“The Largest, Longest, and Finest Street in the World.” – Daniel Defoe
The Royal Mile is part of Edinburgh’s Old Town and is the Scottish capital’s most notable area, rich in history and also linked with some of the city’s less savory characters like Williams Burke and Hare, who were responsible for 17 murders during the 1820s.
Edinburgh’s most famous street, runs from the castle drawbridge to the gates of Holyrood Palace. Take the time to stroll down this unique thoroughfare and visit some of Scotland’s best-loved tourist venues.
Scotland‘s top tourist attraction boasts a thousand years of history. It dominates the capital’s skyline and is home to the world famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre
The centre’s resident ghost may reveal some of the blender’s best kept secrets. Discover 300 years of Scotch whisky history and try a nip of Laphroaig, the best whisky in the world.
Museum of Childhood
It’s described as the “nosiest museum in the world” and exhibits dolls, bicycles, teddy bears and kids stuff from around the world. You can soak up the atmosphere of the 1950s, learn about children’s schooling and listen to them at play on Edinburgh’s streets. It was the first museum in the world to specialise in the history of childhood.
The museum in Lady Stairs Close, part of Lawnmarket, is dedicated to the lives of some of Scotland’s finest writers: Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns. It houses a fascinating collection of manuscripts, portraits and personal items.
People’s Story Museum
Housed in the Canongate Tolbooth, this unique museum is filled with past sights, sounds and smells from the lives of the people who worked in Edinburgh.
Despite the unusual design the new parliament building has won a number of prestigious architectural awards. Why not make your own mind up! Take the tour or wander round on your own.
The Palace of Hollyrood House
The residence of Her Majesty the Queen when she visits Scotland. started life as a monastery in 1128. A visit to the palace gives you a taste of Scotland’s turbulent past. It’s a great place to explore if you have an interest in Scotland’s best loved monarch, Mary Queen of Scots.
Edinburgh for Kids
For many adults, the attractions of Edinburgh are its pubs and bars and good Scotch whisky. But if you have kids in tow, you’ll need to find something else for them to enjoy. Fortunately, there’s a lot available.
On the Royal Mile, not far from Edinburgh Castle, is the Camera Obscura. It was built in the 1850s, and uses an array of optical devices to project a view of Edinburgh inside a darkened room. The views are superb, showing the whole city, the Firth of Forth, and the Cheviot Hills and Borders to the south. Once you’ve seen the Camera Obscura, zoom in on the city with a telescope or enjoy the optical illusions and holograms that bring this attraction bang up to date. It’s not cheap (GBP 7.50 – USD 15 – for adults and GBP 6.00 for children) but it’s a highly enjoyable visit.
If you’re a cheapskate – or you’ve already taken the children to the Camera Obscura – you can still have fun on the Royal Mile with the distorting mirrors fitted outside the house.
Dynamic Earth – Quakes, Rainstorms and the North Pole
Another children’s attraction with a scientific bent is Dynamic Earth, which explores geology and natural history. It’s housed in a striking modern wave-formed building, just off Holyrood Park and near the new Scottish Parliament. Children can experience earthquakes, volcanoes, or tropical rainstorms; the new ‘Polar Extremes’ exhibit gives them a chance to test themselves against one of the most hostile environments on earth. Only problem for parents on a tight schedule; it’s closed on Monday and Tuesday during the winter, so you might have to plan other visits around it.
Edinburgh Zoo, a short bus ride out of the centre of the city along the Corstorphine Road, will interest most children. It may not have the interactive gizmos or the drama of Dynamic Earth, but the daily Penguin Parade at two in the afternoon will amuse most children. Even more unlikely, you may see Nils Olav, the colonel-in-chief of the Norwegian King’s Guard, taking part. He’s a penguin, too!
The best free day out in town
Some of the best things in life are free. The Royal Museum and the Museum of Scotland, two museums sharing a building on Chambers Street, don’t charge for admission, or for their audio or guided tours. High points include the famous medieval Lewis Chessmen, a selection of steam engines, and Dolly the Sheep – the first animal to be successfully cloned from an adult cell. (She’s stuffed, obviously.) Don’t forget to be in the main hall on the hour (at 11, 12, 2, and 4) when the Millennium Clock chimes, and its imaginative figures spring to life.
Two trips outside the city are worth taking. The Scottish Seabird Centre, at North Berwick, can be reached by train in about 30 minutes. Buy the Seabird Centre special ticket, which includes the train fare and admission. In summer, bird life features gannets, puffins, and shags, many of them on the dramatic Bass Rock out in the Firth of Forth. High powered telescopes and remote control cameras let you zoom in on the birds without disturbing their nesting. You can take a boat trip, perhaps seeing dolphins and porpoises as well as the birds.
Beasties and ghosties – time to be scared
Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World is one for kids who like bugs and beasties. And just to increase the ‘gross out’ factor, it has a reptile house too. Some of the creatures can be handled. Apparently only the friendly ones turn up at the ‘meet the beasties’ sessions, but that still may include a couple of large snakes and some tarantulas.
And finally, of course, Edinburgh is the world capital of ghost tours and bodysnatching – subjects guaranteed to appeal to many older children. While some of the late night ghost tours can be a bit too scary for kids, just take a trip to Old Calton cemetery for an authentic, but not too terrifying, touch of chill; or try counting the skulls on the monuments in Greyfriars Cemetery!