We’ve wanted to experience Scotland for a while, but the pull of sunshine takes us off on a plane to somewhere sunny on most holidays! With the restrictions of the pandemic still going strong we decided it was a great time to visit Scotland, so we planned 10days of fun to see some of the best Scotland had to offer. Our kids had an absolutely brilliant time!
Our Itinerary for our Scottish Holiday with Kids
Feel free to jump to the sections that you’re interested in, or scroll down to read each section.
Day 1: The journey from Leeds to Aviemore, Scotland
After setting off from our home on Leeds at a little after 4am we crossed the border of Scotland at 6.30am, making it to the fantastic Cairn Lodge services for breakfast bang on 7 (where we changed the kids out of their PJs and let them have a bit of play time in the indoor play area). It was then just under two hours to Killiecrankie Visitor Centre in Pitlochry.
We arrived at Killiecrankie (owned by the National Trust for Scotland so you can use your National Trust membership to park) just after 10am, and spent an hour doing a short walk to Soldier’s leap following the Gruffalo trail. After a quick toilet and ice cream stop we then were refreshed and ready for the final hour’s drive to Aviemore, arriving in time to get some lunch from the main street in the town.
In the afternoon we walked to Craigellachie Nature Reserve; you can easily walk to this from the town and there is a lovely walk around the reservoir or up to the view point. Maps are available in the visiotr centre.BE WARNED the path is not buggy friendly- I think even an-off road would struggle in places. The Visitor Centre advised us we’d be fine with our pushchair and it was a nightmare, with us having to carry it in places up stone steps. Definitely stick to little legs and a carrier.
After a rather jam-packed day we found our accommodation (we rented a lodge at the Aviemore Holiday Park- great location) and settled in. We also had booked an evening ASDA delivery to bring our food for the week so we didn’t have to pack it in the car with us and everything was chilled.
Day 2: Aviemore: A cycle around Rothiemurchus and the MacDonald Resort Play Park
We started the day hiring cycles from In Your Element Bike Hire; including a child’s bike for Jess and a rear seat for James. We booked them the day we arrived- be warned that you had to book in advance. We followed a marked route (orange on this map) that took us on a wonderful family friendly 6 mile route towards Loch an Ellein (the picnic bench below was in front of the visitor centre- a short detour from the route). There was a part uphill (the section after you turn away from the loch) that our five year old struggled with, and ended up pushing her bike in parts, but on the whole it was fairly flat and all off road (or on very quiet roads).
We had originally planned to spend the afternoon doing one of the walks around the Rothiemurchus Estate, but Jess was tired and grumpy and the weather was VERY wet. So instead we decided to enjoy a pub lunch and then head to the MacDonald Resort Play Park. This had been recommended by the visitor centre. There is a good sized playground for children of all ages, and adjacent to this is the Outdoor Discovery Aviemore Centre with activities that you don’t need to pre-book. The grass-sledging was a huge hit, and Jess mustered the strength to climb the hill and sledge down approximately ten thousand times. There was also archery tag and they offered other experiences off-site.
Day 3: Aviemore; Glenmore Forest Park and The Reindeer Herd
We absolutely LOVE forests. They’re so calming, so beautiful and there’s always so much to see. So I was really excited to head to Glenmore Forest Park for a good morning walk and to see Loch Morlich. We’d got the trail map ready and had decided to combine the shorter yellow and white routes rather than a walk around the Loch (Jess was pretty tired and we wanted her to have the energy to see the reindeers in good form). What I don’t think I was expecting was to come across the most beautiful and enormous beach! There was also a beach cafe and watersports, so you really could spend a few hours there! Lots of people had taken their full beach kit and were camped out for the day (despite the rain!).
In the afternoon we went on the only thing that we’d booked before we’d arrived in Scotland; a visit to The Cairgorm Reindeer Herd. It was the most magical of experiences; we booked on a hill trip which involved a short walk from the car park led by the rangers up to where the reindeer were grazing. The reindeer joined us in walking and we loved the opportunity to feed them and take about a million photographs. If there was one thing that I would recommend doing in Scotland, this would be it. Read more about our reindeer visit here, and I’ve also made an instagram reel of the walk that you can watch.
Day 4; Aviemore to Loch Lomond; Tay Forest park and Gold Digging at Highland Safaris
It was sadly time to leave Aviemore, and so we decided on a route to Loch Lomond that would allow us to see more of this beautiful country.
First stop was Tay Forest Park. We stopped off at the Queen’s View Visitor centre, where we could see a brilliant view over Loch Tummel. We then decided to to the Clachan Trail at Allean- a word of warning, we thought we’d be able to walk to the start of the walk from the Visitor Centre- we tried it and couldn’t find a safe way tp do it without walking on the road with our two children. So we opted to drive up the road to the Allean car park to start the walk. It was about 3km, so a good choice for kids even though it does have some uphills. You get great views and there are some nice little bridges that my kids always love to shout at the trolls! It’s not a buggy friendly walk.
From Tay Forest we headed to Highland Safaris and Red Deer Centre. This place was a bit of a surprise because the kids absolutely LOVED it and we could have easily spent hours here! There are loads of activities that you can try, but you don’t have to book the Gold Panning. James (2) didn’t last long trying it before he went running off to play- but Jessica (5) couldn’t get enough of searching for gem stones and took a huge hoard away with her. I took over James’s discarded pan and I must say it was sooooooooooooo addictive!! Absolutely loved it!
The centre has loads of other things to enjoy too. We had a brilliant lunch there and there was a great play area with a sandpit and ride-on tractors. There was a little discovery trial to walk on and obviously the red deer!
Day 5; Luss, Loch Lomond; Boat trip to Inchcailloch Island and the Loch Lomond Faerie Trail
We only booked tickets to the cruise and Faerie trail the day before, but we are so glad we did. We had the most brilliant day! We started with a boat trip from the picturesque village of Luss across to Inchcailloch Island, which is now owned by the National Trust and welcomes visitors daily to enjoy the lovely walks and beach. It was an open ticket to catch a boat back- but after a picnic and a play on the beach we took the next boat back (after about 90 minutes). There were toilets on the island.
Arriving back at Luss, we headed back to the carpark to the start of the Faeirie Trail walk. We collected our packs and off we went. Don’t just expect a woodland walk with some fairy doors around; this walk is absolutely brilliant and TEAMING with fun activities to enjoy! It is a circular walk finishing back in Luss village. You can read more about the Faerie Trail here.
Day 6; Balloch, Loch Lomond; Bird of Prey Centre and Sea Life Aquarium
We decided to have a bit more of a calm day, staying in Balloch itself. There are some nice shops to wander around at Loch Lomond Shores, you can enjoy a stroll at the beautiful Balloch Castle County Park (which we’ve done on a previous visit), and enjoy some great food and drink. There are also Lake cruises available to enjoy.
We started the morning to a visit to the Bird of Prey Centre which is based at Loch Lomond Shores. We got there a little before the flying show, so were able to look at the beautiful birds that included owls, hawks, buzzards and eagles. It was brilliant to see them and we enjoyed the show which gave us the chance to learn more about some of the birds and watch them in flight!
The Sea Life Centre at Balloch is just brilliant. I think it was the first time that James really got excited about seeing sea creatures, and we all loved the otters which are in the first exhibition room. There’s a tunnel that passed under sharks and stingrays, and make sure that you head up right to the top of the centre to the Observation Tower where you get the most fantastic views over Loch Lomond!
Day 7: Conic Hill Walk
It might just be a hill, but for little legs (and not so little ones!), Conic Hill is a great challenge! It takes you on the West Highland Way, and gives absolutely spectacular views of Loch Lomond and beyond. It is a tough climb but there’s plenty of spaces to stop and it’s a relatively short walk! It’s not circular unfortunately, but who cares when you get these views?! (Did I mention the AMAZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZING VIEWS?!)
Back at the bottom of the walk in Balmaha, make sure that you pay a visit to the Oak Tree Inn. It’s a family run pub but is fantastic; great service and awesome food.
Day 8: Loch Lomond to Castle Douglas; A day at Ayr Beach
I’m not sure what we were expecting at Ayr Beach, but it was absolutely BRILLIANT. The play area there is HUGE and has loads of different parts to it- great for both toddlers and adventurers who want to climb. There’s free parking all along the seafront too- so perfect at the end of a busy holiday! The beach is beautiul and sandy. We were blessed with a fabulous sunny afternoon where the children could don their swimsuits and go into the sea. We played football, build a sand fortress and just had a great time!
If you’re staying around Castle Douglas, I can highly recommend Nikos Greek Restaurant – it was absolutely fantastic and the food was amazing. It also had a great children’s menu, we were really lucky in getting a table- so make sure you do book! We also liked the look of Mr Pook’s Kitchen (a little more formal from appearances) which gets great reviews.
Day 9: Dalbeattie Forest and Ernespie Farm
We had a fantastic morning at Dalbeattie. We hired bikes from Gorsebank 7 Stanes bike hire. There’s an off-road track that runs through their farm and pops you right out on the green trail. We bought the family ticket which gave us 2 adult bikes and a choice of bikes/ tag-along or tailer. It was James’ first time in a trailer- and Jess’s first time in a tag-along but they both loved them! The hills weren’t massive on the trail, but at the end of a busy holiday she was more than ready to get a bit of help cycling! It was a beautiful forest and a lovely trail.
The afternoon was super rainy, so we headed to Ernespie Farm. There was a great soft play area which (as the Scottish schools had returned), they had to themselves- which meant James had the go-ahead to escape the under 4 area and go wild! Outside, there were loads of activities to enjoy, including play areas, bouncy cushions, woodland walks and animal feeding.
Day 10: The Journey Home
This was unfortunately the end of our trip in Scotland, and the weather reflected our mood at it coming to an end! There was torrential rain- and we headed back to Yorkshire. There are a number of options to break up the journey home. Our preferred choice is probably stopping at my favourite corner of the world, the Lake District. Pooley Bridge is only 10-15 minutes off the M6 so a worthwhile detour. There’s a number of places to eat, some great local walks… or you can simply relax on the banks of Ullswater and drink in all that beauty. Just incredible.
And that’s it! Our 10 days in Scotland reduced to one blog! Do get in touch if you have any questions. We had a brilliant time and will certainly be back (in fact we’ve booked a trip to Loch Lomond in May so definitely will be back!!). I think if we were to tour again I’d try and get some time in the North west added into our itinerary. Perhaps beyond Loch Ness. But that’s the beauty of having such an incredible country on our doorstep- there is plenty of time in the future to explore and new discoveries to find!
Sending all my love as always xx