Scotland has an amazing wealth of beautiful scenery, history, and culture, so it is no wonder people travel from all over the world to experience some time in our amazing country.
The wild landscapes, large lochs, flowing rivers, countless woodlands and rolling hills all make up one huge outdoor delight for those looking to take the kids away on a family break in Scotland. Children just love Scotland, especially the more rural parts where they can really get into the wild and just…play.
Whatever the age of your child/children, there is something for everyone, covering every interest. If you have little ones that are happy to play on the beach, the coastline is waiting. If you have toddlers and under tens that need more than sand, you will find amusement parks, zoos and play parks. And for those teens that need more brain work, there are museums, galleries and adventure parks dotted all over the country in both towns and rural villages!
Sometimes when planning a holiday the choice can be overwhelming, so here are eight reasons why children love Scotland, and why you should spend your next family holiday here. Hopefully this guide will help you come up with some great Scotland family holiday ideas!
Scotland’s amazing beaches
Scotland has over 6,000 miles of picturesque coastline and if you were to travel around the whole length of it, you would be blown away by the diverse range of beaches, coves and bays you come across. Whilst it is unrealistic to do this with limited holiday time, and children (!), you can be assured that whatever coastal location you choose, there will be beauty found in the local beaches. A day on the beach makes a fun day out for any family, especially when the sun is shining and the temperature is balmy.
Scotland has some of the clearest of waters and the kids will love splashing about with buckets and spades, discovering all the rock pools that are home to all sorts of sea creatures and plants. The east coast of Scotland serves up long stretches of white sandy beaches; Aberdeenshire, in particular, has some of the best. Over to the west and down the Argyllshire coast, you will come across darker sands and rockier terrains providing excellent opportunities for rock pooling and nature spotting – seals are a common sight and can be seen sunning themselves on the rocks regularly!
Further towards the north, in the Highlands, you will find smaller and more remote beaches which you will sometimes get all to yourself, and these are a delightful spot for a picnic or swim. The Scottish Islands are also known for their brilliant beaches – the Isle of Harris, in particular, has waters that appear almost tropical.
Children love sandcastles, dune jumping, water sports and seaside adventure, so if you have the chance to plan a beach break in the UK, make sure you keep the Scottish beaches in mind. Our coastal holiday cottages make it possible to stay right next to some of them!
For more ideas and inspiration, check out our guide to the best beaches in Scotland. These beaches can all offer wonderful days out on the coast.
The wonderful Scottish wildlife
Children love animals. They love watching them, studying their habits, and learning all about them. The countryside is the perfect location for an introduction to Scotland’s wildlife. Highland cows, sea eagles, red deer, pine martens, capercaillies, dolphins, seals and red squirrels are just a handful of the wonderful creatures that you can see on your travels in Scotland. Whether you are out amongst nature, or at a wildlife park, the sighting of Scottish wildlife will always put a smile on your face.
Here are a few animals you can look for when you take the kids to Scotland.
Red deer – This is the largest mammal in Scotland and more common in the rural and remote parts. A friendly beast, they have been known to become quite tame in some remote villages. Over in Torridon, in the Scottish Highlands, you will come across Callum, an old stag, who resides in a tourist car park! He loves to eat carrots, so come prepared!
Red squirrel – An endangered species, this cute little animal lives high up in the trees and likes to keep itself to itself. Many Scots put feeders out to try and give them a safe space to gather nuts for the winter. If you are lucky, you will be able to spot them in wooded areas when out for walks, especially in the winter months as their furry red coats stand out against the snow.
Sea eagles – throughout winter, sea eagles, also known as white-tailed eagles, can be seen in lots of Scottish locations, but there is a higher chance of seeing one in the Highlands (Wester Ross) and on the Inner Hebrides. You will have a high chance on the western Isles like Mull, Skye and Harris, but make sure the kids have a set of binoculars because if one flies by, you won’t want to miss it. They are the largest bird of prey in the UK and have a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres.
Capercaillie – Many haven’t heard of this extraordinary bird, but it is, in fact, the largest of the game bird family and is incredibly secretive. It is a rare thing to see one; in fact, many Scots have never seen one, but it is possible and when it happens, it is really exciting for all. They are found in the pinewoods of northern Scotland, but you have to stay really quiet if you want a chance to spot a Capercaillie. Want to see one? Try the Anagach Woods in Grantown-on-Spey!
Whilst many love getting into the wilderness and looking for creatures themselves, many also like to go to wildlife parks where the animals are more easily seen! The Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig is the perfect example of a smaller-scale wildlife park in Scotland which focuses heavily on family days out. This is where the baby polar bear, Hamish, was born – the first ever born in Scotland – and there is a great driving section which takes you on a wildlife tour making you feel like you are on safari! This would be a lovely way to spend some of your school holidays in Scotland.
These wildlife parks offer the perfect chance to see all of this wildlife up close!
The castles and history that lives within Scotland
Taking the children to a Scottish castle is a great way to keep them entertained for an afternoon or so, unless they are tiny babies – they don’t tend to notice where they are. But there is certainly an age of child that finds castles fascinating! Playing in the grounds of a castle can be a magical experience for a child; they can act-out battle scenes, pretend they are the princess bound to a turret, or the royal kind that rules all! Here are some of our favourite castles in Scotland to take the kids:
- Stirling Castle, Stirling
- Blair Castle and Gardens, Blair Atholl
- Ballindalloch Castle, Moray
- Culzean Castle, Ayrshire
- Dunrobin Castle, Highlands
- Eilean Donan Castle, Highlands
Scottish castles that are open to the public tend to be great places to spend a good chunk of time. Often there is a café where you can buy the family a nice lunch, or just a quick sugar hit with a coffee and a cake. Most castles will have a tour guide who will be able to tell you all about the history of the castle and the people of its past, as well as ghost stories which kids tend to love! Keep an eye out for audio tours too; this sometimes gives the adults a bit of space to enjoy some peace and quiet, and a break from answering questions.
For some ghostly stories and interesting history, take a look at our guide to the haunted castles of Scotland.
Scotland’s beautiful National Parks
Scotland boasts two glorious National Parks: The Cairngorms National Park in the Highlands, and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park further south west. Both are as beautiful as each other but are known for their individual elements.
Cairngorms National Park
You will love this amazing area in the Highlands of Scotland. The park has its own mountain range with 55 Munros, around 60 lochs, three rivers, many historic Scottish villages and lots of wildlife and nature to enjoy. The well-known ski resort of Aviemore continues to be a popular spot for individuals and families who are into snow sports, mountain biking, hill walking and water sports, amongst other outdoor activities.
You will find a hive of businesses here who have set up to take you on all sorts of adventures from tree-top walks to quad biking. Over to the east, you will find the Highland towns of Ballater and Braemar which is where the Queen holidays every summer, making an appearance at the Braemar gathering every year! The kids will love it here as there are endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. Read all about it in our guide to the Cairngorms National Park.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
This national park lies north of Glasgow in the west of Scotland as it is the gateway to Fort William and Argyll and Bute. Its main highlight is Loch Lomond, which has the largest surface area of all the lochs in Scotland. It is a tremendous loch in the centre of the park, and you can explore it by taking a boat tour, kayaking it yourself, renting a speed boat or you may fancy some wild swimming if cold water isn’t an issue!
The local villages dotted along the shores are a nice place to potter around and pick up an ice cream and, for the more energetic, there are plenty of hills to climb. If the kiddies like exploring by foot, take on the Loch Lomond Fairy Trail which takes you to find the local fairies, trolls and other mythical creatures! Read more in our guide to Loch Lomond.
The breathtaking countryside
There is no doubting that the Scottish countryside is an idyllic and picturesque thing to experience and offers up lots of walking routes for all sorts of abilities and interests. Inland Scotland is home to great farmland, woodlands and fields, and it is all there for you to explore. Often the local villages are connected by a huge network of small country roads which you can walk or cycle along, taking in the sights and nature you see on the way. Aberdeenshire and Perthshire are huge farming districts, and the kids will love meeting all the local cows and sheep and, in some cases, llamas! Springtime is the perfect season to get out and about, after all, it’s when all the baby animals are born.
Splashing in puddles, Pooh-sticks over the bridge, hide and seek, and taking nature photos are all things that kids love to do in the countryside. Spotting rabbits, pheasants and woodcock, and badgers is fun also, relating them to characters found in their storybooks. Here are a couple of countryside locations which are great for walking in Scotland:
- Speyside in the Highlands is an example of a magical place to take a family, with a whole host of Highland villages connected by the River Spey.
- The Borders is another family-friendly destination with acres of farmland to explore and animals to meet.
- Moray in Scotland boasts a flat and gentle terrain, again with lots of farmland, where you will find lots of walking routes that are child-friendly.
- Central Perthshire is great for river walks and days by the lochs where picnics and paddling can be enjoyed after waterside adventures.
Holidaying with the dog? If you need some inspiration, check out the best dog walks in Scotland.
Scotland’s great choice of amusement parks
A big part of any holiday is how you plan to entertain the family and one great way to do that is to take them to an amusement holiday park to run about in, blow off some steam, and have the time of their lives. The good thing about attractions like this is that they are fun for the adults too! There are some great adventure parks in Scotland that can offer the perfect day out.
Here are some of our favourites:
These parks offer up a great selection of rides from ferris wheels to bumper cars and also introduce you to the world of obstacle courses and crazy golf. With on-site entertainment all in one place, it is easy to spend a whole day enjoying what they have to offer. There is a good balance of outdoor and indoor fun at all of these parks, so don’t panic if it turns out to be a wet day; there is still lots to do. With cafes, takeaways and hot drink stands too, there is food on the doorstep when the little tummies get hungry. This is a great way to spend your time during the school holidays in Scotland.
The Loch Ness Monster and Scottish mythology
The Loch Ness Monster is Scotland’s greatest mystery. There is no doubt in the fact that there is still a strong 50/50 split between those who believe in the dinosaur-like legend, and those who think it's all a load of nonsense. We at Cottages and Castles like to believe she is real! There have been many documented sightings over the last 200 years, and still to this day you see locals and visitors to the areas posting clips which have been caught on their webcams; you will be able to find some on YouTube. But there has never been full evidence to prove that this magical creature definitely lives below.
Searching for Nessie can be a really exciting activity for the family and there are specific boat tours that can take you down this huge Highland loch, delving into the history of the loch whilst telling tales of all the unusual sightings. In the small Highland village of Drumnadrochit, on the shores of Loch Ness, you will find Nessieland – an educational centre focused around the mythical legend itself. Prices range from £4.00 for a child to £7.00 for an adult.
As well as Loch Ness, there are other incredible lochs to visit throughout Scotland which are peaceful and idyllic places for the family to spend time. Discover some of the best and largest lochs in Scotland to experience.
The different seasons of Scotland
Springtime in Scotland hits around the end of March and lasts until June and is one of the best times of year to visit as it tends to be a bit dryer than the other seasons. It is also the season where the wildlife starts to bloom. Many like to spend their Easter holidays here as there is a wealth of things to do which can entertain all ages, from beach days and countryside walks to road trips and outdoor adventure. If you want to avoid the local pests - midges - then come before the end of May as they tend not to have hatched by then. Keep our Easter cottages in mind for your next Spring break.
Summer is when we get to enjoy longer days and warmer weather, and our pace of life slows down as we have more hours in the day to fit things in. Coming to Scotland during your summer holidays opens up all sorts of opportunities for outdoor adventures amongst beautiful scenery.
The family will love the laid-back attitude that comes with a Scottish summer; no time curfews and no rushing – just simply enjoying time off. For the northern parts of Scotland, you will want to remember your midge repellent! Our cottages for summer could be the perfect base for Scottish explorations.
Autumn is possibly the most beautiful time of year in Scotland as the countryside slowly turns from green to orange covering all tones of yellow in between. It is magical to walk amongst scenery that is tipped with golden leaves and turning bracken, especially when you have dogs as it really encourages you to get outside. It is a nice time of year for river walks too and feeding the ducks will always be a fun way to pass the time. Explore our cottages for October half term and pick the perfect nest egg for the family.
Winter in Scotland runs through December to February and brings the coldest weather of Scotland’s seasons. If you are looking for a white Christmas and winter, then it is safe to assume you will find one in the north of Scotland. Snow sports like skiing, snowboarding and sledging are all things that can be enjoyed in winter, as well as cosy meals in local pubs and warming the toes by an open fire. Come and view some great Christmas cottages today.
Looking for a white Christmas? Find out where to find snow in Scotland.
Stay in a family-friendly holiday cottage in Scotland
We hope these eight reasons have inspired you to come and spend your next family holiday in Scotland. Whether you are coming for a long weekend or a generous amount of time, there is always something to keep you all happy and entertained. Check out our full range of family-friendly cottages which will act as the perfect base for your explorations and adventures.
Need some more inspiration? Take a look at our guide to the best family-friendly holiday homes in Scotland.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.