Top 10 thing to do in Scotland
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN SCOTLAND.
Scotland is a country steeped in fascinating history, natural beauty and iconic architecture- so much so that the centre of the capital, Edinburgh, is now recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Fortunately, the country boasts an impressive number of attractions that showcase its unique character in ways that are fun and accessible for younger members of the family as well as the adults. Here are our top 10 picks!
Meet Hamish the hairy coo!
Hamish is Scotland’s hairiest ginger celebrity. This 21-year-old Highland Bullock (or “Hairy Coo” as the breed is fondly referred to by the Scots) dwells at the Woollen Mill in Kilmahog, near Callander in the Trossochs national park with his wife Heather and daughter Honey.
Hamish became famous in 1996 after animal rights protestors campaigned against his slaughter during the BSE scare (also known as ‘mad cow disease’). Heather joined him in 2010, when the two coos were ‘married’, and Honey was born in 2011.
Since then, the trio have proved to be a massive draw for visitors, with a huge number of well-wishers from the globe stopping by to meet them every year. Visitors can enjoy a close-up meeting with the coos, who seemingly enjoy greeting their international guests and aren’t shy about walking over to the fence of their field to say ‘hello’ and pose for photos.
As a very down-to-earth attraction, a visit to Hamish, Heather and Honey allows kids an up-close experience of Scotland’s famous native breed of hairy coo.
Camera Obscura, located just next to Edinburgh Castle, is a unique attraction in the city that brings history and modernity together to create a weird but wonderful afternoon out.
The centre is packed with fun, interactive illusions and camera tricks. One super-modern favourite, the ‘morph machine’ uses technology developed at St. Andrews University to turn your face into that of a monkey, to age yourself and (favoured by the adults), even turn the clock back on your appearance by several years. Meanwhile, old tricks with mirrors and lighting create mind-boggling illusions that will leave guests of all ages searching for explanations.
During the entertaining ‘camera obscura’ show, visitors are introduced to the Victorian pastime of spying on unsuspecting passers by on the street outside whilst hearing fun stories about Edinburgh’s past and present.
Summerlee, Museum of Scottish Industrial Life
Recently benefiting from a £10m makeover thanks to lottery funding, Summerlee offers a top notch hands-on learning adventure about Scottish social and industrial history. Set on the former Summerlee Ironworks site, one of Scotland’s most important ironworks that was in operation from 1836-1926, this attraction is spread across an enormous 22 acres of land.
Inside the main museum, visitors are treated to the spectacular view of several large mechanical exhibits which have been kept in working condition, and still move today.
Outside, Scotland’s only operational heritage tramway provides a fun way to travel between different parts of the site. Guided tours of a recreated mine give an insight into what it was like to work in industry over 100 years ago, whilst exploring the two rows of miners’ cottages offer an impression of the home life for the workers and their families. The cottages have been fitted out to represent living styles from across the period that the mine was open.
What’s more, admission is completely free.
Elephant House Café, Edinburgh
This one is for the Harry Potter fans out there. Possibly Edinburgh’s worst kept secret is the Elephant House Café on George IV Bridge, in the centre of the historic Old Town. Once simply a delightful café with views of the Caste from its large windows, Elephant House is now best known as the ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter since it’s author J.K Rowling famously penned chapters of the books from the back room.
You’ll be able to share her inspiration with views over the mystical old town. And, if you look hard enough, you might just be able to see George Heriot’s school- the suspiciously Hogwarts-resembling building with the four towers just near the castle.
As if this isn’t enough of a draw, Elephant House also does a fantastic cup of tea (loose leaves), and offers a delightful range of pies, jacket potatoes and pretty cakes. This is a refuelling stop with a story.
Set on a ruined cliff top, Dunnottar Castle is one of Scotland’s most iconic historic sites that is sure to evoke a ‘wow’ from adults as well as the little ones.
It’s worth spending some time walking around the surrounding coastal area to admire the castle from afar. This will provide some fantastic photo opportunities as well as story time for the kids if you have a chance to do some research before your visit!
The castle is steeped in history, being the chosen spot for a small garrison to spend eight months protecting the Scottish crown jewels from the English army, as well as once being used as a prison for religious dissenters.
Once through the gates, you’re free to roam between ruins and explore the area as Mary Queen of Scots, William Wallace, and the Marquis of Montrose once did.
Between May and September each year, over 60 Highland Games events take place across Scotland. Building on a strong Scottish tradition of competition between clans, the games provide an opportunity for visitors to see traditional sporting events.
‘Heavy’ events include hammer throwing and tossing the caber (where participants launch enormous wooden logs into the air with the aim of landing them in the 12 ‘o’ clock position). ‘Light’ events include tug-o-war, solo piping and highland dancing.
Each of the games is individually planned, meaning that events and entertainment will vary between locations. However, many of the events offer lighter versions of the sports for children to participate in, and registration can be completed on the day.
A variety of traditional music, dance and food also accompany the sport, so that you can be sure to enjoy an authentic and varied day out!
Royal residences of Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace
Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace are set at either end of the Royal Mile, the long stretch of cobbled road that joins the two royal residences.
Edinburgh castle is perhaps Scotland’s most famous attraction. Set high up on the tail of an extinct volcano, it is the focal point of the city with its commanding presence on the Old Town skyline. Inside, you’ll marvel at Scotland’s crown jewels, visit a fascinating wartime memorial and view the vaults that once house prisoners of war.
At the other end of the Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse acts as the official residence of the Queen of England in Scotland, and has been the premier Scottish royal residence of the kings and queens of England since the 16th century. A visit to the palace allows guests to wander between bedrooms, banqueting areas, pretty gardens and an old chapel and leave with an impression of life for the royals between those walls.
Edinburgh Festival (August only)
Edinburgh Festival, running for three and a half weeks in August every year, is the largest open arts festival in the world, with the 2013 event seeing 2871 shows performed across 273 venues. Many of these are family friendly. One highlight from this year is Louis Pearl. This ‘Amazing Bubble Man’ demonstrates square bubbles, bubbles inside bubbles and even people inside bubbles during his 50-minute show. That’s a lot of bubbles, and he accompanies them with a narrative about bubble art, science, magic and fun.
On top of the great shows, the festival is home to features such KidZone at Pleasance which offers a variety of arts and crafts pods to keep the kids busy while you enjoy some much needed respite.
The whole vibe of the city during August makes it an exciting time to visit Edinburgh with the family. The pavements are lined with street performers juggling fire, strolling around on giant stilts or hand-crafting animal shaped balloons.
Loch Lomond, the largest inland body of water in the UK is the ideal spot to get outdoors and get to know Scotland’s beautiful countryside.
Loch cruises sail passengers across the water and provide a relaxing environment for viewing the dramatic landscape surrounding Loch Lomond.
For the more adventurous types, mountain bikes are available to hire for journeys around the water. For those willing to get their feet wet, guided canoe safaris provide an opportunity to explore the loch from the inside. These are also a great way to see the loch wildlife up-close, with porpoises, hunting gannet, seals and – occasionally- basking sharks visible from your canoe.
Nevis Range Mountain Experience
The Nevis Range is home to Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. In the heart of this dramatic landscape, the Nevis Range Mountain Experience will allow you to experience all of its beauty without needing to pack your hiking boots, making this spectacular scenery much more accessible for the little ones.
This gondola transports visitors up to an altitude of 2150ft in around 15 minutes, and once you reach the top there are a number of gentle walks that allow you to take in the spectacular views of Ben Nevis and the Scottish Highlands. On clear days, the coastal area of the Inner Hebrides can even be seen.
Once you’ve finished exploring, the Snowgoose restaurant-bar is on hand so that you can relax and enjoy the view over a drink or a bite to eat.