Family-friendly holidays in Scotland

Travel Tips | 1 March 2021

With spring bringing more light, warmth and hope in our lives, we dare to dream more of good things to come. Coming out of hibernation and looking forward to the summer months, some of you might want to stretch your legs and spirits on a trip with your close ones. With that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to write a post for those looking for family-friendly holidays in Scotland. Among the multitude of options we focused on three surefire ones, which have something for everyone and - in our experience - give an opportunity to discover our brilliant wee country during engaging activities.

Castles & palaces - a Scottish speciality

It’s hard not to let your imagination carry you away when your family-friendly holidays in Scotland take you to one of the castles. Centuries old, preserved in their majestic glory yet still spooky at times, they serve as a perfect stage for all the kings and queens, colourful courtiers, rosy-cheeked cooks and all other actors of the past. Let Scottish history blend with the fairy tales of your childhood as you re-discover the curious kid inside you, pacing alongside other young visitors in the old keeps. 

In Stirling explore one of the oldest, largest and most famous castles of all Scotland. In the ancient seat of the Stuarts, both kids and adults will love meeting James V and Mary of Guise: actors costumed in the most authentic period attire, allowing your group an audience in the painstakingly recreated royal chambers. There’s much more to keep everyone engaged, with kids’ guided tours and palace vaults filled with hands-on interactives designed for the wee ones.

Up on the eastern coast, St Andrews Castle gives an insight into a different kind of drama. Even though a keep overlooked local cliffs since at least medieval times, it’s the 16th c. siege of the now ruined castle that makes the imagination run wild. Visitors of all ages can step into tunnels mined by both the attacking forces and the besieged rebels, re-enacting in the theatre of mind the perils of storming and defending the picturesque fortress. If that’s not enough, you can also peer into the castle’s bottle dungeon – one of medieval Britain’s most infamous prisons.

The third family-oriented stronghold has a slightly more cheerful feel. Even though stepped in Scottish history, Scone Palace stands in all its glory among vast pleasure grounds and resembles more a stylish chateau than a dark keep. The residence of Earls of Mansfield is itself a fascinating place to explore, with a kid-oriented trail inviting the younger visitors on a scavenger hunt through the vast chambers and collections of the stately home. But it’s the grounds that will really get you excited on a spring or summer afternoon. From walks among romantic ruins and trees of the Pinetum, through brilliant playgrounds for all ages, to unique tartan-inspired hedge maze shaped like a star – Scone is one of the best stops on a family tour of Scotland.

Family-friendly Holidays in Scotland - Stirling
Family-friendly Holidays in Scotland - Scone

It’s hard not to let your imagination carry you away when your family-friendly holidays in Scotland take you to one of the castles. Centuries old, preserved in their majestic glory yet still spooky at times, they serve as a perfect stage for all the kings and queens, colourful courtiers, rosy-cheeked cooks and all other actors of the past. Let Scottish history blend with the fairy tales of your childhood as you re-discover the curious kid inside you, pacing alongside other young visitors in the old keeps. 

In Stirling explore one of the oldest, largest and most famous castles of all Scotland. In the ancient seat of the Stuarts, both kids and adults will love meeting James V and Mary of Guise: actors costumed in the most authentic period attire, allowing your group an audience in the painstakingly recreated royal chambers. There’s much more to keep everyone engaged, with kids’ guided tours and palace vaults filled with hands-on interactives designed for the wee ones.

Up on the eastern coast, St Andrews Castle gives an insight into a different kind of drama. Even though a keep overlooked local cliffs since at least medieval times, it’s the 16th c. siege of the now ruined castle that makes the imagination run wild. Visitors of all ages can step into tunnels mined by both the attacking forces and the besieged rebels, re-enacting in the theatre of mind the perils of storming and defending the picturesque fortress. If that’s not enough, you can also peer into the castle’s bottle dungeon – one of medieval Britain’s most infamous prisons.

The third family-oriented stronghold has a slightly more cheerful feel. Even though stepped in Scottish history, Scone Palace stands in all its glory among vast pleasure grounds and resembles more a stylish chateau than a dark keep. The residence of Earls of Mansfield is itself a fascinating place to explore, with a kid-oriented trail inviting the younger visitors on a scavenger hunt through the vast chambers and collections of the stately home. But it’s the grounds that will really get you excited on a spring or summer afternoon. From walks among romantic ruins and trees of the Pinetum, through brilliant playgrounds for all ages, to unique tartan-inspired hedge maze shaped like a star – Scone is one of the best stops on a family tour of Scotland.

Family-friendly Holidays in Scotland - Stirling
Family-friendly Holidays in Scotland - Scone

The great Scottish outdoors

The thing is: there are too many amazing natural spots in Scotland to write about them all. Books and webpages are filled with lists of “top 10” and “must-see” outdoor locations, but the truth is, a family-friendly holiday in Scotland can bring you closer to nature almost anywhere you go. Whether you’re in the Borders, Galloway or Loch Lomond National Park, you can find brilliant walks and curious spots, together with peace and rest that only a slower pace can bring. There are some places that give you stunning views, some that will set the scene for folk tales and local clan stories, but across the country you can also find exceptional spots that add a certain X factor. 

Family-friendly Holidays in Scotland - Deer
Family-friendly Holidays in Scotland - Loch Lomond
Family-friendly Holidays in Scotland - Crail

One of these is the Rothiemurchus Estate near Aviemore, right in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. Surrounded by high mountain peaks, with blue-green lochs scattered among the trees, this special Highland place has activities galore: quad treks and clay shooting, pony rides and river fishing, wildlife watching & photography, plus close encounters with deer and other animals. A great stop on a round-the-country tour or a mountain base for one-day tours exploring the Highlands. 

There is no one best way to travel to Scotland on a longer holiday, but sometimes you can beat the crowds by doing something different. Ever heard of Scotland’s hiking trails? Some of them – like the legendary West Highland Way – might be an active challenge to take up with teenage kids, but many of them might be split into smaller parts and comfortably tackled with travellers of all ages. One of them is the Fife Coastal Path around the eastern shore north of Edinburgh. You can follow it along the rugged cliffs and rolling hills of the ancient Kingdom of Fife, past the engineering wonder of the Forth Bridge, through atmospheric fishing villages like Crail and Anstruther, up to the cultural and golfing hub of St Andrews and beyond. Changing scenery and accessible path can make it a unique trip for the whole family (not too mention some exceptional fish and chips along the way)! 

Easiest way to put nature in your itinerary is try to find a walk or cycle whenever you earmark a potential stop – the Walkhighlands page will be an invaluable resource for this, and there’s plenty of ways to enjoy Scotland on two wheels as a family.

Finding Hogwarts and Harry Potter

Another way to get younger travellers excited about family-friendly holidays in Scotland is to give your tour a theme they can relate to. For some kids castles, knights and Vikings will be encouragement enough, some will be excited by the fantastic monsters like kelpies, selkies and Nessie, while others will eagerly jump on a chance to follow in the footsteps of Disney’s Princess Merida. Ideas for all of them spring to our minds instantly, but we can’t write this post without mentioning a certain boy wizard. 

Everybody knows that Hogwarts is a Highland castle, set against an amazing mountain scenery in the movies. You won’t be surprised to learn that many of the most memorable scenes of the Harry Potter saga were filmed in Scotland and touring the film locations is a great theme for a family trip. It takes a bit of effort to do it right. For instance, it’s easy to find out how to get to Glenfinnan Viaduct, but catching the Hogwarts Express on it requires some know-how. Apart from movie locations, there’s the wealth of stories, legends and inspiration behind J.K. Rowling’s writing, much of which was done in picturesque Edinburgh. Researching all the little details can be a fun pre-tour activity for the family, but if it becomes a challenge you can always rely on us. 

Our Harry Potter tour starts with a sorting quiz, assigning all members of your Potter Party into Hogwarts Houses. You need to know if you’re a brave Griffindor, clever Ravenclaw, kind Hufflepuff or cunning Slytherin, as throughout the two day tour we’ll be having a location-based trivia competition. Depending on how big a fan you are, we’ll test your knowledge of the Wizarding World and give you a chance to win the coveted Tour House Cup (or at least its weight in Chocolate Frogs)! It’s just one of many ways how a good idea can turn Scotland into a perfect family holiday destination.