I’ve already covered where to stay while visiting Edinburgh, but what about activities to put on the agenda?
When we visited in the spring we found ourselves with a day and a half to see everything in Edinburgh, which is no small feat. There’s a number of ways to try to tackle planning a quick trip to a city center and, although Yelp and TripAdvisor can be helpful in ranking sites to see, nothing is a better test than taking a tour bus first thing to get a better feel of what your interests are.
We hopped aboard the Edinburgh Tour (green bus) of the Edinburgh Bus Tour fleet to speed around the city and learn as much as possible without freezing or hurting our tired traveling feet 😉
The tour lasts approximately 1 hour, although you do have the option to let your guide know if you want on or off at any of their stops. On this particular tour the guide speaks via microphone to those on board — both inside the bus and top deck.
- Edinburgh Castle
- National Museum of Scotland
- New Town
- Old Town
- Palace of Holyroodhouse
- Scottish Parliament, and more
I’m primarily one who likes to walk to explore the area, but when traveling with baby I found this much more convenient. Although we dressed Fox for the weather, my California baby surprised us by getting upset whenever the chilly wind blew, so the ride was a perfect way to keep him happy while checking off everything on our sightseeing list.
All 12 photos below (until the tour bus) were taken aboard the bus tour on a camera that doesn’t have a zoom. You get that close!
After our tour ended, we ultimately opted to stroll up the Royal Mile to check out some of the intricate architecture and interesting shops, ending at Edinburgh Castle. The castle itself is unexpected when walking up the road. It’s not everyday that your walk ends with a historic fortress on the forefront! Once we completed a tour through the castle we found ourselves at The Scotch Whisky Experience, a few buildings down from the castle. Although the tour is meant for adults, children are very much welcome along the way.
Note: it’s silly to go to Scotland and not sample their fine Scotch, but it’s not always easy to find an actual distillery that allows children inside. Be sure to check ahead of time if your desired location has age restrictions. Unless you’re okay with trading off and spending a large portion of your travel time waiting around, that is! Since a great deal of distilleries will not let kiddos through the door, we were absolutely thrilled that we found such an incredible facility that does.
Although the 5-star rated Scotch Whisky Experience is not an actual distillery, it represents 90% of the whisky industry, lending for an ideal location for those just beginning to get their feet wet with whisky tasting.
Our tour began with a barrel ride (literally) through the production process of Scotch whisky making. Both sights and smells surrounded us as we cruised through learning about the history of the craft and more. Our guide met us to tell us about the separate regions that the Scotch comes from (this includes a scratch and sniff card where you can take in the aromas of each brand). Our tour ended in a vault that contains the world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky — and it was INSANE. This collection went on forever it seemed, and we happily took it in after choosing a whisky to taste. Tyler sampled fruity Speyside and I tried the smoke and peat layered Islay. This collection though… check it out!
We checked out the bar and the gift shop that followed the tour before heading to the in-house restaurant, Amber.
It didn’t take us long to delve into the Scottish tapas appetizer. Fox loved each traditional bite and so did we!
Tyler opted for a juicy steak…
…while I went with the traditional haggis. Amber prides itself on cooking only locally grown produce from Scotland’s land, lochs, and seas, so anything off the menu is promised to be authentic Scottish fare, although I had to spring for my first haggis experience. Don’t be scared by the ingredients, guys — this is the real deal. I’m still having dreams about it.
And, of course, we had to polish off our meals with a Highland Cream Hot Chocolate. Trust me on this, even if you only have time for dessert in Edinburgh, this drink will warm you up before you brave the cold. It’s so wonderfully delicious!
I also feel indebted to speak of the staff over at Amber. Everyone we spoke with went out of their way to be helpful and I really appreciated the personalization of our meal.
A huge thank you to Edinburgh Bus Tours, The Scotch Whisky Experience, and Amber Restaurant for hosting our family during our time in Edinburgh. You made our visit toasty warm, packed us with valuable information, and stuffed us silly!
Have you ever been to Edinburgh? What was your favorite spot to see?