick and Bass Rock, and West for views over the city and down the Forth Estuary towards the famous Forth bridges.
For something with less ascent, stick to the lower grounds and the utterly charming Water of Leith. This green artery runs through the city and is packed with nature, from otters to kingfishers (and you can hop off en route to visit the Modern and Dean art galleries). Or head to any of the large parks – in particular the Meadows just north of the old town centre, or Inverleith Park to the North of the city (where the views across the boating pond to the city skyline are particularly lovely).
And for something a bit different again, head up Corstorphine Hill. A lovely wooded hillside, the southern side is given over to the excellent Edinburgh Zoo, while trails network around the rest of the area. Make sure you find your way to ‘rest and be thankful’ that again gives glorious views across the city (and if you’re lucky, you’ll have zebra’s and kudu munching behind you in the zoo!).
The concept of a ‘day out from Edinburgh’ for some can mean an 8 hour jaunt up into the highlands! It’s a great way to see the highlights on a whistle-stop tour. But if you want something a bit closer to the city, we have a few favourite outings to recommend.
East Lothian enjoys more sunshine than almost anywhere else in Scotland. A lovely coastline with the John Muir Trail running alongside plenty of gorgeous beaches (our favourites are Gullane, Yellowcraigs, Seacliffs and Tyninghame. Drop into North Berwick for its seabird centre (and boat trips out to Bass Rock – home to an enormous colony of gannets) or Dunbar for a visit to the excellent little John Muir museum. Both have lovely harbours too.
For hill walkers, the Pentland Hills directly to the south of the city offer plenty of glorious trails and lochs for both walking and mountain biking. They’re also home to the Hill End ski centre if you fancy finding your ski legs.
To the West of the city why not visit the contemporary scultpure park of Jupiter Artland? Or head to South Queensferry – a pretty little town with fantastic views of the bridges, charming shops, galleries, bakeries and cafes as well as super walks into the Dalmeny estate along the shoreline.
The travel blogger Graham Grieve also wrote a useful article about South Queensferry that documents the best things on in that neck of the woods. If you’re planning a visit to South Queensferry as part of your Edinburgh trip and want to know more about The Forth Bridge, Your View, The Queensferry Museum, Sharkdive or the John Muir Way, his article is a must-read guide.
Book now for Half Term
There’s masses to do in and around Edinburgh for all the family to enjoy. And with our lovely Greatbase self-catered (unless of course you want to get a chef in to do some of the cooking for you!?) accommodation, you can make the most of half term and get away from it all.
At the time of going to print, the following family-sized properties have availability over the half term holidays from Friday 16th October to Sunday 1st November:
- Circus Lane – sleeps 4
- Cambridge Street – sleeps 5
- Albany Lane – sleeps 4
- Cheyne Street – sleeps 6
- High Riggs – sleeps 5
- Ramsay Garden – sleeps 8
- Drummond Place – sleeps 6
- Green Cottage – sleeps 6