If you’ve been following our A-Z journey of the UK you’ll know it’s been a while since we’ve fitted in an adventure. Next on the list was E and where else could we go but Edinburgh? Mr HKWTUK hadn’t been to Scotland and seeing as our A-Z list hadn’t managed to net a capital city yet, it felt like it was time. Only, was January the best time of year to be visiting? Mr HKWTUK thought that summer might have been a more appropriate time to visit but then it seemed a long time to wait and I was getting impatient, so we took the plunge, packed as many layers as we could into our cabin bags and jetted off for a very early morning flight from Cardiff to Edinburgh.
So here is our guide to a long winter’s weekend in January with kids in Edinburgh including accommodation and our itinerary for you to have a peruse in case you’re thinking of heading there any time soon.
What the kids enjoyed:
The National Museum, the long underground tunnel in the aquarium and Camera Obsura
Not a hard one to miss, this Scottish Capital is in Southern Scotland and is easily accessible by air, rail and road (albeit for us it would have been quite a drive!)
How long did we go for?
We flew up on Thursday morning (at some unearthly time) and left early evening on Sunday. We managed to pack in a lot but there is so much to do in Edinburgh that you could easily stay a lot longer, especially to use as a base to do a number of day trips from if you fancy catching a sight of the Loch Ness Monster or seeing the spectacular sights of Glencoe.
What to expect
Edinburgh stuns architecturally and for kids there are endless places to explore. Luckily due to the weather at the time of year we travelled, a lot of these places were indoors which made our visit more comfortable. You’ll have the option to experience museums, castles, scenic hikes, a Zoo and magnificent views.
What we prepared
Our usual letters that we take on our A-Z adventures, so that we can take pictures of our finds to add to the kids A-Z photobook. This time it was an Elephant shaped E. We buy the wooden letters from Hobbycraft then paint them as we please.
On previous trips, we’ve sometimes struggled to link the alphabet words to the locations we were visiting. This time, we did a little preparation and produced a bingo card to give the kids some focus of the things to look for on their route around Edinburgh. Here is ours. We made sure there was at least one E letter to find in each place we were visiting.
After a very early flight from Cardiff on a Flybe flight with a newly potty trained toddler (luckily we had some tips from some travel savvy mums here to help us through!) we made it to Edinburgh. We decided to rent a car only because it worked out cheaper than getting a return taxi from the airport to our accommodation and afforded us a little more luxury and comfort to see a few places slightly outside the city. After checking in to our Air BnB and allowing the kids to have a little time to recover from their journey.
We caught the tail end of the Christmas markets and we were glad we did. They are right in the middle of the city and there is a great selection of markets to wander round before you start on the rides. If you’re planning a visit here over the Christmas period, beware, it’s not the cheapest place to take the kids and the wallet definitely took a hit.
The first ride we went out was probably the worst for this, which was the Forth Big Wheel and cost an eye-watering £25 for our family of four. When the wheel only completed three revolutions in quick succession taking less than five minutes, we were left feeling a little ripped off. On the other hand, the kids really enjoyed it and the sights of over Edinburgh were pretty spectacular.
The rest of the rides are a little easier on the pocket but are pay per ride so they do add up. We managed to go on the helter-skelter, the Christmas train ride, the Candy Cane bungee trampoline jump and the mini cars ride , making the kids a very happy pair.
We had a little wander around the Royal Mile where a lot of the main attractions are situated and ended up taking a little excursion to the National Museum of Scotland for a sneak peek.
We had a wet day forecast so we decided to hit the museums for the day. We started by heading up to the Royal Mile.
This wonderfully placed Obscura is near the castle and is a feast of hands on exhibits for the children to explore. You can easily while away a few hours here and the children tired out long before we had run out of exhibits.
The main exhibit is at the top of the multilevel building, you visit a small darkened room at the allocated time to be shown a live show of the Camera Obscura in action. It’s fifteen minutes which was just about short enough to hold the toddlers interest but there were a couple of younger toddlers in the previous show that had to exit as they didn’t like the dark or were making too much noise.
We had a great time here, a few things to note, due to the nature of the building, there are no lifts and prams must be parked near the entrance, meaning if you’re bringing a baby or child that needs carrying, you may want to bring a sling or baby carrier. The only toilets are on the first level, meaning that there is a bit of a dash for the loos if like us you’re on the fifth floor and you had a recently toilet trained toddler!
This epic and most importantly free museum was a haven on such a wild, wet, windy and wintery day. It certainly does the Capital proud and the kids are still talking about it weeks after our visit. You enter into a giant lobby, perfect for shaking off the wet weather gear. If you ask at reception, they’ll be able to tell you the most current activities they have on for kids. Whilst we were there, they were handing out treasure hunt activity sheets for kids (which in all honesty were aimed for a little older than our kids but good to know).
There were quite a few areas dedicated to the kids which they enjoyed and plenty of hands on displays. The kids were keen to tick off a few more of their E words on the bingo card and the Energy wheel was a fab one – we couldn’t get them off it! This handy guide produced by the museum was a good way to navigate through the huge space and make sure we saw the child friendly exhibits first.
The museum is very child friendly, has toilets dotted all over the place, lifts and a café on the first floor (with a Lego reconstruction of the whole museum!)
We wanted to head to the zoo as they had a special Giant Lanterns of China exhibition on. Even though this was a ticketed evening event, we chose to go in the day, purely for the fact that we didn’t think our kids would last long in the evening and for the admission price, this would have been a costly trip. We weren’t sure how visible the animals would be to us also and the kids would have been disappointed to miss out.
The zoo itself is quite a hilly one and as you progress to the back of the park, it gets really steep so a pushchair is advisable (and you can feel those muscles working when you’re pushing it up that’s for sure!)
We did find the zoo a little confusing to navigate and the signage was lacking in places and no obvious route to circumnavigate the park. There is an app to download so if you are a planner, I’d suggest you do this in advance and plan a route to coincide with the events to save time and racing across the park which wasn’t great fun. There were a number of times we had to backtrack quite significantly to find the toilets for those not prepared to use the portable potty! We took our own lunch so didn’t find out about the costings.
The monkeys, chimps, penguins and the panda were the highlights for us and there was certainly plenty to see. The lanterns absolutely dressed the place up and made it look fantastic, I’m not sure what it looked like before, but half of the attraction of visiting the zoo for the kids was seeing what the next installation was and then pretending to act like the animal so it did encourage a lot of fun and imagination. All in all, if your kids like a zoo then they will be sure to enjoy this one!
After a very touristy day, we wanted a non attraction filled early evening, so we chose to head to the lovely area of Leith which is only minutes from Edinburgh. We came upon a little local market which we had a wander around, then headed for the riverbank to have a mooch. This somehow ended up in us winding up in the very popular Mimi’s bake-house who barely managed to squeeze us in,
I’m guessing due to the volumes of people like us that must have been unable to ignore the insanely delicious looking homemade cakes on display.
After a packed weekend, it was time to squeeze in a few more things into our stay before our flight later that day. After packing up our things and checking out of our Airb Bnb property, we decided to head out of the city to take a look at the last E on our Bingo list for Estuary.
Southern and Northern Queensferry (just outside the city) are connected by a pretty spectacular bridge and we felt it was worthy of a trip to see. What originally started as one bridge has now become three, the most recent being opened by the Queen in the last few months. As much as I love cities (and Edinburgh is a beaut) I’m definitely a country girl at heart, so the chance to get some fresh air and have a drive with some views appealed to me, so off we went.
As we were looking for a place to get out and get some pictures, we ended up driving straight into an aquarium car park. Now we just love an aquarium so we thought we just had to pay a visit.
Ok, this is one of those moments when a little advance planning would have been helpful because if you book online, you get 20% off (which we didn’t) and paid in excess of £40 for our tickets. You can find the current prices here. We did think the prices were a little steep considering the aquarium is quite small in comparison to others we have been to so were a little disappointed in terms of value for money.
There were some things the kids loved however that made this aquarium stand out. The first being that the Underwater tunnel (called the underwater safari) is the longest in the UK and features a travellator in it, which the kids found almost as fascinating as watching the fish.
The second thing was watching the seals play around in their outside pool and watching them get fed.
Once we departed, we managed to find a little beach to take in the full view of the forth bridge and have a little play before heading back to the city in search of our last meal before the journey home.
What journey to Scotland would be complete without trying it’s national dish? We just had to find somewhere that did a good bit to try. Mr HKWTUK did some online research and came up with the World’s End pub as a great option (we didn’t want anywhere too formal with the kids). However, when we turned up, we were told that the licensing in Scotland was different to that in England and Wales and the pub had to hold a special license to have under 5’s on the premises (for baby changing and high chair facilities). We therefore were unable to eat there, they did however direct us to the Advocate which did hold an Under 5’s license and was close the Royal Mile. It was a nice place to eat but unfortunately we didn’t quite like the taste of Haggis! Have a look at our stories on Instagram if you want to see our reactions! Just take a peek at our Bio and click on the saved story E is for Edinburgh.
Our journey home was made slightly more exciting after an hour long delay when Austin needing the loo ran straight past it into the cockpit (whilst the door was wide open) much to the pilot’s amusement. Austin was mortified and did a U-turn into my arms so quickly even though the pilot was inviting him in. I quickly took him to the loo then ushered Mr HKWTUK and Millie to the front of the plane where she eagerly entered and to her delight, was given the opportunity to sit in the pilot’s seat too. What a way to end the weekend!
Where we stayed:
Our Air BnB delight was situated inbetween Leith and Edinburgh city. We chose this for the budget and location. It had two bedrooms, car-parking, a supermarket at the end of the street (essential for when we’re self catering) and a bus stop with regular buses to the city. The lovely thing about the apartment was that it warmed up so quickly that even on the most miserable of days you were still toasty warm and cosy inside that flat.
If you haven’t stayed in an Air Bnb before and fancy it, I’ve a link here which will give you £25 when you sign up and £15 to me which will help us towards our next trip!
Other things to do on a trip to Edinburgh in January
- Join in the Hogmanay celebrations
- Celebrate Burns night (as featured in our post 6 UK Trips to take the kids on to beat the January blues)
Our E finds
We found quite a few….
Now where do you think we should go to for our F weekend in the UK?
If you liked this post, why not have a read of the other places we’ve been on our A-Z adventure?
D is for Dovedale