With October half term fast approaching, it can sometimes seem difficult to pick the right activities to keep the whole family happy – but not in Scotland! We’ve put together a list of some brilliant activities, attractions, events and things to do with kids during the October holidays. These are just a handful of ideas that will not only allow you to enjoy the best of autumn but will stimulate, educate and tire out even the liveliest of your little rascals.
Besiege your favourite Scottish Castle
The Border clans and Highlanders aren’t roaming the wilds these days, but throughout the country you can see the historic buildings designed to keep them out. Our castles occasionally have dark pasts with gory details and there are fascinating stories passed down that you wouldn’t believe to be true – but they are!
See the settings where knights in shining armour once stood. There are spectacular halls and ballrooms, as well as vast grounds with immaculate gardens and sometimes mazes where you’ll get lost in for hours. Here are just a few castles which you can visit and enjoy a great family day out:
Crathes Castle, Garden & Estate, Aberdeenshire
Start by getting lost in the 400-year-old Crathes Castle and check out the incredibly eerie rooms which the ghost of the Green Lady haunts. Leave the spooks inside and head outside for adventure at Go Ape!, a high ropes adventure course where you can explore the treetops.
Kelburn Castle and Country Centre, Ayrshire
The perfect place for budding young artists is Kelburn Castle, where part of the exterior has had a vibrant graffiti makeover. Explore the mystical woodlands of the estate; if you visit between 14 – 23 October, your family can experience the Freaky Forest, a Halloween themed woodland daytime event for younger children. If you’re feeling extremely brave, then get tickets for the Haunted Forest (19 – 22 & 26 – 29 October), a genuine scare-fest for the twisted. Themed as the ‘Kelburn Chainsaw Massacre’, all we can say is, watch out for the hillbilly family living in the hills!
Stirling Castle, Stirlingshire
One of the oldest, largest and most famous castles of all Scotland is the magnificent Stirling Castle. Looking like something straight out of a fairy tale, it will really capture your imagination. Kids will love meeting James V and Mary of Guise, actors costumed in the most authentic period attire, and the palace vaults have lots of fun, hands-on interactives designed with wee ones in mind.
Think your children will love a castle visit? Then find more castles for kids!
Embrace Nature in the Great Outdoors
Scotland’s landscapes are really just one big natural playground and taking a walk on the wild side will set you and your kids up for some enriching experiences. You might spot a whole host of wildlife, such as deer on hillsides, red squirrels in forests, and primordial birds of prey in the sky. As you explore together, take time to learn about the trees and plants around you and be inspired by the incredible colours of the season.
Actively embracing nature is so important for our little ones, getting out into the great outdoors is not only good for their physical wellbeing, but their mindset too! Here are just a few places where the whole family can experience the wonders of being outdoors:
Glenmore Forest Park, Aviemore
Glenmore Forest Park is defined by its untouched, centuries-old pine forests and is enclosed by rounded mountains and boasts the enchanting Loch Morlich, which comes complete with a great sandy beach. With its nature trails and cycle routes, you can explore quieter, wilder areas but its proximity to Aviemore means it’s easy to step back into civilisation. The forest park has a fantastic visitors centre and its café is perfect for a well-deserved slice of cake after a walk or cycle.
Dawyck Botanic Garden, Scottish Borders
Pay a visit to this award-winning botanical gardens anytime throughout the year. However, autumn is a real haven of vibrant colours and floral beauty and will stimulate the senses. Discover natural treasures from Chile, Nepal and the world over. In particular, a large Japanese Katsura tree fills the air with its delightful scent. Perfect for younger children, the conkers that fall from the garden’s horse chestnut trees are always a firm favourite.
7Stanes: Mountain Biking centres, multiple locations, southern Scotland
The 7stanes are world-class mountain biking centres attracting riders from all over the UK and beyond, although you and your kids don’t need to be experienced riders to make the most of the graded trails – opt for the green-marked routes and experience the gorgeous Scottish scenery at whatever speed you fancy. Not got your own bike? Don’t worry, some of the centres have bike rental.
Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway
With over 777 km² of forest, loch and highest mountains in all Scotland, the Galloway Forest Park is an exceptional place for walking, cycling and spotting wildlife during the day. By night, this official ‘Dark Sky Park’ – the first of its kind in the UK – has near zero light pollution and offers out-of-this-world stargazing opportunities. For children with an avid interest in space, visiting one of the Dark Sky discovery sites is a must.
Do your kids love the Scottish outdoors? Then discover more about Scotland’s magnificent landscapes.
Become a Curious Coastline Explorer
You won’t just find thriving life and activity on the hills, Scotland’s beaches and coastline are some of the UK’s most unique and are home to wildlife range of creatures. The coastal waters and rock pools are teeming with life, and autumn offers the best chances of seeing seal pups playing in their natural habitat. Whether they are stone skimming or chasing waves, younger children will love every moment down by the water. Here are just a few of the country’s many lovely beaches:
Lunan Bay & St Cyrus Nature Reserve, east Scotland
Another spectacular coastal location, Lunan Bay is filled with rolling sand dunes, with the Red Castle overlooking its shores making for a breathtaking scene. Not far lies the equally stunning St Cyrus Beach is also filled with wildlife, and all of this is just a stone’s throw from plenty of amenities that will keep the whole family entertained.
Aberlady, East Lothian
For the curious young ones, not all beaches have to be sandy. The rocky coastline of Aberlady is packed full of delights if you look close enough. There are rock pools full of life – especially crabs! Not to mention, these sites are perfect for fossil finds; you might even find an amazingly well-preserved souvenir.
Carrick Shore, Dumfries & Galloway
Dumfries & Galloway is a region which boasts dozens of splendid beaches along its coastline. For families, the sandy, sheltered bay of Carrick Shore is a great option and can be found just three miles from Gatehouse of Fleet. Paddle at the shoreline, or beachcomb as you stroll across its fine sands.
For more ways to have endless fun by the sea, check out our family days out at the beach ideas.
Fun-filled Parks and family Attractions
Sometimes you just want to take kids to attractions where they can blow off steam and have plenty room to roam. From farm parks to adventure playgrounds, and from huge museums to indoor play centres, Scotland’s got some top places to visit where the best memories will be made. Here are just a few places to check out that kids will love:
Landmark Forest Adventure Park, near Aviemore
Boasting rollercoasters, water rides and attractions that twist and blend amongst the beautiful Highland woodlands, Landmark Forest Adventure Park is suitable for families of all ages. Full of routes to explore and navigate, you’ll want to come back again and again to conquer everything.
National Museum of Flight, North Berwick
The top destination for aspiring aviators, inspire your kids with the history of flight and be blown away by 4 enormous hangars of interactive exhibitions at the National Museum of Flight. Not to mention acres of green grass and an assault course for the hardier among us. Visit between 14 – 22 October and enjoy the Reach for The Skies events, half-term fun for active adventurers.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
Located in Glasgow’s West End is Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, a real treasure trove of fascinating artefacts and exhibits curated from all across the globe. There is so much to discover as you explore the museum – what will be your kids’ favourite item on display? Sir Roger the Asian elephant is popular with many visitors, or maybe they’ll be captivated by the Egyptian coffin!
For more ideas this October half term, explore VisitScotland Autumn Adventures for more of the best autumn family activities to be found across Scotland.