Search our site

Take the Family › Scotland

Scotland family holidays and breaks

Highland dancing competitionHighland dancing competitionP.Tomkins© VisitScotland/ScottishViewpoint
Aberdeen Aberdeen Pal Tomkins© VisitScotland/ScottishViewpoint
George Square, GlasgowGeorge Square, Glasgow© VisitScotland/ScottishViewpoint
Palace of Holyroodhouse, EdinburghPalace of Holyroodhouse, EdinburghPaul Tomkins© VisitScotland/ScottishViewpoint
Skiing in ScotlandSkiing in ScotlandP Tomkins© VisitScotland/ScottishViewpoint
Capital City Edinburgh
Timezone GMT
Currency British Pound

Today

Overview

Scotland used to be all about the scenery. Yes, it was awesome, world-beating and breathtaking, but if you weren’t interested in the great outdoors, there really wasn’t much to get excited about. These days, whether it’s dog-sledding in the Cairngorms, following castle ghost-trails in Aberdeenshire, climbing through a giant ear canal in a science centre in Dundee or having entrails slung at you at the Edinburgh Dungeons, there’s an incredible array of attractions for those heading here for family breaks or holidays. There’s also history in spades, and genning up on what happened when and where really does enrich your visit.

The whole country, from the southern uplands to the remotest Highlands, has raised its tourism game hugely since those 1970s summer camping holidays when we parents were bitten senseless by midges. And it’s on your doorstep, which means there’s no need to set foot in a plane, with all the toe-curling moments that presents.

Things to do with kids in Scotland

See the six cities, foremost amongst them Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has loads of kids’ events, including theatre, storytelling and magic shows, plus hundreds of jugglers, stiltwalkers and buskers that we challenge your kids not to be intrigued by (and they’re free). The run-up to Christmas in the capital is fun too – the switching on of the lights is followed by a fantastic ice-show and fireworks display.

But it’s not just about the capital. Glasgow is renowned for its terrifically friendly attitude towards kids, and there’s more for them to do than you could possibly fit in one visit. Try the amazing Glasgow Science Centre on Clydeside; the miles-more-fun-than-it-sounds Transport Museum in Kelvin Hall; the mini-museum for kids in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum; the fascinating Victorian Tenement House in Buccleuch Street; and the sweeping historical display that is the People’s Palace and Winter Gardens on Glasgow Green.

Aberdeen, with its stark granite face, yields up such wonders as the cool Satrosphere Science Centre and neighbouring Codonas amusement park. Dundee teaches biology in a uniquely kid-friendly way at Sensation. And Inverness provides a buzzing base from which to go Nessie hunting.

Stirling has a castle and town-gaol experience that are fabulously child-orientated. Nearby, and less than an hour’s drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow, Blair Drummond Safari & Adventure Park is the place to take a boat-trip around an island of chimps, drive through a big-cat enclosure and get a bit closer to the friendlier inhabitants of the park, such as pot-bellied Vietnamese pigs, in the petting zoo.

Aberdeenshire, Peebleshire and Stirling each have Go Ape! treetop adventure courses, in Banchary, Glentress Forest and Aberfoyle.

As for the many beaches that Scotland has to offer, highlights include the white sandy beaches of Nairn in Invernesshire, with gorgeous views across the Moray Firth to the Black Isle – a wonderful local secret. On a sunny day (and yes, there are many), it’s bliss to chill out on its unspoilt and uncrowded central beach and let the kids splash in the superb outdoor pool while you relax with a drink and watch a game of village cricket on the green beside the old Victorian bandstand.

For children of an inquisitive nature, the rock-pools on the beaches at St Andrews provide endless afternoons of poking about. Film buffs might like to note that the sandy stretch next to the pools was where Chariots of Fire was filmed.

Immerse yourself in history with a stroll around Scone Palace just north of Perth in Perthshire. It’s got stacks of facts for grown-ups to wallow in (it was capital of the Pictish kingdom, centre of the Celtic church, the seat of parliaments, and the crowning place of kings), is ideal for buggy-pushers (it’s all on one floor), and has plenty of space in its grounds for kids to run about chasing the peacocks, as well as a great play-park, the great Murray Star Maze in which to lose the children, grazing Highland cattle, plus a smattering of rare breeds.

Get back to nature in Galloway Forest Park, Britain’s biggest forest park – see our feature on the book-town of Wigtown and other Galloway attractions.

Eat

Pleasingly, most good restaurants in Scotland still offer the likes of haggis, tatties and neeps, usually with a modern, very palatable twist. Restaurants around the country – historically rather unwelcoming to children, at least in the larger cities – now positively court your little darlings, with colouring pens and paper, balloons, kids’ menus and puzzlebooks proffered by engaging, switched-on staff who get the kids’ orders out double-quick so embarrassing ‘I’m Hungry’ tantrums are kept to a minimum. The only real exception is certain high-end Edinburgh eateries, which retain a slightly frosty reception to smaller children.

See Dea Birkett’s feature on eating with kids in Edinburgh.

When to go to Scotland

Weather will be your over-riding concern on family holidays in Scotland, but it should by no means deter you, even when it’s adverse – it all depends on what sort of a break you’re after. Spring is the classic time to see Scotland because it’s not too crowded, the weather is warming up and hotel prices haven’t reached their peak. It’s also a great time for anglers as the salmon are in abundance, making their journeys upstream.

In summer expect crowds, but there’s a reason for this – Scotland is at its most gorgeous in July, August and September, especially when the purple heather swathes the country in late August and early September. Prices are at their highest and the rainfall at its lowest, and the famous Edinburgh Festival (see above) kicks in as autumn approaches.

Autumn is great for a short cosy cottage break if you don’t mind some drizzle, and winter is the time to come if you are a keen snow sports enthusiast – Aviemore is superb at this time of year.

Cost

Scotland is a great-value destination for budget family holidays, although several luxury hotels and resorts offer you the opportunity to splurge too.

Related features

Top 15 Family Rail Journeys Around the World
Top 15 Family Rail Journeys Around the World
Georgina scours the globe for the best family adventures by train.
Best Family-Friendly Festivals in 2017
Best Family-Friendly Festivals in 2017
Rhonda looks at old favourites and new offerings on the family-friendly festival scene.
Unusual Places to Stay in the UK with Kids
Unusual Places to Stay in the UK with Kids
Our hand-picked recommendations for Britain’s quirkiest places to stay as a family.
30 Amazing Family Glamping Sites around the UK
30 Amazing Family Glamping Sites around the UK
Rhonda rounds up the best places around the country offering 'camping for softies'...
14 Fabulous Farmstays with Kids Around the UK
14 Fabulous Farmstays with Kids Around the UK
We round up our favourite family holiday venues where you’ll never hear the words: ‘Get off my land!’
Top 10 Places to Learn Survival Skills with Kids
Top 10 Places to Learn Survival Skills with Kids
Georgina roots out the best children's and family bushcraft and survival courses.
20 Family-friendly British Museums You May Not Have Heard Of
20 Family-friendly British Museums You May Not Have Heard Of
Dea Birkett of the charity Kids in Museums inspires with some original days out ideas.
Top 20 Eco-friendly Places to Stay around the UK with Kids
Top 20 Eco-friendly Places to Stay around the UK with Kids
Rhonda rounds up our favourite sustainable and environmentally friendly family holidays and breaks around the UK.
Top 25 Destinations for Spotting Marine Animals with Kids
Top 25 Destinations for Spotting Marine Animals with Kids
Georgina casts her net for the best places to spot whales, dolphins and more.
Top 6 Family Campervan Holidays in the UK
Top 6 Family Campervan Holidays in the UK
Georgina picks out the best places around the country to explore by campervan with kids.
Top 5 No-Bookings Family Campsites Around the UK
Top 5 No-Bookings Family Campsites Around the UK
The best sites that invite you and the kids to just pitch up, without reservations.
10 Cosiest Cottages for UK Winter Breaks with Kids
10 Cosiest Cottages for UK Winter Breaks with Kids
Our favourite child-friendly cottages around the UK, with log-burners, hot tubs and/or indoor swimming pools.
Top 20 Chocolate Museums and Attractions Around the World
Top 20 Chocolate Museums and Attractions Around the World
Rhonda tests out the tastiest sights for chocoholics round the world.
A Family Cruise in the Scottish Highlands and Norwegian Fjords
A Family Cruise in the Scottish Highlands and Norwegian Fjords
Lynette and her crew find out that cruises are not just for the rich.
Family holidays: Wild Camping in Scotland
Family holidays: Wild Camping in Scotland
Andrew and his teenage kids taste the heady freedom of camping on the Isle of Skye
Family breaks: What’s the Story in Balamory?
Family breaks: What’s the Story in Balamory?
Sarah and family see double in Balamory… sorry, Tobermory
A Galloway Family Break: Forest Parks, Kids Bookshops and Football
A Galloway Family Break: Forest Parks, Kids Bookshops and Football
Log cabin life in Scotland's biggest forest park.
A Family Break at Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire
A Family Break at Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire
Suzanne and kids enjoy some five-star family fun at the famous Scottish hotel.

Offer of the Week

Canvas Holidays

Quote TAKEFAMILY58 to get an exclusive 5% off European holiday parks

Poll

What would be highest on your family holiday bucket list, if budget were no issue: :
Skip to Navigation
Skip to Navigation
Loading...