Edinburgh Zoo

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland opened Edinburgh Zoo in 1913 and to date the park attracts over 600,000 visitors a year. The zoo is home to over 170 different species of animal many of which are endangered and involved in captive breeding programmes. Edinburgh zoo is involved in conservation, breeding programmes and research across the globe.


Tian Tian and Yuang Guan are currently the most famous residents at 134 Corstorphine Road. Almost one million people have come to see the pandas in the two years since their arrival.  Sweetie and Sunshine as they are otherwise known have been leased from China for 10 years   Luckily, for the pair the climate in Edinburgh is very similar to their native habitat in the Sichuan Province of China.  Unfortunately, the first two attempts to breed the pair have been unsuccessful.  Please note that due to the popularity of the Pandas, visitors are allocated time slots when booking tickets, it is advisable to do this online the night before arriving.  Guest must also print off their own panda viewing tickets before getting to the zoo.


The zoo’s colony of Penguins are probably the second favourite attraction.  Penguins have been in residence for 100 years. Shortly after the zoo opened in 1913 the first 6 birds were donated by the Salvesen shipping Company.  Edinburgh’s Penguin pool (known as Penguin Rocks) has recently been refurbished and is home to King, Gentoo and Rockhopper penguins.  The birds are invited to partake in a penguin parade daily at quarter past 2 which is a sight to behold. Watching a waddle of penguins hopping around and stopping to inspect the crowd is amusing and endearing.  The world famous parade began by accident back in 1951 when a keeper left the enclosure gate open.  Moreover, Edinburgh Zoo is home to a penguin of distinction in Colonel in Chief Sir Nils Olav II. Nils Olav II is the mascot of the Norwegian Royal Guard and is elevated in rank every time the Royal Guard visit Edinburgh to take part in the military Tattoo.

The zoo is also very proud of its purpose built Chimpanzee enclosure ( the Budongo trail). Visitors can view the chimps from inside or outdoors and interactive displays allow a greater understanding of our closest animal cousins.  There are currently 19 chimps living at the centre and the eldest is Cindy at 50 years.

The zoo sits on Corstorphine Hill about three miles to the west of the city centre.  The zoo is easily accessed by bus and plentiful parking is available at the site ( drivers note that there is a £4.00 charge to park).  It is worth mentioning that that sections of the park involve steep climbs and are not readily accessible on foot to the elderly or infirm.  A new mobility service will begin this year to replace the Hilltop Safari trailer.  The service runs from the entrance and all drivers will provide a commentary.  The zoo also refurbished its range of cafes and restaurants and they are happy to cater for weddings and similar functions in the ‘mansion house’ at the heart of the zoo.  Besides the multitude of animals there are many play parks for the kids all across the park.

Edinburgh zoo is involved in breeding programmes and research across the globe and recent success stories include the birth of koalas, a pygmy hippo and numerous penguins chicks.

Meerkats have become wildly popular in recent years since a certain insurance company began to use them in their adverts.  Edinburgh zoo is not immune to this trend and the clan of 11 or so Meerkats are to be rehomed this year in what was the sealion pool. The current smaller enclosure allows visitors ( even the youngest) to peer down onto the massed meerkats and their burrows.  It was from this vantage point that my two year old daughter managed to kick her shoe off into to the midst of the mob of meerkats.  The meerkats treated this new ‘enrichment’ with caution at first but soon 4 or 5 of them were face first in the tiny red shoe sniffing and snuffling for all they were worth.With a brace of meerkats eagerly sniffing and gnawing on the errant sandal a full on tantrum followed.  Shamefully my child’s wailings were not enough to persaude me to leap into the pen and a keeper was summoned. Within a few minutes a very helpful keeper leapt into the throng of meerkats and rescued the missing footwear.  Deeply Grateful but emasculated, my embarrassment was increased by the presence of none other than Springwatch’s Chris Packham.  He seemed unfazed by the this less than stellar display.  Not only were my parenting skills coming up short but Britain’s favourite naturalist was surveying the scene.  Thankfully, these images did not find their way onto Britain’s favourite wildlife show.

For recommended guest houses near to Edinburgh Zoo please see:

Ashgrove House and Briarley House are located within walking distance from Edinburgh Zoo and are also located on the main bus route into Edinburgh Centre.

Please share any experiences that you have had at Edinburgh Zoo.

Posted by Tim

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