Traveling with kids can be a challenge, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Emmett and I recently flew to Scotland to visit family and do some site-seeing. Though there are number of places I avoided, like fine art museums and ghost tours, you'll find many toddler- and kid-friendly activities in Scotland - both indoor and outdoor.
I wrote this article with a great deal of help from my cousin Sarah. She and her family live in Scotland and are always on the lookout for fun things to do with kids in Scotland. Sarah writes her own blog called The Walkers Abroad, where you'll find beautiful photos, more ideas for things to do in Scotland, and general advice for navigating life with your offspring.
Read on to find fun things to do with young Kids in Scotland.
I found Scotland to be very kid-friendly. Restaurants offer high chairs, booster seats, and kids' menus, people generally are incredibly tolerant of antsy toddlers, and there are abundant green spaces for kids to run out their wiggles.
General tips for getting around Scotland with Kids
Though you can rent a car to travel around Scotland, their public transit system is extensive, and train travel tends to really capture kids' attention. While in Scotland, I took Emmett and Sarah's oldest into downtown Glasgow on the train. G had her own train ticket and she was so proud when she handed it over to the ticket examiner, who drew a smiley face on it.
Most train stations have ramps or lifts to make them wheelchair- and stroller-friendly, though there are some that don't, so be prepared. Taking ferries to the islands is also a totally awesome experience for kids.
Where to Go and What to Do in Scotland with Kids
What kid doesn't love a zoo? Opened in 1913, the Edinburgh Zoo features over 2500 animals and is a fabulous place to spend a day in Edinburgh with kids.
Princes Street Gardens features lots of green space for kids to run around and is a perfect spot for a family picnic. Don't miss the obligatory pictures of Ross Fountain with Edinburgh Castle above. The fountain was born in 1872. When Marvin and I were there in 2018, it was undergoing a complete restoration, and today it gleams in all its glory.
As you wander down the Royal Mile, the kids will enjoy watching a bagpipe performance. Pop in and out of the (very touristy) souvenir shops. You may even catch a parade! (Both times I've been in Edinburgh, I've seen a parade.)
The 2.4-mile roundtrip hill walk up to the top of Arthur's Seat is the perfect way to ensure your kids sleep well at night, and the views from the top are not bad at all.
Walk into a "World of Illusions" at Camera Obscura. This wildly-popular attraction features over 100 interactive attractions and is great for all ages.
Outdoor spaces are always great for kids, so be sure to wander the grounds of the Royal Botanic Garden. The 70-acre garden is located a mile north of the city center and is home to over 13,000 species of flora.
Don't miss the National Museum of Scotland, where kids will particularly enjoy the large stuffed animal collection and the space exhibit. Their science exhibit is really interactive and fun as well, and the kids will be wowed by the stunning views of Edinburgh from the rooftop terrace.
For casual food options, grab sandwiches from Oink, sit down at Cafe on the Mound, and indulge in ice cream from Mary's Milk Bar.
Built in 1752, Pollok House was previously the seat of the Stirling-Maxwell family. Now a part of the National Trust of Scotland, the home sits within the grounds of Pollok Country Park. The house itself is stunning, and the kids will enjoy running around the grounds outside. Outlander fans may even recognize some of the grounds of Pollok House and Pollok Country Park from scenes from Season 2.
With 85 acres of land, plus playgrounds, picnic tables, and skate parks, Kelvingrove Park could not be more perfect for a family outing. Once the kids have had time to play and eat, head to Kelvingrove Museum. Of particular interest for the kids will be the massive collection of taxidermy animals, the enormous pipe organ located in the main hall, and the Ancient Egypt exhibit.
With free admission, the Glasgow Botanic Gardens offers a perfect afternoon of outdoor family fun.
For your kids who love all things with wheels, the Riverside Museum is the perfect spot to pique their interest in vintage and antique vehicles. Set in an ultra-modern building, the museum also features technological collections. The museum is located at the junction of the River Clyde and the smaller River Kelvin, so once you finish inside, you can walk along the rivers for some fresh air.
The Hunterian, the Museum of Glasgow's museum dedicated to William Hunter and oldest museum in Scotland includes a lovely art gallery, an anatomy museum, and several other collections, but of particular interest to kids is the Zoology Museum.
For pizza, grab a pie at Paesanos. Kids will also love Ubiquitous Chip, BiBimBap, and my personal favorite Dumpling Monkey, a counter serve spot for inexpensive Chinese fare. Pop in to Cup Tea Lounge on Renfield Street for afternoon tea, and don't miss Loop and Scoop for churros and ice cream!
In West Dunbartonshire Council Area
Visit the town of Balloch on the south end of Loch Lomond. Tour the Sea Life Aquarium, walk along the water, explore the walled garden, and let the kids roam around the grounds of Balloch Castle. Enjoy a nice breakfast or casual lunch at the Waterhouse Inn. The food is delicious and the ladies there are perfectly lovely.
For a nice afternoon hill walk, climb The Dumpling for splendid views of Loch Lomond below.
Overtoun House, a 19th-century home overlooking the River Clyde, features beautiful grounds and a stunning bridge, perfect for family photos.
Levengrove Park in Dumbarton overlooks the Rivers Leven and Clyde and provides ample fresh air and green space for the kids to gallivant about.
In Argyll and Bute Council Area
In Inveraray, start at Inveraray Castle. The castle was built in the 1400s along Loch Fyne. Still privately-owned by the Campbell family, approximately half the castle is open for tours. The grounds are also beautiful, even on a grey Scottish day. Then go into the town. Pop into the various shops. Don't miss MacIntyre's and the Inveraray Woollen Mill. Then tour Inveraray Jail. The kids will get a paper on which to collect stamps. If they collect all the stamps, they will receive a commemorative pin at the end!
In Isle of Bute, your kids will enjoy running along the beaches, and the whole family will enjoy pizzas, burgers, and sandwiches from Harry Haw’s.
Lochgoilhead on the Cowal Peninsula features lots of places for walks and beautiful scenery.
In Helensburgh, take a stroll along the seafront and visit Grasshopper Toys on W Princes Street and The Toy Shop on W Clyde St. The Wee Kelpie - when it reopens - has the best fish and chips around.
Visit Auchentuillich Farm Shop for the tastiest, freshest ice cream. You may even get a glimpse of some Highland Coos!
In Stirling Council Area
In Stirling, definitely visit Stirling Castle, a royal castle built in the Middle Ages. Then head to the stunning Church of the Holy Rude and walk around the Stirling Old Town Jail.
If time permits, head out to the Wallace Monument and then down to the beautiful Cambuskenneth Abbey. Once the kids have seen the attractions, go over to the Cambuskenneth Play Park to let them run out their wiggles.
In Highland Council Area
One of Emmett's favorite places in Scotland was the rocky beach area along Loch Etive. With gorgeous views of Glen Etive, this is the perfect scenic spot for family photos, as well as the perfect place for the kids to wade in the water and run along the beach area.
Enjoy a beautiful scenic drive or train ride through Glencoe. For delicious meals, visit Clauchaig Inn and Kingshouse Hotel.
All aboard the Jacobite Steam Train for your young Harry Potter fans as you chug along the Glenfinnan Viaduct! Take the train all the way to Mallaig, the quintessential seaside town. You will be your kids' hero when you take them on the one-hour ferry cruise to see birds, seals, dolphins, whales, porpoises, and sharks.
Kinlochleven also offers lovely scenery and walks. The Ice Factor, the National Ice-Climbing Centre, has activities for kids of all ages. Older kids will enjoy the ice-climbing wall and aerial obstacle course. Younger kids can play in the play area. The Ice Factor also has a cafe inside where you can enjoy breakfast items, as well as burgers and small plates.
Traveling with kids can be borderline overwhelming at times, but seeing the smiles on the faces of little ones as they experience "firsts" makes it all worthwhile.
While there are certainly a multitude of other things to do in Scotland, these are some that have been favorites of our kids, and we're sure your kids will enjoy them too.
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