Top 21 things to do with the family in Scotland

There are so many amazing things to do in Scotland’s great outdoors this spring and summer.

With the Easter school holidays almost upon us, and then the summer holidays looming ever closer, parents will be wondering what to do with their children. Here we suggest 21 great things to do with the family this spring and summer.

swim wiht sharks1) Swim with sharks: Basking sharks turn up in Scotland in the summer when the water is (thankfully) a little warmer. A company called Basking Shark Scotland leads under-water tours off the Scottish coastline for divers and confident swimmers.

These exciting swims are aimed at older children (over 16) and adults but there are other opportunities to see basking sharks up close on a boat trip. Another tour more suitable for younger children is a Swim With Seals outing in a calmer lagoon.

Keep an eye on the website, too, for the 2015 Coll of the Sharks festival. The festival focuses on the wonderful marine environment of the west coast island and has plenty to offer children and parents.

weasellling2) Behave like a weasel: Weaselling is a fun activity for all the family and involves wriggling, scrambling and squirming like a weasel. The location is an underground labyrinth of tunnels, voids and tight spaces beneath a jumble of vast boulders that have lain undisturbed since the ice age in the Scottish Highlands. For those that aren’t keen on the idea of caving or being in tight spaces this is not at all scary. “Weasels” frequently pop up into the daylight before setting off to explore the next chamber. See Boots n Paddles

3) Stand up and paddle: Part surfboard, part canoeing, a Stand Up Paddleboard, or SUP, is perfect for adults and children who enjoy being outdoors and messing about on the water.

While you need to get the hang of standing up on the large surfing-style boards, once you have mastered the balancing (and it really isn’t difficult) most people love the mode of transport.

The boards are propelled gently by a single long oar and from your position, standing up above the water, you can see straight down into the loch, river or sea so you have a great view of water-based wildlife. SUPing feels rather surreal to start with but many people become hooked on the gentle watersport.

See Wilderness SUP Co and Wild Diamond (on the Isle of Tiree).

4) Monkey around: Scotland is the perfect place for building aerial forest adventure courses and the newest one to open is Loch Lomond TreeZone.

Zip wires, balance beams, hanging platforms, tight-ropes, scramble nets, white knuckle bridges and gap jumps are all part of the fun of this adventure playground set high in the trees.

Kids need to be aged at least seven and minimum 1.1m tall to have a go. TreeZone opens on the Easter weekend and bookings are being taken now.

308-cliff-jumping-at-calvine5) Jump off a cliff: Yes, really! When your cliff jumping leader asks you if you want to jump you can say yes! The landing will be soft, in deep water, and the experience is thrilling, exciting, safe and fun.

The jumps at a gorge at Calvine in the Highlands start with a learn-the-right-technique leap from a height of around 15ft and then progress to bigger and most daring jumps. It’s important to know how to jump correctly and how to safely land in the water.

The tallest jump is from a pedestal rock platform at 40ft, where the scenery falls all around you towards the water for below. See FreeSpirits.

And how about combining the thrills of cliff jumping with River Tubing at Ace Adventures? River Tubing is travelling downstream on white water in large inflated inner tubes.

6) Forage for wild food: You’ll be amazed by how many wild foods there are for safe consumption in the great outdoors. Join a wild food foraging session and learn to tell what is edible and what is most definitely not.

Events with Galloway Wild Foods usually culminate with an outdoors picnic and cook-up. Check the events page for courses such as Coastal Foraging and Forest and Hedgerow Foraging Walks, as well as Gourmet Foraging Days.

7) Climb to the UK’s highest point: In good weather, the walk on the “tourist” or mountain trail to the top of the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis at 1,344m,  is a fabulous treat for all ages.

You will need to be fairly fit and in poor weather navigation at the top of the mountain is essential. See Walk Highlands for the route description. If I doubt, go with a guided group. See Ben Nevis guides

When the kids go back to school they will have the chance to tell the rest of the class their “top of Britain” holiday news.

Trig point at Ben Nevis

Trig point at Ben Nevis

8) Tick off five trigs: Trig points were once used as the main way to create maps and navigate in Britain. These days they have been outmoded by GPS mapping but thousands of trig points still exist on hill tops across the country.

You could identify five trig points on a map and aim to reach them all over the Easter or summer holidays. Having an aim for walking is the key to enthusiastic outdoors children.

9) See wildlife at dawn: You’ll need to get up super early (before dawn and around 2am) and everyone will need to be quiet for a Dawn Wildlife Canoe Trip on the River Beauly, Inverness-shire.

The transport is Canadian canoes so adults can pair up with youngsters. Look out for an amazing array of wildlife including otters, nesting and feeding birds of prey and deer. See Boots ’n’ Paddles.

10) Visit the world’s third largest whirlpool: The Gulf of Corryvreckan (from the Gaelic Coire Bhreacain, meaning “cauldron of the speckled seas”) is a narrow strait between the islands of Jura and Scarba.

Here, strong Atlantic currents and unusual underwater topography create an intense tidal race in the Corryvreckan channel, which stirs up whirlpools, standing waves and other weird and wonderful surface effects.

The main whirlpool is claimed as the world’s third largest and seeing is truly believing. Boat trips travel to the whirlpool, including Clyde Cruises and Sea.fari Adventures Oban.

11) Picnic high and up north: Ben Hope is the most northerly Munro. It is located in the “Flow Country”, south-east of Loch Hope in Sutherland.

In terms of Munro walks this one is relatively short, at 4.5 miles, yet offers the most amazing rewards in terms of views. On a fine day, why not sit for a while an enjoy a picnic up high (927m) and up north?



12) Go puffin crazy: Puffins bring out the ooohs and ahhhs in adults and kids, especially the young, which are, even more cutely, called pufflings. In celebration of these “clowns of the sea”, a Puffin Fest takes place at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, East Lothian,  from May 15 to 25.

The 10-day puffin festival is packed with lots of families to do including games, quizzes, activities, competitions and puffin-spotting cruises on the Puffin Express. See the Scottish Sea Bird Centre.

13) Party at a castle: The wonderfully romantic Cawdor Castle & Gardens plays host to a carnival style evening as it opens for the summer 2015 season.

On May 10, the castle, near Nairn, will host the UK’s leading carnival street band Orkestra del Sol, which will perform with the dramatic battlements, drawbridge and turrets as a backdrop.

Orkestra del Sol’s music is described as combining the swagger of a Balkan wedding band with the riotous energy of Latin Carnival. The band will be supported by TNT Youth Street Band, a group of young players from three street bands across the north-east of Scotland.

The performance heralds a season of events in the grounds of the castle, including The Wind in the Willows on July 26 and Twelfth Night on August 30.

See Cawdor Castle for tickets.

14) Fly like a bird: Microlight aeroplanes capture the spirit of early powered aviation and give the feeling that you are soaring in the sky like a bird. This activity is thrilling, accessible and just a little bit eccentric.

For daredevils aged over 16 (and sometimes 14) microlighting offers an amazing opportunity to experience the freedom of the skies and enjoy great bird’s-eye views travelling at heights of 1000ft or 2000ft.

Microlight flights are in pairs, with an experienced and qualified pilot and one passenger. See East of Scotland Microlights and Microlight Scotland.

barra power kiting15) Feel the power of kiting: The activity of power kiting starts with straightforward kite flying (with big power kites), then leads to scudding (sliding along sand on the soles of your shoes) and jumps.

The next stage is the adrenaline rush of kite buggying, where a driver sits in the middle of the buggy and accelerates and slows down by applying steering manoeuvres in co-ordination with the flight of the kite.

Skilled drivers can reach speeds of up to around 70mph. Thanks to lots of wind and great beaches, Scotland is a great country in which to give this a go.

Power kites can then be utilised for sports such as kite surfing. This is a sport for older teenagers and adults.

Check out Kite Surf Scotland.



16) Roll down a hill: Will it be an Easter egg that you roll down a hill, or you that rolls down a hill, or you and a friend inside a big inflatable sphere (or zorb) that rolls down a hill?

Maybe you’ll try all these hill rolling activities over the Easter and summer holidays. For Easter egg rolling you could hard boil your own eggs, paint them and find a nearby hill to stage a family egg rolling competition. There’s also an organised Great Eggspectations event at Hopetoun House, South Queensferry.

Hill rolling for kids is fun to do wherever you can find a hill with a gentle and safe gradient. There’s even a Wikihow on how to properly roll down a hill, if you need guidance!

Then there is the ultimate hill roll in an inflatable sphere. Climb inside a sphere with a friend, sibling or parent and experience rolling down a hillside at an amazing speed. See Zorbing Scotland.

wow balls17) Walk on water: It is possible to really walk on water thanks to WoW balls. Simply climb inside a giant inflatable sphere then move off for a roll/walk on the water’s surface. You’ll go backwards and forwards, side to side and, most probably, upside down.

Try this activity with Boots ’n’ Paddles.

18) Swim, jump and scramble the coast: Give coasteering a try in warmer weather. It’s like a coastal version of parkour, or urban free-running, and offers an alternative way to view the shoreline. Coasteering adventurers navigate the shoreline using a combination of swimming, rock climbing, scrambling, sea level traversing and jumping.

See Hebridean Pursuits and Vertical Descents.

Machair flowers Tim Niblett19) Cycle the machair: For a family bike ride with a difference, head to the Hebridean island of Harris. From Northton, on south Harris, around the Atlantic coastline towards Luskentyre beach, you’ll be amazed by the many miles of white Hawaiian-style sands and a blue sea. In summer the scenery is further enhanced with machair carpets of thousands of wild flowers.

20) Become a trail fairy: Scotland’s outstanding mountain biking routes don’t appear by magic, although the trail builders are called trail fairies! These are volunteers who help create the forestry routes and jumps.

Adults and children can join groups such as the Trailfairies at Glentress Forest, near Peebles, for trail-building sessions. Be prepared for some hard graft but you’ll normally be rewarded with cake afterwards.

Gorgeous Llamas (2)21) Trek with llamas: Llamas are not what you would expect to see in the Cairngorms National Park but four family owned llamas form the basis of a delightful countryside trek.

Apparently the climate in the Cairngorms climate is similar to that of the Andes, where llamas would more traditionally be found. Llamas, with their thick coats, do not feel the cold and when it rains, the water just rolls off them. They are also happy on rough grazing – and they love the many thistle tops that Scotland is famed for.

The hands-on experience in the Glenshee area starts with visitors feeding the llamas with a special muesli-style breakfast and learning about the traits, habits and characteristics of the animals. They then help to get the llamas into their halters before setting out on a walking trek that includes leading the llamas.

At the halfway point on the walk, you’ll be treated to organic hot chocolate and home baking. See www.llamatrekscotland.com

Also see 21 things to do in Scotland in 2015.



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One comment on “Top 21 things to do with the family in Scotland
  1. JanM says:

    I jumped of a cliff in Scotland once… landed with my foot on a rock:P Won\’t be doing that again.

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