Family day out? Find the hidden gems along the East Coast Main Line

These off-the-beaten-track ideas for London, Newcastle and Edinburgh should keep everyone happy...


Things to do…

Highlight: Show the iPad generation the way it used to be at the Museum of Childhood at the V&A. Explore the 20th century history of Lego, still going strong today, and all manner of retro toys.

V&A Museum of Childhood

Budget: Tire them out at Coram’s Fields. This 7-acre playground in central London has sandpits, climbing frames, zip wires and more.

Splurge: Explorer Robert Ripley defined ‘strange but true’. Explore hundreds of oddities and artefacts at Ripley’s Believe it or Not


Places to eat…

Highlight:Under-10s eat free at the cool Hixter Bankside. The informal, open-plan layout is perfect for noisy family dining while mini-steak burger or boiled eggs and soldiers are vote winners.     

Budget: Little ones can play while they eat at Full of Beans. Great food and coffee meets soft play and toys at this Highbury play café.

Splurge: Bowling and burgers meet at All Star Lanes. Think classic American diner food with 10-pin bowling between courses. Retro.

Where to sleep…

Highlight: Aloft London Excel offers swimming pools, goodie-bags and free food for under-5s. They can even ‘camp out’ for the night in the Savvy Suites.   

Budget: Stay near Buckingham Palace and other SW1 attractions at the family friendly (and family run) Luna Simone Hotel.

Splurge: A-listers with kids must stay at The Athenaeum hotel. A children’s concierge, nannies and babysitters are all on hand.


Things to do…

Highlight: Folksy family fun awaits at Dalkeith Country Park. Explore treehouses, climbing walls and secret tunnels at the playground or hire bikes for a family ride with miles of rural paths.

Budget: Clamber up World Heritage Site Calton Hill for majestic views of Edinburgh and monuments worthy of Ancient Greece.

Splurge: Take on spinning tunnels and mirror mazes at Camera Obscura. Don’t miss the 19th-century rooftop periscope.   


Places to eat…

Highlight:Pizza is the perfect dinner for the family who can’t agree. Bustling, family-run La Favorita serves award-winning, wood-fired pizza from the back streets of Venice. Flustered families will fit in.

Budget: Find juicy gourmet burgers straight from the American Dream at Burger Meats Bun. Hand-wrapped for a retro diner vibe.

Splurge: Tuck into Michelin Guide pub grub at The Scran & Scallie. Seasonal Scottish food in a cosy, family-friendly setting. 

The Scran and Scallie


Where to sleep…

Highlight: Bed down in 5-star luxury at The Knight Residence serviced apartments in the Old Town. Expect a fully equipped kitchen and laundry, as well as Wi-Fi, TVs, cots and high chairs.

Budget: Find stunning views, central location and some great child-friendly policies (free breakfast) at the Braids Hill Best Western

Splurge: One of Scotland’s most luxurious hotels. The Scotsman is packed with period charm – wood-panelled rooms and roaring fires.


Things to do…

Highlight: The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog the Forgetful Cat are children’s book legends. Find out how they were written at Seven Stories – the national centre for children’s books.

Budget: Cows, sheep and a pair of pigs called Thelma and Louise await at Ouseburn Farm – a city farm set up by locals. It’s free too.

Splurge: Football fans? Take a tour of Newcastle United’s St James’ Park – sit in the dressing room and walk down the tunnel.


Places to eat…

Highlight: Chicken cooked over open flames and slathered in 1 of 23 sauces – the simple things are done well at Coop Chicken. No kids’ meal deals – just ask for an extra plate and ‘divvy up’ yours.

Budget: Local culture vultures love the café at Tyneside Cinema.  It’s big on brunch and burgers, and there’s a great kids’ menu.    

Splurge: Tuck into a top-class pub lunch on the terrace of Twin Farms – a child-friendly country pub just outside the city.


Where to sleep…

Highlight:Sleep amid the Georgian grandeur of Grainger Town with the Citybase apartment on Grey Street. One of many listed buildings nearby, the apartment is opposite the Theatre Royal.

Citybase Apartment

Budget: With splendid scenery and discounts for families, the Best Western New Kent Hotel is perfect for parents with little ones.

Splurge: Lord it up at Malmaison with storm-force showers and chic interiors. Extra beds can be put in the room for your kids.