Travel: A family friendly and cheaper way to see Edinburgh (and save your sanity)

We have always loved travel and bonded as a couple over throwing a holdall together and heading off on a new adventure every month. But as much as we wanted to share this passion immediately with our babies, having two under two and a pandemic in the mix slowed us down.

Realism kicked in and we realised that saving our own sanity, what precious little sleep we were all getting and relaxation came first. 

Since then, when we travel, as much as possible comfort comes first but now the kids are getting a little bit older we want to venture further afield. 

As I finally got to attend my Master's degree graduation after four long years this year (yay!) we needed to head up to Scotland, where my university is. We at first deliberated whether to make it a couples only thing but I have only ever left my babies a handful of times over night, and trying to get there and back in 24 hours was a lot to ask.

Plus, I really wanted to make a break of it and take my kiddies away to celebrate with me. Afterall, they were a big part of the motivation that spurred me on to complete my MSc. 

Going to Scotland, especially to Edinburgh, seemed a great opportunity to take in some sights, however, city breaks are not for the faint of heart with toddler/ preschool age children.

There are busy streets, traffic everywhere, long distances to walk and many other things to negotiate that are not young child friendly. But there was no way we were going all that way and not sight seeing.

We have always tried to stay in air bnb's or other self contained accommodation when we go away, just so we are safe in the knowledge that we are not affected by anyone's else's noise and they are not affected by ours. Much easier than telling the kids to be quiet eleventy billion times (which they completely ignore) and better than suffering through noisy neighbours when you're trying to get the kids to sleep on a night.

However, in peak season, the accommodation was slim pickings and expensive, as cities often are. So we got our thinking cap on and looked slightly outside of the area. 

That's when we found a Park Dean resort 30 minutes outside of Edinburgh. Neither of us had stayed at one before but when we looked into it it seemed perfect. A pool. A beach. Activities and parks for the kids. Family friendly restaurants. And good road and public transport links into Edinburgh.

These days, fancy restaurants hold less appeal, as we don't want to put that pressure to be perfect on the kids or risk disturbing other diners, but we like to dabble with being able to have a glass of wine with our meals and walking back. Park Dean offered us a self contained static caravan, restaurants on site, and a stones throw back to our accommodation after tea, via a park to let off some steam.

It also meant that over the course of a week we could break up our city break into Edinburgh, so it wasn't quite so intense for us all. One day we stayed local playing in the pool and soft play, followed by a day sight seeing.

On our first day heading into Edinburgh we found out a regular bus service operated and picked up right outside the resort, however, we decided to take the car so we would have more flexibility. Driving into Edinburgh was fairly straight forward, but we parked on the edge of the city so we didn't get snarled up in traffic.

When we arrived we found the nearest Hop on Hop off bus service, as we decided this would allow us to see the most without tiring out little legs. 

For around £12 each per adult, with the children going free with us, we were set up for 24 hours in the city with as much flexibility as we needed. 

The kids loved sitting atop the open top bus looking at everything in sight and when the call of nature came (doesn't it always happen just as you set off!) we could just get off again. 

On our first stop we headed for an open green space so they could run off some steam after the short car journey. This happened to be St Andrew's Square which had a coffee shop and some interesting sculptures to look at.

We had also booked Dishoom for brunch, as its somewhere we have wanted to go for ages and they don't have one near us. We didn't think it would be possible this time to stretch ourselves on an evening so we went for brunch to try the famous breakfast naans. 

It was absolutely delicious and the whole family enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant and interesting things to see from the high vantage point. 

It wasn't all sunshine and roses, as we did have a little spillage to deal with an a pretty epic meltdown, but as it was brunch everyone was much more relaxed and it was easily and quickly dealt with. 

After our bellies were full it was onward on our bus tour and we headed out to see the old streets of Edinburgh and imagine all of the people who has visited before us. 

The tour stops at the following places and takes about 90 minutes if you did one big loop. It is also led by a lovely knowledgeable tour guide, who added to the experience and gave us something to listen to as we explored the streets. 

We hopped off at Ediburgh Castle for a good leg stretch and the kids enjoyed listening to the atmospheric pipers in full regalia. We picked up some postcards and ice creams before meandering down the street. The Camera Obscurer intrigued us highly but we decided we didn't have time that day and would go back.

1. St Andrew Square - Northside

2. Lothian Road - Waldorf Astoria

3. Grassmarket

4. Lauriston Place

5. Johnstone Terrace - Edinburgh Castle, The Scottish Whiskey Experience

6. Lawnmarket - Gladstone's End, The Real Mary King's Close

7. Chambers Street - National Museum of Scotland

On we headed back to the bus where we learned even more wonderful things about one of my favourite cities in the world, before jumping off at our final stop of the day; the National Museum.

It was in a beautiful old building, containing exhibits similar the National History Museum in Scotland, with woolly mammoths and dinosaur fossils. As well as a section on Scottish history and a futuristic area about space exploration. All of which the kids really enjoyed, as it was interactive and just the right size. There was even a breakout area for the kids to play and do some colouring if it all got a bit heavy.

We decided not to push our luck after that and keep the visit short and sweet. As it was getting onto late afternoon by this point, we boarded the bus back to our original departure point, grabbed the car and headed back to the home base. 

With young children, the battle to not push your luck, stick to meal, nap, bed routines and avoid danger naps is real. We timed it just right to get back, eat and enjoy the last of the evening in the park before bed. 

The next day, we stayed fairly local again, enjoying the onside activities and heading to the beach for a walk. After the busyness in the city it was just the antidote.

We then had a further day in Edinburgh exploring the rest of the sights on the bus tour, finding out more about this fascinating and historic place. We heard about a special underground city that exists today, and that you can visit. We had heard great things about it and decided it is one to visit with the children in another a year or two.

Seeing Scottish parliament was another highlight of the trip and playing in Princes Gardens. We also hopped off at the Royal Mile, picking up delicious baked goods on the way.

8. St Mary's Street West

9. Canongate - John Knox House

10. Royal Mile - Scottish Parliament, Palace of Holyrood House

11. Dynamic Earth

12. Regent Road - Burns Monument

There were so many more things I would have loved to see on our trip but keeping it relaxing was the aim and that's what we largely did. 

Had we have stayed in the city centre, it may have felt a bit bustling for us on this occasion, although I imagine we will in the future, When we have visited several times on an adults only trip, we have enjoyed the many restaurants and pubs on offer. 

As this was a family trip, we wanted a slightly more chilled vibe which Park Dean resorts gave us. Also, as I was there for my graduation, we were only a 25 minute drive from the Heriot Watt campus which was another bonus. 

The kids were brilliant sitting quietly watching mummy go up on stage in my robes, followed by a good run and explore of the grounds and a little glass of fizz for the grown ups to celebrate.

Before we set off, we enjoyed more swimming and activities for the children, before waving a final goodbye to Park Dean and Scotland. 

Only a five hour journey lay between us and home. Between snacks, ipads and a stop off on the way at a Historic House to stretch our legs, we made it back tired but not exhausted.

If you want to explore Edinburgh but have young children, this way gives the best of both worlds in our opinion. Plus it was superb value for being so close to the capital of Scotland. 

It was around £300 for a weeks hire of a static caravan, and although bijou, it was very homely and gave us a nice bit of privacy. Plus we could self cater breakfast and take packed lunches, which helped keep the cost down. The onsite pub offered good value, child friendly food and we got to enjoy a beer or wine with our food without needing the car to get home to bed. Perfect!

How do you manage with city breaks and young children? I would love to hear your tips.

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