The Best Day trips in Scotland for families

Scotland is full of beautiful places to visit. Here are the best family-friendly day trips from Edinburgh or Glasgow! Click for more!

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We had 20 days in Scotland with kids during the winter of 2018. They were some amazing days, filled with wonder, beauty, and so much learning! We spent our days between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and quite a few day trips. Below is our list of the Best Day trips in Scotland for families.

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Scotland Day tours with kids

The first thing I’m going to say is that we chose to do only day trips. We’d already paid for accommodation and we had no budget for multi-day trips, so we chose to do day-trips from either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

But since our days in Edinburgh were severely limited by the heavy snow that blocked roads and railways, we had to not travel from Edinburgh, but leave our day trips to Glasgow.

Anyhow, they’re very close to each other and all the trips listed below can be done easily from either city.

There are many, many, many, many options of Scotland tours, varying from half-day to over 2 weeks. For families, I think it’d be just too exhausting (and expensive, mind you) so something from half to a day, or maybe even two days if the kids are old enough for it, would be ideal.

This post covers only one-day trips because it’s what we did.

Central Station, in Glasgow (Scotland) is probably the first thing you see when you arrive in Glasgow by train. It's lovely - and the inside is even more beautiful! Click for more!

On a day trip, this is probably the first thing you’d see of Glasgow: Central Station. It’s a lot more beautiful on the inside, though. Have the camera ready when you’re arriving at the station!

The best Scotland day trips for families

You can do most of these tours by bus, train, car, or even with a coach tour. I’ll list the prices and length of the trip by each method, and you can choose what best fits your family. The prices are in British pounds and are from early 2018.

One day in Edinburgh

Luckily, it’s a very compact city, so you could easily visit Edinburgh, sightseeing the more touristic places in a day. I’d say that a weekend would be better BUT it’s doable in a day. I don’t really recommend it, though, because it’s one stunning city and it deserves to be explored for longer.

You can see our Edinburgh post here!

Victoria Street in Edinburgh (Scotland) is one of the most visited streets due to the Harry Potter saga. It was the inspiration for Diagon Alley, and it really is magical! Click for more!

This is Victoria Street, in Edinburgh. It’s the gorgeous street that it’s said to have inspired Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series. It really does feel like it – it even has a little store selling lots of Harry Potter goods.

You could take an Edinburgh sightseeing bus or just go by yourself and do whatever you fancy.

I think the hop-on-hop-off bus might be a great idea since it takes you to the major tourist spots conveniently and you can still do what you want and at your own pace.

If you’re doing Edinburgh in a day, try to visit it on a weekend so you can enjoy at least one of the markets in the city. And for any time, walk the Royal Mile, visit Carlton Hill, Edinburgh Castle, and Holyrood Palace.

Carlton Hill, in Edinburgh (Scotland) is a lovely free place to visit - and it offers the best views of the city. Click for more!

We went to Carlton Hill on the day after the biggest snowfall of the latest years and it was dreamy. But let me tell you, my friends, it was slippery – super dangerous.

For the Potterheads, Victoria Street, Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and the Elephant House are a must! There are many Harry Potter tours in Scotland, but they can be a bit boring for kids who have no interest about the inspiration for the names, or the places JK Rowling used to go to write her book or the likes.

There are many other tour options, like the Underground tour, whisky tours, ghost tours…

The entry to Edinburgh Castle costs £17 for adults, £10.20 for kids (5~15), and is free for under fives.

Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The medieval architecture, the lively vibe, everything makes it special for families! Click for more!

When we arrived in Edinburgh, we had 2 lovely sunny days followed by 4 snowy days and the rest was rain all over. It’s gorgeous in every weather!

  • From Glasgow
  • Train
  • Bus
  • Car
  • Hop-on Hop-off
  • Travel time
  • From 40 minutes to 1,5 hour
  • 1:20 ~ 2:00
  • 1:40~2:00
  • Price
  • £10 ~ £25 return
  • £10 return with Citylink
  • from £14

 

One day in Glasgow

Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland. Still, the tourist attractions are fewer and it’s easy to check them all in a day or two.

To see our Glasgow post, click here!

A walk by the river is always nice and this one in Glasgow (Scotland) is perfect! Beauty and piece, all in one! Click for more!

Sunsets are always better when there’s water. If there are a bridge and some trees, even better! Glasgow is perfect!

There’s the hop-on-hop-off bus in Glasgow too.

Glasgow is just as beautiful as Edinburgh but more diverse and less touristy. We loved it!

To see the best of Glasgow in a day, don’t miss the city center, the Central Station, Kelvingrove Park and Art Gallery, and the University of Glasgow! Finish your day watching the sunset by the river – just stunning!

You could also use your time to have a tour: ghost tour, city tour, historical tour, maybe.

Glasgow, in Scotland, is a lively city be it day or night. It's safe to walk around and we loved it! Click for more!

Glasgow is a beautiful city, be it day or night! George’s Square is the place of departure and arrival of most group tours there.

  • From Edinburgh
  • Train
  • Bus
  • Car
  • Hop-on Hop-off
  • Travel Time
  • from 40 to 80 minutes
  • 1:20 ~ 2:00
  • 1:40~2:00
  • Price
  • £12 to £25, return trip
  • £10 return
  • from £14

 

A visit to Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle is right in the center of Scotland and it’s one of the most important castles in the country. If you’re visiting only one country, let that be Stirling Castle. It’s giant, highly informative, there are free guided tours of the castle grounds (great for all ages), and it’s in perfect conditions!

Stirling Castle, in Scotland, was of utmost importance for the country, as it's located in the center of it. It's beautiful, and it's very well maintained! Click for more!

I don’t know about you, but these European castles make me think about fairy tales and this one took me straight to Merida and the movie Brave. Stirling Castle is amazing!

It’s easily accessible from anywhere, and it makes it a great day trip from Edinburgh and Glasgow.

You can easily spend a whole day on the castle grounds – you can have lunch at the café there and continue exploring it. Don’t miss the free guided tour, the kitchen and the living quarters!

By the way, the town of Stirling is also gorgeous and it’s worth to take the time to walk around at least a bit!

The tickets to Stirling Castle cost £15 per adult, £9 per child (5~15) and under fives accompanied by an adult enter for free.

The kids and dad walking at the royal courtyard of the amazing Stirling Castle. If you have to choose one castle to visit in Scotland, make it Stirling Castle. It's so well kept that one could probably live there.

Believe it or not, this is the royal courtyard of Stirling Castle. It’s enormous, there’s just way too much to look at! It’s a bit more crowded than the others, but it’s very worth a visit!

  • From Edinburgh
  • Train
  • Bus
  • Car
  • Group Tours
  • Travel time
  • 50 minutes
  • around 60 minutes
  • 50 minutes ~ 90 minutes
  • Price
  • from £9.70 return
  • from £11 return
  • from £33~
  • From Glasgow
  • Train
  • Bus
  • Car
  • Group Tours
  • Travel time
  • 30 minutes
  • around 60 minutes
  • between 30 and 50 minutes
  • Price
  • from £6.80 return
  • from £10 return
  • from £33~

 

A visit to Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace won my heart. It’s actually the ruins of a palace the royal family used when traveling from one place to the other but it’s oh so beautiful!

Linlithgow Palace's ruins aren't of too much importance, but look at it! Right beside Loch Linlithgow, it's the most beautiful I've seen. I'm very glad we decided to visit it! Click for more!

We climbed so many stairs looking for the only tower open to the public… But it was definitely worth it! The view is amazing, but the feeling of being in a Castle Tower is the best.

It’s definitely worth a visit, even if it wasn’t a very important place.

When you’re there, don’t miss the tower, even if you’re tired of stairs. The views from the top of the tower are gorgeous!

The city of Linlithgow is a little bit smaller than Stirling, we found, and there’s less to do there, but just as most places in Scotland, it’s stunning.

Loch Linlithgow is inhabited by various birds and they give the Palace even more of a fairytale feel. It's my favorite place in Scotland!

Outside of the palace, there’s Loch Linlithgow and there inhabits swans, geese, and other birds I couldn’t identify. Tell me if it isn’t a dream?

The entry to Linlithgow Palace costs £6 per adult, £3.60 per child (5~15), and under fives enter for free. 

  • From Edinburgh
  • Train
  • Car
  • Travel Time
  • around 20 minutes
  • around 50 minutes
  • Price
  • from £8
  • From Glasgow
  • Train
  • Car
  • Travel Time
  • around 30 minutes
  • around 50 minutes
  • Price
  • from £10

 

Day trip to Loch Ness from Edinburgh or Glasgow

Loch Ness was Joao’s dream, so we had to do it. Since it’s a bit farther than the other (a lot farther) and not easily accessible by train (at least 4 hours of transit) nor bus (at least 5 hours), we decided to take a group tour.

Loch Ness, in Scotland, is famous because of Nessie, the monster that is told to live there. We just had to try, right?

This is Loch Ness with its very dark water that creates a perfect mirror – when it’s not too windy, of course. No monster sightings while we were there, though.

You can easily do a Loch Ness Day Tour from Edinburgh or from Glasgow with many companies. The prices don’t change much, but if you’re in low season, find one where you have guaranteed departures: I think you won’t like to have to reschedule if they don’t fill the bus. I wouldn’t.

We went with Rabbies and we stopped in many places on the way: Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Fort Augustus, Invermoriston, Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness, Inverness, and Pitlochry.

They were beautiful stops, with great things about them – and many movie scenes locations, things we wouldn’t have known without a tour. But they were short, with only to use the loo and take some photos, hardly enough to see each place.

Urquhart Castle's ruins, in Scotland, in front of Loch Ness. Just another stunning castle ruin in Scotland because they can.

Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness – we’d rather have seen Nessie, to be really honest, but oh well. The castle is beautiful too. Too bad it was closed to the public.

What I loved about the tour is that the guide was extremely nice, funny, and knowledgeable. He went almost all the way both ways talking about Scottish culture, lifestyle, politics, mythology, history, and much more. We couldn’t have learned more without him. It’s also a small coach, a 16 seat van, which is a lot better than the big bus tours.

What I didn’t like: the lack of time in each place. It didn’t even seem enough in Loch Ness itself, where we had around 2 hours. And we didn’t spot Nessie at all.

Invermoriston, a quaint little village in Scotland's Highlands, and its quaint beauty. Scotland's full of little secrets...

A sweet old bridge and at the back, you can see what my kids called as Hagrid’s hut. HP fans will understand…

Around Loch Ness…

In Loch Ness, we decided to take the boat tour, which took an hour, cost £60 for our family and it was… seriously, not worth it. We should’ve gone to the museum or just wander around the town. It does give a great view of Urquhart Castle, which was closed due to restoration, though.

If we were to go again, we’d definitely rent a car and do it at our own pace. And skip the boat tour. They could also offer a bottle of water for the passengers too.

To be fair, we don’t like doing things quickly, we like to take our time and tours aren’t like that. For us, it’s better to go to each place separately. Some people do well with this kind of trip, so think if it’s worth to yours.

Loch Lomond is near Edinburgh and Glasgow, easy to reach and it's a lovely place to spend a few days in Scotland! Click to know more.

A quick stop at Loch Lomond and that was enough: I was in love. It’s not a surprise that it gets huge crowds during the summer months, now, is it?

In the end, I do think it was worth visiting it because otherwise, we’d have to skip it.

  • From Edinburgh or Glasgow
  • Car
  • Group Tours
  • Travel Time
  • 3 to 4 hours
  • Around 12 hours of tour
  • Price
  • From £33

 

Other options

There are just so many other day trips from Edinburgh and Glasgow, it’s hard to choose. These are the options that were very close to the 2 main cities (and one that one of our kids really wanted to do), but you could even do one of the Highland tours (Northern Scotland) if you’d stay for a couple of days, the islands, and more.

For the Outlander fans, there are Outlander tours all around too.

Find out all your options before booking accommodation (as we didn’t) so you can plan your trip around the places you want to see.



Booking.com

During summer months, you can even try to ride the Hogwarts Express – I mean the Jacobite – and it should be magical! I really need to return to Scotland during summer just for that! But it’d be longer than a day trip if you’re in Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Or maybe, go to Loch Lomond! We visited it without Loch Ness tour, but since it’s very close to Edinburgh and Glasgow, it’s a very easy day trip!

Train travel tips for families

We bought our tickets online or at the ticket machines at the train stations. It’s easy and trouble free either way. When we bought online, we had to go to the ticket machines to print our tickets out anyway, but we had the option (sometimes) to reserve the seats we wanted. It doesn’t necessarily work, we reserved seats once and it didn’t compute or whatever, we had to take other seats.

The village of Stirling, in Scotland, with its rock-walled houses and cobblestone streets: dreamland!

A walk around Stirling when the sky was clear – perfect! Stirling is amazing!

There are 3 things to note when traveling by train in Scotland:

  • Kids Go Free: they have a good policy for families where up to 2 kids (under 15) can go for free when accompanied by a paying adult. For us, it meant that only the adults paid – lots of savings!
  • Round Trips are often cheaper than buying one way, seriously. Even when we only wanted to buy one way, we often bought a round trip because it was cheaper. Try both ways before buying your ticket.
  • If you’re using the subway (the Orange) in Glasgow, it’s a whole different system. You need to buy tickets for the kids at the booth, not at the machines. Kids up to 16 pay half price.
Inside Linlithgow Palace, in Scotland. Most of the castle is open to the public and it's a great maze: fun for the whole family!

Inside the Castle of Linlithgow – most of the walls were covered in moss and it just made it more beautiful…

Explorer Pass

For those wanting to visit the Castles and other historical sites, you need to know that the entrance fees aren’t cheap.

The best option, we found, is the Explorer Pass. It’s not cheap either, and the price varies by season. Since we were there during winter (it’s low season), the Explorer Pass was cheaper than paying for the entrance of Edinburgh Castle for the 6 of us alone.

There are the options of 5 days or 14 days, and they count consecutive days.

Definitely, check it out before going to the first Castle.

They give you access to many historical sites around Scotland and you can skip the lines in some of them too, though we didn’t encounter any line anywhere.

A quick stop for some photos in Inverness and we were sure to go back someday! Scotland's Highlands are amazing!

Inverness is a beauty, it surely deserves more than 10 minutes! Can you see the castle? There are castles everywhere in Scotland!

To finish it…

These are the best day trips in Scotland for families, I really hope it’s useful for you.

Even though Scotland is a relatively small country with great transport all over, it’s still not cheap nor too fast to travel all over it, but if you really want to, it’s absolutely doable.

Train travel in Scotland is amazing, comfortable, and the views are great. And train travel allows us to come and go when we want to, a rest when we want to, and we’re all free to rest, read, play, and just enjoy. We love train travel, it’s the best.


Group and guided tours are great, they offer a great deal of value. We always learn more when we have a guide than when we’re on our own BUT the need to conform to the schedule and interests of others isn’t fun, and it’s worse when you have kids eager to do one of the things or tired of listening, wanting to move.

Make sure you visit at least one castle during your trip to Scotland, it’s worth it, and there are so many to choose from!

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