Edinburgh Castle is a historical icon that you simply must visit if you’re ever in the area. We recently spent the morning at Edinburgh Castle with our fifteen month old son and in addition to talking about what the castle has to offer couples interested in history and heritage, I’d like to talk review the practicalities of bringing along a baby or a toddler as well. So let’s get started with everything you need to know about visiting Edinburgh Castle as a family. You may also like to view my guide to the Top 10 Things to See in Edinburgh with a Family, which does include Edinburgh Castle along with must visits like Edinburgh Zoo.
Where is Edinburgh Castle and how to get there
Edinburgh Castle is located in central Edinburgh, which is a city well served by bus and taxi. If you are driving, which is quite likely if you have young children, the closest car park is the NCP Edinburgh Castle Terrace Car Park (postcode EH1 2EW). Something that isn’t on display in this car park is the fact that you can get reduced parking prices if visiting the castle, but you need to validate your parking in the Audio booth of Edinburgh Castle. This will get you a 5 hour visit for £10, instead of £22 (yes, you read that right). Parking in Edinburgh is very expensive, but if you’ve got a stroller and little ones, it’s worth paying the extra. Another option is if you’re doing a lot of sightseeing, getting the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour.
Assuming you park at the Castle Terrace Car Park, you’ll have a 15 minute walk to the castle and it’s all uphill. The final few minutes will be on cobbled floors, as will the majority of the castle itself. If you’re walking, you can shave that time in half, but there’s a large flight of stairs required to do so. Strollers should continue straight on and then left in a circle around the tourist shops and up the slope. It’s very easy to find and no one will get lost!
Edinburgh Castle Money Saving Tip: Order your tickets online to avoid any waits. On a busy day, we had to queue for 40 minutes to get in due to the fact we hadn’t pre-booked our tickets. And it’s cheaper online too! Then make sure you validate your parking ticket to save over £10 on parking.
How accessible is Edinburgh Castle for families
15 month old William looking out over the city from Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle, like many historical venues, is not built with convenience in mind! There are lots of hills, steep sections, and old, uneven and cobbled floors. It is perfectly doable with a stroller or buggy and we did it, as with a 30lb 15 month old, there was no other option. Stairs can be avoided with ramps and you can fit in all the buildings (very carefully) but it is challenging when busy and you’ll be in the minority. Out of the the thousands of people there on the day we visited, we saw perhaps three other pushchairs. We had to fold the stroller down to fit it in the cafe, and there is no where you can leave it unattended in the entire site.
There is one baby change room in the main toilet, which had managed to get a queue despite there being very few children in the castle, as there are no baby change facilities in the men’s or ladies loos. In short, if you can leave the buggy (or the kids) at home, you’ll have an easier day of it, but assuming your options are limited then you can get around it and I would absolutely still recommend you visit. We really enjoyed our visit, baby in tow.
What’s there to see at Edinburgh Castle
The fortress dominates the skyline of Edinburgh, towering over everyone from a position on Castle Rock. Rather than being one main building, it is made up of multiple different buildings spanning different time spans, as this position has been used for both royal and military purposes since the 12th century. St Margaret’s Chapel is one of the oldest buildings in Edinburgh, dating from the 12th century and there is also a Royal Palace, Great Hall, and a variety of small regimental museums. Housed within the main buildings are the National War Memorial, the National War Museum of Scotland and of course, the Scottish Crown Jewels.
You will be surrounded by history in every direction for the duration of your visit, not to mention the stunning backdrop of plunging views down over the city. We spent about four hours here, which was about the limit of my son’s patience. As it was so busy, it was very difficult to get him out of the pushchair and he couldn’t really walk around, so those with younger children may want to see the most important things first and then gauge how the kids are coping, as there is very little here that will be of any interest to young children. Slightly older children could be captivated by the medieval jail, the massive guns on display, the regimental uniforms to be seen and the dizzying heights from the ramparts.
Edinburgh Castle Tip: Arrive as soon as the Castle opens if possible, and head to the Crown Jewels earlier rather than later. The queue will only increase through the day, whereas everything else can be seen at your leisure.
Was it worth bringing a baby to Edinburgh Castle?
If the option is not going at all, then absolutely. I can’t stress enough that this is somewhere that you simply must visit if you’re interested in history and visiting Edinburgh. Yes, having a young child in tow can be a bit of a drag at historical attractions (for everyone concerned), so if you have a babysitter to hand, today might be a good day to use them, but if not – this venue is perfectly doable with young children, infants and babies, you just have to be flexible and prioritise your time, which you’re probably used to doing by now as a mum or dad anyway. Children under 5 are free, which means going with little ones won’t tax the bank balance, although it’s worth noting there was no where really to have a picnic, and the restaurant was extremely busy and not particularly children friendly, so I’d aim to head in first thing and then head out for lunch.
If we didn’t have the baby with us we might have spent more time here, but we enjoyed our day and look forward to heading back when he’s older and can appreciate the surroundings more.