Filling the days in the Summer Holidays is always a challenge. I want to make the most of everyday but sometimes it can be hard to think of what to do. Ultimately I know the kids would be happy to hang out at the park but that’s not exactly how I like to spend MY day!
So when ScotRail approached us to review their Edinburgh Days Out Travel Pass I leapt at the opportunity. The pass is £34 for a family pass (two adults and two kids) and offers two days of consecutive, unlimited, off peak travel to destinations around an hour outside of Edinburgh. There’s a Glasgow version for west-coasters as well – so there’s all kinds of adventures to be had…
Our first morning saw us embark upon our longest train journey of the two days. With Katie occupied with her colouring in, and Thomas occupied with lots of snacks, the 50 minutes or so to Stirling just flew by. It was a relief to be able to sit back and not worry about Thomas trying to escape from his straps or negotiate any form of road works!
Upon arriving in Stirling, it was a quick uphill march to the castle. There is a bus available from the station, and given the rain this may have been a wiser move. However, as Mike was pushing the kids in the buggy – I couldn’t help but feel a little smug as I saw the line of cars queuing to get in the castle.
With the rain really coming down (and Thomas asleep) we headed to the Unicorn Café for a coffee and a wee snack. Although the prices in the café are pretty steep the food was good (and the coffee was hot) which was exactly what we needed.
With Thomas now awake, we headed along to the Palace Vaults to play visit the myriad of rooms they have set up for children. It was hard to get Thomas away from the musical instruments but it was a pleasure to watch him having fun.
Heading further up into the castle, Mike and Thomas went off in one direction whilst Katie and I went to explore the Stirling Heads and other areas up various staircases. Although I did spy lifts, I think Thomas was at this point happier running round in the Great Hall and exploring the castle kitchens.
With the weather beginning to break, Katie was keen to head down to the Queen Anne Garden. The views from all around the castle are just amazing – so this was a great place to play chase whilst really appreciating our surroundings. In better weather this would make a lovely picnic spot which would definitely make things more budget friendly.
We headed back to the station just around lunchtime and hopped on the train to Linlithgow. The train was nice and quiet and by the time we had reached our destination – the sun really was shining!
A 10 minute walk took us up to Linlithgow Canal Centre, arriving just in time for a boat tour of the canal. Tours operate every 30 minutes during weekdays from 2-4pm with kids going free through the week.
The tour simply took us up the canal one way and then back down the other. Whilst this may not sound particularly adventurous, there was loads to look at on the way – and lots of ducklings! The driver of the boat was keen to tell us about the Canal and the Canal Society. He really was just marvellous with the kids and made the journey very enjoyable.
In need of a snack, we headed to a café we know well in the Linlithgow Burgh Halls. They have a beautiful outdoor terrace that stretches up to a rose garden and has always been welcoming to the kids.
Katie’s day was really made when we could hear ‘Scottish music’ echoing down from one of the upper rooms. We decided to go and spy – fully expecting just to see some country dancing. We were beyond surprised to find it was actually Gary from Fun Box aka the Singing Kettle! He noticed Katie peering round the door so invited her to sing with him on stage. With a little encouragement from the audience, Katie was soon entertaining them with a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I really was made up with how kind he was towards her and she really was just awestruck.
After Katie’s staring moment, we headed down to Linlithgow Loch for a play on the swings and to soak up the afternoon sun. Thomas is massively loving swings at the moment so I was happy there was baby swings for him too. With Linlithgow Palace and spire of the St Michael’s Parish Church dominating the hill above, the contrast of the loch below is quite striking. There is loads of wildlife around the loch – with baby swans a plenty. The path running around the loch is also nice and flat so perfect for a walk with the buggy.
Usually you can see people out boating on the loch and it’s not unusual to spy kayakers there as well. It’s obviously a popular area with families with the big expanses of grass too. I could easily imagine spending the afternoon there with friends and a football!
With time marching on, It was time to get back to Edinburgh for tea. To Katie’s delight we finished up our day in the new Wagamama’s in St Andrews Square. The kids were obviously shattered from all the fresh air and adventures of the day – and I have to say I didn’t fancy cooking either!
After a slightly later start to our day, we decided to head to North Berwick to visit the Scottish Seabird Centre.
North Berwick is only about half an hour away and obviously is very popular with day-trippers as everyone was quite jolly on the train there. Having gathered provisions at the station, we enjoyed breakfast on the train and could just sit back and enjoy the view.
On arrival, we made a bee-line to the Discovery Centre at the Scottish Seabird Centre and were given a very warm welcome. The staff pointed out all the areas they thought the kids would enjoy, and unsurprisingly Thomas was lost head first in the soft play area within minutes of our arrival!
Katie took the time to look at the wave tank to see if she could spy any crabs and really enjoyed controlling the interactive live cameras to get a better look at the birds. The Centre show a series of 3D Films on different topics throughout the day; so whilst Mike and Katie went to learn about Whales, Thomas and I explored the Flyway Tunnel – and the sensory toys in the kids’ corner.
I was aware that older children would’ve been able to get a lot more educationally out of the Centre. But from their perspective, they had a great time interacting with the various things on offer. Katie loved the craft stations and Thomas was happy that there were puffins like the one on his jumper!
The Seabird Centre is actually offering a 20% discount on entry when you show a valid rail ticket from that day as well – which just adds another reason to travel by train!
We headed back along the High Street to Steampunk Coffee for some lunch – and to just appreciate how cool the coffee shop is!
I had the most delicious Roasted Squash and Couscous Salad and had to motivate myself not to just spend the rest of the day drinking coffee! But with the sun really shining, and Katie wanting another park to play in we headed along to the Lodge Gardens for a quick play.
We were planning on getting the bus along to Dirleton to visit Yellowcraigs beach and to visit the castle there. But happily, we bumped into some old friends so headed to the beach by the Seabird Centre with them. Armed with buckets and spades it was time to introduce Thomas to beach life.
I was fully expecting him to be running straight into the sea but he really was not a fan of the sand! We managed to convince him to engage in a bit of castle building, but after dipping his feet in the water he was utterly outraged!
Thankfully, the carousel saved the day and Thomas learned a new word – “horse!!” Which we of course heard on repeat until he got a second go round!
Katie however, seems destined to be a surf girl as she shot straight into the water and was soon designed her own ‘Grand Designs’ esque castle. At this point, I realised we didn’t actually have a spare change of clothes for her so it was back up the High Street for some shopping.
This was hardly a burden given the array of beautiful shops dotted around North Berwick. They really are spoilt for choice when it comes to independent delis and bakeries. I suspect if I visited more often I would just exist in a haze of caffeine and baked goods!
With Katie dry and delighted with her new clothes, we headed back to the Lodge Gardens to play until tea time. With the kids reluctant to leave, I was sent to fetch some fish and chips to fuel the playing into the early evening.
With the kids flagging – and everyone throughly sun soaked – it was time to head back to Edinburgh.
We had a brilliant two days in which we could really relax as a family. I think we become reliant on the car, thinking that it’s easier but in reality – this isn’t always the case. The train was actually quicker for us and obviously, we could just focus on the kids. We didn’t have to worry about traffic or concentrate on anything but them. Being able to sit together and enjoy our journey is a long far cry from manically singing nursery rhymes in a bid to stop Thomas from crying. Anything with easier access to coffee is also going to be a complete winner in my book too!
Things to note…
The Edinburgh Days Out Travel Pass is available to buy from any staffed station and there’s no need to book in advance. The pass is £18 for an individual ticket and £34 for a family ticket (2 adults/2 kids). Under 5s travel free, 5-15s are half price.
There are also lots of other offers available through travelling with ScotRail all over Scotland as well – just check them out here!
As you can see from the map there’s all kinds of places to go – we’ve also recently visited the Kelpies and Dalkeith Country Park is lovely (and easily accessible from Eskbank station). Obviously, we’re lucky that Edinburgh itself has so much to offer but there really are some gems in the surrounding area.
Let me know if you make your own adventure!
P.S. Thanks to ScotRail for supporting our trip and allowing us to make some great family memories!