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3 days in Edinburgh in July--stay in city or venture out on day 3?

We (family of five, kids, 7, 12, 14) are visiting the UK for the first time this July. We will have four nights and three full days in Edinburgh at the end of our trip. We plan on doing Edinburgh Castle and Rick's Royal Mile walk on Day 1. We'll do the New Town walk on Day 2 and throw in the National Museum, Georgian House, or Brittania, depending on what we feel like at the time.

But, what should we do with Day 3? I was thinking of Stirling, the Kelpies, and maybe the Falkirk Wheel? But I've heard Stirling is similar to Edinburgh Castle? Will the kids be bored? (We will have already visited Windsor, Warwick and Edinburgh by this point). The Kelpies look like a cool photo opp, but not much else. The Falkirk Wheel seems to be recommended, but frankly sounds boring to me (I'm much more into castles or nature). Yet, if it were something great for the kids, I would do it, since they will be putting up with a lot of cathedrals, castles, and what-not.

We are open to other easy day trips from Edinburgh... or perhaps we should stay put and enjoy the city as we will be at the end of a busy 2-week holiday...?

Posted by
610 posts

If you don't want to commit a whole day and a long journey to a day trip, I would highly recommend Craigmillar Castle near Edinburgh. When we were there a few years ago, it was a highlight for us. It is easy to get to by bus and a short walk, maybe 30 minutes in all. It was quiet and had lots of interesting things to explore. It is more of a ruin than a restored castle like Edinburgh, so it is empty and has no roof, but the bones of the rooms are there and you can climb the staircases and see the fireplaces and imagine what it once was. We liked how private it was - we only saw a few other people there the entire time, and it was set in a pretty meadow. You can see lots of photos of it on TripAdvisor. Hope you have a lovely trip - Edinburgh is one of my favorite places in the world!


Some time out the city on day 3 sounds like a great idea and it will give you a lovely opportunities to see the quieter side of Scotland. There really are umpteen options for a day trip close by so here's just a few ideas:

  1. North Berwick - North Berwick is a lovely seaside town just a 40 minute drive outside the city. You could take one of the many short boat trips, visit the beach or have some chips by the harbour. There is a sealife centre right on the front or a mini golf centre or small hill walk further back from the shore.

  2. Falkirk - You could visit the Kelpies and Falkirk wheel in one day. The Falkirk wheel main park has lots of activities for kids such as a mini water activity centre, trampolines, picnic area, small playpark and little paddle boat rides. I guess it depends what age your kids are. The mechanics and architecture are amazing to see in person and you could easily spend a couple of hours there or take a walk up the canal yourself.

  3. You could travel out to Roslin Chapel (this is where they filmed some of the Da Vinci Code) take a tour of the Chapel and see the old castle ruins, go onwards 10 minutes to see the Pentland hills and then travel another 20/30 minutes to Dalkeith Country Park. This has ample activities and walks for both adults and children and makes for a lovely day out if you get the son.

Hope this helps and let us know how you get on with your vacation!

Posted by
87 posts

@abigail.macleod - Would you mind sharing more information on visiting North Berwick by boat? We will be visiting Tantallon Castle in that area as well and love love a boat ride!

Posted by
824 posts

Personally, I think there's plenty to keep you occupied in Edinburgh. Edinburgh's Hop-on Hop-off buses are probably the best of that type I've experienced anywhere. There's Holyrood Palace. There're are other museums the kids might be interested in. There's climbing Arthur's Seat. There's the beach (if the weather is nice).

If you do go to Stirling, you can also take the city bus over the William Wallace Monument.

Posted by
702 posts

We stayed 5 nights in Edinburgh with one day out of the city. I personally think there is plenty to do in Edinburgh for 3 days. As you say, Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Calton Hill or Arthurs Seat, the Palace of Holyrood House, there are a few small museums as well (we didn't have time for any of those). Certainly enough for 3 short days. Our day trip included Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond & Glengoyne Distillery, with a stop for photos at the Kelpies, but we had 5 days so it was nice to break it up with a trip to the Highlands. Craigmiller Castle was on my wish list but not enough time. Enjoy your holiday.