A trip to Scotland is always a good idea but is it a good place for kids too? Is a family vacation in Scotland a good idea? Or will the kids get bored with the history and lack of sunshine?
According to Visit Scotland, Scotland really is for kids and I have to say I agree with them – we’ve had loads of amazing trips and found family friendly things everywhere.
From museums to Harry Potter, wildlife to history – Scotland will really open your kids eyes!
So, if you’re wondering about the kinds of things to do in Scotland for kids then read on for some of the epic and fun things to do that all ages will enjoy.
A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a UK travel expert – while I grew up in Scotland, as an adult I now return to visit almost every year – there’s so much to see! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your next trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
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I grew up in Scotland so I know first hand what a great place it is. It’s an amazing country for many different reasons and that’s why we returned year on year with our kids for family vacations in Scotland (and still do now my kids have grown).
I hope you find some great ideas of what you can do in Scotland with kids here and feel free to click around the site as there’s a lot of Scotland content to help you plan your trip!
Tips for booking a family vacation to Scotland
If you’re planning to take your kids to Scotland here are some tips for your trip:
Accommodation: some hotels will have family or adjoining rooms so don’t discount those when looking for places to stay. I definitely prefer vacation rental properties and find they are a good idea in both cities and when exploring the more remote areas of the country.
Booking in advance is also HIGHLY recommended especially if travelling in high season.
Getting Around: Public transport will be fine if you’re just staying in the cities of Edinburgh or Glasgow although costs can mount up for lots of people. Taxis might be worth considering.
You can get around Scotland without driving but for exploring with kids I really recommend hiring a car if you can.
Check DiscoverCars.com for the best deals.
Table of Contents
24 epic things to do in Scotland for kids
If you’re wondering what things to do in Scotland with kids then perhaps this list of 24 ideas will pique your interest!
1. Visit a castle & pretend to be a knight
Older kids can get a feel for the different and sometimes bloody history of this battled land and younger kids will just love to run around pretending to be knights with swords!
Many of the bigger castles such as Edinburgh or Stirling have trails and kid friendly activities to do as well so will keep kids occupied and learning.
2. Take the Harry Potter train over the viaduct
This is not any old train ride! You can actually ride on a steam train from Fort William to Mallaig which takes you over the famous viaduct bridge like the Harry Potter train. No flying cars that I’ve seen though!
The steam train is obviously the big draw here but if you’re on a budget you could also just take a regular train across the viaduct – it’s still as special and runs through amazing scenery.
Scotland has a lot of Harry Potter sites to see as well so if you have fans of the book or film series then a trip to Scotland can be really fulfilling!
3. Go for a swim in a loch
This one might depend on what time of year you arrive in Scotland, but if you are there when the sun shines in the summer then finding a small loch to take a paddle in, like we did at Loch Garten in the Cairngorms, is an unforgettable moment.
Many lochs have water sports too if you’re all a bit more adventurous. You can do all sorts of activities from canoeing to paddle boarding which kids love.
4. Eat deep fried pizzas and mars bars!
For some reason there is a tradition nowadays of deep frying all sorts of food in Scotland! We don’t tend to have the healthiest of foods here and this is another terrible health choice – but a little bit of fun all the same!
You can order deep fried haggis, pizza and even mars bars (a chocolate candy bar like a Milky Way that you get in the US). You’ll find them for sale in traditional fish and chip shops all over the country.
This is my son feeling very pleased with himself after ordering one in Edinburgh – he did regret it after but it has always been a fun memory for him.
5. Watch a Highland Games
Throughout the summer months, from May to the beginning of September, many villages and towns put on traditional Scottish Highland Games events.
You can watch traditional highland dancing, listen to pipe bands and watch as men compete in traditional Scottish events like tossing the caber.
We visited one in Dufftown in the Speyside region and had a great time but they take place all over Scotland, not just in the Highlands.
6. Search for Nessie at Loch Ness
If you go to the highlands then you HAVE to try and spot Nessie, our long time resident monster of Loch Ness.
I’ve never seen her when we’ve been to visit, but that doesn’t mean she’s not there!
You can get boat trips from many different parts of Loch Ness to allow for a really good search. Kids love to keep an eye out and point out what they see! Maybe they’ll be lucky.
Loch Ness is a long narrow loch with trips from many different spots along it. Inverness is the closest city to the loch and it’s easy to get to from there either with public transport or an organised trip.
7. Watch dolphins up close
The reason I tell people to go here is because it’s not only the best place to see dolphins in Scotland but that you can see them daily and without needing to go on a boat trip! Perfect if your kids don’t like boats but still fancy
The place you stand at is next to the convergence of the moray firth and the sea and so is an excellent feeding ground for the dolphins. They can be seen year round, but more regularly in the summer months.
8. Go bird watching
There is a huge variety of birds to see in Scotland, from the Golden Eagle to Puffins. If your child loves nature then they’ll be heaven here as you can see all sorts in Scotland!
We’ve enjoyed lots of boat trips around the coast to see sea birds and also have been to RSPB reserves where we saw ospreys in their native habitat. Great days out to get some fresh air and enjoy the scenery too!
If you’re looking for something close to Edinburgh then check out some of the Forth Boat tours – you can see puffins on some of the islands that they go past (plus seals and other sea birds).
9. Get active and try skiing or snowboarding
In the winter months in Scotland it’s possibly to try out skiing and winter sports in Scotland. There are ski runs at Aviemore in the Cairngorms, at the Nevis Range and even near Glencoe.
You might also be able to do snowboarding or other winter sports too!
You can find out more about the winter sports available here.
10. Visit a whisky distillery and see it being made
Of course kids can’t drink it, but since it’s such an important export of Scotland then I think it’s a great idea to find out about it, its history and how it’s made.
There are LOTS of distilleries in Scotland to visit and learn. Unfortunately not all of them allow kids but a lot do, so it’s worth checking in advance. The ones that do tend to be great at speaking to the kids and including them as well.
11. Watch street performers in Edinburgh
Edinburgh has lots and lots of performers on the Royal Mile whatever time of year you come to explore the city.
If you’re happening to be visiting Scotland with your family in August then don’t forget that the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is on too. It has lots of exciting events going on that are family friendly. It will make Edinburgh really busy, but definitely a time to remember!
12. Visit battle sites
From the Battle of Bannockburn (remember at the end of Braveheart?) where the Scots defeated the English to the Battle of Culloden where, many, many years later, the English defeated the Scots again, there is a wealth of history to be learned and enjoyed in Scotland.
We visited Culloden where there is a really great exhibition there to get your head around the Jacobite history and what went on there. Some of it was a little hard for my youngest to see so do bear that in mind – probably something that is best for older kids and teens visiting Scotland.
13. Take a trip to an island
There are lots and lots of islands in Scotland, each with their own unique character and charm. Kids who enjoy nature and wide open spaces will love them as will those who enjoy boat trips since all but one need to be accessed that way (you can get to the Isle of Skye by bridge).
The scenery is always stunning and you might be lucky to see some dolphins or porpoises on your ferry trip over! Our most recent trip had lots of spotting cards with information on the wildlife you could see – great for kids!
14. Play on the world’s most stunning beaches
Scotland isn’t really a beach destination in the sense that you’ll probably not pack your bikini, but for families it can be a great place.
There really are some amazing beaches, like the one in the picture above that is near Mallaig on the west coast of Scotland.
Kids can play to their hearts content, splashing in the cold water or playing ball games. Or you could spend your time exploring the marine life around and when you need time out, just take a look at the view!
15. Visit the tip of Scotland – John o’Groats
If you’re in the far north of the country, perhaps doing the NC500 or visiting Inverness, then you might want to drive to John o’Groats which is at the tip of Scotland. It’s where many people take epic journeys across the country to the opposite spot in England – Lands End in Cornwall!
You can get your photo taken there with the famous sign posts telling you how far you are from other places in the world.
16. Wild camp under the stars
You can wild camp in Scotland so if you have kids yearning for the great outdoors, why not take a tent and see where you end up?
Watch out for the amazing sky at night which is so clear – if you stay outside of the cities you’ll get a great chance to do some stargazing. Many areas are designated Dark Sky areas like in Dumfries and Galloway in the south – perhaps you’ll see the Milky Way? Or even the Northern Lights if it’s the right time of year.
17. Eat haggis on Burns night
Haggis is Scotland’s main food and has to be tried! It’s actually a really tasty dish, although admittedly doesn’t sound too appetising: it’s made from sheep’s innards, encased in a stomach. Yup, I know it sounds bad!
I urge you to try it, and get your kids to give it a go too. Even if you’re not going to be around for the famous Burns Night in January! It’s excellent with tatties and neeps (potatoes and turnips!) and really yummy.
Vegetarian version are also really good if you can’t manage the meat kind – we’re now vegan and have the Macsween variety that you can get in supermarkets!
18. Dance at a Ceilidh
You’ll have amazing fun dancing at a traditional ceilidh. Most dances can be picked up easily and the organisers will help you out! Kids love to be energetic and this is definitely one way of tiring them out.
If you can’t encourage your kids to take part watching from the side is still fun and you never know, they might join in!
Not all ceilidhs will be family friendly so check before heading along – if you’re in Oban on the west coast then this one is definitely worth checking out!
19. Take a one of a kind canal trip
Canal trips can be fun at the best of times but there’s one unique thing you can do in Scotland with kids and that’s take a trip on the Falkirk Wheel on a canal boat!
The canals are at different levels and to help join them up, engineers came up with this awesome engineering feat! It looks so unique and it’s even more so when you realise it transports the boats!
If you don’t want to go on a boat, you can visit the site for free and learn about how it was built. It’s in Central Scotland and not too far away from Edinburgh or Glasgow. You can even combine it with a visit to the Kelpies.
20. Discover the ghosts on a ghost walk
Edinburgh has a lot of history and it’s told often with ghost walks. While it doesn’t sound kid friendly, there are actually plenty of family orientated ghost walks so if they’re up for it why not give it a go?
Not too intrigued by real ghosts? How about a Harry Potter walk instead?
21. Visit reindeer
You can visit Britain’s only reindeer herd in the Cairngorm mountains. You can visit year round, although be aware that the weather can be nasty in the winter. Check out more here.
22. Read about and visit the world of Greyfriars Bobby
One lovely story about Scotland’s history is about a dog who remained loyal to his owner when he died by staying by his grave. Greyfriars Bobby is this small dog and he is remembered with a small statue in Edinburgh.
You can also visit the Greyfriars kirkyard, where he got his name, nearby and find his grave.
24. See the giant Kelpies
This is a fairly new attraction in Scotland but it’s free to visit and easily accessible from the main cities so perfect for taking kids.
The Kelpies are huge statues but the whole area is a delight for kids as they can let off steam and play at the playground there.
As you can see, a load of things to do with kids in Scotland – where will you start??
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Things to do in Scotland for families – FAQ
Is Scotland good for kids?
Scotland is a great place to visit with kids. The people are friendly and really love children.
Most attractions in Scotland have child friendly aspects such as trails, worksheets and outdoor areas to play. Many museums are free to visit as well.
Is Scotland a cheap place to visit as a family?
Scotland is not a particularly cheap location to visit, like the rest of the UK. If you travel as a family you can do many things to keep cost of a trip to Scotland down.
Using apartments and cottages can make staying as a family cost effective and also gives you the option of eating inside rather than always needing to go to cafes and restaurants.
Renting a car can keep costs of getting around Scotland down especially if you intend to explore the countryside.
There are many free museums in Scotland where kids can learn about much of Scotland’s history.
Can children go to pubs in Scotland?
Many pubs in Scotland are family friendly and will welcome children inside.
If you’re not sure it’s best to ask before you head inside with everyone – that will save you from feeling embarrassed if they aren’t allowed in.
Is Edinburgh good for kids?
Edinburgh is a great city for kids with loads of child friendly attractions like Edinburgh Castle, The Camera Obscura and Edinburgh Zoo. The Old Town has lots of Harry Potter connections for any child who loves the films and books too.
Is Glasgow good for kids?
Glasgow is a great city for kids especially if they like museums as there are loads to enjoy there. There are also plenty of parks and wide open spaces in the city and you’re close to Loch Lomond and the west coast for exploring the islands.
🏴 Scotland Travel FAQ 🏴
Do I need insurance for traveling to Scotland?
YES! I always recommend people take travel insurance when exploring the world!
Check Travel Insurance Master for quote comparisons from different providers.
Do I need a car for visiting Scotland?
YES – If you’re wanting to explore Scotland fully then a car is worthwhile. It will get you to all the best sights and on your own timetable
I recommend DiscoverCars to compare car rental prices in Scotland
How to book accommodation in Scotland?
For hotels I recommend Booking.com
For apartments and cottages check out VRBO
Will my phone work in Scotland?
Perhaps – it depends if you have roaming enabled and beware this can be an expensive way to use your phone.
What to pack for Scotland
Keep yourself dry be prepared for any weather is my motto for Scotland! A rain jacket and comfy shoes are a must.
See my post about what to pack for Scotland
Do I need midge spray for Scotland?
YES – if you’re traveling in the summer months to any of the west coast, highlands, islands or lochs it’s recommended.
Locals swear by Avon’s Skin So Soft!
If you’re sticking to the cities or traveling in winter, early spring or late fall then you likely won’t need it.
What’s the best guidebook for Scotland?
I really like the Lonely Planet Guidebooks
Where to get flights for Scotland
Skyscanner is my first port of call for finding cheap flights to Scotland.
Do I need a visa for Scotland?
Many countries don’t need a visa for visiting Scotland as tourists (USA, Canada, Aus, NZ and Europe) – it’s always best to check first though.
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