Scotland is another country high on my bucket list. For today’s guest post, my sister, Heather, is back to talk about her favorite things about her family trip to the Scottish isles. You may remember her from her post about learning how to backpack camp in Virginia. Thank you, Heather, for being willing to take over the blog so I can have a little more time snuggling Little Man (baby #3). So, without further ado, take it away, Heather. (All pictures were taken by her.)
Thanks for inviting me to post, Allison! My family spent two weeks in Scotland at the end of June. The weather was incredible- cool, only slightly damp, often cloudy but just as often sunny. The perfect temperature (high 50s to low 70s) so we could be outside as much as possible. We spent most of our time in the Fife, Stirling, and Glencoe areas– all fairly centrally located because we didn’t want to spend our whole trip driving, but there was still plenty of variety and scenery for us to enjoy.
It would take me pages to describe everything we did so here are some of our favorites. All of these were accessible for our family of five, our youngest being four years old and even he found most of the hiking worth the effort.
Stirling Castle was much less crowded than Edinburgh Castle– that’s my top criteria for a good vacation spot. We did this on our first day on just an hour or two of sleep and the kids were tired, but still enthusiastically pretended they were royalty.
These ruins are set out on a spit of land in Loch Awe, about half mile walk from a small, well-hidden, parking lot that was not on our GPS. Look for two reflecting posts right before a bridge (or after if you’re coming from the other direction) that mark the entrance. The kids loved running and climbing through the ruins.
Favorite Place to Stay
Old Leckie Farm
This was an apartment rental on a working farm, with a short walk/bike to the local village store, a waterfall to play in and ruins deep in the woods to discover and explore. The kids were able to help collect eggs and play with the pet lamb, Flopsy. (We were detained, briefly and kindly, in US customs upon our return because we spent time on a farm and handled livestock. Totally worth it but something to keep in mind!) The apartment was comfortable and roomy and it was located close to many of our planned activities in central Scotland. We didn’t want to leave.
We took a short boat ride from Balmaha to Inchcailleach Island, and spent three hours on the island hiking from one end to the other along the shore, played at the small sandy beach, then hiked back over the island peak to the return. The old graveyard was a favorite spot on the hike.
A Close second: any other loch. We played in at least four and enjoyed them all.
The Beech Tree
The Beech Tree is located north of Glasgow. We stopped here by luck one day and had tasty hamburgers. But what we really loved was the playground out back for the kids. There were ducks and goats to feed, wooden structures to climb, and a fairy garden to explore. And because it’s right on the West Highland Way, we could watch all those who choose to see Scotland by foot instead of by car.
The Green Welly Stop
The Green Welly Stop in the Trossachs was a close second because of their tasty scones.
Favorite Wildlife Experience
We had quite a few but the most memorable was definitely when my husband and 10-year-old daughter spent a day with the falcons and owls. They scheduled an outing with Elite Falconry in Fife and were able to fly a few different birds of prey. My boys were too small to participate so we went down the road to the Scottish Deer Centre and spent a fun few hours on the canopy walk and zip line.
Favorite Highland Games
We only went to one, in Onich, but if the timing works, you should definitely make this a priority! We stayed from the beginning to the end and saw the Highland Dancers, bagpipers, the caber toss, and my personal favorite, the hill race (which is now on my bucket list). It was like a small town country fair, very relaxed and uncrowded, and my kids were proud to participate in the kids’ races and win a prize or two.
This is a tough one but we enjoyed our short stay in Kinghorn. We ate breakfast at the cupcake shop and took the short walk to watch the trains, play at the playground, and swim at the beach. What more could anyone want in life?
If you’re looking for picturesque, Falkland was right out of a movie.
Favorite Hike (according to the kids)
Glencoe Mountain Resort
Glencoe Mountain Resort has a chair lift that they run in the summer to carry you almost to the peak of the mountain. From there it is a 3/4 mile walk and easy scramble to the top, where the kids could add their rock to the pile and we could all enjoy the view. This was the most awe-inspiring moment of all our many hikes. The drive there was pretty spectacular, as well.
Favorite Hike (according to me)
Maspie Den on the Falkland Estate
This wall was filled with old tunnels and bridges and interesting ruins, culminating in several waterfalls, one of which you can walk underneath. From there, the boys turned around and headed back while my daughter and I finished the loop and saw some of the grand buildings on the estate.
Favorite Reason to Go to Scotland
Even with smallish kids in tow we could spend our time outside rather than going from one tourist destination to another. Even when we were just relaxing at our lodging (we stayed in three Airbnbs on our trip, with plenty of room for all of us to sleep comfortably and quietly) we could explore and discover outside for hours.
After two weeks we were exhausted, but we knew it was a good vacation when the first thing out of our four-year-old’s mouth when we got home was, “the next time we go to Scotland…”