Hello all! I am feeling hopeful as it looks like our trip to Scotland in June and July will be able to happen summer 2022. We have only been to England before on a past trip. The realities of smart health protocols while we are in public spaces are a part of our plans. For my family this means more outdoor events, gardens, nature, and our own rental car as opposed to lots of indoor museums, theaters, crowds, and public transport. We are currently flexible with dates and locations. We plan to fly into Edinburgh sometime in June and fly out in July. We usually book accommodations with a kitchen and washer for several weeks to cut costs. Our kids will be 6 and 8 years old and think playgrounds in the UK are the best part of our adventures. My two little travelers are also usually very patient and willing to learn a bit about a new culture, even being polite enough to let the adults chat with other local adults without complaints. Playground bribery works well I guess! We enjoy learning about history, exploring family-friendly places, and have to keep in mind safety both for health reasons and search for family-friendly walking routes. Our favorite foods include fresh seafood and cafes. The only thing that my husband has absolutely ruled out is locations with lots of midges. So…where do you recommend we plant ourselves for about a two week stretch where there is lots to do within an hour drive? Mostly staying outdoors, with gardens, stately homes, castles, playgrounds, good food/farm shops, walks…etc. We have previously considered the Cairngorns area and the Scottish Borders near Peebles, but really don't want to rule anything out yet. Not that it pertains to this part of our trip but we will be spending a week in the Peak District of England before the Scotland journey. We should be over jet lag at least. :)
You could do a lot worse than stay somewhere in the Royal Deeside area of Aberdeenshire, or somewhere else in the county if that appeals.
The legend goes that Queen Victoria and her beloved Prince Albert purchased Balmoral Castle because of the drier weather Deeside and because whilst there are still midges in the area, they were by no means as vicious as those elsewhere in Scotland. Scotland has biting insects everywhere and being a midge magnet they are always going to find me no matter where I go, but I'd say there could be some truth in the story.
There's lots to see and do in Aberdeenshire generally including everything which you have listed and parts of it are in the Cairngorms National Park. There's a designated castle trail too.
These websites might be of interest
I was lucky not to encounter midges on my July 2019 trip to Scotland, but I don't have much problem with mosquitos, so midges may just not find me tasty.
The eastern side of Scotland tends to get less rain than the west side.
I am not a huge fan of Aviemore, but I think that you should look closely at the Cairngorms and specifically look at the Rothiemurchus Estate. I've hike several times in that area and it struck that it was very family friendly. There seemed to be families everywhere until we got a bit further down the trail so to speak. Take a look at their website. You don't have to stay on the estate. You also are not far from Kingussie where there is an outdoor folklore museum. Stop off at the Ruthven Barracks on the way back if the weather is good. It an amazing location for military reasons. You can see up and down the glen and cross glens. AND lots of room to run and check out ruins. And no cost! The Strathspey RR does have a cost, but I expect would be fun. It's not a far to Loch Ness and all the Nessie stuff--about an hour if your don't get stuck in Inverness traffic. Above the Loch on the North side is a forest with great trails probably just right for kids. Another forest, but this time next to the Moray Firth and beach walking is Culbin Sands. It's wonderful to be on the sands and see lots of seals and many many water birds. Gorgeous way to spend an afternoon.
There are lots of other places too, I am sure. If you want to be able to get to the west coast for day trips, I would stay a bit closer to Inverness. Maybe Strathpeffer or Fortrose on the Black Isle as you can get to the West coast in less than two hours. You can get to Ullapool in a little over an hour from Fortrose.
I meant to also make sure that you know about two other websites. One is Undiscovered Scotland. Here's the page for Ullapool. There are lovely walks in the Ullapool hill that you could probably do with a young child. You don't have to climb to the top.
And then there is Walkhighlands. Sort by location and then look for the level of difficulty that you want. They include all sorts. But there are other sites where you can find out about walks--hikes in American. Dunkeld in an area with a wide variety of walks. Here's a. page with info on them for example.
BTW make sure that you have the attitude that a little rain won't stop you. Pouring down all day rain can stop you, but don't let showers stop you or you'll never see anything.
Thank you for the advice! The Cairngorms look lovely, and the rain does not bother us. To reference Billy Conolly, there is no such thing as bad weather, only not being prepared with the correct gear. I have checked out the sites shared, thank you for those! Rothiemurchus Estate looks to be exactly what one would enjoy on a holiday.
I want to plug the National Museum of Scotland. It's a modern museum that seems to appeal to children as well as adults. When I visited in 2019 there were lots of children there, and they seemed to be having a good time. The museum is in Edinburgh and not too far from the castle.