Last updated on September 28th, 2020
Edinburgh Butterfly World in Midlothian
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.
Category: Animals, Exhibition
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 7 out of 10
About 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 this place 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.
What makes this small attraction rival many bigger zoos and aquariums is that it goes way beyond the usual looking-through-a-window 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 this place and I can say hand on heart it’s a great experience 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 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 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.
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.
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 as 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 as it’s a short walk to the garden centre you’re never far from a decent cafe.
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 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.
- Pop over to Dobbie’s garden centre after you’ve visited Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World. Dobbies has a really good cafe 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.
Address and map
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.
Dobbies Garden World,
Tickets and opening times
Special offer: Click this affiliate link to purchase an Edinburgh City Pass from Viator. You’ll get free entry to 22 tours and attractions – including Edinburgh Butterfly World – over 1, 2 or 3 days.
Note that admission is for a day pass so you can come and go as you please.
Open all year round, seven days a week, except 25th-26th December and 1st January. Hours vary by the season:
Summer opening hours: 9.30am-5.30pm*
Winter opening hours: 10am-5pm*
*Last admission is 30 mins before closing.
Getting there: Car park on-site
Getting around: Disabled access, Easy-access paths, Pushchair access
On-site conveniences: Gift shop, Hot drinks, Snacks, Toilets (additional conveniences at Dobbies garden centre next door)