10 of the best family days out near Edinburgh

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Edinburgh Fin Clippers Boness Kinneil Railway

Looking for things to do with the kids around Edinburgh? Here’s our list of top attractions to keep families of all ages entertained

Not far from the historic streets of the Scottish capital, families can find adventure, beautiful natural habitats and intriguing stories from the past

1. National Mining Museum Scotland

National Mining Museum Scotland in Edinburgh

Experience what it was like to be employed in Scotland’s mines in the 1800s when children as young as five laboured underground. Today, ex-miners will take you on a journey through the dark tunnels of Lady Victoria Colliery and share stories about the families who worked there.

Young visitors can dress up in Victorian clothes, test their engineering skills in the museum’s Interactive Zone and go in search of the six colliery cats roaming around the mine. You can also have a go at driving Scotland’s largest steam engine, which hauled miners and coal up and down the shaft for nearly 90 years.

2. Five Sisters Zoo Park

Five Sisters Zoo Edinburgh

Meet more than 180 different species of mammals, birds and reptiles at this privately owned zoo in West Lothian. Five Sisters Zoo has a focus on conservation and has rescued lions and bears from travelling circuses. Hear their stories during keeper talks and get up close with some of the zoo’s smaller creatures during daily handling sessions. (Feeding and handling sessions cost extra.)

Kids will also enjoy letting off steam in the large outdoor play area. A new animal-themed indoor soft-play space opens in spring 2018.

3. Scottish Owl Centre

Edinburgh Slide Scottish Owl Centre

Not to be missed when visiting the Owl Centre are the daily indoor flying displays. These allow you to appreciate the amazing birds in action whatever the weather. The Centre is home to more than 100 owls from 40 different species and has had success breeding a pharaoh eagle owl – a first in Scotland.

As well as admiring the beautiful owls, kids can challenge their parents to a round of golf, run around the huge adventure playground, complete with an owl slide, or have their photo taken with one of the owls.

4. Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway

Edinburgh Biness Kinneil Railway

There are four stations on the historic line between Bo’ness and Manuel, which runs along the River Forth. As you travel through the countryside you can alight the train to explore or have a picnic. Alongside the steam trains is Scotland’s largest railway museum. Here you’ll find locomotives, vintage signage and interactive exhibits telling the story of Scotland’s railways.

For an extra special treat book an afternoon tea during your journey. Be sure to plan ahead as places for this foodie rail experience sell out fast.

5. Scottish Seabird Centre

Scottish Seabird Centre Edinburgh © Sean Bell


For an action-packed wildlife day out, take a trip to the coast and the Scottish Seabird Centre. As well as taking control of cameras placed in important habitats on the Firth of Forth, you can go out on the water on a seabird rib ‘seafari’ or learn about the area’s ecosystem in the Wildlife Theatre. Don’t miss the 3D film that delves deeper into ocean life.

For younger explorers there’s an indoor play and learning area. Well-behaved dogs are also welcome indoors, outdoors and on catamaran boat trips.

6. East Links Family Park

Whether you want to meet the farm animals, storm the wooden fortress or conquer the musical maze, there’s a full day out to be had at East Links Family Park. This 20-acre farm is packed full of family activities and fun for all weathers. Indoors there are climbing walls and a soft-play barn, while outdoors you’ll find a giant floating platform armed with water cannons and jets – perfect for cooling down on a summer’s day.

A less vigorous activity is boarding the safari train for a 1km ride around the park’s animal paddocks. Bring your own picnic or visit the café to recharge after your adventures.

7. Hopetoun House

Hopetoun House Edinburgh

This 17th-century estate and house is the ancestral home to the Hope family, who still live here. Step inside the stately residence to walk through Georgian interiors that have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. Visit on the first Saturday of the month to see the house guides dressed in costume.

Outside in the grounds there are nature trails and walks. If your family enjoys geocaching you’ll find Hopetoun has its own trail with caches to be discovered. Check the website for family-themed events throughout the year.

8. Xtreme Karting & Combat

Edinburgh Laser Tag

Fuel your inner racing driver with a day of go karting just outside Edinburgh. Kids aged eight and up can get in the driving seat and whip around the indoor circuit.

When you’ve had enough time on the indoor track, challenge your family to laser tag outdoors. Children need to be eight years old to take part in combat missions. Unlike paint-balling, laser tag is painless, so great fun for the whole family.

9. Falls of Clyde Wildlife Reserve

Falls of Clyde Wildlife Reserve Edinburgh

If you fancy a walk with plenty of drama, this Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve is a great place to visit with kids. Not only can you take in the three stunning waterfalls along this section of the River Clyde, you can also spot kingfishers, badgers and otters.

The visitor centre will tell you all about the local wildlife, including the rare nesting peregrines. Don’t miss the viewpoints or landmarks along your walk, like the 16th-century Corra Castle and the Bonnington Hydroelectric Power Station, the UK’s first of its kind.

10. Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Centre

Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Centre in Edinburgh

This tower house in Jedburgh unravels the life of Mary Queen of Scots who visited the town at the height of her popularity in 1566. It was one of several fortified buildings used by her and her court during an official tour. Today it is a museum telling Mary’s story and is the ideal place to visit with young history buffs.

Take an audio tour to find out how the artefacts on display relate to the Scottish queen and follow in her footsteps with a walk around the pear tree garden. Don’t miss the eerie death mask – a cast taken of the queen’s face after she was executed in England.

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