Last week, during the children’s half term, we headed off on the long journey up North to Scotland. We did stop off at my brother’s house in County Durham before continuing on to Edinburgh, which is somewhere I had always wanted to visit. I was very kindly gifted two ASVA (Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions) passes for myself and Ed for our trip, which gave us access to so many attractions in Edinburgh and across Scotland. As we were only staying in Edinburgh for 24 hours, we were limited in what we could do, so I wanted to share what we decided on in case you also find yourself in the city for just one day…
A Walk Through Edinburgh’s Old Town
We were staying in a guesthouse just a ten minute walk away from the castle, which gave us the perfect opportunity to walk through the old town and have a bit of an explore on our way to the other attractions on both days of our visit.
There are plenty of tourist focused gift shops along the walk, if you are looking for souvenirs, and lots of places to eat or enjoy a drink with the backdrop of the castle in Grassmarket. I wouldn’t actually recommend the place we stayed as it wasn’t in the best of conditions. If we visited again, I would be inclined to check out a hotel we came across right in the centre of Edinburgh – Grassmarket Hotel , as it looked lovely and was the perfect location to explore from.
A Trip to ‘Diagon Alley’
Just up from Grassmarket is Victoria Street, a road that apparently inspired JK Rowling’s Diagon Alley, and it is clear to see why, with it’s beautiful curving structure. There are plenty of Harry Potter and magic themed shops along here. We went into the The Great Wizard, which was a treasure trove of wizarding memorabilia, although it did seem pretty overpriced, so bear this in mind if you are visiting with young children who are inclined to fall in love with something out of budget!
A Visit to Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
A definite highlight of our trip was our visit to Camera Obscura & World of Illusions on our first afternoon. It was pretty busy, as we went along on a Sunday during half term, but it was worth the queue and we all enjoyed the five different floors filled with optical illusions, visual effects, mirror mazes and interactive fun. We were encouraged to climb to the top level first, where we could see for miles and had an excellent view of the castle and the royal mile, before working our way back down the floors to the bottom. There was so much to do, I would recommend it as a must-see if you are in the area.
A Morning to Explore Edinburgh Castle
When we first arrived in Edinburgh, Storm Dennis was wreaking havoc and it was too windy for the castle to be open, which was such a shame. Fortunately for us, it reopened on the Monday morning before we were due to leave, so we got the chance to explore the grounds and find out more about the history of the castle including numerous sieges. The castle is home to Scotland’s Crown Jewels, which are stunning (you can’t take photos unfortunately) as well as a National War memorial and many exhibitions and museums within the walls.
If you have longer in Edinburgh, these are some of the things we would like to do if we visited again…
A short drive outside of the city centre, Edinburgh Zoo has plenty to keep the whole family occupied. They have over 1,000 animals including the UK’s only giant pandas – make sure you arrive first thing to get tickets for this as they are available on a first come first served basis. You can also see Sumatran tigers and watch the Penguin Parade, with knighted penguin Sir Nils Olav.
Perhaps not for the younger children, or those with a nervous disposition, Edinburgh Dungeon is another top attraction, situated right in the city. With a cast of actors, special effects and creepy scenes, this is a a walk through experience which involves all the senses. There are plenty of highlights, including cannibal Sawney Bean, the infamous Burke & Hare and William Wallace, Scotland’s famous warrior. There are a total of 11 live action shows and 2 underground rides to enjoy during your visit.
Palace of Holyrood House
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is just a walk along the Royal Mile from the castle, and has been a royal home for 500 years – today it is the country’s only working royal palace. Learn all about Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary, Queen of Scots and explore the state apartments and beautiful gardens. Make sure you also visit Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano, whilst you are there.
I was provided with two ASVA passes to assist with this post, however all other tickets for our party of six were purchased by ourselves, and all words and images are my own.