Ten family-friendly free days out in Edinburgh and the Lothians

Calton Hill provides stunning views of Edinburgh and all for free. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Calton Hill provides stunning views of Edinburgh and all for free. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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SPLASHING the cash isn’t always necessary to have a good time around the Capital.

Whilst family days out can often loosen the purse-strings, there are plenty of locations offering fun for all ages all for free.

Anatomical Museum

Something of a hidden gem in Edinburgh’s vast museum scene. The Anatomical Museum is tucked away within the grounds of the University of Edinburgh and only opens on the last Saturday of every month, with sporadic monthly breaks in June, July and December. If you can manage to jump these particular hurdles then you’ll find a collection of anatomical oddities which are sure to impress, not least the pair of Asian elephant skeletons which act as guards at the museum’s door.

Teviot Place, Edinburgh / website

Belhaven Bay

A blue flag beach located with John Muir Country Park, the sandy beach stretches from its East Lothian village namesake right down to the River Tyne. On a summer’s day, the Bay plays host to families with picnics, sunbathers and those looking to test their mettle in the sea.

Edinburgh Road, Dunbar

Calton Hill

With its breathtaking views of the city itself and the Firth of Forth, as well as the number of historic monuments dotted around, it’s no wonder that Calton Hill is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Not quite as challenging as Arthur’s Seat, the slope upto the Calton Hill can be conquered by even the smallest of explorers and a wander around the National Monument, Nelson’s Monument and the City Observatory make it worth the shortness of breath.

Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Cramond Island

Located on the outer reaches of the City, Cramond Island is a tidal island located on the Firth of Forth. The small grassy island is home to World War II fortifications and is connected to the mainland by the Drum Sands, a concrete pathway accessible at low tide and dotted with anti-submarine pylons.

Although Cramond Island is one of Edinburgh’s fascinating geological oddity, it is worth keeping an eye on the tide as you make the crossing to make sure you’re not stranded on the other side.

Cramond Island, Edinburgh

Gorgie City Farm

For those looking for something a little more hands on, Gorgie City Farm is a slice of rural life in the middle of the big city. The site has been a working farm for the last three decades and is open to the public all year round, with animals including pigs, cows, chicken and sheep. Anyone over the age of eight-year-old can also volunteer to help with mucking out, feeding and herding of the animals with weekend sessions for those looking to get stuck into some agriculture.

Gorgie Road, Edinburgh / website

Linlithgow Heritage Trail

For those who prefer a more interactive approach to their history, the West Lothian county town of Linlithgow has devised a walking tour which takes in a number of sites of historical importance. The route begins at the town’s focal point The Cross Well and takes in the ‘Green Man’, Linlithgow Palace, The Peel and the Union Canal to name a few. There are 48 historical locations pointed out meaning the Heritage Trail is worthy of a full day’s outing.

The Cross Well, Linlithgow / website

National Museum of Scotland

From the moment you step into the vast white Grand Gallery, the NMS is a museum with seemingly endless possibilities of exploration and discovery. The central gallery connects the building’s more historic wings which include memorable exhibitions such as Dolly the Sheep, medieval capital punishment equipment and the wonderfully eccentric Millennium clock tower.

The museum has a busy activities schedule and changing exhibitions meaning that no two visits are the same.

Chambers Street, Edinburgh / website

Museum of Childhood

A trip down memory lane for older visitors and a journey into the past for younger attendees too. Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood was the first of its kind in the world and is home to thousands of toys and games dating as far back as the 18th century. The 21 rooms are also home to a recreated Victorian street as well as a 1930s style classroom, transporting children back to the childhood of their ancestors in a true multi-sensory experience.

Royal Mile, Edinburgh / website

Royal Botanic Garden

A world-renowned centre of science and a beautiful site stretching over 70 acres, the Royal Botanic Garden’s large greenhouses are home to a number of rare and exotic species of plants and a wander around the grounds will have you feeling closer to nature. Whilst the Scottish Heath Garden and the Queen Mother Memorial Garden will impress the older visitor, the recreated climates in the Windows to the World greenhouses will be enough convince younger guest that its a real jungle adventure.

Arboretum Place, Edinburgh / website

Scottish Parliament

If you’re looking to take your young ones into the very heart of Scottish politics, then Holyrood offers free guided tours around the building. The tours offer information on the Parliament’s history, the daily processes as well as a guide to the building itself and it’s peculiar award-winning design by Catalan architect Enric Miralles.

Horse Wynd, Edinburgh / website