Picture this: it’s the holidays. You’ve exhausted all your options in Edinburgh and have promised your kids a day trip, but you don’t have a car. You could jump on a train to Glasgow, or visit one of the many beaches on the East Lothian or Fife coastal railway lines. Or, for further inspiration, here are ten alternative family friendly day trips from Edinburgh by train, as chosen by our egg ambassador Jenni and her two boys, aged 8 and 12.
All destinations can be reached within 1.5 hours, including a maximum half hour of walking. On Scotrail routes, ‘Kids for a Quid’ train tickets are available from train station ticket offices and valid on most off-peak trains. Costs for the individual attractions will depend on number and ages of people in your group, but range on a scale from £ (less than £10 for a family of four) to ££££ (over £40).
Weehailes Adventure Playpark, Musselburgh
Weehailes Adventure Playpark is inspired by the story of Newhailes House, which was once famous for having one of the largest private libraries in Europe. An arrangement of wooden houses and turrets, ready to be explored, are interconnected by high-level netted walkways, providing endless opportunities for hide-and-seek, catch, and imaginative play. The addition of slides, a fireman’s pole, a zip line and other play elements adds to the experience.
Train Route: Waverley to Musselburgh + 15 min walk
Total Travel Time: 20-25 mins
National Mining Museum, Newtongrange
Housed in the restored Lady Victoria Colliery, the National Mining Museum tells the story of coal for Scotland. Your visit includes a tour of the pithead, recreated underground roadway and coalface, plus two floors of exhibitions. You can either go round with a self guided audio tour, or with a ex-miner guide (we would recommend the latter). The exhibitions include plenty of interactive elements, from crawling through a replica tunnel to dressing up.
Train Route: Waverley to Newtongrange + 5 min walk
Total Travel Time: ca. 30 mins
There’s lots at Stirling Castle to keep families entertained. Pick up a children’s trail and take a self guided tour round the Royal Palace, Great Hall and Kitchens, with costumed interpreters on hand to answer questions. The Palace Vaults are a highlight, with five interactive rooms offering hands on activities to touch, explore, play and even smell. The regimental museum within Stirling Castle also has quite a few interactive exhibits for children
Train Route: Waverley or Haymarket to Stirling + 15 min walk
Total Travel Time: 60-70 minutes, depending on which train you take
Money saving tip: 25% off standard Adult, Child or Concession prices when you book online with code GOOD25 and show ticket on arrival; £1 entry for Young Scot card holders
The world’s only rotating boat lift, the Falkirk Wheel links the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal 35 metres above. The highlight is of course the 50 minute boat ride on the Wheel itself, but watching it go round is fun too (and a less costly option). There’s also a free children’s playground and water play park, as well as other paid for activities such as mini golf and various water sports options.
Train Route: Waverley/ Haymarket to Camelon + 30 min walk (or Waverley/Haymarket to Falkirk High + short bus ride to Falkirk Wheel Visitor Centre)
Total Travel Time: ca. 1 hr 10 mins
Dundee Science Centre
Split across four zones, at Dundee Science Centre you can get hands on creating and constructing, exploring physical forces, learning all about how our brain and senses work, and more. Our top three favourite exhibits were the water works, spinning forces, and the tinkering wall. Since everyone starts their slot at the same time, which can create a bit of a bottle neck at the beginning, a good tip is to go straight through to the back and work your way forwards.
Train Route: Waverley/ Haymarket to Dundee + 10 min walk
Total Travel Time: 1 hr 20 mins via one of the fast Aberdeen trains (or 1 hr 40 mins on the slower Dundee train)
Abbotsford House, Melrose
Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott, makes for a great family day out. The self guided audio tour of the house includes a children’s version, and the exhibition within the Visitor Centre has a wee children’s trail too. The highlight, however, is Witch Corner - an interactive story trail, with enchanting wooden sculptures in a woodland setting, and an activity booklet with clues to solve.
Train Route: Waverley to Tweedbank + 30 min walk (minibus shuttle available from Tweedbank station on select days)
Total Travel Time: ca. 1 hr 30 mins
Cost: ££ for Witch Corner; ££££ for Witch Corner + Abbotsford Hse
Money saving tip: 30% discount on House & Gardens tickets on arrival with a Witch Corner ticket (or vice versa); £1 entry to House & Gardens for Young Scot card holders.
St Andrews Castle
You may be surprised to find St Andrews on this list, as it’s known for not having a train station. But even with the bus transfer from Leuchars, you can make it from Edinburgh to St Andrews Castle within 1.5 hrs if you get one of the fast Aberdeen trains. Explore the Castle ruins with a family Explorer Quiz, hit the beach at Castle Sands afterwards, then round off your visit with a stop off at Jannettas Gelateria on your way back to the bus station.
Train Route: Waverley/ Haymarket to Leuchars + 10 min bus ride to St Andrews + 12 minute walk
Total Travel Time: 1 hr 30 mins (or 1 hr 50 mins on the slower Dundee train)
Money Saving Tip: £1 entry for Young Scot card holders
The Great Tapestry of Scotland tells the of Scotland’s history, heritage, innovations and culture, in 160 beautifully embroidered panels. There’s plenty to keep children engaged, including digital and paper based trails, sound scapes to listen to, and tapestry samples to touch. Tip: Download the Tapestry Tours app in advance, and remember to take headphones.
Train Route: Waverley to Galashiels + 5 minute walk
Total Travel Time: 1 hr
Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Heritage
Discover Lanarkshire’s industrial past at Summerlee Museum. There’s an indoor exhibition with plenty of hands-on activities, as well as the outdoor grounds to explore, including the miners’ cottages, sweetie shop, reconstructed mineshaft (over 5s only), ducks and swans to feed, and an extensive play park. Admission is free, costs apply to some activities.
Train Route: Waverley/ Haymarket to Coatbridge Sunnyside + 15 minute walk
Total Travel Time: 1 hr 15 mins
National Museum of Flight
The National Museum of Flight at East Fortune Airfield is a great day out for little plane lovers. Step aboard Concorde, test your fitness on the assault course, get hands on with science in the Fantastic Flight gallery, and much more! From April to October, it’s possible to get there by public transport if you take specific trains which link up with the local bus.
Train Route: Waverley to Drem or North Berwick + short bus ride. Which train station to get off at depends on the bus you are connecting to. You’ll need to study the timetables carefully in advance, as only certain bus times link up with the museum and trains.
Total Travel Time: ca. 1 hr
Money Saving Tip: Save £1 per ticket if you book in advance, plus 15% off when you book as a family.