Keeping the kids entertained can be a challenge, especially during school holidays, and with half-term just around the corner, parents are already on the look-out for child-friendly activities to help keep boredom at bay. While Edinburgh offers an array of popular family attractions, there are also plenty of fun-filled family days out that are only an hour (or less!) outside the Scottish capital. So, if you’re staying in Edinburgh but want to venture outside the city, here are a few of our suggestions.
© Scottish Seabird Centre
Perched in a stunning location overlooking the Firth of Forth, the Scottish Seabird Centre is a 5-star visitor attraction offering fun activities for all ages. Get up close and personal with puffins, gannets and seals at the award-winning Discovery Centre where using state-of-the-art, interactive webcams, visitors can observe the amazing marine wildlife in its natural habitat. The centre also runs seasonal ‘Seafari’ boat trips, taking visitors out to the famous Bass Rock where they can witness the world’s biggest gannet colony, or the Isle of May Nature Reserve to see the largest puffin colony on the east coast of Britain.
Housed in the original wartime aircraft hangars of a former RAF base, the Museum of Flight is Scotland’s national aviation museum. Explore the history of aviation from the First World War to the present day with interactive exhibitions, supersonic experiences and historic artefacts. Visit the newly-restored hangars and find a collection of over 50 different aircraft from Spitfire to Comet, Vulcan to Tornado and the world famous Concorde. With seven indoor locations and acres of outdoor space, the Museum of Flight is a fun-filled day out whatever the weather.
© Paul Dodds – National Museum of Flight
Climb aboard the Maid of the Forth and discover Inchcolm Island. A slither of land located in the middle of the Firth of Forth, the island is a popular stop-off point for tourists taking in the sights of the sea and is home to the historic Augustine Abbey, a well-preserved example of Scottish medieval architecture. The island itself is free to explore, with a gift shop and visitor centre though there are no catering facilities so be sure to bring a picnic! With plenty of rocks to climb and sandy beaches that are ideal for building sandcastles, there is plenty to entertain any little explorer.
Fancy a taste of rural life? Escape the hustle and bustle of the city with a family day trip to Craigie’s farm. A working farm with charming farm shop and café, it really does have something for everyone. Breathe in the country air and enjoy a cuppa outside, while the kids play on the swings. Why not pick your own pumpkin this year? At Craigie’s farm you can pick your own fruit and veg! Enjoy a trailer or tractor ride, or visit some of the animals including pigs, chickens, Shetland ponies and even pygmy goats!
Go back in time aboard a vintage steam train at Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway. Enjoy a scenic 5-mile round journey, making a stop at Kinneil Halt to explore the nature reserve and the remains of the Roman Antonine Wall. Bring a picnic and stop off at Birkhill to enjoy the picturesque countryside surroundings, with plenty of space to run around. Visit Scotland’s largest railway museum, where kids can get hands on and discover railway history through fun interactive displays. Hosting regular family events including days out with Thomas the Tank Engine, the Bo’ness Railway is the ultimate family day out.
Just a hop, skip and a jump along the M8, a visit to the Scottish Owl Centre is the perfect way to escape the buzz of the big city. Home to Scotland’s largest collection of owls, from the Siberian Eagle Owl to the tiny Pygmy Owl, it is both a fun and educational day out for the whole family. Set within the beautiful Polkemmet Country Park, which is an ideal spot for picnics, it offers woodland walks; an adventure playground and daily flying demonstrations lead by expert bird handlers.
© Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway
Set in 120 acres of beautiful woodland, Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park is a fun day out for all ages. Take a boat out to Chimp Island, or go on a wild safari through the animal reserves and get up close and personal with Scotland’s only elephants and giraffes. Catch one of the famous sea lion displays or witness a bird of prey demonstration and then finish your day with lunch at one of the park’s many picnic spots. With an adventure playground too, Blair Drummond is the ultimate family day trip destination.
Scotland is known for its castles and there is arguably none more famous than Edinburgh Castle itself. However, less than an hour outside the city centre sits the equally impressive Stirling Castle, a well-preserved monument of historical significance and worth a visit on any trip to the Scottish capital. As one of Scotland’s grandest castles, it plays an important part in Scottish history. Once the home of notorious Mary Queen of Scots, it was the backdrop to many historic and bloody battles. With costumed characters, interactive games and child-friendly tours, it will make history fun even for little ones.
© Blair Drummond Safari Park
Open the door to Glasgow’s rich past at the Riverside Museum. Winner of the European Museum of the Year award in 2013, it is free to enter and houses over 3,000 wide and varied objects, showcasing the city’s history as a maritime ‘powerhouse’ and insight into life in the early 20th century. In the docks outside the museum you can visit the Tall Ship – the UK’s only floating Clyde-built sailing ship. With everything from bicycles to trams to locomotives, this museum has something to delight every visitor.
One of Scotland’s favourite family attractions, the Glasgow Science Centre teaches kids about science and technology in a way that is both unique and inspiring. There’s plenty of fun to be had with three floors packed full of interactive exhibits, activities and workshops that will keep the little ones entertained for hours. Enjoy learning and playing in the Big Explorer, an interactive soft play area designed for children aged 7 and under, while grown-up kids can embark on a 3D adventure in Scotland’s largest IMAX cinema.
Visiting Edinburgh as a family? Our city-based serviced apartments offer fantastic transport links to some of the best family attractions within an hour or less outside the Scottish capital.