{Edinburgh} The Botanics Halloween Trail 2023

I’ve been talking a lot about pumpkin patches recently, but another wee Autumn tradition we love is the Halloween trail at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, or the Botanics for short. They’ve been doing these for a few years now, both the Halloween trail in the October holidays and a Spring trail in the Easter holidays, and unless we’re away on holiday we always make an effort to go. My boys are just about to turn 9 and 13, and I thought maybe they’d aged out of it this year, but even the almost teenager still really wanted to go so that’s what we did this morning.

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh

If you yourself are a regular Botanics trail enthusiast, then you might want to stop reading to avoid any spoilers, but for any newbies I thought I’d give you a quick run through as I always see many questions online about the trails. If you’ve not been to the Botanics before, it’s important to note that there are two entrances, the West Gate and the East Gate.

Here’s what you need to know about the Halloween trail.

  • The trails usually include a wee booklet which you take around with you to answer the clues and questions that you find along the way, and this year is no different. The booklets are available to purchase at both entrances, but the trail starts out the back of the John Hope Gateway visitor centre at the West Gate, so if you are arriving at the East Gate you’ll need to walk across the Botanics first to start the trail, which is about ten minutes walk. Don’t worry though as there is signage leading from the East Gate to the start of the trail.
  • A trail costs £3 and you’ll need one per child if you want each child to get a prize.
  • At the start of the trail there is an intro panel (we almost missed this coming from the East Gate), followed by seven numbered panels to find along the trail, each with a question. Three of the questions involved writing down an answer, the other four were drawing tasks, so it’s a good mix for different ages.
  • In between the numbered panels, there are six cut outs with ‘beastly beasties’ to find. They are all alongside the paths of the trail, but some are more obvious and others were a wee bit hidden among the trees. You can either write down their names or draw the beasties, so again good for a mix of ages.
Edinburgh Botanics Halloween Trail beetle
  • One minor criticism was that the layout and numbering of the questions in the booklet this time was a little confusing – we initially thought beastly beastie 1 went with question 1, but couldn’t find any beasties close by. As we moved along the trail, we realised that the numbering of the questions was separate from the numbering of the beasties, and that they in fact alternate. So as you follow the trail, you’re looking for numbered panel – beastie – numbered panel – beastie etc. 
  • There are animal footprints on the paths and plenty of signs throughout the trail to point you in the right direction, which is especially fun for little ones who can’t read yet to spot. There’s also a map at the front of the booklet, that shows the route.
  • Once you have completed the trail, you check in at Inverleith House to claim your prize (which is a chocolate bar). There were also some wee Autumn/Halloween tea party displays set up, that children can interact with. 
Edinburgh Botanics Halloween Trail woodland animals tea party
  • The trail is advertised as 3+ but we saw plenty of families with younger kids doing it and enjoying it – the parents may just need to help a bit more with the clues/tasks.
  • The trail took us around an hour to complete, but that included walking from the East Gate to the West Gate first, so around 45 – 50 minutes for the trail itself.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but I hope this is helpful to those who have been wondering whether to go.

This year’s trail runs daily from Saturday 14 October to Tuesday 31 October 2023, 10am – 4pm. No booking required. Entry to the Botanics themselves is free, you just pay for the trail.

How to get there

As mentioned above, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has two entrances: the West Gate on Arboretum Place (EH3 5NZ) and the East Gate on Inverleith Row (EH3 5LP). 

The closest you can get by bus is at the East Gate, with Lothian Bus routes 8, 23 and 27 stopping just a few metres away. To get to the West Gate by bus, Lothian Bus routes 24 and 29 stop in Stockbridge around ten minutes walk away.

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