Family Vacations to Scotland

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Scotland – Family Vacation Guide

… but it’s reassuringly familiar in many ways, too, and packed with incredible natural wonders, amazing urban goings-on and some of the biggest, strangest, wilderness spaces in Europe.

There is no other UK national park larger than the Cairngorms – it’s 2,800 square miles in area. The lochs that scatter the country are so unimaginably deep and mysterious they have monster legends. You can sail to remote rocks where only birds are in permanent residence, or visit beautiful islands with world-class hotels, Caribbean-looking white-sand beaches and Michelin-starred restaurants.

And despite all the grandeur, soaring peaks, great glens, fabulous coastline and wilderness, Scotland is easy to get to and even easier to get around.

Why Vacation in Scotland?

  • Easily Reachable

    You can drive from the south to far northeast of Scotland in less than eight hours.

  • Island-Hopping

    The country has nearly 800 islands – only 94 are permanently inhabited.

  • Rare Wildlife

    25% of the UK’s rarest bird and wildlife lives in the Cairngorms National Park.

  • Traditional Sports

    There are fascinating and thrilling Highland Games, from Cowal to Braemar, all summer long.

  • Unique Airport

    Barra Airport is the only one in the world where scheduled planes land on the beach.

  • Stunning Coastline

    Scotland has over 6,000 miles of coastline, and its island beaches are sometimes compared to those of the Bahamas.

  • Family-Friendly Festivals

    From St. Andrew’s Day to T-in the Park, Scotland has hundreds of festivals, large and small, all year long.

Where to Go


The Cairngorms is the UK’s largest national park and covers an area of 2,800 square miles in the Scottish Highlands. Only 16,000 people live in this vast space, mostly in towns and villages. Five of the six highest mountains in Scotland are here, and the landscape includes glaciers, granite tors, rivers and glens – only Canada has more Arctic features.

  • Three of Scotland’s family ski resorts are in the Cairngorms: Glenshee, Aviemore and Lecht 2090.
  • Major water activity centers at Loch Insh and Loch Morlich where you can enjoy Europe’s cleanest lochs and rivers for everything from rafting to canyoning.
  • Some of the UK’s best walking trails range from easy strolls to full-day hikes all over the Cairngorms.
  • Mountain-biking and road-biking are big news here, and you can rent bikes easily.
  • Luxury log cabins, budget hostels, campsites, cozy guesthouses and family hotels are just a few of the accommodation options across the Cairngorms.
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• This is the land of the legendary Loch Ness Monster, dolphin-spotting on the Moray Firth and gateway to gorgeous Kyle of Lochalsh and Skye. Inverness is a great Highland city and a fantastic holiday for kids. Whether you visit to spot porpoise or monsters, the “Capital of the Highlands” offers accommodation options ranging from country house hotels to cozy chalets and park resorts.

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Scotland’s largest city and one of the great Victorians, Glasgow is filled with museums and galleries, acres of parkland, amazing buildings, fantastic sports facilities and the best shopping streets in the country.

  • M & D’s theme park just 20 minutes drive from Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest.
  • Glasgow has the UK’s longest indoor ski-slope at Snow Factor.
  • There are more than 90 parks across the city.
  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum is one of the country’s top three attractions.
  • Glasgow Buchanan Street is the best shopping street in the UK outside London.
  • A good range of value hotel brands and boutique guesthouses mean families can do Glasgow on a budget. But, if you want to splurge, the city also has a wide choice of exceptional 5-star hotels.
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The capital of Scotland, home of the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood House, the Royal Mile and all the country’s national museums, Edinburgh is also one of the prettiest cities in Europe.

  • Edinburgh International Festival is one of the world’s oldest and most popular.
  • Mary King’s Close and Greyfriar’s Churchyard are the place for deliciously spooky Halloween tours.
  • The Old Town and New Town (basically the entire city center) is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Edinburgh has the UK’s biggest New Year street party and kids don’t have to stay up too late to join in the Calton Hill Torchlight Procession.
  • From the Waldorf Astoria to the Sheraton, Edinburgh does high-end hotels. But there are plenty of affordable options too – book well in advance for the Festival.
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Argyll and the Western Isles

Argyll is an enchanting land of enormous forests, dazzling rivers, mountain roads, huge glens and ancient towns and villages. If that isn’t magical enough, head for the Western Isles and set the kids free.

  • This entire area is well stocked with places to stay from luxury resorts to historic inns, camping and park resorts.
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What to Do

  • Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park
    Less than 40 minutes from Glasgow and just over an hour from Edinburgh this is the park packed with history, pretty towns, amazing scenery and tons of activity.
  • Edinburgh Old Town
    The medieval heart of Scotland’s capital is ancient, beautiful and enthralling.
  • Culzean Castle, Ayrshire Coast
    The jewel in National Trust Scotland’s very starry crown, the castle, country park and coast are amazing.
  • Stirling Castle, Stirling
    One of Scotland’s most historic cities and a fantastic, bloodthirsty castle for kids.
  • Riverside Museum, Glasgow
    European Museum of the Year 2013 and the place to see anything from tall ships to Victorian Glasgow streets for free.
  • Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway
    Over 2,800 square miles of wild forest for playing and staying and one, of only four, Dark Sky Parks in the world.
  • Edinburgh Zoo
    The only UK zoo with Giant Pandas is just 20 minutes from Edinburgh city center.
  • Dolphin spotting, Moray Firth
    If you don’t spot monsters in Inverness, you can always see dolphins instead.
  • Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh
    One of Scotland’s most visited experiences is fun, educational and almost entirely for kids.
  • Jacobite steam train, Fort William
    One of the world’s great train journeys from Fort William to Mallaig over the incredible Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Educational Value for Kids

  • Scotland has some of the most remote and unspoiled islands in Europe. Visit for white sands, big skies and total freedom.
  • You can sail from Lewis to St. Kilda during summer.
  • Walking the West Highland Way with older kids is unforgettable.
  • Scotland is covered in ancient castles from fairy tale Inverary and haunted Glamis to dramatic Duart and starry Eilean Donan.
  • Some of the best museums and galleries in the UK are in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
  • Historic Scotland protects and cares for 5,000 years worth of landmarks, monuments and marvels and you can explore them all.
  • There are outdoor activity centers all over Scotland where kids can learn anything from surfing to snowboarding.

Getting Around with Kids in Scotland

Scotland’s extensive road network covers the entire mainland. There are domestic flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to several island airports. From roll-on-roll-off boats to major voyages, the country has regular ferry services in every area. And you can get around by tram, train, bus and underground in the city.

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