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How is Scotland for kids ?

Hi !
For next summer we are thinking about goind in Scotaland and England for 25-26 days in july with kids but reading Lonely Planet gave us second thoughts about this. Our kids are 7 ans 11 years old, They have travel with us every year since they are borne (Easten province in canada, Michigan, Chicago, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Ontario, Germany, Spain and Portugal).

In Lonely Planet it's written taht there,s not much to do for kids and they are sometimes not very welcome in restaurants. It also says that many pubs just dont accept them even if it's before 8pm and they are with their parent (of course !) . Midges seems to be a big problem too.

Anyone one can give us a thought about that ?

Thanks !

Posted by
356 posts

My wife and I took our 11 year old son to Scotland last summer and he loved it. Since your kids have traveled a lot with you I'm sure you will plan for days that take into account their interests too. While we visited castles, ruins, and museums that fit our interest, our visit had built in times to let our son play in a park, swim in a hotel pool or just do kid things that he would enjoy.

We were all over the Scottish Highlands and had no real trouble with midges in July, and in any case I think you can avoid and/or spray to deal with them.

While it is true that many pubs did not allow us in after a certain time, we had no trouble finding good places to eat in Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow which were happy to have kids and their parents any time they are open. Take the kids to a pub for lunch or early dinner, and avoid the evenings where it is a more grown up scene.

It's a beautiful country with friendly people and I have no idea what Lonely Planet must be saying to make anyone believe this would not be a great visit with kids or without. In any case, I can't recommend Scotland highly enough - go for it and it'll be among your most favorite trips I'm sure.

Posted by
6788 posts

I don't have kids, but have traveled a bit in Scotland. I think what you are quoting from Lonely Planet is complete nonsense.

I would think that Scotland would be great for kids - it's where Harry Potter goes to school, you know? You can take the same train that's in the movies - your kids would probably love that. There are lots of old things, old buildings, old castles, old stone circles (like Stonehenge but better), the landscape is green and beautiful. You will see men wearing skirts (kilts), hear people playing bagpipes - kids would love that. Go look for the Loch Ness Monster! Midges? I never saw any.

I think Scotland would be great for kids and the concerns expressed in the Lonely Planet book are silly.

Posted by
4420 posts

If you go to Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland would be very enjoyable for kids. If they are HP fans, there are several important sites in Edinburgh. There's also a child-oriented Geology museum there. Off-topic, but be sure to go to York when you're in England.

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, bucephale,

Which edition of Lonely Planet are you consulting? Are you sure it wasn't Fodor's Guide?

From the 2017 Lonely Planet Guide:

"Scotland offers a range of child-friendly accommodation and activities suitable for families.

It's worth asking in tourist offices for local family-focused publications. The List magazine (available at newsagents and bookshops) has a section on children's activitiesand events in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The National Trust for Scotland and Historic Environment Scotlend organise family-friendly activities at their properties throughout the summer.

Children are generally well received around Scotland and every area has some child-friendly attractions and B&Bs. Even dryish local museums usually make an effort with an activity sheet or child-focused information panels.

A lot of pubs are family friendly and some have great beer gardens where kids can run around and exhaust themselves while you have a quiet pint. However, be aware that many Scottish pubs, even those that serve bar meals, are FORBIDDEN BY LAW (my emphasis) to admit children under 14. In family-friendly pubs (i.e.: those in possession of a Children's Certificate), accompanied under-14s are admitted between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. There is no clear indication on which is which; just ask the bartender.

Children under a certain age can often stay free with their parents in hotels, but be prepared for hotels and B&Bs (normally upmarket ones) that wont't accept children; call ahead to get the low-down. More hotels and guesthouses these days provide child-friendly facilities, including cots. Many restaurants (especially the larger ones) have high chairs and decent children's menus available.

Breastfeeding in public is accepted and is actively encouraged by government campaigns.

The larger car-hire companies can provide safety sears for children, but they're worth booking well ahead."

So please read the Lonely Planet Guide a little more carefully.

As you're going to be traveling throughout Scotland and England, you may want to consider the Premier Inn and Travelodge hotel chains. Most of them, especially Premier Inns, have family rooms, although the extra bed may be a sofa bed. Almost all of the Premier Inns have a family style restaurant attached, and are reasonably priced. Travelodge, if there is no restaurant attached, usually has a restaurant nearby. Also, if the youngsters enjoy McDonald's, they are everywhere in Scotland, and are somewhat more advanced the their American counterparts, in that they serve vegburgers.

Please check the website of each B&B you are planning to book, as some do specify that they will not accommodate children under 12 years of age.

As far as the midges go, the summer of 2018 was extremely dry, so midges were not much of a problem. We did encounter them on Rum, but that island is notorious for its midge population. We came prepared. Some of the outdoor stores, like Graham Tiso, Blacks, and Nevisport, have one size fits all midge hats, which only weigh a few ounces, and pack nicely in to a small pouch. They run about 12 pounds each. A good repellent, like Repel or Avon's Skin so Soft Insect Repellent, will suffice for exposed areas. Smidge is available in Scotland, but there mixed reviews on its efficacy.

You'll most likely encounter midges north and west of the Great Glen, and on the islands. However, the worst attack we ever encountered was in the hills outside of Ballater.

We took our son with us to Scotland at the ages of eight, 10, and 14, for periods of three to five weeks, and he was never bored. He enjoyed petting Highland cows, bottle feeding lambs, hiking, ferries, and watching Beavis and Butthead on television in our hotel rooms. We never had any problem finding accommodation, even in July.

Best wishes for your holiday!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
5344 posts

There are children in Scotland, many, many children. Do you think they're all persecuted and ignored? Of course not! I've not read the Lonely Planet article but based on your appraisal of it I'd say that it is complete nonsense.

I've not been in any restaurant in Scotland where my kids have not been welcomed. I've not been anywhere where my children have been bored or felt that there wasn't much for them to do, quite the opposite. Scotland is a fantastic place for children, particularly those of your children's age. If your kids weren't bored in Philadelphia then there's no way they'll be bored in Scotland. I managed to push my kids through the Liberty Bell exhibition with promises of hotdogs and cheese steaks but that was a close call. I can reel off a whole list of things your kids would love in Edinburgh alone before even thinking about the rest of Scotland and then England.

Pubs I can sort of agree with. There are many different pubs and in Edinburgh alone I can think of quite a few that wouldn't really be suitable for children, particularly 7 and 11 year olds but that's not to say that they're all out of bounds, you just need to be a bit more judicious in your research. Country pubs seem to be more suitable for children as opposed to the more "rough around the edges" city pub and don't even entertain the prospect of a Wetherspoons!

I can't comment on midges as I've only been in the HIghlands in the winter.

All I can say is ignore the Lonely Planet (it's not often I say that) and go for it!

Posted by
11294 posts

I was just in Edinburgh. It's hard to imagine a place more conducive to children visiting. Witches, castles, old skyscrapers, ghost tours, Jekyll and Hyde origin stories, excavated underground dwellings, etc.

Similarly, Glasgow has a great museum of transport, an old tenement house, a funky underground (subway) they call the Clockwork Orange (your kids will enjoy riding it just for fun), etc.

I haven't been outside of the cities, but if they like nature and hiking, they should fine plenty to keep them busy by day.

As for not welcome in restaurants, children aren't particularly welcomed in fancy restaurants the world over, and are welcomed everywhere else. Edinburgh and Glasgow are not any different. If you're going to a £300 per person special place, you won't find too many kids; if you're going to a £20 per person place, kids are fine.

I wasn't in the countryside, so I can't speak to midges, but have read they are indeed a big issue. Of course, they don't just affect children. If you search this forum, you'll find threads about recommended midge repellents.

In short, I don't know why the Lonely Planet says Scotland is a "bad" place to take kids, but I don't agree at all.

Posted by
1376 posts

There is NOTHING in the Lonely Planet Guide that states that Scotland is not a good place for kids, so PLEASE read and comprehend before you make assumptions.

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
9763 posts

We went on a family trip to Scotland a couple of years ago - our group included my at-the-time 7-year-old and 10-year-old nieces. They absolutely loved it, and there is so much to see and do for kids there.

Edit to add: yes there were a couple of pubs where we couldn't go to dinner because children weren't allowed after a certain hour but that in no way took away from our trip.

Seeing the highland cows, visiting castles galore -- both fancy and in ruins, taking the Harry Potter train, visiting the Tall Ship in Glasgow, visiting the café where JK Rowling (supposedly) wrote parts of Harry Potter . . .they had a ball.

Posted by
366 posts

Thnaks for all those answers.

Maybe I was not clear, what I've meant is that from what i've read in LP or elsewhere is that it seems that there's not much to do for kids in general, but it seems I was wrong but....

1) My kids dont care at all about Harry Potter the older one havent read it and the younger one still lear to read. They also havent seen the movies. The same goes for us. The harry potter sites seems to be a big drag for kids (it,s always something put in front when it's time to say what Scotland offer for kids).

2) About pub, here (in Quebec) most of the microbrewery are very welcoming for kids (high chair, kids menus,...) I was just hoping to get the same thing in Scotland/England.

Posted by
2648 posts

have you tried searching "things to do with Children in Scotland"

Posted by
3285 posts

We spent 12 nights in Scotland this past July. My girls were almost 15 and 11. For the most part we had a great time. The youngest did whine a bit and say “not another castle!!”
They did however love Edinburgh castle, the hiking we did in the highlands ( no midges) the Museum of Scotland (beautiful museum) and our day trip to Mull, Iona and Staffa. I did a trip report in the trip report section of this forum.
I bet your kids will love Scotland! We did!

Posted by
9763 posts

Well the Jacobite steam train on the West Highland Line is fun as a transportation and scenery experience whether you care about Harry Potter or not! It's a feast for the eyes and fun to be on an old train and hear the rhythmic clacking of the wheels and watch the steam . . .

Posted by
9763 posts

And indeed if you google travel to Scotland with kids, you're sure to come up with articles from the Guardian and Visit Scotland and loads of other ideas. I know some publishers even publish entirely separate guide books for families traveling with children.

Posted by
598 posts

Back in the 80's when my boys were 8 and 11 we rented a car and spent about three nights in each of Glasgow, Inverary, and Edinburgh. They helped with the planning, which is our solution to going places that don't interest them. I strongly recommend preparing them through library books and movies, but you've traveled before so you already know that.

I cannot imaging what the children of that LP author enjoy doing that they didn't find in Scotland, but mine enjoyed playgrounds, rowing on Loch Awe, Greyfriar's Bobby, Edinburgh Castle, parks, and more playgrounds.