You may have seen the Mini Travellers’ A-Z of Chester Zoo. Well, this A-Z is for Edinburgh Zoo. Just a few miles from the centre of Edinburgh this is a much smaller zoo, confined by the geography of the hill it sits on. Whilst it does not have many of the ‘big’ animals, there are 2 lions, a tiger and a rhino.
The big draw are the pandas of course, although the koalas come a close second for our family. On a quieter day, you can experience the whole zoo in 4 hours (including lunch), which for some is more attractive than the larger zoos like Colchester, where even utilising every minute of the opening hours will not be enough to allow you to experience everything. This A-Z guides aims to help you decide if Edinburgh Zoo is for you and aims to give some tips to help you enjoy your day!
A is for ‘app’ – Download the zoo’s app before you get there as mobile phone reception appears to be an issue for some. The children will enjoy the interactive scanning at various animal enclosures.
B is for ‘bus’ – The zoo is easily reached by several buses leaving from the city centre. There is a set fare of £1.70 for an adult and 80p for children. You can only buy single tickets and need the correct change (unless you get the airport bus). So, it’s effectively a £5 each way for a family of 4, the journey is approximately 20 minutes. It’s a nice simple option.
C is for ‘calendar’ – www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/events-calendar Check out the events calendar if you are planning to visit and are not tied to particular dates. They are very much involved in conservation and the study of animals so often have unusual and interesting events that the general public can attend.
D is for ‘daily talks’ – Check the time table out when you arrive to make sure you don’t miss out. The penguin parade gets particularly busy!
E is for ‘eating’ – There are 3 main eateries offering snacks to sit down hot meal, as well as various kiosks open at peak periods. The zoo also has many picnic benches dotted around (but no undercover picnic area) as well as various grassed areas.
F is for ‘footwear’ – Make sure all members of your group are wearing sturdy footwear. There are lots of steep hills, which can be particularly slippery in the wet.
G is for ‘giant panda’ – The main attraction!! The only giant pandas in the UK!! At busy times you will need to pre-book your viewing time (you can do this online beforehand or upon your arrival). There are 2 pandas, in separate enclosures. To avoid disappointment, you should be aware that there is no guarantee that the enclosures will be open, or that the pandas will come out of their living accommodation into their enclosure. If they do, there is no way to ensure that they’ll do anything at all or indeed, that they won’t hide in the undergrowth so that they cannot be seen from the viewing gallery! If you are lucky enough to get a good view though, it is something quite special.
H is for ‘hills’ – The zoo is on a hill. The topography is very steep, uneven and full of steps. A pushchair will require a strong pair of arms to push! Walking to the highest point first thing and then working your way down the hill throughout the day should assist in preventing complaints about tired legs from the younger members of your group. Very few people reach the zebras without being out of breath.
I is for ‘indoor attractions‘ – In bad weather you can comfort yourself by the number of attractions housed indoors or undercover, including the monkey house and the wee beasties. Many of the larger enclosures also have a viewing shelter. The zoo is well designed to make the bad weather as minimal a discomfort to visitors as possible.
J is for ‘jacket’ – You’re in Scotland; don’t be surprised if it rains! A lightweight rainproof/waterproof jacket is likely to be your best option. The zoo is high up, so it gets windy, but you’ll also keep quite warm walking all the steep hills and going in and out of the indoor attractions.
K is for ‘koala bear’ – The koala enclosure is like being in a library. You can hear a pin drop, no one wants to alarm these beautiful creatures. If you haven’t seen them before, they are surprisingly small. It is therefore very much luck that decides if you get a good view of the koalas going about their everyday business, slowly!
L is for ‘lockers’ – Available at the entrance, in 2 sizes. £4 and £2 rental depending on the size you require. These would be particularly useful if you didn’t want to haul a picnic around with you (and have a member of your party who won’t moan about having to walk up and down the hill to get the bag!).
M is for ‘monkey’- There are lots of primates at the zoo, including chimpanzees. However, it is the smaller, faster monkeys who keep the children most entertained. Playfully darting around and generally causing mayhem. The ‘squirrel and capuchin money living links’ is particular fun for little ones and adults alike.
N is for ‘nappy changing’ – The park has plenty of toilets, all with baby changing facilities (although only in the ladies toilets in the smaller toilet blocks that do not have a disabled loo).
O is for ‘online tickets’ – If you purchase tickets at least 2 days in advance, there is a saving to be made (up to 14% according to the website). There is a voluntary contribution added (£1.75 on the price of an adult ticket) which you can remove. I am not a fan of these ‘add ons’. A family of 2 adults and 2 children (over 3) will pay between £50-60 depending on whether you book in advance and if you include the donation. You can also pre-book your time for viewing the giant pandas (when required).
P is for ‘penguins’ – At Penguin Rock, Europe’s largest outdoor penguin pool, you can lose track of time. All the penguins seem to have their own personality and it’s so entertaining to watch them interacting. Children rarely leave willingly and must be tempted away (luckily there are ice-cream kiosks nearby!).
Q is for ‘queues’ – If you’re visiting during peak times the layout of the zoo and many of the enclosures means you’ll be queuing a lot. Take plenty of drinks and the patience to play endless games of eye-spy!
R is for ‘recreation’ – There are 3 play areas in the zoo, with 1 catering especially for toddlers. As all parents will know, park stops can extend a day out by an hour or more!
S is for ‘school children’ – You’ll not be surprised that there are usually numerous schools on a visit at any one time. Go in the opposite direction to any school party you bump into. You may lose your own children in the hoards and the animals tend to shy away from the noise of a large group!
T is for ‘train’ – At peak times there is a small road train to transport you to the top of the hill on which the zoo sits.
U is for ‘update required’ – There is an access map available online and at the visitor information point. It is essential reading for people with mobility issues given the challenging geography of the site. However, it has not been updated since 2014 so beware that the route of some of the paths and some animal locations have changed!
V is for ‘visitor parking’ – £4. Not refundable against admission costs or any other sums spent within the zoo. A bit irksome really.
W is for ‘walk through enclosures’ – There are 3 short but fun walk though areas where there are no fences to stop the animals roaming with guests; pelicans, wallabies and monkeys. Children especially delight in having monkeys jumping over their heads and running past them on the path.
X is for ‘xmas’ – In Christmas 2017 the zoo hosted an illuminated Chinese lantern festival. Keep an eye on their website for upcoming events.
Z is for ‘zoo’ – The zoo is not the biggest and may not have the attraction of some of the larger animals such as elephants and giraffes but, depending on the weather, you can easily spend half a day here enjoying all the animals and the views of beautiful Edinburgh.
*Kelly and her family received tickets to the zoo in return for review*