Matthew 7:24-25: Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
After surviving our last two treks with kids and as our boys age, we decided to try our luck at traveling a little further this year. We knew we wanted to experience Europe as a family (as I had visited London and Paris as a young child but Logan and the bros never have) and we also wanted to select a country that was English-speaking to help ease the cultural shock for our kids.
College friend, Russell Knox, a Scottish PGA Tour golfer, was a great help when we reached out to him asking where we should consider visiting with our kids: Edinburgh, Scotland, he recommended, and to definitely consider a stay at Dalmahoy Country Club and Hotel.
And we’re so glad he did. The bros and I had the best week in Edinburgh and the things we experienced there will always be dear to our hearts. Cheers!
In Edinburgh (pronounced Edin-boro), there are tons of family-friendly options that it almost feels overwhelming when forming your schedule. The city itself is pristine, clean, friendly and inviting, and without having an itinerary you could easily stumble upon some hidden gems in every turn.
One of our favorite Scottish expressions that we learned while in Edinburgh is, “What’s on!” This is how the Scottish folk share upcoming events or things to look forward to in the area of Edinburgh.
And so, we wanted to share with you What’s On in Edinburgh: James Family Edition.
What’s On: Lodging
One of the best things that we did was choose accommodations in the countryside of nearby Kirknewton, a quaint and picturesque Scottish town on the outskirts of Edinburgh. To us, real gems usually are located outside of the busy city instead of directly within.
Twenty minutes by taxi and thirty minutes by bus provide guests at Dalmahoy Country Club & Hotel full access to everything Edinburgh has to offer. But the hotel itself offers several family-friendly activities perfect for young kids from access to an indoor swimming pool, chip & putt on their beautiful greens or going on a nature walk, spotting bunnies and butterflies.
At Dalmahoy Country Club & Hotel, kids go free which means that kids under age twelve receive a free meal with a purchasing adult meal. The kids menu was fabulous and satisfied our picky kids’ pallets: chicken fingers, chips (fries!), spaghetti, pizza and more.
Brasserie, their more casual dining option, was welcoming for children and the staff were superb in joking with and forming relationships with the kids. At Pentland Restaurant, we enjoyed a sit-down more formal dinner (hence the bros’ bowties) and they were given circus-themed activity books to enjoy while dining. The food in both restaurants was great and we enjoyed every meal there.
Their bed & breakfast package included a delectable breakfast buffet, also offering the option of ordering specialty-made fried eggs and omelets (they were both divine!) and the kids loved their pancakes. It was at Dalmahoy Country Club & Hotel’s breakfast that I fell in love with two new food delicacies: potato scones and chocolate hazelnut croissants (can y’all mail me one, please?)
While Dalmahoy Country Club & Hotel undergoes an expansive renovation, we were tickled with our suite accommodations: a Full Turret Suite. This room setup was ideal for families, offering a sitting room and master setup and then doors separating the kids’ room which had two separate queen beds. The mattresses were like clouds and after traveling a wee bit far, we all clocked in several hours each night in these comfy, homey settings.
We also cheers-ed at their Dalmahoy Bar, bringing along our kiddos, who were always welcomed. We tried the signature Dalmahoy lager, brewed specially for the hotel and got to try some of the famous Edinburgh gin. Sprawling views of golf greens and horse pastures were outside of our windows, and we were reminded why a stay in the countryside over the bustling city was best for our little family.
What’s On: Dining
In all fairness, we didn’t favor traditional Scottish food. We attempted to enjoy haggis balls and couldn’t get onboard with their consistency. So while we enjoyed the food in Edinburgh so much, it was mainly the food at the Dalmahoy Country Club and Hotel and the restaurants in Edinburgh that were our type. One of my biggest takeaways was how many absolutely adorable, chic and delicious restaurants were around every corner in Edinburgh. It was almost overwhelming to choose which inviting storefront to stop into and every menu and atmosphere welcomed you inside.
The first meal we had in Edinburgh set the precedent for the entire trip: Italian at Vittoria on the Walk. While the decor was stunning the food was the best Italian I have had in my life to-date. Their sweet and sour meatballs and house salad were beyond imagination and the kids had delicious, authentic Italian pizzas. Logan had a delectable seafood stew and we topped off the first outing with a kids’ waffle ice cream sundae. To die for!
Another recommendation for a quick meal out in Edinburgh is Tron. This restaurant is better for a quicker stop-through but the superfood salad with beetroot hummus (a standard meal in Edinburgh) was right up my alley. Another delicious sit-down option was at Stocks, a more formal environment offering delicious and unique cocktails, seafood and risotto. Stocks has a limited kids menu but our kids really enjoyed sharing an adult grilled chicken plate.
One of our favorite experiences in Edinburgh was whiskey flight tasting at Whiski Rooms. We stumbled upon this gem as we planned to head towards our bus stop back to Dalmahoy and we were taken over by the charm that this authentic experienced offered to us. The staff situated us in a kid-friendly booth, ideal for our kids to play Harry Potter LEGOs while we enjoyed the whiskey tasting. And they even provided our young boys whiskey glasses full of apple juice so that they too could “cheers”!
What’s On: Excursions around Town
Camera Obscura: We had read that this optical illusion exhibit was a site not to miss in Edinburgh and we’re so glad we listened! Camera Obscura was our first stop in the city and the kids loved every second of our visit. The rooftop of Camera Obscura offered us amazing views of nearby Edinburgh Castle and a great backdrop for a family picture. Landon loved the camera show where each participant got the option of trying out the camera and playing optical illusions on it (he especially loved picking up real people outside with his hand and dropping them – all an illusion, of course!)
But the place was filled with six floors of fun all mirror, light, static electricity or optical illusion fun. We loved seeing ourselves in deceiving mirrors, looking bigger than we actually were. We also loved the lit mirror maze which was hysterical to watch Griffin in as he regularly walked through the mirror, not the door. Our favorite was the final exhibit, an optical illusion tunnel that spun so fast we all walked off dizzily onto the streets of Edinburgh. This is a great option for families with young kids visiting the city.
The Potter Trail: For months up to our trip to Edinburgh, Landon (age six-and-a-half) and I read three pages from the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Landon was tickled with excitement to go on the free Potter Trail: a tour of Harry Potter-themed sites led by a team of local comedians. It was on this tour that I fell in love with Diagon Alley and Landon fell in love with all things wizard. The Boy Wizard was such a fun store to visit after the tour, too. While the tour is free, a good rating on TripAdvisor and a gracious gratuity will help keep this tour available in the future.
Edinburgh Castle: I’m sure it will not be a new recommendation to you for a suggestion to visit Edinburgh Castle. But after experiencing it, we can say without uncertainty that it’s an absolute must when in Edinburgh. The sprawling staircases, twists and turns with amazing views of the city and history in that castle made our boys feel like real-life knights and the outing was definitely fit for a queen.
It is a good idea to pre-purchase your tickets for Edinburgh Castle in advance and to try to visit first thing in the morning at 9:30am. While there were a good number of other visitors present, we felt at this time that we had enough space to navigate the castle. We opted out of the audio tour as our youngest, Griffin (age four) is not great with guided tours, but we felt like we learned and experienced enough by touring on our own.
National Museum of Scotland: This was not originally on our to-do list but man, are we glad that we found this gem! This massive in size free national museum wins a huge prize for one of the best things we experienced in Edinburgh with our kids. While some exhibits can be an uncharge to visit, it was fascinating to me how many hands-on play options were available for kids for absolutely free.
From learning about cultures around the world to communication devices in history (they showcased a Nokia which made us feel super old), this museum was interesting for adults, too. The kids loved seeing a mock Formula One racing car and trying to test their might by lifting heavy pulls and trying to weigh the same as an elephant. Seriously, a must visit in Edinburgh as we passed time by with a fossil-themed dinosaur play room which our kids spent several hours in happily. Well done, Scotland!
Dean Village: I had been researching the most picturesque areas of Edinburgh to capture on our trek with kids and discovered Dean Village, a nearby village to Edinburgh which appears to be something out of a Shakespeare scene. With the sounds of the waterfall of the Water of Leith surrounded by charming Scottish-style rowhomes and flats, Logan and I whisked away from the busyness of Edinburgh and given a bit of a respite in Dean Village. The kids enjoyed the walking paths and seeing all of the off leash dogs enjoying a day out in village and we now will have these images of Dean Village forever captured in our minds. A ten-minute taxi ride back onto busy Princess Street, trekking to Dean Village is also a must.
Red Bus Bistro: I fondly remember riding the double-decker bus in London as wee child and so I was tickled to bring our bros on the Red Bus Bistro: a double-decker red bus afternoon tea tour. Griffin, our big eater, was won over by our table’s tray of delectable sweets and Landon, our picky one, tried and enjoyed several new things. The Bistro provides delicious tea and champagne for adults with additional cocktails available for purchase. What a super fun way to see the city without doing all of the walking! We especially loved being able to get better views of Arthur’s Seat and the Scottish Parliament, two areas we never made it to by foot.
Although we ran out of time trekking around beautiful Edinburgh, the following were on our list to see: Royal Yacht Britannia, Arthur’s Seat (although this would likely be a wee bit easier without kids) and a drive out into the countryside to visit Craigie’s Farm.
We also recommend finding old-fashioned telephone booths and real-life Scottish bagpipers to take pictures with: both iconic and must-dos in Scotland.
We chose this trek scripture out of Matthew for our trip to Edinburgh because similar to how Edinburgh Castle is built on a rock, we believe the best foundation for our family is to build everything around a relationship with Jesus.