Being that Edinburgh is home to fascinating history combined with eccentric culture, it’s no surprise that the capital of Scotland is a popular choice for school trips.

A panda at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo

From exploring the looming castle overlooking the city, to spooky ghost walks around the very lanes that the castle watches over, there is a real mixture of things to do, explore and learn in Edinburgh – whatever the age.

The Water of Leith is the main river that flows through the city and is great for students studying nature and wildlife. Printable resources are available to download from the website that can be used on a walk along the waterside. These allow school children to view the water cycle in action, investigate life cycles and food chains and even explore the world of invertebrates.

The Water of Leith

For budding astronauts, Our Dynamic Earth has Science lessons about the earth, space, life – and everything in between. The interactive museum is home to many hands-on exhibitions including a 4D encounter, a Scotland’s time lord exhibition, a time machine and even an ice experience where pupils can touch an actual ice berg. For schools, the usual benefits apply with the option of pre-booked packed lunches and a free familiarisation visit.

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions can be  explored alongside – or instead of – Edinburgh Castle. The hands-on museum offers a whole six floors of wacky scientific fun, from a rotating vortex tunnel to a mirror maze pupils are sure to get lost in.

There’s also a rooftop terrace offering a bird’s eye view of Edinburgh, so if a visit to the castle isn’t on the cards then the views of the city still will be.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions welcomes school trips and offers day tickets, meaning guests can break and leave for lunch to return later. Worksheets and workbooks for pupils are also available online.

The vortext tunnel at Camera Obscura

On the Royal Yacht Britannia, students can learn about the history of the yacht that has served the British Royal Family for more than 44 years. Groups can see inside the rooms that the family once stayed in, or learn about life below decks.

When it’s time for tea, there are free fudge samples in the onboard NAAFI sweet shop and the yacht itself Is berthed next to ocean Terminal which offers plenty of places to eat.  Although tours are normally conducted by audio guide, private tours can be arranged for school groups. 

The Royal Botanic Garden welcomes school trips and has online resources and school programmes for those visiting. There are over 23 programmes on offer, varying from half day to full day options for all key stages and subjects such as Science, Social Studies and Expressive Arts Among the 70 acres of garden, there’s the Victorian Temperate Palm House, a rock garden, a woodland garden and a Chinese hillside. 

Edinburgh Dungeons

Edinburgh Dungeon will teach school children about the Legend of Sawney Bean and the murderous twosome Burke and Hare. This attraction might be grisly – but it’s educational too. It’s an alternative introduction to a range of classroom subjects including History and Performing Arts. The Edinburgh Dungeon also offer Deadly Drama Sessions which includes interactive Performing Arts Workshops with a dungeon twist. Discounted prices are available for school trips, some of which throw in lunch at nearby restaurants too.

Another spooky attraction-come-educational-hub is the Ghost Bus Tour. Relying on immersive story-telling, this experience focuses again on delivering historical facts among spooks and scares.

The decked out horror bus will drive pupils around Edinburgh’s most haunted stops, meaning that, much like a ghost walk, groups can see the very places they’re hearing about – only in the warmth. Come rain or shine, this theatrical sightseeing tour mixes some of Edinburgh’s best bits – ghosts, theatre and a real Routemaster bus, painted black to look as spooky as possible.

Class group with Robert Fergusson in the exhibition space at Real Mary Kings Close

The Real Mary King’s Close offers a historic insight into streets and spaces beneath the cobbles of Edinburgh. Much like The Dungeons, this attraction focuses on a few scares but is educational thanks to stories told by characters in costume.

For school tours, tickets are available combined with one of five museums, which feature as part of the experience. This includes the usual tour of The Real Mary King’s Close followed by a guided walk to the group’s next location. Pupils continue to learn about Edinburgh’s history and its famous landmarks in this time.

RZSS Edinburgh Zoo is more than just a zoo, with a wide array of educational resources including school lesson programmes and printable resources, suitable for nursery, primary and secondary children The zoo is home to the only giant pandas in the UK and other attractions include penguins rock, koala territory and brilliant birds – each with daily talks.