Great days out around Scotland

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It is possible to have fun, be in the outdoors and contribute to a cause that makes you feel good, all at the same time – and Scotland has this in spades. Did you know that many of Scotland’s best days out are run by charities and social enterprises? We’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best from Edinburgh to Stonehaven for you to discover this summer.

2nd August 2019 by Yasmin Hackett 0 Comments

Highland Wildlife Park

If you want to spot a polar bear, endangered Amur tiger or even a bison, the Highland Wildlife Park in Perthshire is the spot to do it in Scotland. A fluffy new addition to the park came in the form of a polar bear cub called Hamish in 2018 – and he is the first polar bear to be born in the UK for 25 years. Its 200 acres provides space for a diverse range of animals including native species such as the capercaillie and the Scottish wildcat. The Highland Wildlife Park is run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which has been working to promote the awareness and conservation of rare and endangered animals for over 100 years. Recent projects range from protecting the African forest elephant in Gabon to assessing population genetics of sand gazelle in Oman.

Open 10am – 6pm daily

Ecology Centre, Kinghorn Fife

A community-led charity that inspires positive change through the natural environment, the Ecology Centre is a fabulous day out for all the family in some of the country’s most picturesque surroundings. There’s lots for children to explore, including a mud kitchen where kids can make mud pies or camp out in the children’s bird hide to spot the infamous Kingfisher that visits the Loch. There’s plenty for adults too: the centre runs an outdoor environmental education programme and provides volunteering and training opportunities on site. And of course it’s a haven for wildlife and plants, welcoming over 5,000 visitors annually. Situated on community owned land, the centre’s team ensure it is a safe and inviting place for everyone to visit and enjoy.

Open 9am – 4.30pm, Mon-Fri

Jupiter Artland

An award-winning sculpture park located in Wilkieston, just outside of Edinburgh. It is home to 35 permanent site-specific sculptures, a seasonal programme of exhibitions and events, and a learning and outreach programme designed to engage with children in Scotland by offering free school visits throughout the year. As it is only open from May until September, Jupiter Artland is great for day trips in the summer, as you can spend the best part of a day exploring the grounds, participating in outdoor art and activity classes with your children, and having a tea, cold drink, or a slice of cake in the café.

Open 10am - 5pm daily (Saturday 18 May to 29 September 2019)

Stirling Castle

Now run by Historic Environment Scotland, Stirling Castle was once a powerful seat and stronghold in the Kingdom of Scotland. It is incredibly well-preserved and worth spending a day in, making for an all-encompassing and fun day out for the family. Apart spending hours exploring the walls and areas such as the Great Hall, the Chapel Royal, and the Great Kitchens, you can spend time with nature in its expansive grounds by exploring the Queen Anne gardens, or even visit the café for a breather once you’re saturated with Scottish history. It’s the perfect place to bring your children, too, as there is a plethora of games and activities scattered around the castle, as well as a special tour of the castle for children. 

Open 9.30am – 6pm daily

Auchindrain Township

Auchindrain, near Inveraray, faced closure in 2013 after the charity behind the historic township lost its funding. With help from TFN among others, it thankfully survived and still thrives today. Its claim to fame is that it remains the most complete surviving example of a Highland farm township in the country. There’s crofts, animals, machinery and artefacts and most days there is usually an activity going on. And of course it’s a beautiful drive through some spectacular scenery to get to the township. On site there are guided tours, a museum, gift shop and café. Allow yourself at least 90 minutes to see the various dwellings properly and be prepared to step back in time.

Open 10am-5pm daily

Falls of Clyde Wildlife Reserve and Visitor Centre

Managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Falls of Clyde are comprised of four spectacular waterfalls, and is understandably a popular destination. In fact, so popular was it that the largest of the falls, Corra Linn, was immortalised in verse by none other than William Wordsworth. There’s a visitor centre operated by the trust, which features exhibits about the reserve with its waterfalls, woodland and wildlife. Spend a couple of hours on one of its walking routes and see its beauty for yourself.

Visitor Centre open 10am – 4pm daily

New Lanark Mills

If you wanted a little more to do after completing the Falls of Clyde walk, the area has no shortage of things to do. New Lanark Mills is a world heritage site run by New Lanark Trust, where visitors can see recreated mill workers’ houses and historic working machinery. It’s a multi-sensory day out with the Annie McLeod Experience ride which takes you back in time, a Mill Café stocked with hot drinks and food, and an array of things to see and learn. If you wanted to turn it into an overnight trip, there’s also a hotel with a riverside setting, the New Lanark Mill Hotel.

Visitor Centre open 10am – 5pm

Gorgie City Farm

Work on Gorgie City Farm began in the 1970s, and today it exists as a free-entry city farm, sustained through visitor donations, whose mission is to promote community development, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion through provision of volunteering opportunities for all.  Ducks, chicken, pigs, goats, sheep, and even bearded dragons take up residency here, as well as herb gardens, greenhouses and a wildlife garden for all to enjoy. There’s a café, too, and a produce stall where farm merchandise can be bought to take a bit of Gorgie Farm with you.

Open 9.30am – 4.30pm daily

The RRS Discovery

The RRS Discovery was originally built for a scientific research expedition; today it exists as a world class visitor attraction which tells the tale of Captain Scott, the leader of the expedition. Now run by Dundee Heritage Trust, the Discovery makes for an entertaining and educational day out for all the family.

Open 10am – 6pm, Mon–Sat

Stonehaven Open Air Pool

Whilst the weather during the Scottish summertime can be unpredictable at best, if you happen to catch a day of sunshine, the Stonehaven open air pool is the best place to spend it. It is maintained and promoted by Friends of Stonehaven Open Air Swimming Pool, and back in the 1990s it was threatened with closure – but the Friends ‘pooled’ their resources and came together and fought to keep it open. The Olympic-sized (and heated) swimming pool makes for a perfect day out with the family – just hope it doesn’t rain.

Check website for opening times