Edinburgh with kids
Before this summer I’d never visited Edinburgh. Shameful, I know. So with foreign travel still too uncertain, August was the perfect time to go. I was all set to go solo but managed to persuade my daughter to come with me on a three day mini break. Thankfully, Scotland’s capital didn’t disappoint. This beautiful city has stunning Gothic architecture at every turn, a rich history, vibrant cultural scene and lots of sights and activities to keep the kids entertained.
Travel to Edinburgh
We travelled by train. Quick, convenient and relatively cheap, although still frustratingly more expensive than flying – the joys of privatised train travel hey? We travelled from London’s King’s Cross direct to Edinburgh Waverley with LNER. The return journey cost around £100 for two of us using a Family & Friends Railcard (£30). Journey time was around 4.5 hours.
For more of an iconic train experience from London to Scotland, the Caledonian Sleeper is a great option although definitely on the pricier side (booking well in advance helps bring the price down). The overnight train whisks you to Edinburgh in style and guests can enjoy cosy rooms and dining in the Club Car. If you can’t stretch to a cabin, there’s a seating coach with reclining seats for the overnight journey.
Lumo is a new train service that launched in September and offers customers 100% high speed electric trains from King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley. The trains are kinder to the environment, there’s a menu that’s over 50% plant based and the fares are pretty reasonable if you book in advance. I love this company’s philosophy – plus its trains are six times greener than a plane. Win win.
Best hotels in Edinburgh
To tempt my daughter into coming with me, I promised her we’d stay somewhere with a pool. We stayed at the Apex Waterloo Place, right next to Calton Hill. This reasonably priced four-star hotel had everything we needed with clean, comfy rooms, relaxed bar area, restaurant, gym and lovely swimming pool. You can also stay at the Apex Grassmarket if you want to be closer to the centre. A double room cost around £130 per night.
Probably Edinburgh’s most famous hotel is The Balmoral. If I had £500 per night to spare I would have loved to have stayed here. An Edinburgh landmark, this enduring classic is all about understated luxury and elegance, from the beautifully ornate Palm Court tearoom where you can enjoy High Tea to the well-designed bedrooms and luxury suites.
If you fancy a more boutique option, The Dunstane Houses is a five-star hotel set in two beautifully converted Victorian townhouses. It’s got style, class and romance in abundance and pitches itself as ‘a breath of fresh Orkney air in the heart of Edinburgh’. I’d stay here if I was going back to Edinburgh without kids.
Where to eat in Edinburgh
When it comes to food, Edinburgh’s got everything you need from chain restaurants (Dishoom, Franco Manca, Cote, Wagamama, Five Guys) and street food joints to classic Scottish cuisine and top class seafood restaurants. Eating out in Edinburgh is a delight and there’s always something new to discover in the city’s vibrant dining scene.
Café Royal is a traditional, buzzy oyster bar set in a beautiful building just off Princes Street. If you’re looking for something a bit more laid back that the kids will enjoy, try El Cartel Casera Mexicana, an authentic Mexican street food haunt with frozen margaritas for the adults. Ting Thai is popular with a younger crowd and some of the best sourdough pizzas and salads can be had at Civerinos. We also ate at Maison Bleue on Victoria Street – a must for fans of Harry Potter as this street is said to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley. Yes, it’s a touristy stretch but don’t be put off by the location.
One thing worth remembering when you’re in Edinburgh is that lots of the pubs aren’t child friendly due to Scottish licensing laws, so if you’re thinking of popping in for a quick drink, check the rules. We tried to have a late afternoon drink in Cafe Royal but they don’t allow kids on the premises unless you’re eating a meal.
Things to do in Edniburgh
Visiting a museum or art gallery with children can be like pulling teeth. Some love them, others not so much. Save yourself the pain and go for an activity that everyone will enjoy.
Climb Arthur’s Seat
By far the best thing we did while staying in Edinburgh was climb Arthur’s Seat. Set in Holyrood Park, it’s a must. Holyrood Park is absolutely stunning. We took the main path up from the Palace of Holyroodhouse and climbed the peak in around 45 minutes. It was a beautifully sunny day and from the top you can see the whole of Edinburgh out to Leith and Portobello beach. We took the path less travelled down, which was quieter and meandered along grassy pathways back to the palace. Take plenty of snacks, water and a good pair of trainers.
Eat seafood in Leith
Leith is the buzzing port area of Edinburgh, famous for Trainspotting and Michelin-starred dining. It atracts a hip, artsy crowd who come for the cosmopolitan atmosphere, great pubs, excellent seafood and laid-back living. The Water of Leith Walkway is home to Turner Prize winning artist Antony Gormley’s iconic 6 Times sculptures, the last one of which you can find in Leith docks.
Wander the streets of Edinburgh
Whenever I visit a city for the first time I like to explore the streets, going nowhere in particular. With its dramatic scenery and ancient landmarks Edinburgh is the perfect city for this. Take a walk and discover the medieval charm of the Old Town, the elegant streets of the Georgian New Town, cobbled streets of the Royal Mile with its centuries old tenements soaring high above you, hip local areas like Stockbridge and numerous ‘closes’ to get lost in. The elegant curve of pastel-coloured buildings on Victoria Street are an Instagrammers dream and Edinburgh Castle sits on top of a craggy rock, proudly guarding the city.