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Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World is a family-oriented tourist attraction near Edinburgh that’s home to butterfly, reptile, and insect species from around the world.

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Review of Edinburgh Butterfly World

Edinburgh Butterfly World is a fascinating tourist attraction on the southern outskirts of Edinburgh that showcases some rather incredible, beautiful, and very creepy-crawly insects and reptiles from across the globe.

The site has several areas to explore that feature different animal species and during your visit you’ll find interesting talks and hands-on demonstrations where you can get up close and personal with some of the crawling and slithering beasties that call the attraction their home.

This is an attraction that genuinely offers something for all ages, but there are two very good reasons why you should take your kids there.

First, there’s an element of education so they’re guaranteed to come away with some new-found animal knowledge, and second, the enthusiastic staff have a very obvious passion to promote the animals they care for and I guarantee your family will leave with a better understanding of animal conservation.

But there’s more to a visit to Edinburgh Butterfly World than just learning about the scuttling critters that live in the remote corners of the globe.

Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World
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What makes this small attraction rival many bigger zoos and aquariums is that it goes way beyond the usual looking-through-a-window experience that you’re usually offered, because you can actually get up close and personal with the animals thanks to the twice-daily handling sessions.

Have you ever wanted to hold a giant millipede or let an enormous tarantula walk all over you? Well you can at Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World and I can say hand on heart it’s amazing to be able to get so close to these fascinating creatures.

Even if you’re not a fan of insects and reptiles there’s a good chance you will be after you’ve spent some time with them and you’ll be amazed at how gentle they are – especially the spiders.

I’m a bit of an arachnophobe myself but I really enjoyed holding the tarantulas and I can’t think of a better way to cure anyone’s fears than holding one under the supervision of a trained keeper.

It’s not just spiders that feature during these sessions either as they’ve got some gorgeous snakes to hold, but if that’s going a bit too far you can always view them inside their purpose-built enclosures instead.

So whether you’ve got an interest in insects or you’re a lover of lizards, I think Edinburgh Insect and Butterfly World will have something to offer you.

Take a look at my Scottish Tourist Attractions Map for more family-friendly attraction ideas.

Things to do at Edinburgh Butterfly World

There are more activities at this attraction than you’d imagine which is surprising because it looks quite small from the outside. But step inside and you’ll find a tropical jungle of animal life waiting for you.

The indoor butterfly house – which is the world’s longest running – is a tropical paradise that’s chock-full of multi-coloured butterflies (…well what else would be in there?) and it reminded me a lot of the tropical glasshouses at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens.

While it’s nowhere near as big as those enormous buildings it’s just as interesting and you’ll likely find yourself spending more time inside than you were expecting

Speaking of which, if you really want to make the most of Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World you’ll have to slow down and take the time to appreciate what’s on offer.

During my visit I noticed a couple of families zooming through it in under 30 minutes, while more thoughtful families took their time and spent well over an hour there. I know what I’d rather do.

Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World
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Other areas include a Bugs and Beasties section where you can view creepy-crawly insects like tarantulas, stick insects, praying mantis and millipedes, and a Reptile Room where you can see lizards and chameleons, but my top tip is to check out the giant pythons in the snake area.

These pythons are big. And when I say big, I mean BIG. Just wait till you see them at feeding time…

In addition to the standard enclosures there’s a nocturnal area where dimly-lit purpose-built habitats allow visitors to see night-time creatures in their natural surroundings. It’s a genuinely interesting display that you’re unlikely to see anywhere else so hats off to the staff for creating it.

The attraction is really well set-up for children who’ll no doubt be intrigued by the creepy crawlies but adults will find it fascinating as well and I thought the keeper presentations were thoughtfully aimed at adults just as much as the youngsters.

Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World
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In my opinion the feeding demonstrations and handling sessions are the highlight of the attraction and I loved watching the beautiful tarantulas slowly walk across my hands. And I never thought I’d call a spider beautiful. The keeper’s enthusiasm has obviously rubbed off on me.

If you arrive halfway through the day you won’t need to worry about missing one of the morning events as they’re mirrored in the afternoon, and because the entrance ticket lasts all day you can always pop over to Dobbie’s garden centre for a coffee to wait for a later event.

There’s a small gift shop on the site if you want to buy a rubber snake or spider for your kids to play with/scare your partner with, and thanks to the garden centre you’re never far from a decent café.

All in all, I have to say I whole-heartedly recommend this attraction for a family visit and I think the owners deserve credit for the work they’re doing to promote these under-appreciated animals in such a positive light.

The highlights

  • The staff are very knowledgeable and they’ll go out of their way to tell you all about the bugs and beasties they look after.
  • The creepy-crawly animals are fascinating and the enclosures are superb for such a small attraction.
  • The indoor butterfly house is a great place to take younger kids. You’d better have deep pockets for the gift shop on the way out though.

Visiting tips

  • Pop over to Dobbie’s garden centre after you’ve visited Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World. Dobbie’s has a superb café and the prices are reasonable.
  • If you’re looking for a slightly different attraction, Gilmerton Cove is about one mile away.
  • Another attraction where you’ll find lots of insects is Edinburgh Zoo. The 13-mile drive between the attractions will take around 30 minutes depending on traffic.

Directions

Edinburgh Butterfly World is located next to Dobbies Garden Centre in Lasswade, Midlothian. By car, follow the signs to Lasswade and turn off the A772 Gilmerton Road near the Edinburgh City Bypass.

Melville Nursery,
Dobbies Garden World,
Edinburgh,
EH18 1AZ

Click map for directions


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Things to do near Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World

  • Gilmerton Cove. 16 Drum St, Gilmerton, Edinburgh EH17 8QH. 5-minute drive. A subterranean labyrinth of caves and passageways that are believed to be hundreds of years old but have an unknown purpose. Visitors are taken underground on a guided tour that explores the history of Edinburgh and the secrets of the caves.
  • Dalkeith Country Park. Via King’s Gate, Dalkeith EH22 1ST. 6-minute drive. One of the largest country parks in Midlothian. Dalkeith Country Park centres around Dalkeith House (not accessible to the public). There are lots of paths that run through woodland and open fields. The newly-installed Restoration Yard visitor centre includes shops and cafés. A large children’s play park – Fort Douglas – is located alongside the River South Esk.
  • Craigmillar Castle. Craigmillar Castle Rd, Edinburgh EH16 4SY. 11-minute drive. A medieval castle located 4 miles from the city centre that was often used by Scottish royalty (including Mary Queen of Scots). The castle has several gardens, a tower house, a large courtyard and modern conveniences like a shop and toilets. Craigmillar Castle Park surrounds the castle which has a variety of woodland walks through it.
  • National Mining Museum Scotland. Lady Victoria Colliery, Newtongrange, Dalkeith EH22 4QN. 8-minute drive. A colliery museum located in a converted coal mine. A visit allows tourists to experience a replica coal mine on a guided tour, presented by ex-miners who worked at the site.
  • Carberry Tower mansion house. Carberry Tower Estate, Musselburgh EH21 8PY. 12-minute drive. Grand 18th-century country house set in 35 acres of countryside. The house is open both as a hotel and as a restaurant. The grounds are free to visit and paths run to Queen Mary’s Mount where Mary Queen of Scots is said to have rested after the Battle of Pinkie in 1547.

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Butterfly and Insect World
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Scotland travel writer and specialist 360° photographer. Founder of the Out About Scotland travel website and Vartour virtual tours. Follow on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.