Things to do in Scotland with kids: Best family days out in Scotland

A view over Stirling, one of the places to go on a great day out in Scotland
(Image credit: Getty Images/EyeEm)

Days out in Scotland are back on the table for 2021, with lockdown slowly beginning to lift and the restrictions eased. 

Family days out (opens in new tab) are just one of the things that we're all looking forward to during the school summer holidays (opens in new tab), especially as the weather warms up and brighter evenings arrive. So while there's not been much opportunity to explore castles like those in Edinburgh and Stirling or go for a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train this year just yet, they're sure to be first on the list when they're open again.

In the meantime, if you're looking for things to do with kids (opens in new tab) over the next couple of weeks that don't include Zoom games (opens in new tab) or virtual tours (opens in new tab) then be sure to check out any of these nature spots local to you.

Best family days out in Scotland:

1. Loch Ness cruises, Inverness

Who hasn't heard of Nessie? This is the famous Loch Ness where the legendary three-humped monster lurks beneath the surface. Keen adventurers and myth busters will love a day out around the lake and there's no better way to do it than by taking to its waters on a cruise.

Loch Ness by Jacobite offers a range of tours to go on, whether you just want to explore the lake or fit in as many other sites as possible along the way. Some of the other picturesque scenes to discover along the way include Urquhart Castle (pictured), which stands proudly on the northern shore of Loch Ness. This is certainly one of the most bracing days out on Scotland!

Urquhart Castle sitting in front of Loch Ness, one of the family days out to be had in Scotland

Credit: Getty

Under the current government restrictions, Jacobite are not currently running their tours across Loch Ness. In the meantime, check out their photo gallery (opens in new tab) for a brief insight into what's in store when they're open for business again.

Best for: Kids with wild imaginations! FIND OUT MORE ABOUT JACOBITE CRUISES  (opens in new tab)

2. Bowhill Country Estate, Selkirk

Visit this enchanting and secluded estate, surrounded by a beautiful lake and acres of woodlands. Bowhill is one of Scotland's hidden gems and it's definitely one of the most scenic days out to be had in Scotland.

There's plenty of outdoor activities to take part in too, everything from fishing to hiking, horsehiding and even indoor estate tours (out of lockdown, of course). There's even a theatre! It's a fantastic place to go come rain or shine as there's so much for adults and kids to get stuck into.

Bowhill Country Estate is closed to visitors for the moment under the lockdown regulations. However, local residents are allowed to enjoy walks around green spaces as part of their daily exercise. The estate has asked that anyone doing this parks safely in the visitor car park.

Best for: The adventure playground... zip wire included! FIND OUT MORE ABOUT BOWHILL ESTATE (opens in new tab)

3. Almond Valley Museum, Farm and Discovery Centre, West Lothian

For anyone who loves animals of all kinds, Almond Valley's Farm is real treat of a day out. There's a petting farm filled with friendly farm animals keen to introduce themselves to visitors, along with an adventure playground, indoor soft play area and a giant pillow (yes, you heard that right!).

days out in Scotland

Credit: AlmondValleyHeritage/Facebook

Fields, woods and green spaces surround the farm, stretching for almost a mile to the river Almond. Along with the Mill petting farm, the historic Livingston Mill and a number of museum displays and other activity spaces are also on site.

At the moment, the farm is closed under lockdown restrictions in Scotland. A statement on their site reads, 'Another three weeks of closure is a terrible disappointment for all, but is the most responsible course of action to best protect the health of our visitors and our staff.'

Best for: Under 10s. FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ALMOND VALLEY FARM (opens in new tab)

4. Stirling Castle, Stirling

Stirling Castle is the beating heart of all things art, culture and celebrity in Scotland - or at least it was in the 16th century. It's still one of the most cultural days out in Scotland though, that's for sure! Take in the stunning architecture of the Royal Palace and visit the surrounding historic buildings, along with the breathtaking Palace gardens.

For a magical trip into the past, make sure to check out the Palace Vaults and slip into a costume to join the court jesters. Or check out the Regimental Museum, which houses exquisite artifacts from all around the world. Plus if the timing's right, you might just get a visit from some of Stirling's most famous (controversial) residents...

Following the lockdown announcement for mainland Scotland, the castle is closed for the time being. But that doesn't mean the intrigue, mystery and history stops! Check out the castle's blog (opens in new tab) for fascinating reads all about the history of the castle and its infamous residents over the years.

Best for: Dressing up in the castle's fancy dress box FIND OUT MORE ABOUT STIRLING CASTLE  (opens in new tab)

A view of Stirling Castle on top of a hill surrounded by trees, one of the family days out in Scotland for kids

Credit: Getty

5. Dundee Science Centre, Dundee

As one of the most popular museum centres in Scotland, the Dundee Science Centre is also one of the biggest science centres in the UK. It has over 80 hands-on exhibits for an all round sensory experience that kids will love.

They can have a go at making their own fun, wacky sounds with the Music Mayhem exhibition while little ones under 5 can discover the Musical Mystery Bus, an interactive, live show that runs normally through the day.

The Dundee Science Centre is closed currently under lockdown restrictions.

Best for: Interactive experience FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE DUNDEE SCIENCE CENTRE (opens in new tab)

days out in Scotland

Credit: DundeeSciCentre/Facebook

6. Blair Drummond Safari Park, Stirling

We bet you hadn't counted on spotting a tiger on your trip to Scotland! But at the Blair Drummon Safari Park, it's almost guaranteed that you'll come face to face with the Big 5 - along with 350 other rare and exotic animals. Their extensive collection includes zebras, lions, meerkats, elephants and giraffes, so whatever the kids' favourite animal, you're sure to find them roaming around here.

Take a boat trip around Chimp Island, enjoy the stunning sea lion show or take a ride at the fun fair and get your face painted - there's absolutely loads to do! Don't miss the 'Meet the Keeper' talks throughout the day to get even more inspired by these amazing creatures.

The park is also part of the worldwide network of zoos which care for rare species of animals as part of the Endangered Species Breeding Programme. So when you visit the park, you also know you're supporting animal conservation projects in the UK and around the world.

Much like other attractions in Scotland, Blair Drummond Safari Park is closed for now. You can still plan your visit (opens in new tab) though and check out all the animals that are getting ready to greet visitors again, once the park reopens later this year.

Best for: Value FIND OUT MORE ABOUT BLAIR DRUMMOND SAFARI PARK (opens in new tab)

7. Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle is one of the most iconic sites in Scotland. It overlooks the nation's beautiful capital, often lit up at night. Along with Stirling Castle, Edinburgh Castle is home to some of Scotland's most legendary royals who fought ancient battles. It was later used as a prison for enemies of the state, unsurprisingly, considering the mighty size of this fortress.

Download the family-friendly itinerary and let the kids navigate their way through the castle walls with a series of clues.

Edinburgh Castle is closed at the moment, but you can go on a virtual tour (opens in new tab) of the exterior and get to know the workings of the castle before your visit.

Best for: Spectacular views over the city FIND OUT MORE ABOUT EDINBURGH CASTLE (opens in new tab)

8. Deep Sea World, North Queensferry

If you're kids are fascinated with sea life and dream of deep sea diving and underwater exploring, this one must be on your list. As Scotland's National Aquarium there's plenty to see and do. Meet Stella the stingray, enjoy the beautiful range of the tropical fish and get a true ocean-floor experience in the UK's longest underwater tunnel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXqhUtsICNk&feature=emb_title

The aquarium is closed at the moment but will reopen later in the year.

Best for: Shark dives (yes, really!) FIND OUT MORE ABOUT DEEP SEA WORLD (opens in new tab)

9. The Time Capsule Water Park, Lanarkshire

If you're not sure you can quite rely on the Scottish weather, the Time Capsule is a perfect day out come rain or shine! Little (and big) ones can get caught up in the Tornado Tantrum, before riding high on the 10m Storm Chasers and experience Thunder and Lightening and take on all the twists and turns of of the Tsunami Wave Pool. Then you can cool off under the huge tipping bucket on Splashdown Island or take a gentle trip across the Riptide River.

There's also a newly refurbished ice rink and a fitness centre, so truly something for the whole family to enjoy.

The park is closed under lockdown restrictions, but they have said that re-opening dates will be published on the website soon.

Best for: Rainy days FIND OUT ABOUT THE TIME CAPSULE WATER PARK (opens in new tab)

10. The National Museum of Flight, East Lothian

If the thought of flying through the skies thrills your little ones, or even mum and dad, then you must visit this former airfield. Explore the history of aviation from the First World War to the present day, including the chance to get on board Scotland's only Concorde.

days out in Scotland

Credit: NationalMuseumsScotland/Facebook

You will spend hours being entertained with interactive exhibitions, supersonic experiences, historic hangars, an assault course and acres of green grass and fresh air. Plus, under 5s can enter for free!

The museum is currently closed under lockdown restrictions, but will reopen later this year.

Best for: Aviation buffs FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF FLIGHT (opens in new tab)

11. Mabie Farm Park, Dumfries

Mabie's has something for all the family, from donkey rides, to quad bikes, to paddle boating, kids can try new adventures, and explore the Scottish countryside in this beautiful and action-packed farm. Plus, every afternoon, (with expert supervision of course) kids get the chance to feed and handle some of the animals.

They've got all the farm animals you could ever want to see including, Shetland Ponies, Belted Galloways, Welsh Cob Horses, Llamas, Alpaca, as well as Kune Kune Pigs, Vietnamese Pot Bellied Pigs, Goats, Donkeys.

Mabie Farm Park is closed at the moment, but you can still plan your visit by taking a look at all the amazing attractions (opens in new tab) they have on offer.

Best for: Variety of things to do FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MABIE FARM PARK (opens in new tab)

12. Jacobite Steam Train, Scottish Highlands

Fans of Harry Potter will go wild as they imagine they're off to Hogwarts on the Jacobite Steam Train, which passes over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, a location featured in the Harry Potter films.

Described as the greatest railway journey in the world, this 84 mile round trip takes you past a list of impressive extremes, from  the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis! Great for train enthusiasts but also a perfect exploration for the whole family.

There's also a full Cream Tea experience to be had on board (pre-book in advance), with chunky sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea and coffee.

Best for: All the family FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE JACOBITE STEAM TRAIN (opens in new tab)

These are just some of the best days out in Scotland to check out when they open later on this year. Keep your eyes peeled and keyboards at the ready to make that booking!