Nelly Elliott

Newcastle based blogger, mama, creative, coffee-only with my oxygen, vegan, plus-size fashion lover and feminist.

@nellyscupcakes

Choo Choo Edinburgh Zoo

Last week I was off work for a few days so we organised a trip by train to Edinburgh Zoo. My sister managed to get discounted zoo tickets through work so we decided to make a day of it and get the train up from Newcastle. We got a good deal on first class tickets with LNER and honestly, if first class is ever not that much more than standard - DO IT! The free food and drinks and extra leg room alone is worth it. Zoe is only 4 so we didn't need a ticket for her, but the first class carriage wasn't full so she got a seat both ways.
The staff on the train were so lovely with her and brought her some colouring supplies and a little snack box. I was really impressed by the customer service throughout our jouney.



It took around 1.5 hours to get into Edinburgh station, we stopped off at Gordon St Coffee on Market Street. If you take the Market Street exit out of the station, it is pretty much opposite and does amazing coffee. I always hunt for the good coffee wherever we go - and I always prefer to support an independent place over a chain where possible. Gordon Street Coffee started in Glasgow and only recently opened their Edinburgh location. As a lover of coffee trust me when I say its the good shit - also they offer oat milk which is always a win in my eyes.
They also have a great selection of cakes and baked things - with vegan options!


We then walked around the corner onto Waverley Bridge to hop on the 100 airlink bus, which was £2.50 for a single to the Zoo. The traffic in this area was pretty hectic due to the Edinburgh Fringe festival, so if I was to do this again I might have wandered up to the other end of princess street, or even tried to hop on a train to Haymarket station to avoid sitting for 30 minutes in traffic. Also, the non Airlink bus we caught back to princes street after the zoo was a fair bit cheaper - so would be worth investigating options. Although the good thing about the Airlink buses were that they announced each stop and had a screen showing which stop was next - which is really helpful if you aren't familiar with the area or where to get off.
The queue to enter the Zoo was out the door by the time we arrived around 11am, thankfully we had booked in advance so we could skip to the front in the separate prebooked queue, another thing to consider during school holidays.
Edinburgh Zoo is basically one giant hill, so once we got inside we decided to head straight for the top. Thankfully Zoe wanted to see the zebras and tigers first, so we power walked straight up the hill, figuring we would use up our initial burst of energy getting up there, then wander down through all the different areas. This actually worked really well for us and the views from the top of the zoo where the zebras are was stunning.
Our highlights from the Zoo were the Koalas, the Wee Beasties (which had a range of bugs, lizards and fish), the tigers and the penguins.
The day we went was really hot and humid and we found that a lot of the animals were snoozing in the shade, so were hard to spot and often out of sight, which Zoe found really challenging. We had some good conversations about their natural habitats and how they weren't here to perform for us.
One of the bits we were most looking forward to was the Penguin Parade. The penguins usually do a little voluntary parade and we got to the enclosure nice and early to ensure a front row seat, however, the hot weather meant that they weren't really in the mood to parade, and the Zoo Keepers reiterated that they are never forced to do this. We did really enjoy watching them swim underwater though! It was so hot we would have happily dived in with them to be honest.








I had packed a few snacks anticipating a not great vegan selection of food at the Zoo. We headed to the Grassland Restaurant for lunch and my suspicions were correct, there was one salad option which didn't sound too appetising to me. I asked the waitress who confirmed that was all they did, so I ordered some chips. However, she then came back having consulted with the chef with some more options - some of which 'may contain' some things or were cooked in the same fryer as fish products - which as a vegan I am OK with. I ended up ordering vegan pizza and chips and it was delicious, although they were fairly heavy handed with the vegan mozzarella, which can be quite a strong flavour.
I was really impressed with their restaurant and its ethos - they do not use any palm oil, everything is locally sourced and in season, and the fish is sustainably sourced too. You can check out their sample menu here.


After we had our fill of the Zoo and grabbed some cute stuffed toys from the gift shop we headed back to central Edinburgh for a wander and quick drink before the train home. We headed to Wahaca on St Andrew Street and grabbed a seat outside. We were all still pretty full from our lunch so just treated ourselves to a nice cold drink and watched the world go by for a bit. Edinburgh is so busy and vibrant in August - people watching is a must.





By this point it was nearing 5pm and Zoe was pretty tired and starting to act up a little. Lets just say that the wine was definitely needed.
We headed back to Waverley for our 5pm train and may have indulged in some complimentary first class wine and snacks. I thought Zoe might sleep on the train home but she sadly did not. I managed to keep her awake all the way home so she went straight off to bed.
It was a pretty full on day, leaving the house at 7am and returning at 7pm but I am hoping its one of those days Zoe remembers for a long time. The sore legs and eye bags were worth the memories made.
Non of this trip was sponsored or gifted, everything above was paid for by me