Edinburgh is paradise for wizards and muggles alike—though Harry Potter fans will be sure to appreciate the architecture, this city appeals to kids of all ages, and the great outdoors nearby ensures enough family-friendly activities to fill your trip.
Edinburgh is the ideal spot for an adventurous family vacation—the city is charming and steeped in history (appealing to Harry Potter-loving children who recognize the Hogwarts architecture). But it is also a quick train ride away from the countryside and the Scottish Highlands.
The city perfectly mixes urban and year-round outdoorsy travel in the Highlands, with endless opportunities for family-friendly activities and an array of nearby kid-friendly hikes, treks, and fun educational opportunities, when you head north to the Highlands. So, pack your bag and read on for why Edinburgh should be your next family trip.
If your family loves to fish, golf, or hike—preferably all at the same place—then Scotland should be your next trip. Though the destination has witnessed an uptick in tourism in recent years, the landscape and the architecture feels frozen in time. Riding the bus north from Edinburgh, watching the dense forests give way to sloping green hills and jagged crags, it’s easy to feel that you’ve landed on the moon. The barren yet verdant landscape is unlike anywhere else on earth.
Even from Edinburgh city as your base, your family can enjoy the views and the outdoors. Venture on a half-day excursion along the circular route around Arthur’s Seat, which is only a short walk from the Royal Mile. Or for gentler walks through the woods and an off-the-beaten path day, pack a picnic lunch and head to Dalkeith Country Park.
There is something untouched about Edinburgh and the Highlands: Centuries-old castles eternally crumble alongside darkened lochs and the gray fog never seems to lift. Book a flight to Edinburgh, and enjoy exploring the city that inspired Harry Potter before heading up north to the land of medieval castles, haggis, and Macbeth. Although we had bluebird days all week on our visit, the weather in the Highlands is notoriously overcast and unpredictable. So, pack for rainy weather—your wellies and field coats at a minimum.
Between the city’s culture, and the adventure available in the countryside, this is one trip that is sure to satisfy the entire family. Be sure to bring packing cubes to easily sort your city from your country gear in your duffel or backpack (and don’t forget to pack appropriately for the range of interesting camping, glamping, and castle accommodations your family might find along the way). There are infinite possibilities for adventure when visiting Scotland, so it’s always useful to come prepared.
Many generations after the Highland clans ruled the north, their folklore and heritage feel eternally present. This isn’t to say that life in the present-day Scotland is bleak in comparison—the drinking, dancing, and self-deprecating humor of the Scots is as alive and well as ever. Forget Iceland: Though the Nordic island’s charms cannot be overstated, one can discover the country’s magnificent fells (carved out by the Ice Age) in other parts of the world. Namely: Scotland.
The Northern Lights
Also on the menu (if you’re lucky): The Northern Lights. Book your trip in the wintertime, and extend your family travels so you can head to the Highlands for several days before returning to Edinburgh (and spending an extra day or two in the city) before your flight home.
One visit to the Highlands and Edinburgh, and you will find yourself supporting the idea of Scotland’s secession from the UK. Check out our National Geographic Adventure Series —gear rugged enough for your every family adventure.
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Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
3 Educational Trips the Family Will Actually Enjoy
6 Tips for Hiking With School-Age Kids
By Katherine Parker-Magyar on June 18, 2019
Katherine is a travel and culture writer based in New York City. She has traveled to 49 countries, and all 50 states; follow along on Instagram @katherineparkermagyar or visit her website.