Ultimate Guide to a Family Adventure in Scotland - Part 1

Discovering Scotland with Kids: A Complete Itinerary

Scotland, one of the four countries forming the United Kingdom, is brimming with dramatic landscapes that take your breath away. It’s a land of rolling hills, deep valleys, countless lakes, rugged coastlines, and warm, friendly people.

So, how did we end up traveling to Scotland?

After a unique journey through the Spanish and French Pyrenees, filled with numerous hiking trails and stunning natural scenery, we were looking for a destination that would match the intensity of that experience. For years, I had read fascinating travel stories about the extraordinary Scotland, and after further research, it was unanimously chosen as our next adventure.

A trip to Scotland can be perfectly combined with a visit to London. From London, you can easily reach Scotland by domestic flight or train. Join us as we share our travel story from London to Scotland!

Travel Tips: Making the Most of Your Family Trip to Scotland

Flights to Scotland: We booked our EasyJet tickets to Manchester about 11 months in advance for a two-week stay. You can also reach Manchester with El Al flights. Keep in mind that it’s approximately a 4-hour journey to Southern Scotland from there. Another option is to take a connecting flight to Edinburgh, Glasgow, or even Inverness.

Accommodation: Our trip was divided into the following stays:

Car rental: An excellent search engine is economy car rentals. They also work with smaller rental companies that sometimes offer lower costs in the market. There is an option to cancel up to 48 hours before picking up the car.

Some Interesting Facts You Might Not Know About Scotland

  • The highest mountain in Britain is called Ben Nevis, located in Scotland, standing at 1,343 meters tall.
  • Scotland boasts 790 islands, of which 130 are inhabited.
  • There are 562 lakes in Scotland.
  • The bagpipes are a quintessential symbol of Scotland, with their use dating back to the 16th century.
  • Scotland’s national dish is haggis, known for its unique composition of sheep’s offal stuffed in a stomach and its challenging digestion.
  • Whisky, strongly associated with Scotland, actually originated in Ireland in the 15th century.
  • Scotland has the highest percentage of redheads in the world!

Let's get started on our adventure!

A Vacation That Began with a Serious Snag

Monday arrived, and we were at Terminal 1. Upon arrival, we were informed that our flight was delayed from 9 PM to 10:30 PM. Fortunately, we had booked the car and hotel at the airport for the next morning. At 10:30 PM, we reached the gate only to discover that our flight was canceled! It turned out that the EasyJet plane had made an emergency landing in Bulgaria due to a medical situation. It would take time before it could return, and the exact time was unknown. Once it arrived, there was a regulation requiring a 13-hour rest period for the crew. I can’t begin to describe our shock and dismay. A car had been reserved, a series of hotel bookings made, and now a day of our trip was lost! Meanwhile, everyone was transported to Terminal 3 to collect their luggage and then distributed to hotels. On the way to the hotel, we were notified that the flight was rescheduled for 5 PM the next day.

We went to sleep after 3:00 AM, having received a room in a hotel that was unprepared for the number of passengers and after sending emails to the hotels and to Avis.

The next day, we returned to Terminal 1, went through everything again, and were at the gate by 5 PM, only to learn that the crew had not arrived and was stuck in traffic. It was only at 6 PM that the crew arrived and began preparing the plane. We boarded at 7 PM and finally took off at 8 PM. It was a frustrating and disheartening day.

Day 1: Edinburgh: The Capital of Scotland and the Fringe Festival. Trying to Fit a Day and a Half into Half a Day.

Planning Your Visit to Edinburgh with Children

We woke up early and immediately went to pick up our rental car, hoping that Avis hadn’t already given it to someone else. We set off towards Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, trying to figure out how to squeeze a day and a half’s worth of activities into just half a day :-). After a drive with a few stops, we arrived in Edinburgh. We quickly got organized and set out to make the most of the remaining half day. The children were already tired from the past two days’ ordeal, but we endeavored to enjoy as much as possible, putting the EasyJet incident behind us and finally starting our trip. The Fringe Festival left us wanting more! Everything was so vibrant, with a fantastic atmosphere and really cool performances. It’s highly recommended to visit Edinburgh during this period.

In Edinburgh, we chose to stay at the Cairn Hotel & Apartments. This hotel is relatively close to the city center and offers affordable rates. It provides both apartments and rooms, catering to various needs.

Top Picks for Accommodation in Edinburgh

Edinburgh for Families: Top Attractions and Activities

♥ Embark on a magical journey through the Harry Potter Trail in Edinburgh. Discover the enchanting city that inspired the famous book series, and visit the numerous real-life locations that are featured in the magical world of Harry Potter.

♥ Explore the Camera Obscura, an intriguing six-story museum dedicated to the wonder of optical illusions. This captivating destination offers a variety of visual experiences that are perfect for children and adults alike, inviting visitors of all ages to immerse themselves in a world of perception and illusion.

♥ Immerse yourself in the world of whisky at the Scotch Whisky Experience, boasting the largest collection of whisky globally. This unique museum offers an enlightening tour complete with detailed explanations and delightful tastings. It’s a splendid journey into the heart of whisky culture, providing an unforgettable experience in the homeland of this cherished spirit.

♥ Step into the enchanting world of Edinburgh Zoo, a haven for over 1,000 rare and exotic animals. Nestled just a ten-minute drive from the heart of Edinburgh, this zoo offers an exciting adventure for families and children. Discover a diverse array of wildlife in an environment that’s both educational and fun, making it a must-visit for anyone exploring Edinburgh with kids.

♥ Experience the grandeur of Edinburgh Castle, an iconic landmark perched high above the city. This historic fortress offers breathtaking panoramic views of Edinburgh, allowing visitors to gaze out over the city’s unique skyline. A visit to Edinburgh Castle is not just a journey through Scotland’s rich history, but also an opportunity to enjoy some of the most spectacular vistas the city has to offer.

Day 2 in Scotland: Exploring Salmon Trails, Queen's Viewpoint, and Nature's Wonders

Discovering Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre and the Fascinating Salmon Ladder

In the early morning, we found ourselves contemplating an extended stay in Edinburgh to make up for the lost time. However, we ultimately chose to adhere to our initial itinerary and proceeded towards Aviemore.

En route, we paused in the delightful town of Pitlochry, drawn to its renowned electric dam and the unique salmon ladder. Constructed in the 1940s, the local electricity company established a hydroelectric plant and a dam along the River Tummel, known for its abundance of salmon. Mindful of the salmon’s natural lifecycle, an ingenious fish ladder was installed, assisting these majestic fish in navigating past the dam’s obstruction.

Exploring Pitlochry: Top Outdoor Activities and Adventures

The Pitlochry region offers a plethora of opportunities for an exhilarating and active holiday experience.

♥ Embark on an exciting rafting adventure with Nae Limits, welcoming participants as young as six years old.

♥ Experience the thrill of more intense rafting with Splash White Water Rafting, designed for adventurers aged 8 and above.

♥ Dive into the excitement of tubing and canyoning for an exceptionally fun and adventurous experience!

Captivating Scenery at Queen's View: A Must-Visit Panoramic Spot

Our journey led us to the enchanting Queen’s View, a scenic detour off the main road. Winding through a narrow, forest-lined path beside the River Tummel, we arrived at a spectacular vantage point overlooking Loch Tummel. This breathtaking panorama, a favorite of Queen Victoria, offers a captivating view of the picturesque Loch Tummel.

Discovering the Charm of Bruar Falls: A Scenic Trail Experience

Our adventure then led us to the serene Bruar Falls, marking a delightful return to nature. This picturesque and gentle circular trail meanders through a lush forest alongside the river, leading to two charming bridges and cascading waterfalls, followed by a descent along the opposite bank. An experience not to be missed for nature enthusiasts

At this point, the children were very eager to settle into the hotel, and evening was approaching (although it stayed light until late), so we headed straight to the hotel where we would stay for the next three nights, Coylumbridge Hotel. Highly recommended for those with children: it has an indoor pool, a cool yard with facilities, a playground for younger kids, a trampoline park (extra charge), bicycle rental, etc. We really enjoyed our stay. The hotel is very suitable for those who want to spend a few days in Cairngorms National Park.

Top Recommended Accommodations in Aviemore and Cairngorms National Park

Day 3: Exploring Loch Eilein, RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, and a Whisky Distillery Tour

Discovering the Natural Beauty of Loch Eilein: A Peaceful Family Excursion

Finally, no need to pack for a new hotel, we can just relax and explore!

We embarked on a bike ride directly from the hotel towards Loch Eilein. We circled the enchanting lake, stopping at various beautiful spots along the way to enjoy the scenery. Of course, this can also be done on foot, as there is convenient parking near the lake.

RZSS Highland Wildlife Park: A Family Day Out Among Scotland's Wildlife

After returning to the hotel, I took some time to prepare for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, the kids made the most of their time, jumping around in the trampoline park near the hotel and playing with the owner’s friendly Cocker Spaniel dogs.

Next, we headed to the RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, a haven for a collection of animals that once roamed freely in this part of Scotland. We saw deer, white horses, brown bears, wolves, wildcats, and even bisons that naturally grazed in Scotland in the past. Today, they can be safely observed from the comfort of our car windows while driving through the park. The safari section, where we drove our vehicle, was particularly exciting for the family. However, we found the zoo area less impressive.

Discovering Dalwhinnie Distillery: A Family-Friendly Whisky Experience

From there, we continued on to the Dalwhinnie Distillery. Unlike many other distilleries, Dalwhinnie welcomes children on their tours. While we didn’t have time for the full tour, we did indulge in a delightful tasting session.

Day 4: Experiencing Scotland's Thrilling Zip Line Adventure

Waking up with excitement, we were ready for one of the coolest attractions of our trip! Today’s adventure was at the Zip Trek Adventure Park. For those unfamiliar, it’s a two-and-a-half-hour thrill ride through the trees. It’s important to note that you need to book in advance, especially during July and August – at least a week or two beforehand. Upon arrival, we were equipped with all the necessary gear and set off on a hike to the first station. The uphill walk was quite a trek but rewarded us with stunning views. At the first station, our guide explained how to connect and slide, and we had a dry run practice. The groups are small, with a maximum of 12 people, ensuring a very professional experience. Our eight-year-old, initially hesitant to slide, turned out to be a real hero! The zip line segments, soaring over a charming valley with a flowing river, were breathtaking! We quickly got the hang of it and had loads of fun. Unfortunately, we couldn’t complete the last and longest segment due to strong winds, which wasn’t safe. From the last station, we walked back. This attraction was recorded as one of the best in our trip.

After a brief rest, we decided to visit the open-air Highland Museum. On our way to the museum, we passed through the sculpture trail near Loch Insh. It was a very charming route. While I wouldn’t make a special trip just for it, if you’re passing by, I highly recommend a visit. It’s a pleasant walk that takes no more than an hour.

Experiencing Traditional Scottish Life at the Highland Folk Museum: A Glimpse into the Past

Continuing to the open-air museum, upon entry, visitors are encouraged to make a donation or purchase a guide. The expansive site covers over a kilometer and is divided into two sections: the 1900s area and the 1700s area. The children were particularly fascinated by the old-fashioned schoolhouse. Inside, a teacher dressed in period attire gave them a writing task using ink pens. The schoolyard featured traditional games from the past. Visitors can explore houses from 100-200 years ago, wander around a farmyard, buy sweets from an old-fashioned candy store, see what a post office looked like back then, and much more.

Day 5: Arriving at the Isle of Skye – Scotland's Breathtaking Island Getaway

We had a long drive ahead to the Isle of Skye, setting out full of excitement for the real adventure of our trip. For us, the Aviemore area was just a prelude to the more extraordinary part of our journey. After extensive reading before the trip, I decided to skip visiting Loch Ness. The list of amazing places in Scotland is endless, and Loch Ness didn’t strike me as a must-see. Therefore, we took what seemed like a shorter route to Skye that bypassed Loch Ness. I had marked two refreshing stops along the way: Rogie Falls and Eilean Donan Castle.

Enchanting Nature Walk: Discovering the Beauty of Rogie Falls Trail

he first stop was Rogie Falls. We embarked on a delightful circular trail through a stunning forest, adorned with blossoms and mushrooms. Midway, the path joined a river with many cascades, leading us to the impressive Rogie Falls. We thoroughly enjoyed this pleasant break on our journey.

Exploring Eilean Donan Castle: A Majestic Journey into Scotland's Historic Landscapes

Next, we headed to Eilean Donan Castle. The journey started off a bit mundane but as we neared the Isle of Skye, the scenery became much more interesting and beautiful. We don’t have a particular interest in castles, but from my reading, I understood that if you’re going to visit one, Eilean Donan is a must. Founded in the 13th century, the castle’s location is breathtaking, with stunning views and reflections in the water, creating a very special atmosphere. Highly recommended.

After our visit to the castle, we continued towards the Skye Bridge and crossed onto the island. As we entered the Isle of Skye, the landscapes gradually became more dramatic, creating a series of awe-inspiring moments. We stopped at several points for photos, with a slightly longer break at the Sligachan Old Bridge. Visible from the road, this bridge is set amidst the Cullin Hills, offering a stunning view. Beneath the bridge flows a stream with pebbles.

As it was getting late, we headed straight to our hotel in Uig, a town deeply nestled on the island. We decided to start exploring Skye in earnest the next morning. Our accommodation for the Skye visit was the Uig Hotel.

Top Recommended Accommodations on the Isle of Skye: Staying in Skye's Best

In the Next Chapter: Our Experiences on the Isle of Skye and in Glen Coe.

Scotland Family Adventure: Travel with Kids – Part 2

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