A Day With Your Family: Edinburgh Zoo & Scottish Seabird Centre
Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, has often been called “The Athens of the North”, largely due to the architectural style of many of its classic buildings, and also from its reputation as an intellectual centre, drawing parallels with ancient Athens itself. Once you’ve secured your car hire in Edinburgh, it’s possible to drive around the perimeter and over many of the main routes within a matter of hours, however it should be noted that, as at mid-2013, extensive tramway development works are taking place in the heart of the city, and on the route toward the western edge of the city, so these areas are probably best avoided for some time. Edinburgh is the second most popular tourist destination in the UK, with over a million foreign visitors per year.
Edinburgh Zoo is on the western side of the city, on the slopes of Corstorphine Hill, and you should bear this location in mind if you have any elderly or infirm members of your party, and also make sure you arrive with sensible, comfortable footwear. The zoo has a number of unique and entertaining attractions, and offers a series of timetabled talks, activities and encounters, including the daily Penguin Parade. In 2011, a pair of Giant Pandas arrived at the zoo, on a 10 year loan from China. The climate in Edinburgh is very similar to their native habitat, and it’s hoped that during their time in Edinburgh that they will become a breeding pair.
Car parking is available on site, at a fee, and you can also take advantage of free on-street parking a short walk from the zoo gates. The main thoroughfare past the zoo entrance is quite heavily restricted, as a major arterial route to and from the city centre, but you can park in the residential streets adjacent to this route. Due to the restricted numbers of available spaces, both within and outwith the zoo, they recommend traveling to it by public transport, as it’s very well served by many high-frequency bus services. The zoo’s website outlines the various options.
The Scottish Seabird Centre is in the coastal town of North Berwick, some 20 miles or so East from Edinburgh City Centre. This places it on the other side of the city from the zoo, and remote from the city, but still easily reachable by car or by public transport. By car, there’s a choice of two routes, depending on whether speed or scenery are required. For the quickest route, follow signage for the A1 to the South, or go anti-clockwise round the city bypass (A720) to its junction with the A1, then proceed South. Leave the A1 either at Haddington or Dunbar, following the A199 and then A198 to approach North Berwick from the East. The Seabird Centre is at the northernmost tip of the town, adjacent to the harbour, and is signposted from all parts of the town. For the more leisurely, coastal route, leave Edinburgh on the A199, via Milton Road East toward Musselburgh, and after Musselburgh racecourse, join the coastal B1348 until it joins the A198 after Longniddry. Continue on the A198 until it reaches North Berwick, and follow the signs within the town to the Seabird Centre.
North Berwick is a short train journey from Edinburgh Waverley station, with regular services throughout the day, and with the Seabird Centre a short walk from the station once in North Berwick. A variety of exhibitions, souvenir shop and café are all within the centre itself, and observation decks allow the visitor to view the local birdlife as well as the Bass Rock, a popular nesting site for gannets. The centre operates a number of cameras allowing close-up viewing of the gannet population. Seasonal boat trips are available around and onto the Bass Rock, as well as to the Isle of May, home to the largest East Coast puffin colony in the UK.
Photo: Andy J C