Edinburgh has been a dream destination of mine for many years, but when I was picturing our stay there I hadn’t quite imagined what it would be like to be traveling with a 15 month old baby! The thing is, life with kids is going to be unpredictable, it’s going to be hard work and travel is definitely going to have some extra things you have to take into consideration. But I don’t think that you should ever let yourself be held back or stop doing the things you want to just because your family is a little larger and the day starts a little earlier. I recently wrote about visiting Edinburgh Castle with a baby or toddler and now I’m going to talk about the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Both Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse are not family orientated attractions, but that doesn’t mean they’re family unfriendly – just that you may have to adjust your visit so you can still get to enjoy your day, whilst understanding what’s available for your kids too!
The Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, also referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth in Scotland. It stands at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, watched over by the towering Arthur’s Seat behind it and is an impressive building, next to a 14th century abbey ruin and the Queen’s Gallery, where art is on display. Visitors can explore the grounds and the abbey and walk through the upper areas of the house, where a series of rooms show both how the royal family has lived in the past, and how they still live now! The Queen still regularly uses these apartments for official ceremonies and entertaining important folks, so it really gives you a glimpse into her life. There’s no photography allowed inside, so all I can share with you are these beautiful shots of the outside.
The Queen’s Gallery is a separate building, attached to a lovely gift shop, with a separate ticket price that’s just a few pounds more than the palace only, and features different art galleries, so make sure you check the schedule and see what’s on offer. I would personally recommend doing it if you are at all interested in art and history, although if you’re really pressed for time and only have a few hours at the site then you can skip it in favour of more time at the actual palace.
The Abbey Ruins are set to the side of the Palace and are well worth a look, being included in your ticket. There are also extensive grounds surrounding it, with large open paths (suitable for a pushchair!) with plenty of space to play and explore.
At the time of writing, ticket prices range from £8 (children) to £14 (adults) for the Palace and £10 (children) to £17.50 (adults) for a combined visit to the Palace and Queen’s Gallery. Under 5s are free to both! For up to date information always visit the main website before traveling and I’d recommend booking tickets in advance (which goes for everything in Edinburgh) if visiting at peak times to avoid queues. The price includes an audio tour which was available in a wide variety of languages. There’s a car park just a few minutes away for visitors.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse with a baby, toddler or young child
You can’t take strollers around the upstairs area of the Palace, which is entered with a double flight of regal stairs, surrounded by tapestries and artwork. However, there is a large room where they can be left. Have a word with the attendant once you enter the main Palace doors and you’ll be shown to a room, where we found a couple of other pushchairs already parked. Being a historical building, it is quite quiet with a feeling of reverence from the visitors and attendants. My 15 month old – who was walking actively and wanting to touch everything, accompanied by suitable tantrums when he isn’t allowed to do something – isn’t particularly quiet. We did manage to stop him from going into full meltdown mode whilst he walked through, but he was still the loudest person there by quite some way!
After we’d visited all the upstairs rooms – which took about an hour – we discovered that on the route down and out, on the bottom floor next to the exit to the Abbey, is something called the Family Room. The family room is amazing! Children’s tables and chairs set up with art and colouring stations, dressing up stations with historical clothes and accessories and a large open play area with a comfortable rug and wooden toys, blocks and stackers to enjoy. This is an amazing idea, and I then stayed in this room for half hour whilst my husband went back to look at a few things he’d been rushed past. It was an unexpected find, and the only downside is that adults kept wandering in expecting it to be another museum section and then they’d awkwardly see me in there (alone as there were no other children around) and just turn around and walk out again.
If you have two parents with you and a boisterous or noisy child who isn’t going to enjoy the apartments, I’d recommend asking the attendant if you can take the child straight to the family room and then both visiting the upstairs area separately whilst the other plays. It would make more sense for this to be at the start of the journey, but it’s actually at the end. To get to it without going through the upstairs area, you have to cross a little red barrier. They had no problem allowing my husband to cross it, and it’s really just for traffic flow and people control – if you want to go straight to the family room you can be there within 2 minutes walk from the main entrance if you cross this barrier. Best to ask though, as they can be quite strict, but I found them very friendly and approachable and of course, they want to minimize noise and disruption too!
They just need to advertise the family room a little better as it’s a little life saver and could really make the difference to families with children who won’t tolerate an hour of walking through a museum style set of rooms.
The toilets are set outside the main palace in the courtyard that contains the cafe, gift shop, Queen’s gallery and information booth. Both the male and female toilets had a separate baby changing cubicle inside. We did visit in the summer holidays and the queues were quite long for the ladies toilets, with people using the baby changing room as a normal toilet as well, so my husband ended up changing the baby in the one inside the men’s section, which didn’t have a queue at all.
Afternoon Tea at the Palace
There is a cafe in the entrance courtyard which has a beautiful, quiet garden behind it. We sat outside at a table in the garden and ordered Afternoon Tea. The china was beautiful, the service was extremely attentive and the server really seemed to care about whether we were enjoying ourselves. High chairs were plentiful and there was a children’s menu, but our son just shared some of our treats. This was one of the best quality Afternoon Tea’s I’ve personally had and being sat outside in a wonderful sunny garden with the Palace at one side, Arthur’s Seat towering to the other, and the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile in the distance was amazing. I would highly recommend it to anyone and well priced at £18.95 per person with your choice of loose leaf tea, or £27 per person with a glass of champagne (proper champagne, not prosecco!)
If you’re not after something as decadent as Afternoon Tea, it serves sandwiches, soups and cakes at a counter and the prices, considering all the food seemed very fresh baked, are very reasonable.
We had a wonderful time here and are so happy we decided to visit. Even though at first it didn’t seem that suitable for visiting with a baby or toddler, the family room made a big difference. The Abbey grounds are large and easy to burn off energy in for those able to walk and run and the cafe was an amazing treat to finish off the morning. Visiting everything and having Afternoon Tea took us about five hours and we arrived at 10am, so this left the afternoon to explore the surrounding parks and Athur’s Seat. For those with children who want to fit in an extra attraction in the afternoon, Holyrood Palace is just a few minutes walk from Dynamic Earth, which is a must visit in Edinburgh for children aged 5+!
If you’re visiting Edinburgh, check out my Top 10 Guide for Attractions in Edinburgh on a Family Holiday, or for further afield, consider my Top 10 Guide for the Scottish Highlands!
Note I was kindly provided with two adult tickets free of charge to visit and review the Palace of Holyroodhouse, whilst my son was free due to his age. Afternoon Tea was paid for at full price.