Newest Review: ... kids being rather upset. We visited Blackpool Zoo last year and the range of animals was much better. In Edinburgh Zoo, there are no elep... more
Exotica in Edinburgh
Member Name: rosebud2001
Advantages: Fun day out for all the family
Disadvantages: Can be a bit depressing, very steep hill
I have to admit however that I am not a huge fan of zoos. I have been to many over the years and while I appreciate the role they play in conservation, I have my doubts about the wisdom of keeping animals in captivity for humans to peer at.
My daughter, however, has no such qualms. For her the zoo offers her the chance to see animals without having to get close to them, something she loves and she has always enjoyed her trips to this zoo.
So off we went to the zoo - along with half of Edinburgh, as it was very busy - the joy of school holidays I suppose.
Edinburgh Zoo is situated in Corstorphine, in the west of the city. It's on the main A8 road and is well signposted. Buses run past here fairly frequently too including Citylink coaches from Glasgow and Stirling, and Lothian Buses routes 12, 26, 31 and X48. The 26 has a particularly good frequency from the city centre.
Parking is also available but costs £3.50. The car park is located on a hill and you may find yourself waiting in a queue before a space becomes available.
We arrived at the zoo at 11.30 am. The car park was heaving and there was a huge queue of people waiting to get into the zoo. To be fair to Edinburgh Zoo, there were plenty of staff directing people towards various queues to pay to get in. There was a far shorter queue for those wishing to pay by cash, something I was relieved about as that's how we were paying and my daughter isn't too fond of huge queues.
The entrance fee for 2009 is £14.00 for adults £9.50 for children which includes a voluntary donation towards the Budongo Trail. You can opt out of this however, giving an entrance fee of £12.60 for adults and £8.50 for children. Child prices are for children aged 3 to 14. Under 3s are free. There is also a concession rate available for those who are disabled, unemployed, over 60 or a student - this is £12.00 with the voluntary donation or £10.80 without it. The staff do not push the voluntary donation at all and I was automatically given the lower admission price.
Onto the zoo and its on a hill - a very steep hill - so for those who find mobility a problem there's a Hilltop Safari which is a small bus that takes you up to the top of the hill, leaving you free to walk back down.
Now my daughter and I are both admittedly lazy, but we were determined to get some exercise today, so we decided to eschew the delights of the Hilltop Safari and walk instead - which also makes more sense as you can get closer to the animals that way.
The zoo is home to many creatures, including sea lions, flamingos, tigers, painted hunting dogs, panthers, chimpanzees, koala bears, penguins, camels, zebras and lions. Famously, it is also home to the UK's only polar bear but we didn't see her because there is no mention of her on the map and no signage towards the enclosure she is kept in. The zoo's website does state they plan to move the polar bear, who is called Mercedes, to the Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore but whether this has happened or not is a mystery to me.
Some of the enclosures are better than others. The penguin enclosure is spacious and the penguins move about freely and seem happy enough.
The big cats, however, look restless - I spotted one leopard pacing up and down, something I find very depressing to see. I am sure they do have plenty of room to roam but when you consider they will never get the opportunity to run freely it does make you think.
Similarly, in the Budongo Trail which is home to chimpanzees, I saw some chimps swinging around freely, and another who clearly didn't like the attention from the peering humans, as it got a blanket and put it over its head. I do have to say that the Budongo Trail is a very impressive building with excellent facilities for the chimpanzees both inside and out however.
The zoo has an attraction called Rainbow Landings, which is an aviary area housing Rainbow Lorikeets. You can buy nectar to feed the birds with - a small pot costs £1 or you can get two for £1.50 and walk through holding it. The birds will come on to your hand to feed. They are incredibly beautiful birds, but also incredibly noisy! You are under no obligation to buy the nectar and my nervous daughter decided to pass. She did enjoy seeing them flying around however. Rainbow Landings closes for an hour between 12.00 pm and 1.00 pm which is worth noting if your time is going to be limited at the zoo.
In addition to the animals, the zoo has several play areas for children. I would stress that these play areas are best for children under the age of 8. My daughter was pretty disappointed with what was on offer with even the biggest climbing structures being a bit on the small side for her.
There are a few restaurants in the zoo - we chose to eat inside the imposing Mansion House building. This is home to both a formal restaurant and a bar area. We had a bar lunch and found it pleasant - my daughter's child meal of chicken, chips and peas was £4.95, while my steak pie with potatoes and vegetables came in at £6.95. The food was certainly as good as most pub grub type meals and not any more expensive, despite the place having a captive audience. There are a couple of other less formal eateries called Oasis and Stripes and ice cream kiosks dotted around the zoo. There's also a sheltered picnic area if you want to bring a packed lunch. There are plenty of toilet facilities throughout the zoo and they are all clearly marked on the map you will receive on entry.
At set times in the day there are specific events pertaining to various animals, including the famous Penguin Parade at 2.15 pm. As the zoo was so busy we decided to pass on these however so I cannot comment on what they are like but given their popularity they must be worth watching.
Edinburgh Zoo is a great day out for all the family - particularly if you have younger children as there is more for them to do. The walk up the hill is bracing and when you get to the top it offers fantastic views over Edinburgh - weather permitting of course. Even although I still have my reservations about zoos, it seems churlish to inflict them on a child, and this is a far more worthy way to spend a day than a theme park or shopping trip - not that I would ever utter the word "educational" when planning a day out to my daughter of course!
The staff at the zoo that we encountered were all very friendly and helpful, something that matters at an attraction like this which is always going to draw a large number of children. The bottom line however is that my daughter loves it here, so they are definitely doing something right. So if you find yourself in Edinburgh, consider visiting the only zoo in Scotland.
The zoo is open 365 days a year - and opening hours vary throughout the year as follows:-
April to September 9.00 am to 6.00 pm
March and October 9.00 am to 5.00 pm
November to February 9.00 am to 4.30 pm
Summary: Edinburgh's second biggest tourist attraction after the castle is doing something right!
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