The Royal Mile is Edinburgh’s main street through Old Town. // © 2015 iStock
Feature image (above): Holyrood Palace offers a special audio guide just for kids. // © 2015 iStock
When strolling through the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland, travelers will find no shortage of fascinating attractions to entertain their children. From castles and palaces to hiking, museums and toy shops, the city offers plenty for families with kids of all ages.
The Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s main street through Old Town, connects historic Edinburgh Castle at the top with the still-functioning royal residence Holyrood Palace at the bottom.
Families can begin their historical tour of the city with a stroll through the castle. Parents will want to grab an Explorer Quiz, which will send children on a scavenger hunt to find different objects and symbols throughout the palace. Hands-on exhibits allow visitors to hold a replica of a broadsword, just like the one Mel Gibson fought with in “Braveheart.” Those looking for a little less battle armor can watch live performances or simply grab some tea and cake at the castle’s Redcoat Cafe, which offers gorgeous views of the city.
At the other end of town, Holyrood Palace provides kids with their very own audio guide, which comes with the price of admission. A trip to this castle can take up more time than a parent would think — even children as young as 5 will want to stay an hour or two, at least, to find the exhibits discussed in the guide. There is also a family room where kids can color, play and watch historical films about the royal children throughout the years.
Not every child can stand to be inside dusty castles all day, so parents will want to head to Holyrood Park to climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat. Many claim this spot is named after the legendary King Arthur, but there is no factual evidence to support that idea. Families can start climbing from a path across the road from Holyrood Palace if they want the true experience, but those traveling with babies and toddlers can hire a taxi to drive them as close to the top as possible. It will cut the hike by about two-thirds, but visitors should still expect a steep climb.
Once families have explored the architectural history of the city, it’s time to dive into the culture of the Scottish people. Scottish Storytelling Centre and Netherbow Theatre on the Royal Mile both offer engaging children’s programming. Events include storytelling, plays, dance performances and craft workshops, plus seasonal events just for kids.
Families can also pop across the street to the Museum of Childhood to buy a few trinkets or walk deeper into this building, where a treasure trove of old dollhouses, miniatures, puppets, books, children’s clothing and model planes, trains and automobiles are housed.
Those who want to get out of the city for a quick day trip should head to Stirling Castle. The castle is high on a hill, which allows for gorgeous views of the valley, and visitors can get a look at the National Wallace Monument in the distance. There is even an entire corridor dedicated to children that gives visitors a look into life at the castle and its characters through hands-on fun such as dress-up bins, puppets, dioramas and more.
No matter how a family explores Edinburgh — whether through history, hikes, day trips or just letting the kids be the guide — everyone will leave knowing there will always be more to discover on a future trip.