Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you're all as chilled, organised and distinctly merry as can be expected. It's the time of year for taking stock, as well as wearing Christmas jumpers, remembering to put the right kid in the right outfit for the numerous Christmas parties, and having a slug of mulled wine along the way.
It’s been quite a year, with the relaunch of the site as Scots2Travel, but if you’re looking for inspiration for short breaks, foreign holidays or mini adventures with your tots for 2018, (as well as the occasional thing to avoid!) check out some highlights that may work for your family. There are so many cool things out there to try, and they don’t necessarily bust the budget.
ORKNEY – One of the most memorable trips was magical, yet very close to home. Orkney is an atmospheric destination and it’s got a very family friendly vibe. The journey by ferry with Northlink was part of the adventure itself. We were delighted that the kids were welcome on a tour of Orkney Brewery, where I found time to sample some Dark Island and Skullsplitter. We also met alpacas and groomed mangalitza pigs at the delightful Skate Rumple Farm in Deerness. I found the most child-friendly historical site we’ve visited yet – the eery and wonderfully creepy Tomb of the Eagles, it had toys in every room, as well as intriguing skulls and ancient tales. Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar were also highlights.
In Kirkwall itself we stayed at the Ayre Hotel, and then overnighted at the very cool Wheems Organic Farm on South Ronaldsay with its glamping pods with staggering clifftop sea views. There’s so much to do, that we compiled a top ten list and we’ve barely scratched the surface.
CUMBRAE – Another mini island adventure was visiting the eensy weensy island of Greater Cumbrae, just west of Largs, and close to Glasgow. It’s only a couple of miles long, and the highlight is cycling the island’s ten mile circumference. Child’s play! Check out how we got on here. I pulled together a list of top activities on Cumbrae to give you some ideas. And if you’re looking for indulgent spa accommodation nearby I’d recommend the Gleddoch Hotel in Renfrewshire. The views from its outdoor hot tub were wonderful, let’s face it an outdoor hot tub in itself is quite glorious.
FAROES – Admittedly the island theme continued when I went on a press trip to the Faroes. If you love Scottish scenery and wilderness, the Faroes will snatch your heart away in an instant.
TENERIFE – Other foreign trips included winter sun in Tenerife. From Aberdeen, it’s the only direct winter sun destination. We found a hotel we liked so much that we plan to return in 2018. Take a peak here.
Not everything was plain sailing, my husband’s passport wasn’t renewed in time for him to accompany us to Tenerife, so a major sad face moment. We also had a weirdly awful experience at Heathrow Airport where children are put into really long queues at passport control, compared to British adults. Who would do that? We’re still talking to our MP and Border Control about this as I don’t want other kids to be disadvantaged in this way. As a parent I value security, but also equality and compassion. Travel isn’t always easy, but I can’t now personally recommend hub travel with children via Heathrow Terminal 5.
RIGA – Riga was also a relatively new flight route for us. When it comes to Latvia’s capital, I can honestly say I knew nothing about it and didn’t know what to expect. It’s great for a weekend city break, I’d like to return to get out into the countryside and explore the country in a bit more depth. But if you’re looking for a girls weekend, couple’s escape or a family weekend away it’s definitely worth considering, and quite reasonable when you get there.
IRELAND – We also undertook an Irish Scottish road trip so if you’re considering a visit to the Emerald Isle then we explored Dublin, into County Clare and down into Kerry. The jaunting cars through the Gap of Dunloe were a definite highlight, a bit of an obvious thing for a tourist to do, but I have no shame in being a tourist. The kids loved it, but promptly fell asleep in the sun. Get more details here.
INVERNESS – A Scottish highlight was hunting for Nessie, unsurprisingly in Loch Ness. We went on a Jacobite tour, taking to the water like brave mini explorers. We also visited the haunting Culloden Battlefield, with the kids alongside us. Slick self-catering Highland Apartments by Mansley, in the heart of the city, completed the trip.
LONDON – From magical lochs and islands, to the slick city tots. Another gem was hitting up the capital with the kids in tow. We hopped aboard the Caledonian Sleeper train to London, fingers crossed that our kids would sleep en route. I now think it’s the best way for families to travel to London, and hopefully we’ll do it again once the new stock is on the rails in 2018. Read how we got on here. Once in London we visited the new Postal Museum with its unique Mail Rail, an old favourite in the Natural History Museum, set sail on the MBNA Thames Clippers, and a host of other activities that I rounded up in this post.
YORK – Another English adventure was York, really easy to reach on the east coast line. The city is known for chocolate so I fitted in well. We also did a cycle tour (suitable for older kids only), a fab City Cruise, and found ways to avoid the queues at the famous Jorvik Viking Centre. Take a peak at the best sights for kids in York here – York Castle Museum came out on top.
ABERDEEN & SHIRE – On our doorstep we experienced five star luxury at the Chester Hotel: its children’s menu is notably good. We tried out the Aberdeen-Angus trail, highlights included Glamis Castle, Ballindalloch Castle, and our favourite was meeting a herd of cattle at Cairnton Farm’s Aberdeen-Angus Experience.
Also on our doorstep was a chance to spot the region’s famous, playful dolphins on an Aberdeen Harbour Cruise. If you’re interested in further farm experiences we also reviewed Wynford Farm and Doonies Farm in Aberdeen.
HOSTELLING – If you’re looking for a budget trip then we gave family hostelling a try. Check out the reviews of Cullen Harbour Hostel, and the luxury Sail Loft hostel in Portsoy with its own outdoor hot tub. Overall it was far more salubrious than I expected and really friendly.
AVIEMORE – At this time of year Aviemore is always a popular draw. The boys loved meeting the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd, and here’s a list of things to get up to in this vast outdoor playground. I could return to Aviemore every year and never get bored.
PETERHEAD – Stand out attraction of the year has to be Peterhead Prison Museum. I love history, but this is so recent and so raw that it shook me to the bone, a really unforgettable destination.
It’s been a really interesting twelve months, and I hope you’ll start plotting trips for next year. In the meantime have a great Christmas, from me and the boys at Scots2Travel.
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