From kiddie golf to loch tours, Scotland has it covered for family getaways
Keep your carbon footprint to a minimum and take a family holiday right on your doorstep. Scotland has something for every family, whether you like a luxurious country house hotel, a visit to the capital, a gamekeeper's cottage in the grounds of Cawdor Castle, a taste of the crofter’s life or an action-packed break by Loch Lomond.
The mighty Gleneagles Hotel has just undergone an £18 million redevelopment and now has a redesigned leisure area for kids and teens, a world-class destination spa and a Mediterranean food market-style restaurant. It also has the Spirit Suites, stunning two-bedroom suites, ideal for families. Small children can run amok in the well-equipped Playroom, with its own sand pit, water area, soft area and a storytelling corner. Teenagers have The Zone, with interactive TV, Sony PS2s, pool, tennis and football tables. Or they can chill out on sofas and beanbags and play their favourite track on the jukebox. There’s also archery, horse riding, shooting and falconry. A must is the junior off-road driving in mini Land Rovers and the Argo Cats, incredible eight-wheel-drive, tiller controlled vehicles. Gleneagles is, of course, renowned for its golf and kids as young as four can play, as parents dream of them becoming the next Tiger Wood. Oh and there’s also a fabulous ESPA spa for mum.
Edinburgh is an irresistible city for families. It’s walkable and there’s tons to do from the Castle to the Zoo. The Balmoral Hotel, with its majestic clock tower, is an inspired choice. It’s right on Edinburgh’s main drag – Princes Street - with fabulous views of the Castle. Most attractions are within walking distance, and mum can even stroll to Harvey Nichols. The spa was voted Scotland’s Top Urban Day Spa by Condé Nast Traveller readers in 2008. A Balmoral Family Affair package allows parents to book one bedroom and receive another bedroom for the children absolutely free, along with a wide range of children’s goodies. Babies through to teenagers are treated like VIPS and children under three receive complimentary food and drinks. For parents, there’s the Michelin-starred restaurant and the Balmoral Bar for cocktails or a superb malt whiskey.
Scottish icons don’t come much bigger than Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which is why a stay in the grounds of Cawdor Castle is such a magical experience for children and adults alike. Located in a beautiful and easily accessible part of the Highlands, near Nairn, with its spectacular beaches, in Inverness-shire, The Cawdor Estate spans over 20 miles and has been in the ownership of the Earls and Thanes of Cawdor for over 700 years. Cawdor Castle was built in 1375 by the Thane of Cawdor; four miles away is the battlefield of Culloden. Dotted throughout this historic estate are wonderful cottages. From the outside they are traditional fairytale hideaways (especially the vibrant blue Lochanshelloch Cottage), while inside they’re surprisingly chic yet cosy. If you fancy a large family gathering, book Drynachan Lodge, which sleeps up to 22 people. Activities include river fishing, horse riding, shooting, golf and spa treatments.
Badrallach in Ross-shire is a Highland loch-shore croft that sprawls across 30 acres of empty Scottish landscape, and offers a choice of accommodation to suit most families’ needs: a bothy, a comfortable self-catering cottage sleeping four, a campsite and bed and breakfast at the house, each situated in its own isolated area within the croft. Badrallach is at the gateway to the Scoraig peninsula (accessible only by boat or a 10-mile walk), where a small alternative community exists. The croft is surrounded by excellent walking country; the loch is ideal for fishing and can also be explored by kayak, inflatable dinghy and canoe.
Loch Lomond is one of Scotland’s finest stretches of water and the De Vere Deluxe Cameron House Hotel is set right on its wonderful shores, with fabulous views over the dramatic peaks of the Scottish Highlands. A recent refurbishment has brought the hotel into the luxury league and it's perfect for families. There are great walks in the 350 acres of wooded parkland, where children of all ages can spot kingfishers, otters, dippers and water voles. A new spa has a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the Loch. There are hydro and thermal experiences and the crèche at the spa takes children from newborn upwards if new parents fancy a couple’s treatment. There’s also a new £7 million golf course, and other activities including archery, quadbiking, hawking, salmon-fishing, pony trekking and 4X4 off-road driving. Alternatively, parents can take the kids on a tour of the Loch on the resort’s 46ft motor cruiser, Celtic Warrior, or even book an excursion by seaplane.