Last updated on February 16th, 2024 at 11:00 am
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Whether you’re based in the UK and keen to lower your carbon footprint with less air travel, or are simply keen for adventure and time spent outdoors, Scotland with kids is a fantastic choice. It ticks multiple boxes when it comes to breathtaking scenery and new experiences for the whole family.
Read on for your Scotland road trip with kids itinerary…
How To Get To Scotland With Kids
There are so many ways to explore Scotland. The North Coast 500 (NC 500) has become extremely popular in recent years and that’s certainly one option. Another is to patch together a multi-based stay and explore several pockets of Scotland during your family vacation to Scotland.
We opted for the latter, due to the fact we were driving all the way from the southeast. We anticipated we’d probably feel like we’d done enough miles already, without going right to the very top of the country!
If you’d rather not drive the whole way, and you’re after even more of an adventure, consider taking the Caledonian Sleeper. It leaves from London Euston and stops at several different locations in the Highlands. It’s a fun way to get to Scotland with kids!
For rail journeys in Europe, arrange all your travel through RailEurope.
If you’d rather travel by train to Scotland and then keen on touring Scotland by car, we recommend Rentalcars.com
If you’re flying in from another country we recommend WayAway for the best deals on airline tickets. With the WayAway Plus membership plan, you also receive cashback on flights, accommodation, car rentals, tours, and more.
On our road trip to Scotland from London, we broke the journey up with our first afternoon and night spent in the Lake District. If you’re coming from a similar location to ours, this makes a brilliant stopover.
For the kids to let off some steam, check out Brockhole on Lake Windermere. It has boat hire, tree-top adventure and nets, an adventure park and more. A great lunchtime pitstop.
How long Was Our Scotland family trip?
We put together a ’10 days in Scotland’ itinerary for our family trip to Scotland. 2 weeks in Scotland would be even better. A Scotland itinerary of 7 days might feel a bit rushed, but of course, it depends on where you are travelling from, how much time you have and how much you want to see.
A 10 day Scotland road trip felt doable, although we would have liked a little longer in some locations.
TIP: For when to visit Scotland, take a look at What is the Best Time to Visit Scotland: Planning Your Trip.
What to see in Scotland in 10 days
The map below shows the route we took on our family vacation in Scotland:
Oban Via Glasgow
Our first overnight stay on our Scotland trip with kids was in Oban, on the west coast of Scotland. Setting off from the Lake District in the morning, we stopped for coffee and a leg stretch in Glasgow.
If you do the same, make sure you check out the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It’s a perfect stop if you’re in Scotland with kids as it has loads of family activities.
If you’re in Scotland with kids, a walking tour and treasure hunt is a fantastic option too:
Keep an eye out for some of the city’s creative street art and the fish and chip shops selling deep-fried Mars bars. We bought one and had a bite each – that was enough!
In Oban things to do aren’t in short supply. Oban makes a perfect base for seeing the isles of Mull, Iona and Staffa. However, it’s undoubtedly a location worth seeing in its own right too. Its harbour is at the centre, with the colourful town surrounding it.
Take a Boat Trip
We took a short one-hour boat trip out from the harbour to see the seals and salmon farm with Allan’s wildlife boat trips – perfect if you have only a short time to spare. It’s a particularly fun thing to do if you’re in Scotland with kids. The large number of trawlers is an indication that you can find some seriously good seafood here.
Seafood in Oban
The Oban Seafood Hut offers packed-to-the-brim crab and prawn sandwiches as well as fresh oysters, mussels and scallops you can take home for dinner. Yum.
If you’re a big fan of seafood, and you want to see more of Oban’s hidden gems, make sure you book on to this tour:
Seafood not your thing? Try a Tattie Scone (a grilled potato scone in a roll, served with ketchup if you want) from Food from Argyll next door. The kids loved them!
Where to Stay in Oban With Kids:
The Farmhouse (traditional Scottish home near Oban) – available via Airbnb
A large, comfortable home with amazing views and a conservatory that’s perfect for relaxing with a glass of wine and a book. Perfect for animal lovers and those visiting Scotland with kids. Children can help feed the sheep, chickens, ducks and the pet rabbit in the garden.
Mull, Iona and Staffa
Oban makes a good base to visit the islands of Mull, Iona and Staffa (the ferry terminal is in the town centre) on your Scotland family vacation. We were in two minds about a trip to Mull as we already had Skye on our itinerary. I’d read comments comparing the two islands and advice seemed conflicted about which to visit or whether it was worth seeing both.
In the end, we decided to go for it as we thought the ferry experience would be good fun and we were intrigued by the idea of the tiny islands of Iona and Staffa.
Unfortunately, we left it too late to book a ticket to take our car over, meaning we had to rely on a bus to get us across Mull (from Craignure to Fionnaport) in order to travel on to Iona. This meant we didn’t have time to fit Staffa in too (famous for its resident puffins and the basalt columns of Fingals cave).
If you want to take your car across (and I’d recommend you do – it’ll give you so much more flexibility) then make sure you book at least a month ahead. Book ferry tickets with Calmac here.
If you’d rather avoid the stress and book on to a tour, there’s a day tour which covers the isles of Mull and Iona:
You’ll need to leave your car at Fionnaport when taking the ferry from Mull to Iona (only residents are permitted to take their cars across). However, Iona’s only three miles long and the main attraction (the Abbey built by St Columba) is only a short walk from the harbour.
With only 200 permanent residents, the island is a peaceful place. It has a reputation for spirituality (there are some beautiful little craft and jewellery shops here).
The powder white sand and crystal clear blue water of Iona’s beaches could also rival that of any Caribbean one. Despite the rain (which started soon after we arrived), the first glimpse of the bay here was definitely one of our ‘wow’ moments.
Boats to Staffa can be taken from both Fionnaport on Mull, or from Iona with Staffa Tours.
Because we packed this all into one day and didn’t have the car, we didn’t see as much of Mull as we would have liked. If you find you have more time, make sure you visit the capital, Tobermory, with its brightly coloured harbourfront buildings. It was used as the location for the children’s television series, Balamory,
One plus point of the bus, however, was that we had an amazingly informative bus driver who drove us from Craignure to Fionnaport. Although he wasn’t a tour guide, we learnt so much about the island as we crossed it.
We thought these amazing islands were worth more than just a day trip. If we could, we would have spent longer here. If you have a bit more time or would like to focus on this part of Scotland, you can book 3 or 4 day tours of this region where you’ll get to explore the islands more fully.
Glencoe and Glenfinnan
From Oban, day trips to Glencoe and Glenfinnan are doable and should definitely make the list.
Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint
If you want to fit both into one day, head to Glenfinnan first to catch sight of the Jacobite steam train. It passes over the Glenfinnan viaduct at around 10.55 am (and again in the afternoon – check the website for up-to-date timings).
It’s a must if you have Harry Potter fans in your midst – as the Jacobite steam train also doubles as the Hogwarts Express!
Park in the visitor’s centre car park (get there an hour beforehand if you can, as it gets busy). Walk up the path to the left of the centre to reach the Glenfinnan viaduct viewpoint.
Even if you don’t manage to see the train passing over, the view is still more than worth it. You’ll hear the train before you see it, which will give you a chance to get your camera ready.
The train travels slowly over the viaduct, giving you plenty of time. After you’ve got your pics of the train, walk down to the Glenfinnan monument and the loch for more picture-worthy views.
For more information, head to All You Need To Know About Visiting the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Glencoe has to be one of the prettiest villages in the Highlands, acting as the backdrop for films such as Skyfall, Braveheart and, most recently, Indiana Jones 5.
It’s the perfect place to take a family-friendly walk. We loved this trail around Glencoe Lochan. It comprises three separate routes but it’s easy enough to do all three in a couple of hours.
Drive down the A82 afterwards for views of the Glencoe Valley before you head back.
The Isle of Skye
Our next base was the Isle of Skye (a three-and-a-half-hour drive away from Oban). In terms of how to get to Isle of Skye, head north via Fort William and then west across the Skye bridge.
Skye definitely isn’t a day trip – but depending on how much you want to do and see, two or three days should work.
Skye can be particularly unpredictable weather-wise and even in the summer, you may be met with sheets of rain and gusty winds.
If the weather is good, the first thing to do on the Isle of Skye with kids is head to the Fairy Pools in Glenbrittle (to the west of the island).
When you get to the Fairy Pools, park in the car park (this is a really popular site and it gets busy, but luckily the car park is a large one) and walk down the track opposite. It takes around 20 to 30 minutes to reach the first of the pools.
With the majestic Cuillin mountains framing them, the clear spring water pools are super inviting on a sunny day. Take your swimwear and go for a dip, if you dare (this is Scotland, and the water’s more than a little chilly). The kids were game, but we settled on just a paddle.
The Fairy Pools are breathtaking and a lot of fun. This is one of our top recommended things to do in Scotland with kids.
Portree makes a great base for your stay in Skye – it’s central and offers some lovely restaurants and shops. Try Sea Breezes for local seafood and The Wee Isle of Skye Ice Cream Shop for amazing salted caramel ice cream. The multi-coloured houses on the bay are a photo opportunity must.
Skye’s attractions are mainly outdoors and since good weather is far from guaranteed, make sure you’re properly kitted out. Raincoats are essential as are a pair of decent walking boots. For little ones, waterproof trousers are also a good idea.
The midges are in full force in the Highlands, so make sure you pack a repellent. I’d seen Avon So Soft recommended in several places and this did seem to do the trick. However, beware of any patches you miss – those midges will head straight to them!)
The main things to see in Skye, other than the Fairy Pools are the Old Man of Storr and the Quirang (these both involve walks that might be a little strenuous for younger children). If you have time, you could also fit in Coral Beach, Dunvegan Castle and Lealt Falls.
If you have limited time in Skye or would rather have someone else take care of the plan, think about booking a ‘Best of Isle of Skye’ full day tour.
Eilean Donan Castle
On the way to or from Skye, consider visiting Eilean Donan Castle on your Scotland road trip. It offers an opportunity to learn a bit about the Jacobite rebellion. As the castle was restored in the 1920s, there’s more to see here than in some of the other castles in the Highlands, which are now in ruins. They offer a kids’ trail sheet too.
Head to my article: The Top 5 Things To Do On The Isle Of Skye For Families for more details on things to do on the Isle of Skye with kids.
Where to Stay on The Isle of Skye With Kids:
Aviemore/ the Cairngorms
Next, head east towards Aviemore (via Inverness) – a three-hour drive. Aviemore makes a great base for activities around the Cairngorm mountains and Loch Ness.
Any of the villages in the area make good options and we plumped for Newtonmore which is home to a number of local attractions.
The Highland Folk Museum
The Highland Folk Museum is located in the village; it’s an open-air museum, free to visit, and offers an insight into how locals lived in the area during the 1800s and 1900s.
Keep your eyes peeled for the highland cow in the field next to the kids’ playground. The ‘heilan coos’, as they’re known locally, aren’t as easy to spot as we’d assumed, but you will find one here!
The Wildcat Experience
The Wildcat Experience is a local treasure hunt which will have you (and of course your children) addicted! Run by a charity supporting Scottish wildcats, you pay £10 and are given a bag, pen and booklet in preparation for your hunt around the village.
You’ll need to locate as many of the 132 colourfully painted wildcats (with fab names such as Cat’n Jack Sparrow and Feline Blue) as you can. The hubby’s competitive nature meant he popped out to find more on his own on our last evening!
This is such a lovely activity and it’s well worth supporting this local charity. A must-do if you’re in Scotland with kids and near this area.
The Highland Wildlife Park
The Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig, halfway between Newtonmore and Aviemore, is definitely worth a visit while in Scotland with children. They have a drive-through section and walk-around areas such as Wolf Wood.
Look out for the snow leopards and polar bear. Our favourite was the Arctic fox – we were surprised to see it had grey fur (apparently, they’re only white in the winter). You’ll also see some (real!) Scottish wildcats here.
Glenmore Forest Park
For walks in the area, Glenmore Forest Park is in Aviemore – don’t miss the beautiful Lochan Uaine (the green lake). If you’re all up for a bit of a steeper walk, try the Ryvoan trail (3.5 miles long).
Rothiemurchas, also in Aviemore, is a fantastic option if you’re in Scotland with teens. They offer quad biking, segways and river tubing and have their own fishery where kids can catch a trout for dinner. They also have hairy coo safaris – so if all else fails, try here for a guaranteed pic!
Be sure to visit the farm shop on site for some fantastic sausages, the biggest scotch eggs you’ll ever see and other tasty treats.
There are a number of locations which will allow you to get a sense of the vastness of Loch Ness. We stopped off at the village of Dores and walked down to the shore from there.
If you have a little longer than we did, take a walk down the Tor Wood footpath.
If you’re an active family with children over the age of 7 years old, you might like this tour:
Where to Stay in Aviemore with Kids:
The Beeches Studio, Highlands of Scotland – available via Airbnb. In the village of Newtonmore, this studio is a cosy and modern base. If you’re taking part in the Wildcat Experience, make sure you take a proper look around the gardens here!
Heading Home From Scotland With Kids
If you’re making the long drive back down south from your family trip to Scotland, think about adding in some rest points. Here are a couple of ideas:
If you’re heading back down south, there are a couple of great options for stops. Edinburgh (two and a half hours south of Aviemore) is a perfect stopover point in Scotland with kids as there’s loads to do and is such a beautiful city. It should make your itinerary for at least one night.
We did a Harry Potter walking tour. For Harry Potter fans, this offers up plenty of magical nuggets of information. It takes you to the graveyard where J K Rowling picked up inspiration for characters in her books and shows you the real Diagon Alley, and the cafe where Rowling started writing the books.
York marks a midway point between Edinburgh and London and offers an opportunity for a walk along the cobbled streets. And of course, a Yorkshire cup of tea and a slice of cake (put a visit to Bettys on your list if you’re happy to brave a bit of a queue).
An activity such as the Jorvik Viking Centre (with a fab ride that kids and adults alike will enjoy, as well as learn from) can also be part of your stop-over. Or how about this award-winning tour of York (possibly not for the squeamish or very young children):
Hopefully, this itinerary will have given you some inspiration for your Scotland family trip! Have fun.
If you’re wondering what conscious travel is or would like to know more, head to my article: How To Be A Conscious Traveller
For another family itinerary in Europe of similar length, take a look at The Best Itinerary For A Family Holiday In Croatia
And if you’re looking for something even more adventurous, have a read of Borneo With Kids And The Perfect Family Itinerary