It’s Scotland’s capital, the seat of government and one of the world’s most historically significant cities – but there’s far more to Edinburgh than the grown up stuff. For family fun, it is hard to beat and in a whistlestop two-day adventure over the October holidays we revisited old favourites and discovered some new ones to add to the list.
1 – Animal antics at Edinburgh Zoo
Edinburgh Zoo has been going strong for more than 100 years but year on year it just keeps getting better. Since we first visited more than a decade ago it is incredible to think of the changes there have been – including some major developments.
The introduction of the giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang is the one which has grabbed the headlines, but for us the Budongo Trail (housing the loveable, impish and captivating family of chimpanzees) is just as fascinating.
The new Tiger Tracks attraction, home to the imperious Sumatran tigers Jambi and Baginda, is the latest addition and is well worth the trip to the top of the zoo’s sprawling hillside grounds to see. We took advantage of the free shuttle bus to make two trips to the trail, saving tired legs and getting an expert guided tour of some of the other enclosures we passed along the way.
The penguin parade was another big hit with all the family, as well as the opportunity to walk among the super cute wallabies – something we had never done before on previous Edinburgh visits.
Edinburgh Zoo may be one of the city’s oldest family attractions, but there’s certainly plenty to keep us coming back for more.
2 – Unearthing some (horrible) history
Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Old Town, New Town, Princes Street, Grassmarket … and everything in between. You’re never more than a stone’s throw from some of the country’s most impressive historic sites during a visit to Edinburgh – the problem isn’t so much deciding what to do, more what not to do given the choice on offer.
We’ve dipped in an out during previous visits but this time we let the experts take the strain in the shape of Edinburgh Bus Tours. With more than £6.5million invested in the fleet this year, the impressive open top buses are not surprisingly popular with tourists from near and far and are rated as a five star visitor attraction.There are several tours to choose from and we chose the City sightseeing tour. One of the big attractions for us, with three school age children in tow, was the option of the Horrible Histories commentary – which brought Edinburgh to life for the kids in a way no other tour could.
From start to finish the city tour is just over an hour in length, but the beauty is the ability to be able to hop off and hop on at any of the designated stops along the meandering route. We took advantage of that and it made for a fantastic day – all the better by the cheery and helpful team of drivers and support staff.
3 – A journey through time at Dynamic Earth:
Taking a trip through 15,000 million years sounds like it could be hard work, but nothing could be further from the truth. Step inside the tardis-like Dynamic Earth and prepare to be catapulted through the centuries in quite some style.
Nestling beneath the stunning backdrop of Holyrood Park, the striking exterior gives just a tiny hint of what is awaiting visitors in what is quite rightly a five-star visitor attraction.
The journey starts in an atmospheric olde-worlde surroundings and after setting the scenes takes you through a collection of brilliant exhibits, all staged to perfection, and uses everything from a jaw dropping 4D show and recreated earth tremor to a mini iceberg and much, much more to ensure everyone’s attention is firmly grabbed.
We hadn’t been to Dynamic Earth before – the only question we left with was, quite simply, why on earth (no pun intended) not?
For kids of all ages and adults alike there’s so much to see and do – and special mention must go to the guides who bring the time travelling to life with infectious energy and a real passion for what they do. A first visit for us, but definitely not the last.
4 – Putting some life into museum visits:
Museums can be a bit hit and miss. We’ve been disappointed before – without naming names, one of particularly good repute will forever in our household be known only as the ‘boring museum’. We enjoyed it mind you, unfortunately the kids thoughts otherwise.
In Edinburgh there are several attractions aiming to prove that learning doesn’t have to be boring and the National Museum of Scotland is one of those.
One of the stops on the Edinburgh Bus Tours route, it’s at the heart of the city and with free entry there’s no excuse not to visit.
A busy schedule of events – including the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition running until February – helps keep things moving but in truth there’s enough on the exhibit list to make sure there’s nothing dull about this particular museum.
Dinosaurs? Check. Picasso? Check. Dolly the Sheep? Check. An Apple 1 computer? Check. You get the picture – lots to see and, just importantly, plenty to do.
5 – Bridging the gap between old and new:
There’s no digital cleverness or interactive ingenuity – but for a walk with a difference, and a view like no other, head for the Firth of Forth.
Not for those with even a touch of vertigo (and we’ve got one in our number!), for those who don’t mind the lofty setting the stroll from one side of the existing Forth Road Bridge to the other is well worth taking. You can, of course, cheat and take in the view from the comfort of your car but you do miss out on a unique adrenalin rush!
On one side is the Forth Bridge – which has been carrying trains across the water for well over a century. Built in 1890, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and in October this year was voted in a VisitScotland poll as Scotland top man-made wonder. Pipping the likes of Edinburgh Castle and Melrose Abbey to the post, it isn’t difficult to see why it grabbed the lion’s share of the vote.
Of course, the old is being joined by the new – on the other side of the existing road bridge is the epic new version. During our latest visit the final sections were just being put in place, drawing crowds of spectators as a modern classic takes shape.
We worked with Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh Bus Tours and Dynamic Earth during our visit to Edinburgh. Thanks to them for their support.
Follow them at:
Twitter @edinburghtour , Facebook & Instagram Edinburghbustours
Twitter @Edinburghzoo, Facebook Edinburgh Zoo, Instagram Edinburghzoo
Twitter @ourdynamicearth Facebook Dynamic Earth, Instagram dynamic_earth
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