The Perfect Edinburgh Sunday With Kids
Walking around Edinburgh’s New Town on a Saturday night we kept spotting handwritten signs in pub windows that said, “Sunday roast.” Intrigued, we Googled it and learned that instead of going to brunch on Sundays, this city’s residents go to their neighborhood pub to eat plates of roast beef or leg of lamb with all the trimmings. This sounded like a local tradition our whole family could get behind. It also seemed like something we’d want to work up an appetite for, say with a morning hike. And so our Sunday plans were made. (See our guide to the Royal Mile and our family hotel recommendation.)
Since they worked out well, we highly recommend our plan for a hike and an Edinburgh Sunday roast to other families looking for an easy and fun day doing what the locals do.
The Best Plan For Sunday in Edinburgh With Kids
Have a light breakfast
We rose early and had a light breakfast near our hotel — pastries, coffee and juice — to save plenty of room for our roasted lunch.
Take a good hike, right in town
Then we made our way to Arthur’s Seat, the impressive volcanic hill that looms just beyond the bottom of the Old Town’s Royal Mile, behind the HolyRood palace. It’s a major point of interest and of course, it’s free of charge.
We began our hike at the ridge that sits in front of Arthur’s Seat. If you walk clockwise around the ridge you’ll have an easy walk that’s probably the better choice with kids younger than 7 and parents who have a baby in a carrier. We chose the counter-clockwise path, which has a steeper ascent but excellent views of the city, the palace and the castle.
Either way you’ll make your way to a valley between the ridge and imposing Arthur’s seat, at which point you can continue to circle the ridge (easy), climb to the top of it (moderate) or tackler the steeper trails to the top of Arthur’s seat (challenging). We decided we weren’t quite that ambitious —and didn’t want to keep our roast waiting— so we chose the middle option, which provided great photo opportunities (left) and whet our appetites just enough.
Note: Nearly 9YO Tiny Traveler had no problem with the climb we did and enjoyed the views as well the ample opportunities too rock climb and scramble around. But the ridge, the paths up to it and Arthur’s seat all have shear cliffs that are not always obvious and don’t have guardrails. We had to remind her a few times to be mindful of the edge. Keep young children and dogs close at hand.
Choose your Roast
We found a blog with the Ten Best Sunday Roasts in Edinburgh and noted that several were near each other in the New Town. We headed to the Cumberland Bar, which was at the top of the list and is also frequented by the characters in the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith. Alas, reservations are essential and we didn’t have one.
We managed to find room nearby at The Ox, an excellent gastro-pub that favors local ingredients, and settled into a booth in the cozy bar area. All three of us bypassed the tempting lamb roast with mint-quince sauce in favor of rare roast beef. We ordered drinks and settled in to wait for our dinner.
When our plates arrived they each had a thick slice of beef sitting on a bed of perfectly cooked Kale, carrots, parsnips and crisp roasted potatoes (nips and tatties). The meat was crowned with a Yorkshire pudding that served as a bowl for the gravy. The gravy was meaty, rich and tasted as though it had been cooking for three days. It was just the thing to warm you through on a chilly, gray fall Sunday. Rich and I had to resist picking up our plates to lick them. They serve a smaller portion of the same dish for kids.
We somehow found room for dessert and ordered Treacle tart, largely because Harry Potter loves it and avid reader Tiny Traveler wanted to know what it was. I have no idea if theirs is typical, but it was much better than I expected: not too sweet, with a nice cookie crust and served with clotted cream.
Note: The price for the Sunday Roast was a mere £13, or a little less for the kid’s plate. This excellent price-to-quality ratio contributes to The Ox’s popularity. Quite a few people who came in without reservations were turned away and we felt pretty lucky to get a table without one.
The rest of the day
With dinner finished by 2:30, we had enough time to do more sightseeing, maybe even squeeze in another museum. But we decided we wanted to see Edinburgh’s less touristy side. So we walked across to residential Stockbridge, admiring the small private parks and Georgian homes with their discreet basement courtyards. We strolled Stockbridge’s appealing shopping street (Raeburn Place), admired the goods at the lively outdoor Sunday market and explored the footpaths that run alongside the picturesque Waters of Leith. It was hard to believe the cramped and crowded Old Town was barely a mile from this surprisingly bucolic corner of the city. If you need a break from sightseeing, this is the place to come.
After a full day of eating and walking we went to bed early and slept well. I think I dreamed about gravy.
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