Edinburgh Days Out by Robin McKelvie

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

We invited Robin McKelvie, Scottish travel writer, broadcaster and blogger, to use our Edinburgh Days Out Travel Pass. Read about his experience here…

Robin McKelvie and his daughter outside a ScotRail trainOne of the great things about Edinburgh is that there is so much beyond the city to explore within easy reach. When ScotRail asked me to take my young family on a two-day adventure to check out their Edinburgh Days Out Travel Pass we jumped at the chance. We love taking the train and we found the pass an ideal way of exploring loads of places in an action packed, fun filled two days I’d like to share with you.

There is something deeply special about train travel. Robert Louis Stevenson once declared ‘I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move’ and on trains I feel this most keenly. My wee girls, Tara and Emma, are the same. They like nothing better than settling down to a train adventure, gazing out the window at the passing sights as I explain to them the world of fun ahead.

Our two days offered non-stop fun. The passes are great, because they are easy to use and allow you to hop on and hop off en route. They are ace value too with no need to book in advance for the myriad destinations, which all lie within an hour of Edinburgh. That’s ideal as it does not allow any time for the wee ones to get bored!

AbbotsfordFirst up on day one was the Borders Railway. We hopped on at Edinburgh Waverley and had soon skipped out of the suburbs and were racing south. My kids were glued to the windows as they alternated between counting the tunnels and bridges – there are dozens on this impressive new railway line – and the cute wee lambs in the fields.

The terminus in Tweedbank is handily within walking distance of Abbotsford. This is the palatial home Scotland’s greatest ever writer, Sir Walter Scott, had fashioned for himself on the banks of his beloved Tweed. Its visitor experience has just had a brilliant makeover and it’s now spot on for kids. My two secured some new teddy bear friends in the gift shop (the new visitor complex also houses a restaurant) before heading down to the house itself. We all loved that the kids got their own dedicated audio guides – them as it was tailored to their needs and me as it gave me peace to explore!

Melrose AbbeyNext up we wandered along the banks of the River Tweed to the neighbouring town of Melrose. This trim, picturesque town is my pick of the trim Borders market towns and a confirmed McKelvie family favourite. We dined at our favourite restaurant, Burt’s, the kids feasting on local Teviot smoked salmon. We then bashed off around Melrose Abbey, for me Scotland’s finest. It has plenty of grassy areas for the kids to hurl themselves around. They enjoyed trying to find our favourite carving, that of a pig playing the bagpipes. Handily just outside a brand new café, Greenhouse, was on hand with cakes and coffee.

It was time now to take the train north and we resisted the temptation to stop off at Gorebridge for the brilliant National Mining Museum. Instead we decamped at Eskbank, where a bus service connects with Dalkeith Country Park. Here we enjoyed the tree-shrouded delights of the walkways and the girls got stuck into the superb Fort Douglas, My girls loved swinging around and whooshing around on slides. Mummy and daddy enjoyed the coffee at their Restoration Yard.

Riding the Borders RailwayAfter a thrillingly full first day it was back on the train again for day two. The Borders Railway provides a dramatic new land bridge linking the capital to the Borders, while the mighty Forth Bridge vaults the Firth of Forth, providing a spectacular connection between the Lothians and Fife. I have to admit I’m just about as excited as the kids are crossing this red iron leviathan, with its 6.5 million rivets and main pipes wide enough to house a London tube train!

Once over the bridge in Fife it was time to explore North Queensferry. Our first stop was the most overtly family friendly attraction in the picturesque waterfront village. Deep Sea World is just top notch for kids with all manner of aquatic species for them to check out. My wee girls whooped with delight as we watched the seals being fed, even louder when they helped feed the rays and went off the scale when the hulking sharks cruised over our heads in one of the world’s longest shark tunnels!

McKelvie girls overlooking the Forth BridgeTo calm the girls down a bit we snaked around the back of the hulking Forth Bridge – which looks remarkable and totally different from every angle – and joined the Fife Coastal Path. This gorgeous long distance route stretches for 117 miles. We were content to just follow it east towards Inverkeithing and then double back over the hill to enjoy a scenic loop. We caught sight of a couple of buzzards, a trio of cute squirrels and a roe deer, which the girls were delighted with. All this wildlife came within sight of Edinburgh across the water in the distance.

Then it was time for a treat for mummy and daddy as well as the kids. It was dinner at North Queensferry’s Wee Restaurant. The Borders, Lothians and Fife are renowned for its local produce and this rail pass gives access to lashings of local produce. On the menu at Craig Wood’s great value restaurant were the likes of Shetland mussels with cream, bacon and pinenuts and perfectly cooked steaks from a local butcher.

McKelvie girls overlooking the Forth BridgesWe were not quite done yet, loathe to give up our constantly handy rail Edinburgh Days Out Travel Pass just yet. We took the train back across the Forth Road Bridge to enjoy the sight of the emerging Queensferry Crossing (the UK’s highest bridge) and a much more charming bridge, the Forth Bridge, which we had crossed earlier. We savoured an epic view of hill, water and bridge with the lights of Edinburgh starting to blink on in the distance as sunset approached in a spectacle burn of fiery reds and deep oranges.

Rolling back into Waverley we congratulated ourselves on making the most of our pass. If you’re looking for a fun filled couple of days exploring from Edinburgh I thoroughly recommend nabbing a Edinburgh Days Out Travel Pass whether you’re a visitor to the capital or have lived in Edinburgh all your life. Trust me - your kids will thank you for it!

Robin McKelvie, based on the outskirts of Edinburgh, splits his time between travelling around every nook and cranny of Scotland and forays further afield. His love of travel first stirred before he had even left his native Scotland. Robin's Dad used to take him down to Princes Street Gardens where he would gaze at the trains rumbling out of Edinburgh Waverley. You can follow his Robin's travel stories here.

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