15 great summer holiday outdoor activities

aqualining 2

Whatever the age of your children, we suggest some fun summer activities in Scotland’s great outdoors.

School is out for summer and families can now look forward to many weeks of freedom. If you enjoy spending time outdoors, or perhaps you are new to outdoors fun, we have come up with a menu of great ideas for making the most of Scotland’s fantastic countryside playground.

We have split the 15 ideas into activities for families with children of different ages, from toddler to teenager. However, the ideas are not exclusive to this age range so you can dip into all of the activities, depending on your energy levels, desires and aspirations.

5 outdoors ideas for younger children


A modern take on a treasure hunt, families can choose a walk to find a cache. The best way to get into geocaching is to sign up to the Geocaching.com

Look for walks near where you live or where you are going on holiday. Choose something graded “easy” and encourage even the youngest of children to get involved in following the route on the app (loaded on to your mobile phone). It’s fun to find and open up a cache.

Geocachers can remove a “treasure” from the cache if you put something back in and replace the cache for others to find another time. Read more here.

Coastline hikeTrig bagging

There are trigs ­– triangulation pillars ­– dotted across Scotland on hilltops. And they are fun to walk to and keep a record of. Why not set a target of 10 trig point “bags” over the school holidays?

Many thousands of trigs were installed across the country and used by Ordnance Survey in the 1930s in order to map the shape of the UK. They are located on the highest point of the land, so there was a direct line of sight from one to the next.

The mapping took place by setting a theodolite on the top of the pillar and recording angles between pairs of nearby trig points. This was called triangulation.

The outcome of all this was the original OS maps and the National Grid coordinates system. Today, although trigs have mostly fallen into disuse, they still exist and almost 7,000 in the UK, including around 3,500 in Scotland, have become the focus of trig baggers.

Choose trigs on maps that are easy enough for little legs to reach.


A new boutique outdoors festival of “music and merriment” launches this summer in Mugdock Country Park, north of Glasgow. MugStock takes place August 7 to 9 and includes a great line up of bands.

There will also be a dedicated children’s zone with a yurt for arts and crafts activities, workshops and story-telling, as well as nature walks and pond dipping activities.

Canadian canoeing

Learn the basic paddling strokes of two-person Canadian canoes in a sheltered area of Loch Lomond with Can You Experience, close to Balloch. The one-hour taster session is suitable for children aged five-plus. Read a bit more on our experiences here.

LagganSledge004Grass sledging

Thanks to special tracks on the bottom of the sledges, children as young as five and their parents can travel just as fast as snow sledges but on summer grass. There’s even in-built steering and brakes.

Head to Laggan Outdoors Centre in Dumfries & Galloway.

5 outdoors ideas for six to 12-year-olds

Archie bagging

A new classification of mountains has been created called the Archies. The 130 mountains are defined as having a summit of 1000m or more and located on the Scottish mainland.

The so-called Archies have come about after a Scottish runner and walker Paul Fettes dreamt up a charity challenge to raise funds for the Archie Foundation, which supports the development of facilities for children’s hospitals.

Paul, an anaesthetist at a Dundee hospital, led the Archie’s Mountain Challenge. Over 15 days in June a relay team walked, ran, cycled and kayaked a non-stop, man-powered route to all of the newly named Archies.

Now Paul is keen to have the Archies classified and to encourage more people to walk these uniquely “metric-measured” mountains of Scotland. See Archie’s Mountain Challenge.

Paul said: “All mountain classifications in Scotland, such as the Munros and Corbetts, are measured in imperial heights, over 3,000ft and over 2500ft. I think it’s great to have a classification that uses the more modern metric measurement of over 1,000m.”

Mountain biking

There is such a huge choice of mountain biking centres in Scotland, from the biggest, Glentress near Peebles, to numerous small skills tracks, such as Aberfoyle Bike Park, Stirlingshire, and many more in between including new graded family routes at Drumlanrig Castle, near Thornhill, Dumfries & Galloway.

If you are cycling with younger children or less experienced riders choose the green and blue-graded routes. The red routes need more stamina and expertise but a confident 10 to 12-year-old may well beat mum or dad on these more challenging routes!

BA LandyachtingLand yachting

Land yachting combines the grace of sailing with the adrenaline buzz of motor racing. A land yacht looks like a sailing boat on wheels and it whizzes along just a few inches above the ground thanks to the power of the wind.

It requires no previous sailing experience and the basic skills can be mastered within half an hour. Land yachts are suitable for anyone brave enough to try with a maximum weight of 16.5st. Children under 16 must usually be accompanied by an adult.

One of the leading land yachting providers is Blown Away, which offers sessions at West Sands, St Andrews; Lunan Bay, Arbroath; and Belhaven Bay, Dunbar. We have a feature on the sport in the current issue.

Cable wakeboarding

Children can learn to wakeboard at one of two purpose-built cable wakeboarding centres. At FoxLake, Hedderwick Hill Stables, Dunbar, the starting age is six, while at Glasgow Wakepark children should be 10 to give this fun and easy-to-master sport a go. See how we got on here.

FoxLake also has an over-water high ropes course, while Pinkston is the place to try open water swimming and kayaking, too.


A fast growing activity that combines the fun of football with the accuracy of golf has arrived in Scotland. The aim of the game, which is played on nine and 18-hole courses, is to kick the ball into the holes in sequence in the fewest number of shots.

There are only two footgolf courses in Scotland so far but it is predicted that some 30 courses will be opened in the next year. Booking is required at Cowal Golf Club, Dunoon, and at Hilton Park Golf Club in Milngavie, north of Glasgow.

5 outdoors ideas for families with teenagers

tandem bungee jump (1)Tandem bungee

Daredevil couples, two friends or a parent and teenage child can plunge together from a bridge over the River Garry at Killicrankie on a tandem bungee jump.

Highland Fling Bungee pioneered bungee jumping at the UK’s first permanent bridge bungee jump some years ago and now they have introduced the exciting concept of paired bungee jumps.

You’ll plummet towards the water at speeds of up to 50mph on a 40m bungee line. Are you brave enough?


Aqualining is a fun, over-water variation of slack-lining. If you don’t know, a slackline is a cross between a tightrope and a trampoline is used as a way to improve balance, practise tricks and enjoy fun competitions between friends.

In Scotland, the world’s first commercial aqualine is located 10ft above Perthshire’s Calvin Gorge. Participants are first taught how to jump from rocks and waterfalls into deep water pools.

Next, they walk the aqualine but with a security line to hold on to – and then the aim is to go solo. Aqualiners must try to stay on the line for as long as possible and even all the way across the gorge. Try aqualining with Nae Limits.

Human slingshot

The Human Slingshot is brand new and unique to the UK. It has been built and launched by Laggan Outdoor Activity Centre in Dumfries & Galloway countryside.

The Slingshot, which is the creation of the centre’s owner Duncan McConchie and local engineer David Yates, catapults people at speeds of up to 70mph over a launch distance of 80m and from a 20m-high structure.

The slingshot launch-pad sits on a hill with fabulous views and comprises two vertically erected wooden poles and a 130m long bungee sling. Humans are strapped safely into a harness, then pulled 55m backwards before they are catapulted forwards. See Laggan Outdoor

wakesurfingWake surfing

An ingenious new way to surf, wakesurfers follow boats that are fitted with a system that makes a continuous surf wake behind the boat.

This is very different from the traditional form of surfing, which can be tricky and unpredictable due to weather and wave breaks.

Instead, with wakesurfing you learn how to surf quickly and with minimum fuss. The best way to start is with a Learn to Ride package at Loch Lomond Wakeboard.

Cairngorm funicularMountain bike from the top

Join one of two exhilarating guided bike rides at CairnGorm Mountain. You’ll start with a ride on Scotland’s only funicular railway, at the heart of Cairngorms Ski Centre.

Then there are two guided rides to choose from. The Hill Track Descent trip includes a downhill ride from the Middle Station and two descents from the Top Station to the Base Station.

The Ridge to River Descent trip is a thrilling four-hour ride from the Top Station downhill and cross-country into the town of Aviemore.

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