Edinburgh Castle, one of Scotland’s most famous castles, is positioned strategically to rise above Scotland’s capital city. For decades this castle was home to royalty and has been at the center of wars, sieges and controversy. Actually, it seems like the Scottish and English have always been fighting over this castle. However, it is now the world that is fighting to get in! Today, Edinburgh Castle is a major tourist attraction. Although this castle and city attract a ton of people, we had a relatively smooth day. I did my research and talked to locals so that my day sightseeing a major tourist attraction would not be unnecessarily stressful. I was traveling with my two babies under 5 years old, my parents and my hubby, so I had to know what I was doing. Here are some tips to help you plan your visit Edinburgh Castle with kids.
- Buy your ticket online for FAST TRACK tickets. With no extra charge, these tickets allow you to bypass the long queue. Buy. Print. You’re In.
- Arrive early! Gates open at 9:30 a.m., but crowds show up fast. I suggest getting there before 9:00 a.m. to avoid the long queue to get into the castle. Plus, is it easier to explore the castle in the morning as crowds really pile in towards the afternoon.
- Take a taxi to the castle and have them drop you off at the top of Royal Mile. Royal Mile is a steep hike and if you are traveling with kids or grandparents, it is best to save your legs for walking the castle. Taxis are inexpensive and worth the convenience.
- Avoid peek season and Saturdays. Like I said, this is a very touristy spot, so it can get really crowded at the castle as well as the town, which makes it hard to maneuver.
- The One O’clock Gun or firing of the cannon happens every day at 1:00 p.m. except on Sundays. So, if this is important for you to see, then don’t go on Sundays. However, this might be a less crowded day.
Keep Cost in Check:
Adults (16-59) are 16.50 GBP
Children (5-15) are 9.50 GBP
Seniors are (60 and over) are 13.20 GBP
If you are planning to see more than one castle, get the Explorer Pass.
There is so much to see at the castle, you’ll want some time to explore it and to partake in some of the activities. We got there at opening and stayed until after the One O’Clock Gun, which gave us plenty of time. Be sure to grab an Explorer Quiz, which is designed like a fun scavenger hunt for kids to discover facts about the castle.
Half Moon Battery
As you approach Edinburgh Castle, you’ll notice the Half Moon Battery. Not only does this give Edinburgh Castle its unique appearance, but it also made for a perfect spot to fire off cannons. It is also where visitors are encouraged to learn the art of various weaponry and artillery. We stumbled upon a Schiltron Piking tutorial. My daughter, FireCracker, loved learning this new skill and all the gory details of its historical use. Hopefully, she will never need to use this new talent. She was sure into it!
National War Museum & Royal Scots Dragoon
If you are interested in Scotland’s hundreds of years of war history, check out the National War Museum and Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum. My kids were more interested in the statue out front.
Scottish National War Memorial
The Scottish National War Memorial honors those fallen in WWI and WWII. No cameras are allowed inside. We only took photos on the outside.
Prisons of War
The part of the castle I was most interested in seeing was the Prisons of War under the Great Hall and Queen Anne Building. These creepy and musty vaults held the prisoners of war, including a 5 year old drummer boy. We actually spent a lot of time here, reading the old engravings in doors and learning about life in these vaults. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that prisoners were given a humane 2 pints a day!
One O’Clock Gun
The firing of the One O’Clock Gun started in 1861 to notify ships to set their maritime clocks. The One O’Clock Gun still fires at 1:00 p.m. every day, except Sundays, and you can witness it. Crowds gather pretty fast, but I suggest getting a higher point view rather than standing in the midst of the crowd.
For gun and cannon lovers, take a look at Mons Meg. This super famous gun was gifted to King James II in 1457. The cannons that were fired from Mons Meg are gigantic! It is truly unbelievable and the damage this gun must have caused is incredible.
Switching gears, right behind Mons Meg is St. Margaret’s Chapel. Built in 1130, this was where the royal family would worship. It was named after Queen Margaret aka Saint Margaret, as it was built by her son David I. This also happens to be wear Queen Mary of Scots’ mother, Mary of Guise rested there until her burial. It is a tiny, but fascinating little chapel. It is hard to wiggle your way in if the crowds get too big.
For taste of royal life, take a look at the Crown Jewels. They are actually the oldest crown jewels on the British Isles. Also in the exhibit is the Stone of Destiny, used in coronation ceremonies. You can explore the various rooms of the place and even see the room that Queen Mary of Scots birthed her son King James VI.
Nearby is the Great Hall, where you can stand where so many before stood to honor their King. Plus, you get to see some pretty cool weapons.
While you are in Edinburgh, check out the catacombs. Since they are all privately owned, you will have to pay for a tour. There are plenty to choose from along Royal Mile. Some are less gimmicky than others. I had trouble finding a tour that would allow kids under 5 (mine were 4 and 3 at the time). Finally, I did find Auld Reekie Underground Tours, which allowed the kids to partake in the torture tour. I know. I know. Sounds bad, but it was fine. Our tour guide, Rebecca was super sweet and FireCracker loved it.
Get Your Grub On:
By the time we saw the firing of the One O’Clock Gun, we were starving! Luckily, there is the Redcoat Café on the property as well as Tea Rooms. Unfortunately, we picked a really busy day to visit and I didn’t feel like fighting the crowd to get a seat. I thought I would have better luck on Royal Mile, but it was just as busy.
In fact, it was crazy busy and every place we went was small, hot and loaded with tourists. I was hauling around six people, four which were whiny. Apparently, there was also a major marathon going on in town in addition to it being Saturday and summer. Ahhh!!!
My kids and my parents were tired, hungry and grumpy. I had to think fast. I grabbed a cab and told him to take us somewhere amazing, but not loaded with tourists (even though we are tourists). Our driver drove, drove… and drove. He took us to a local favorite, Sheep’s Heid. It was really fantastic! Read more details see HMD: Scotland, HERE.
That’s A Wrap:
All in all, we had a great day visiting Edinburgh Castle with kids. I can’t stress enough to try and plan your visit during off-season (if there is one). Summer and weekends get really crowded. If you have no choice, then be sure to get there early. If you are with kids, pack snacks. It may be hard to find somewhere to eat if the town is busy and hungry kids do not make for a happy time.
Edinburgh Castle is gorgeous and worth seeing. Although it wasn’t as kid-friendly as Stirling Castle, the kids will like the weaponry tutorials, the Explorer Quiz and seeing the firing of the One O’Clock Gun. Edinburgh is a fascinating city, so have fun exploring all its nooks and crannies. If you would like to learn about visiting Stirling Castle too, see my post, HERE
Have you ever been to Edinburgh Castle?
If not would you like too?
If so, what was your favorite part and what tips do you have for others?
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Author: Hot Mama
I’m a busy working mama, who understands the importance of taking a time out to enjoy life. Always ready for an adventure, this mama will not hesitate to pack the family up and go. Family vacations are a great way to bond with your kids and create wonderful memories that they will carry with them throughout their life. A fabulous getaway doesn’t have to break the bank! I’ll give you the tips and tricks you need to make every trip memorable, reasonable and HOT!