6 Great Scottish Days Out for Book-Loving Families

The Jacobite Train crossing over Glenfinnian Viaduct
Category: Reading

The school holidays are upon us, which mean lots and lots of days with the kids that need to be filled! Fortunately, Scotland is rich with brilliant places to visit and things to do, and if you’re a book-loving family, we’ve got you sorted!

Here’s just a sampling of ideas for lovely family days out.

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway, Near Ayr

Any budding poets in your family? Or someone who just loves the work of Scotland’s national bard? Head to Burns’s hometown, where you can explore the cottage where he was born, follow in Tam o’Shanter’s footsteps over the 15th century Brig o’Doon, visit the graves of his father and sister in a 16th century church ruin, and play interactive games to help unravel the mystery of Burns’s life and world. Every hour there’s a brilliant audio visual extravaganza of his poems and songs. Later, if the kids still have energy to burn off, swing by the Scots Wa-Hey play area where they can play in a mini Burns Cottage, try the Tam o’Shanter zip wire and Witches’ Cauldron roundabout, or scale the Auld Kirk climbing wall, all while learning a bit more about the Scots language Burns so loved. If you happen to be in the area on Saturday 21 July, the museum is hosting a day of traditional family funfair games. Try your hand and perhaps win a prize!

Admission: £10.50 Adults, £7.50 Concessions, £24.50 Family (with 2 adults)

Growing Up with Books at the Museum of Childhood, Edinburgh

The recently refurbished museum itself, with its immense display of toys and games going back hundreds of years, is fascinating enough, but book-loving families will probably be particularly drawn to this summer’s special exhibition. Using a large selection of books from the museum’s archives, “Growing Up with Books” explores children’s literature from the 18th through to the 20th century. Discover well-known favourites as well as rare finds, such as a book from 1725 with a connection to Bonnie Prince Charlie. To accompany the exhibition, the museum is running free family art sessions, including Bookmark Beasts, a special session with the artist who created the Peter Pan graphic novel and an opportunity to have a portrait of your favourite book character done by a real artist!

Admission: Free

Library building at Weehailes Playpark
Weehailes Playpark and Outdoor Theatre at Newhailes House, Musselburgh, East Lothian

Lord Hailes, who built the Palladian Newhailes House, was a literary critic, poetry lover and mover and shaker in the Scottish Enlightenment, so it makes sense that the estate’s beautiful new playpark should be inspired by books and literature. The park, which looks like a fairytale village come to life, is focussed around the ‘library’ building, complete with stained-glass windows. The park is a fascinating maze of turrets, high-level walkways, firemen’s poles, slides, sandboxes, swings and ziplines (including one for the littlest visitors!) A small cafe right next to the entrance serves up lunch, cakes and drinks for when you need a refresher, and if you’re interested in exploring nature a bit, there are wonderful, dog-friendly hiking trails around the estate.

Admission: £5 (parking at Newhailes is £3, refunded if you spend more than £10 in the shop or cafe)

Age range: Probably best for 8 and unders

Older children might enjoy Newhailes’s Outdoor Theatre shows, presented by Heartbreak Productions throughout the summer. This season’s offerings include The Railway Children, based on Edith Nesbit’s classic novel, and David Walliams’s The Midnight Gang.

Dates: 15 July, 18.30 (The Railway Children); 29 July, 18.30 (The Midnight Gang)

Admission: £12 Adults, £7 Children, £35 Family (2 adults and 2 children)

The Isle of Lewis

Katie Morag fans will get a thrill out of exploring the places where the television show was filmed, on the beautiful Isle of Lewis. If you’re planning to stay more than a day, then in the village of Tolsta Chaolais on the west side of Lewis you can stay in the house that served as the exterior of the shop and post office where Katie’s parents work. A perfect headquarters for a holiday filled with Katie-style adventures!

Take a Trip on the Hogwarts Express

Pack your wands and chocolate frogs and climb aboard the train that featured in the Harry Potter films as the Hogwarts Express. Known in real life as The Jacobite, this lovely steam train runs regular day trips through some of Scotland’s most breathtaking places. Starting at Ben Nevis, the 84-mile round trip takes in Lochs Morar and Nevis; beautiful beaches that have featured in films; and the villages of Lochailort, Morar, Mallaig and Glenfinnian, with its famous viaduct (the train occasionally stops on the viaduct so passengers can enjoy the view!)

Cost: Adult Day Return ticket—£59 1st Class, £35 Standard; Child Day Return (for children 12 and under)—£32 1st Class, £20 Return

The People’s Story Museum, Edinburgh

Explore the lives of people who lived in days long past through original objects, images, and personal stories at this fascinating museum. Rather than diving into the lives of kings and queens, The People’s Story Museum uses the words of ordinary citizens, taken from oral histories and written sources, to tell the true stories of lives once lived. Learn more about reform movements, crime and punishment and fun and games as you explore a bookbinder’s workshop, wartime kitchen and even a jail, which is actually a part of the historic Old Town building where the museum is housed!

Admission: Free

Image by 96tommy, originally posted on Flickr, shared under Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0

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