Apologies for the lateness of this trip report, but hopefully it'll be of help to anyone planning Hogmanay in Edinburgh with kids. We travelled with our kids ages 11 through 3.
-Find and reserve rental apartment.
-Buy torches for Torchlight Procession.
-Reserve Highlands Tour.
Arrived late in the evening at Edinburgh Waverly train station. Avoided the panhandling drug addicts around the station (told my kids they can watch Trainspotting when we get home, wife was not amused). Found our rental apartment through tripadvisor's vacation rentals link.
Weather was beautifully Scottish, so it was driving winds and rain and cold. Arrived at Edinburgh Castle... which was closed because of the high winds. Walked down the Royal Mile. Kids voted to skip the Camera Obscura. Kids found the Museum of Childhood unimpressive. Kids prefered to browse the many souvenir shops on the Royal Mile.
Stopped at Fringe Shop, then headed downstairs to pick up "torches" for the Torchlight Procession. With credit card I used to pay online, picked up my tickets that I would later exchange for the actual torches.
Visited Palace of Holyrood House. Adults and kids were very impressed. Finished with shopping at adjacent "Queen's Gallery" gift shop.
Highlands tour. We used "Heart of Scotland Tours", but there are so many tour companies that do the tour, they're probably all very similar. Kids had a great time (monster hunting at Loch Ness is one of the highlights of their lives), but remember it's an all-day tour. Bring an iPad loaded with games and movies, their Nintendo DSes, books, journals and pencils. Leave them on the bus in a bag so that the kids aren't bored out of their minds when driving around all day.
That evening: Hogmanay Torchlight Procession. AN ABSOLUTE MUST-DO. One of the most incredible events our family has ever done together. It's free, but buy your torch tickets in advance - they sell torches the day of, but they always sell out. Bundle up warmly. We got there 45 minutes before the start, and were in the middle of the pack. In hindsight, we would've gotten there earlier - maybe 75 minutes before the scheduled start time.
It's crowded at the start and we were worried about our kids with torches, but once the procession starts, it quickly spreads out and everyone stays clear of the kids with torches. Everyone is in a happy, celebratory feel-good mood. Follow the procession through town and then up to Calton Hill, then enjoy the music and fires and fireworks.
DAY 5. NEW YEAR'S EVE.
For something a little different, the boys took a bus to Murrayfield just west of the city to watch an early afternoon ice hockey match - the Edinburgh Capitals against the Fife Flyers. The league is not one of the best in Europe and Murrayfield is an old rink, but it's the highest skill level in the UK and it's a fun time with a raucous crowd. Tickets and concessions are cash-only, so bring enough if you want any of those Capitals sweaters or scarves.
The evening Hogmanay street party is not recommended for children, so we didn't buy tickets for the family. Instead, take the family up to Calton Hill. It's a bit of a walk, but it has a tremendous view of the castle and the fireworks. It's also a secondary fireworks point, so there's a fantastic fireworks show directly above your heads in addition to the one in the distance. We got to Calton Hill 30 minutes before midnight and found great spots. People were coming up as late as 10 minutes to midnight and finding spots.
DAY 6. NEW YEAR'S DAY
Weather was beautiful, and that brought out many bagpipers around town. If you've ever wanted to get your photo with one, this is the time to do it - there's one every other block.
Not many sights open on New Year's Day, but one of the few things open - Edinburgh Castle! Thwarted by the high winds earlier, we spent a good part of the day at the castle. Get there before 1 or 2 in the afternoon and you won't have crowds. As it gets later all the late night party revelers start to wake up and go out sight-seeing, and nothing else is open, so the Castle gets very busy.
Early morning flight out of town. Debated taking the bus, but instead called a taxi cab.
In summation. Edinburgh is amazing. The locals are great. The town is very child-friendly. The tourists are all upbeat, positive, and joyous. Edinburgh Hogmanay was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our family, but now we can't wait for the opportunity to go back and do it again.
Hope this helps!