For the family that would rather hike over hills than combe tropical beaches, that would rather explore castle dungeons than marvel at modern art; Scotland has the answer. From Edinburgh to the highlands, this 10-day family adventure is guaranteed to keep the kids entertained – all without an iPad in sight. Discover castle ghouls and military traditions in Edinburgh, ancient battlegrounds in Inverness, high-speed chases of mythical beasts on Loch Ness and country pursuits aplenty at Gleneagles. Not to mention the star of the show, the Jacobite Steam Train. Though perhaps you know it better by another name; The Hogwarts Express. Dusted off with a few of our favourite luxury boltholes and a touch of gourmet, this is a trip to make everyone smile.
A (Royal) Mile of History
Kickstart your family adventure in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, where we will be on hand at the airport to whisk you away to the splendour of the Caledonian Waldorf Astoria. Affectionately known as ‘The Caley’, this iconic hotel puts the city at your fingertips with a doorstep onto the trendy boutiques of George Street and a backdrop of the historic Castle. Settle in before heading off on an afternoon privately guided walking tour of the Old Town making your way down the historic Royal Mile. Start at Holyrood Palace and make your way up the Scots’ mile, taking in some of Edinburgh’s most iconic sights, as well as cashmere goods and handcrafted silverware. As you stroll through the Old Town the legends and characters of the city’s past spring to life, no more so than when you come to the top of the mile at the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.Read more
Here, your guide will leave you to explore at your own pace, leaving the kids plenty of time to clamber over the giant Mons Meg cannon and its staggering 400lb cannonballs. Be sure to check out the statues of Scottish heroes Robert the Bruce and William Wallace before heading inside to unearth the castle’s secrets including the mysterious piper lost in its tunnels and the mischievous poltergeist that lurks in the dungeon. Your guide will leave you with a raft of handy tips and tricks for the rest of your stay in Edinburgh, but our top tip? Visit in August and catch a performance of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. A unique celebration of immaculately choreographed music, dance and pageantry with the castle providing a brooding backdrop; it’s Scottish culture at its most glorious. Bands of pipes and drums filter out of the castle gates, blasting battle tunes of famous regiments before culminating in a lone piper up on the ramparts playing a haunting lament before the sky is lit up in a burst of fireworks. It’s an evening not to be missed.
Warfare, Whisky & Wildlife
From Edinburgh, it’s time to hit the road and wind your way north, watching the scenery change from lowlands to highlands, and keeping an eye out for majestic red deer and soaring golden eagles. But before you reach the highland capital of Inverness, make sure you stop off at Stirling Castle. The former home of past rulers, it simply cannot be ignored, commanding the surrounding countryside and towering over the famous battlefields of Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn. Once you’ve had your fill of gruesome war stories, hop back in the car and continue onto Kingsmills Hotel, a beautiful mansion house turned hotel set within beautiful gardens just outside of Inverness. Spend the next few days seeing everything from the might of Fort George to the dolphins of the Moray Firth Route, before sampling the best-selling whiskies of Speyside.
From Creatures of the Deep to the Wizarding World
Your next stop is arguably one of Scotland’s most famous landmarks, home to one of it’s most famous residents – or is it? Today, you’ll discover the legend of Loch Ness for yourself onboard a high-speed RIB boat which is bound to make the kids squeal with delight. Hang on tight as you twist and turn across the water, keeping an eye out for a flick of Nessie’s tail or a slither of the scales of her back. Curiosity satisfied and adrenalin fuelled, you’ll come to dock at the ruins of Castle Urquhart, blown up in 1692 to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands, before continuing onto your home for the night; Glencoe House. The former home of Lord Strathcona, this charming mansion offers five-star treatment with a highland twist and is the perfect spot from which to enjoy the tranquillity of the countryside.
Tomorrow, you’ll make your way to Fort William railway station where one of the world’s most famous steam engines will be waiting on platform 9¾. The Jacobite Steam Train is perhaps better known by its alter-ego of the Hogwarts Express – but just because Harry, Ron and Hermione aren’t there to share a carriage with, that doesn’t make the journey any less magical. Take in the views as the train winds its way over the Glenfinnan Viaduct with breathtaking views of Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument below you, before continuing on down the Highland Coast looking out over the tiny isles of Muick, Eigg and Rhum. If you look really closely, we reckon you can even see hippogriffs soaring along in the distance.
At the end of the line, you’ll then head off for your final stop on your grand tour of Scotland. A place where you can put your feet up in the spa while the kids are kept entertained with everything from ferret racing and gundog training to driving a mini land rover and turning their hand to falconry; Gleneagles truly has something for everybody. Dubbed ‘the playground of the gods’ when it opened back in 1926, not much has changed and the reputation rings as true now as it did then. Spend the next few days enjoying all that this extraordinary country house hotel has to offer, whether that’s facing up to a new challenge or indulging in a familiar pastime. One thing not to miss though is Gleneagles’s spin on safari with a private invitation to an isolated farm, high in the hillside, from where you can sink into the wild beauty of the heather uplands. Sit back with a hot toddy (cocoa for the kids) as peregrine falcons soar overhead, red deer graze in the distance and rabbits pop up and down between burrows; it’s the perfect way to end this remarkable family adventure if you ask us.
A trip which will no doubt stay with you and your family for years to come, Scotland really is one for the ages.