Free days out for kids in Scotland

Days out, Family

Posted by Clare Willcocks on 10th November 2017

Free family day out in Scotland

Scotland offers an impressive array of free days out for families, whether you have tiny tots or energetic teenagers. 

From days out exploring the beautiful Scottish scenery to places where you can find out more about the country's rich history and culture, there's an activity to suit every member of the family, and best of all, you don't need to spend a penny. 

With so much to see and do come rain or shine, we’ve picked some of our favourites and separated them by geographic area to help you find somewhere to go close by:

You can also see where all of the attractions mentioned are on our map.


Northern Highlands and Islands


Smoo Cave Durness

Smoo Cave, Durness

Remarkably for an attraction of this nature, Smoo Cave in Durness is free to enter, unless you want to take one of the paid tours. The entrance truly is a sight to behold - it's one of the largest entrances to a sea cave in Britain, standing 50 feet high, and has been carved out of rock by the action of the sea. Perfect for children with a vivid imagination, they’ll love descending the stairs to explore the 200 feet long cave complete with huge waterfall. 

Stay nearby: Inchard Gull Cottage, Kinlochberie | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs


Loch an Eilein

Loch an Eilein, Rothiemurchus, Cairngorms

The five-mile walk through the Rothiemurchus Forest, around Loch an Eilein in the Cairngorms, is a great choice for families who enjoy being outdoors. The path is suitable for robust buggies too. Spot Scottish crossbills and red squirrels if you’re lucky, and admire the 13th-century castle perched on an island in the middle of the lake. Combine a walk with a trip on the funicular railway up Cairngorm Mountain or the Strathspey Steam Railway at Aviemore (charges apply for both).

Stay nearby: Lynwilg House, Aviemore | sleeps 11 + 2 dogs


Glenfinnan Viaduct

Glenfinnan Viaduct, near Fort William

Harry Potter fans are sure to enjoy a trip to the stunning Glenfinnan Viaduct which features in the films of the second and third books by JK Rowling. The viaduct runs for 1,000ft and stands at 100ft above ground so it truly is a magnificent sight. There are several walks around here, a short distance from the town of Fort William, and you might be lucky enough to see the steam train pass over. You can also get some fantastic views of Loch Shiel. 

Stay nearby: The Cabin, Fort William | sleeps 5 + 1 dog


West Highland Museum, Fort William

Learn about the interesting history of the West Highlands at this museum through exploring eight rooms full of intriguing artefacts including treasure from a shipwrecked Spanish Armada galleon to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s silk waistcoat. One of the oldest museums in the Highlands, it's found at the heart of Fort William and is very easy to access. Combine a visit with a day exploring the Highlands town, which is known as the gateaway to Ben Nevis. 

Stay nearby: Camisky Lodge, Torlundy | sleeps 14 + 4 dogs


Inverness Botanic Gardens, Inverness

If it’s a bit nippy outside, head for Inverness Botanic Gardens where you can explore heated greenhouses: one for tropical plants, the other for desert plants. Wander through the hothouses, see the gently cascading waterfall and spot the friendly koi carp. On a nice day, take a walk around the outdoor gardens too where your little ones can find the teddy bears, mole, tortoise and chainsaw carvings. If you’re feeling peckish, stop for a bite to eat or a drink in Cobb’s Café.

Stay nearby: The Ardross Residence, Inverness | sleeps 4


Ship Space

Ship Space, Inverness

Children will enjoy getting up close to replica models of large ships at Ship Space, including a 1:10 model of the Titanic which you can go inside and explore the series of rooms. There's also a replica Nautile submarine which you can climb inside to send an SOS telegraph, as well as a creel fishing boat which you can jump aboard. There’s plenty to keep little ones occupied – dress up in a survival suit or as a captain, play quoits and bait some creels!

Stay nearby: River Ness Cottage, Inverness | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs


Dolphin at Chanonry Point

Watch dolphins at Chanonry Point

 Chanonry Point  is found between Fortrose and Rosemarkie in the Moray Firth, and it's one of the best places to spot dolphins in the UK. The best time to visit is one hour after low tide, when the tide is turning and the dolphins can often be seen chasing the fish as the tide floods inland. Stand on the beach behind the lighthouse for the best view - on a good day, the dolphins will be mere metres away. 

Stay nearby: The Little Small House, Avoch | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs


Highland Folk Museum

Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore

Wander around over 30 historical buildings which are furnished as they would have been hundreds of years ago. Gain an insight into how Scottish Highlanders used to live, from what their homes looked like to the clothes they wore. The site is spread across 80 acres, with plenty of live actors to bring history to life, so it's a truly an immersive experience which children of all ages will love. Bear in mind that the Highland Folk Museum closes for the winter and re-opens in the spring.

Stay nearby: Beulah, Newtonmore | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs


Orkney Beaches

Orkney Beaches

There is so much fun to be had on the beach, and Orkney boasts some of the most picturesque stretches of coastline in the UK, with turquoise waters and golden sands to rival the Caribbean (althoug without the same temperatures!) Take a bucket, spade and wellies to any of the beaches on Orkney (Newark Bay and Skaill Bay are favourites) and enjoy paddling, rock pooling and taking in the wonderful scenery.

Stay nearby: Neuketineuks, Kirkwall | sleeps 2


Old Man of Storr

Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

If your older children are into walking, the route up to ‘The Old Man’ of Storr, one of the Isle of Skye's many natural wonders, is definitely one not to miss. This is one of the most popular walks on the island and allows you to see one of the island's most iconic natural landscapes up close. Stunning views and fascinating geology make for a great couple of hours out in the fresh air - although there are a few steep sections so this is an attraction that's best for older children.

Stay nearby: Loch View Lodge, Portree | sleeps 4


Central Highlands and Islands


Cruachan Hollow Mountain

Cruachan Hollow Mountain, near Oban

Just to caveat this attraction’s feature in our free days out list, the Visitor Centre for Cruachan Hollow Mountain is free, but a guided tour of the power station is at a fee. However, the Visitor Centre has lots to keep little hands and minds occupied, with interactive touch screens and displays showing how the power station works and information on renewable energy. A great day out for those visiting Oban.

Stay nearby: Springbank, Taynuilt | sleeps 8 + 2 dogs


Ganavan Beach

Ganavan Sands, near Oban

Ganavan Sands is a picturesque spot with calm waters and a sandy beach fringed by forest. It's well set up for families, with shallow water for swimming, lots of rock pools to explore and the benefit of public toilets. Check tide times to make sure the rock pools are exposed before you go, and don’t forget your bucket and spade! There's also a brilliant coastal walk if your little ones still have energy to spare. 

Stay nearby: Dail Na Mara, Oban | sleeps 4


Glencoe

Glencoe and Dalness

For adventurous children and teenagers, a walk through the stunning scenery of Glencoe and Dalness can’t be missed from your itinerary. Glencoe is one of the most picturesque glens in Scotland and has been featured on many films and, together with Dalness, was the National Trust for Scotland's first countryside property. There are lots of trails for all abilities on the National Trust for Scotland website.

Stay nearby: Lochside House, Ballachulish | sleeps 6


Tobermory

Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Children who enjoyed the series Balamory will love a visit to Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, which is the setting for the programme. Pretty colourful houses line the small fishing harbour and you can take in beautiful views from the top the village which is surrounded by picturesque woodland. There are lots of interesting shops in the main street, and rumour has it that there's a wreck of a Spanish galleon at the bottom of the bay. Tobermory is also a good place to spot white-tailed eagles!

Stay nearby: Puffin Cottage, Isle of Mull | sleeps 2 + 1 dog


North East Scotland


Aberdeen Maritime Museum

Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Aberdeen

Learn about history and life on the North Sea at the Aberdeen Maritime Museum in the heart of Aberdeen. Exhibitions include boats, information on the offshore oil industry, shipbuilding and clipper ships, alongside lots of maritime paintings and objects. There are lots of fascinating things for children to see and plenty of hands-on exhibits, as well as a café to recharge in during your visit.

Stay nearby: Grampian Cottage, Banchory | sleeps 4 + 1 dog


Aberdeen Botanic Garden

Zoology Museum and Botanic Garden, Aberdeen

See skeletons of some of the world’s most interesting creatures at the Zoology Museum, from whales to ancient animals. You can also enjoy the scenery at Cruickshank Botanic Garden, which comprises 11 acres of gardens right next to the museum with over 2,500 plants - a nationally important collection. Combine a visit to both the museum and the garden on a day when the weather can't quite make up its mind!

Stay nearby: Shethin House, Tarves | sleeps 10 + 3 dogs


Duthie Park

Duthie Park and Winter Gardens, Aberdeen

A fantastic place to visit as a family, Duthie Park and Winter Gardens has 44 acres of park with lots for everyone to enjoy, and has been well-loved by kids young and old since it opened in 1883. There are slides, a boating lake, a duck pond and play areas for children of all ages, while the Winter Gardens house a large collection of indoor plants, offering a haven in wetter weather. 

Stay nearby: Ferneyhowe Croft, The Cairngorms | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs


Tolbooth Museum

Tolbooth Museum, Stonehaven

The Tolbooth Museum in Stonehaven has had an interesting past, first used as a storehouse during the construction of Dunnottar Castle before becoming a courthouse and a prison. Inside are lots of interesting artefacts for visitors to see such as an original cell door, some stocks and a fearsome punishment device called the crank which was used as a punishment device for the prisoners. It offers a great way to learn more about the history of this area. 

Stay nearby: The Lobster Creel, Montrose | sleeps 4 + 1 dog


Hazelhead Park

Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen

This woodland park offers some lovely walks and has plenty of perfect picnic spots, not to mention the big children’s play area, football fields, sculptures, a maze and even a pets' corner with tropical birds, fish and small animals. The land was given to Aberdeen by King Robert the Bruce in 1319 so it's a great one to visit for history lovers too, plus there's a cafe for when the kids need a little pick-me-up!

Stay nearby: Wardhill Castle, Meikle Wartle | sleeps 16


Seaton Park

Seaton Park, Aberdeen

Seaton Park boasts walled gardens, flower beds, open spaces and, most importantly for families, a fantastic play park. At the heart of it is Mr Therm, a former steam enging which used to transport coal, who is now enjoying his new life in the playground. The play area is also complete with adventure play equipment, slides and roundabouts, so on a fine day you’ll be able to spend at least an hour here!

More Aberdeen cottages


Aden Country Park

Aden Country Park, Mintlaw

There are 230 acres of things to see and do at Aden Country Park. Some attractions have fees, but most can be enjoyed for free. The play park is one of the main draws for families, with all the usual equipment as well as zipline! The Museum of Farming in the centre of the park is free (donations welcomed) and great for families. There is plenty to fill a whole day here.

Stay nearby: Newton House, Methlick | sleeps 14 + 2 dogs


Central Scotland


Observatory

Mills Observatory, Dundee

For children who love learning about space exploration, Mills Observatory in Dundee is the perfect way to spend an hour or so. Set in the woodland on the top of Balgay Hill, you can watch stars and planets through the powerful telescopes at Britain's first purpose-built public observatory, and learn about space from the displays and friendly staff. There is a small charge for planetarium shows.

Stay nearby: Rowan Cottage Perthshire | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs


Dundee Museum

McManus Art Gallery and Museum, Dundee

It may not sound like the ideal family activity, but rest assured that the McManus Art Gallery and Museum has lots to entertain children. The museum has a creative learning suite with hands-on activities for children to help them learn about the collection. There's also a cafe with a children's menu for under 12s so it's a great place to spend a fun morning and lunchtime. 

Stay nearby: Willow Cottage Perthshire | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs


Broughty Castle

Broughty Castle, Dundee

Probably one for older children, Broughty Castle is a 15th-century coastal fort which houses an interesting museum that details the battles and sieges the castle has seen in the last 600 years. There is also an observation post which offers stunning views over the River Tay - you may even be able to see a pod of dolphins as the river joins the sea. Check the seasonal opening hours before visiting. 

Stay nearby: Cromlix, Broughty Ferry | sleeps 8


St Andrews

St Andrews Museum, St Andrews

Learn the history of St Andrews at this impressive Victorian mansion in Kinburn Park. Exhibitions range from medieval to modern times and check the museum’s programme for information on children’s workshops, talks and concerts. Also handy to know for families is that the museum has toilets and a lovely cafe in the park - the perfect place for refuelling before going on to explore the rest of this lovely town. 

Stay nearby: Bruntshiels Byre, St Andrews | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs


Glenrothes

Riverside Park, Glenrothes

Riverside Park is a lovely place for a walk through the formal gardens and the semi-natural woodland. The children to use up some of their energy on the adventure playgrounds and the paddling pool, plus there’s also an arboretum, a pond, sculptures to spot and a skatepark for your little daredevils! Located to the west of Glenrothes, you can easily explore the town too. 

Stay nearby: The Farmhouse - Kinglassie, Kinglassie | sleeps 6 + 1 dog


Monikie Park

Monikie Country Park, Monikie

Built on the site of two former reservoirs, Monikie Country Park has plenty to keep the kids occupied. Besides the fantastic watersports on offer (charges apply) at this 50-acre site, there are lots of walks and trails through woodland and parkland, as well as an adventure play area. You can also keep your eyes peeled for the woodpeckers and tawny owls that call this country park home. 

Stay nearby: Willow in the Moor, Carnoustie | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs


Perth

Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Perth

There's lots to see at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, including insects, fossils, fine art, a medieval toilet, mummified body, lots of interactive exhibits and a programme of interesting events throughout the year. It's the perfect place to soak up the fascinating history of both Perth and Scotland. Also handy for families, the museum has toilets and baby changing.

Stay nearby: Rockdale, Perth | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs


Edinburgh and the Lothians


The Helix, Kelpies, Falkirk

The Helix, Falkirk

Home of the iconic Kelpies sculptures, the Helix offers no end of activities and things to see. The visitor centre has an exhibition about the Kelpies and colouring in and Lego for children, plus there's an impressive adventure play park and a wet play area that's perfect for the summer months. There are also 26 kilometres of paths, so pick a section for a walk, or take to two wheels and cycle over 500 kilometres of cycleways across the Falkirk District.

Stay nearby: Carriber Lochside, Linlithgow | sleeps 6 + 1 dog


The Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel, Falkirk

There are lots of activities at the Falkirk Wheel, both free and paid. Free things to do include the children’s activity zone, water play park, woodland walks and the #Wheel2Kelpies selfie trail, while there are also other paid activities such as bike hire, paddleboarding, boat rides and water zorbing. There are also lots of places to eat and drink if you want to make a day of it. 

Stay nearby: Deagh Mhonadh, Dechmont | sleeps 4


National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

There's so much for children to see and do at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, while learning about the country's history, natural history and science and technology. Among the highlights for families are the human hamster wheel, movable Chinese dragon, racing a Formula 1 car, communicating with a robot, digging up fossils and dressing up in historical clothes.

Stay nearby: The Albany, Edinburgh | sleeps 5 + 1 dog


Strathclyde Country Park

Strathclyde Country Park, Motherwell

400 hectares of wonderful Scottish countryside in the valley of the River Clyde is yours to explore at Strathclyde Country Park, either on foot or by bike. Watch the various watersports taking place on the loch while you sunbathe on the grass, or let the kids loose on the outdoor adventure playgrounds. There are also a wide range of events at this country park too so check the calendar before you visit. 

Stay nearby: Pentland Lodge, Peebles | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs


Toddler Tuesdays

Prestongrange Museum, Prestonpans

An open air museum with indoor and outdoor areas, Prestongrange Museum caters well for children, but check opening times before you go as the visitor centre is closed over winter. On the site there used to be a harbour, glass works, pottery, colliery and brickworks, the vestiges of which you can explore and learn about. There are activity sheets for children, and games, toys and an indoor play area for little ones. On ‘Toddler Tuesdays’ (April to September) there are songs, stories, games and crafts for babies and toddlers.

Stay nearby: Blue Spruce Cottage, Edinburgh | sleeps 4 + 1 dog


Edinburgh

Museum of Childhood, Edinburgh

What better place to take the children than a museum dedicated to them? There are plenty of interactivie exhibitions for the little ones to get involved with across five galleries all exploring various facets of a child's life. With toys, games and clothing spanning the generations, from the 1800s to the present day, it’s bound to be nostalgic for Mum and Dad too!

Stay nearby: Castle Skyline Apartment, Edinburgh | sleeps 4


Museum of instruments

St Cecilia's Hall and Music Museum, Edinburgh

Housed in Scotland's oldest purpose-built concert hall, this is a must-visit for music lovers young and old. As you would expect from a museum of instruments, there are many interactive exhibits at St Cecilia's Hall which children will love, including world-famous harpsichords, and over 5,000 objects including musical devices from the 16th to 20th century. The museum also has an extensive programme of events so check the website before you visit. 

Stay nearby: Ingle Apartment, Edinburgh | sleeps 5


Edinburgh

Sandemans Edinburgh Tour, Edinburgh

This free 3-hour walking tour gives you all the juicy details of Edinburgh’s past, from witch hunters and execution sites, to cloned sheep and Harry Potter. Starting on the Royal Mile, this tour takes you past many of Edinburgh's top attractions including Edinburgh Castle and Arthur's Seat. It's only suitable for older children due to the walking involved, and nature of some of the historical secrets!

Stay nearby: Arthur's Seat Imperial Heights, Edinburgh | sleeps 4


Beecraigs Country Park

Beecraigs Country Park, Linlithgow

Another fantastic country park for families, Beecraigs has 913 acres of parkland to explore high in the Bathgate Hills. It offers woodland paths, mountain bike trails and orienteering courses as well as a fantastic adventure play area. There's also an animal attraction which is free to visit, where you can see native deer, cattle and sheep. On a warm summer's day, you can also hire a BBQ pit for a delicious feast with all the family. 

Stay nearby: The Bridges Cottage, Edinburgh | sleeps 7


Muiravonside Country Park

Muiravonside Country Park, Falkirk

The only country park in Falkirk, Muiravonside has 170 acres of woodland and parkland to explore, as well as a fun sculpture trail. For children, the highlight of Muiravonside Country Park is the adventure playground and toddler play parks, as well as the open farm where you can see Highland cattle, horses and donkeys, pigs, goats, llamas, alpacas, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs and birds.

Stay nearby: Forth Bridges View, Edinburgh | sleeps 10 + 2 dogs


South Scotland


Mossburn

Mossburn Animal Centre, Hightae

Mossburn Animal Centre is a sanctuary for abused and neglected animals which provides work placements for adults and children with physical and mental problems. The centre cares for all domestic animals except cats, dogs and donkeys; you can meet the animals and learn about their personalities and how to care for them from the volunteer staff.

Stay nearby: Galloway Townhouse, Dumfries | sleeps 5


Grey Mares Tail

Grey Mares Tail Nature Reserve, Moffat

Walk behind Grey Mares Tail, the fifth tallest waterfall in the UK which towers in front of you at 200ft tall, just outside the Scottish Borders town of Moffat. As well as being the setting of the spectacular waterfall, the nature reserve is also home to ospreys, feral goats and peregrine falcons. There are beautiful walks on offer and you can even search for fossils in the landscape. 

Stay nearby: The Lodge, Moffat | sleeps 5 + 2 dogs


Swan Pedalos

Station Park, Moffat

Besides paid activities such as kayaking and swan pedalos, Station Park boasts a play park and interactive water feature called Moffatasia. One to visit in the summer with swimming kits, you can spend hours relaxing here while the children splash around. Little children will love seeing if they can spot the famous Fernando the Dragon pedalo while older kids will love the half-pipe in the nearby Hope Johnstone Park. 

Stay nearby: Wee Hartell, Moffat | sleeps 6 + 1 dog


Leaping salmon

Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre, Selkirk

Watch live footage of salmon and watch them at the Cauld as they struggle upstream from August to November. There are interactive displays in the Salmon Viewing Centre, and lots of child friendly exhibits. On a dry day, head out on the nature trail where you can collect brass rubbings and spot all sorts of wildlife, from otters to red squirrels, or take a walk through the gardens which are a riot of colours in the spring. 

Stay nearby: Kingsknowe Cottage, Melrose | sleeps 5 + 2 dogs


Textiles

Textile Towerhouse, Hawick

Set in the oldest building in Hawick, Textile Towerhouse showcases the history and present of the region’s textile industry. Clothes, artefacts and photographs bring history to life, and children will enjoy guessing what the mystery objects were used for, taking part in craft and colouring activities, and dressing up! The museum always offers a wide range of educational workshops so it's worth checking what's on before you visit. 

Stay nearby: Greenknowne Cottage, Jedburgh | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs


Jedburgh Castle

Jedburgh Castle Jail and Museum, Jedburgh

Experience what life was like in an 1820s prison, walk through the cell blocks and find out what crimes some of the inmates had committed to get themselves locked up here, at Jedburgh Castle.There are interactive activities and dressing up for children too. This is just one of the many historic attractions you can discover in the former royal burgh of Jedburgh.

Stay nearby: Belses Mill, Ancrum | sleeps 8 + 1 dog


Harestanes

Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre, Jedburgh

Take a woodland walk at Harestanes (the family dog is welcome too) and set the children loose on what is claimed to be the biggest outdoor play park in the borders. There’s also an indoor soft play area available for children up to four on Thursday afternoons during the Visitor Centre’s opening hours (seasonal) at a charge of £1 per child.

Stay nearby: Greenknowe Cottage, St Boswells | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs


Dock Park

Dock Park, Dumfries

The play park and maze at Dock Park are sure to keep the children entertained, complete with a zip wire, swings, slides and climbing frames. There are a number of other paid activities such as bowling, mini golf and trampolining, as well as a kiosk in the summer months. Next to the River Nith, this is a picturesque spot to while away a few hours in the town that Robert Burns once called home. 

Stay nearby: Galloway Townhouse, Dumfries | sleeps 5 + 1 dog




Map of all attractions

If you're looking to find a free day out near you, take a look at our map below to easily find something to do with the kids. 


 



Stay with us in Scotland

We think you’ll agree, Scotland has lots to offer in the way of free days out for families! If you’re looking for a cosy base for a holiday, take a look at our holiday cottages in Scotland to find your perfect place to stay.

Scotland cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.