Edinburgh is an absolutely fantastic place for a family holiday. With lots of outdoor space and easy access to the countryside, there is much more to Edinburgh than the museum and the castle (although these are definitely worth visiting). So, if you are wanting a trip to Edinburgh that is full of fun and adventure, away from the crowds, we have some great ideas for you to try out.
With plenty of hills and wide open space nearby, Edinburgh is a great base for anyone wanting to try mountain biking. With such a wide range of places for families to try (Glentress being the best known) we would suggest taking a trip to Falkirk’s Calendar Estate, a 45-minute drive west of Edinburgh.
Here, you will find a network of single track mountain bike trails through some attractive and peaceful woodland. The routes are all graded from challenging to easy so there is something for the whole family, no matter their ability. Reasonably priced bike hire is available at the activity centre, electric mountain bikes start from as little as £15 per hour, although regular mountain bikes and trailers for younger kids are also available. And what’s more, they even have a café to re-energise from an afternoon exploring the trails.
Calendar Estate is part of Helix Park which is home to the famous giant horse-head sculptures, The Kelpies. We’d highly recommend taking time to visit these while you are at the park.
Aerial Assault Course
Climbing, swinging and jumping through the treetops is the ultimate thrill-seeking activity for anyone young or old. Go Ape, based at Glentress (a 45-minute drive south of Edinburgh) is the place to go for an adventure at height.
Go Ape’s Treetop Challenge course is certainly for adventure seekers and offers some superb Scottish scenery. The crowning moment on this course is the 325 metre-long zip wire across the valley where you will be dangling 150 feet in the air. This is the ultimate Scottish experience, climbing between the great Douglas fir trees, over the biking trails and even over open water, this is bound to get the heart racing.
Go Ape is popular with school groups so they are well equipped to dealing with children from 10 years old and over and the team like to make your visit as fun (and safe) as possible.
There are some stunning beaches on Edinburgh’s doorstep, starting with Portobello beach to the north of the city. But if you are looking for something a bit more energetic than building sandcastles and paddling in the sea, we’d recommend a trip about 40-minute’s drive east of Edinburgh to Belhaven Bay.
Coast to Coast are a friendly, surf school, offering lessons and kit hire to anyone wanting to get out on the surf. Belhaven Bay is a stunning, wide, sandy beach that is very forgiving for those new to surfing, and offers great practice to those who are well versed in the waves.
They offer lessons to anyone from absolute beginners to those that know their way around a surf board. Children as young as seven can take part in the lessons. If you and your family know how to surf and would rather skip the lessons, that’s fine too. They hire out surf boards and wet suits individually as well.
Fort Douglas at Dalkeith Country Park
A 20-minute drive (or a number 49 Lothian Bus), will take you to a 1,000 acre estate with plenty of walking and cycling routes. However, the reason that this place is so popular with families is Fort Douglas, the recently refurbished adventure playground.
Fort Douglas has everything any child could wish for in a playground including tree houses, zip wires, suspension bridges, climbing walls and secret tunnels. There is a separate area for under 5’s with a mini maze. And what’s better is that everything is built for adults to go on as well. It is well worth the trip but you do need to buy tickets online before turning up, see link below.
As well as an amazing adventure playground, you will find the Restoration Yard which comprises of a wonderful restaurant, coffee bar and shop, ideal for recharging the batteries after charging around Fort Douglas.
Five Sisters Zoo
We all know Edinburgh is famous for its zoo but there is another gem hidden about 40 minute’s drive south west of Edinburgh, just past Livingston. Five Sisters Zoo started off as a garden centre but the husband and wife team started rehoming animals until they gathered so many that they decided to turn the garden centre into a zoo.
Boasting a surprisingly large range of animals including meerkats, bears, lions, arctic wolves, lemurs, a reptile house and many more. They also have a petting area with rabbits, guinea pigs and pygmy goats and offer the opportunity to feed the lemurs. This is a great, friendly zoo that allows kids to get up close and personal to a lot of the animals, giving a more personal experience than Edinburgh Zoo.
As well as the animals there is a great soft play area and café, should your children have any excess energy they want to burn off.
The Potter Trail
No family trip to Edinburgh would be complete without acknowledging the magical birthplace of the Harry Potter tales. This (free) award-winning tour will take you to all the sites around Edinburgh that inspired JK Rowling as she conjured up the world of Harry Potter. You will see the café where she wrote the very first book, see where Lord Voldermort is buried and walk down the street that inspired Diagon Alley.
This is a great way to see Edinburgh from a different perspective (you may even find places that you want to go back and explore later). A hugely entertaining 90 minutes, this is the ultimate ‘must do’ for any Potter fan. Some tours even include a spot of real life magic, check online first when planning your trip. No booking necessary, see link below for more information.
As you can see, a trip to Edinburgh can take you anywhere, with so much wide open space and the countryside on your doorstep. All our suggested activities are easily accessible from our Richmond Place Apartments, perfect for families.