Discover things to do and see in Scotland to keep the kids entranced and entertained.
Sea Life Surveys, Isle of Mull
Few adults can express their excitement at glimpsing a whale or dolphin out on the ocean, so little wonder these whale-watching boat trips from Tobermory elicit such shrieks of joy from their younger passengers.
Bottlenose, risso and common dolphins are regularly spotted, while whale sightings include minkes and orcas (killer whales). Basking sharks, which grow up to 10 metres in length, are a breathtaking sight, but fear not – they only chomp on plankton.
Sea Life Surveys is the UK’s original whale- and dolphin-watching company, with 25 years’ experience, so if anyone can secure that elusive sighting for you, these guys can.
Glasgow Science Centre
The state-of-the-art interactive exhibits at this forward-looking museum include opportunities for kids to make hot air balloons, build their own rocket, and get frighteningly close to Madagascan hissing cockroaches.
Many urban types have never seen a clear night sky, because of light pollution. But in the museum’s world-class Planetarium, with its super-high-tech Zeiss Starmaster projector – you can gawp at thousands of twinkling stars and planets.
There’s a Science Show Theatre where you can see all kinds of entertaining experiments, and a lab complete with white-coated, serious-looking technicians. And film highlights planned for this summer at the museum’s IMAX theatre, with its giant screen, include Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in 3D.
The Royal Yacht Britannia, Leith, Edinburgh
Ever wanted to sneak a look inside the Queen’s bedroom? You can on this regal ship, the former ocean-going residence of the Royal Family.
Stepping aboard, you’ll be following in the footsteps of such dignitaries as Winston Churchill, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
On your tour, which takes in five of the ship’s decks, a complimentary audio handset reveals some of its stories and secrets. Surprises en route include the on-board garage for the Queen’s Rolls Royce.
Enjoy a cuppa at the new open-deck tea room, and afterward, check out the 75 shops, bars and restaurants of Ocean Terminal, which also has a 12-screen cinema.
The Jacobite Steam Train, Lochaber, Highlands
Travel magazine Wanderlust named this 84-mile round trip in the West Highlands the Top Railway Journey in the World. The sights it packs in include mountains, lochs, beaches, and the famous 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct that features in the Harry Potter movies. Not bad going.
En route, you’ll look down over glorious Loch Shiel, and the place where that famous Jacobite, Bonnie Prince Charlie, raised his Standard in 1745.
It’s all aboard at Fort William, bound for the fishing port of Mallaig, a journey of two hours. At Mallaig there’s time to enjoy a lunch of fresh seafood, before the return leg.
Seaprobe Atlantis, Kyle of Lochalsh
This is a boat trip with a difference: as well as seeing wildlife above the waves, you can view what’s going on beneath the water on this, Scotland’s only semi-submersible glass-bottomed boat.
It’s an amazing experience to sail through kelp forests, here beneath the waters off Scotland’s northwest coast. The panoramic underwater gallery has fish-eye views.
The trips include a visit to the seal colony at Seal Island, and Lochalsh (gateway to the Isle of Skye) is one of the UK’s best sites to spot otters – they recorded more than 450 sightings last year. Some trips also take in the World War Two shipwreck, HMS Port Napier.
Callendar House, Falkirk
A French-style château, complete with pointy turrets, in Falkirk? Mais oui. It stands pround in Callendar Park, and over the centuries it’s hosted historical figures such as Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Oliver Cromwell.
At certain hours of the day, actors in period costume bring the past to life for you. In the ‘1825 Kitchen’ you can hear about how life was for the downstairs staff and try some Georgian food, while the top-floor Forbes’s Falkirk exhibition will show you the ins and outs of 19th-century clockmaking, shopkeeping and printing.
Meanwhile, the wooded grounds are a delight to explore, and there’s a pleasant teashop at the old stables.
This world-famous sight, which dominates the Edinburgh skyline, is one of Scotland’s must-see attractions, home to the Honours of Scotland (the nation’s crown jewels).
Learn about how unfortunates fared in the dungeons in the Prisons of War Exhibition, and follow 400 years of Scots warfare in the National War Museum.
Kids will enjoy learning the building’s little secrets, such as the spyhole through which King James IV peered at his guests in the Great Hall, and discovering oddities including the dog cemetery.
To get the most out of it, join one of the excellent, free guided tours.
Cream o’ Galloway, Castle Douglas
Propose a visit to an ice cream factory to your kids and you’ll have their immediate attention.
Eco-friendly Cream o’ Galloway has an enviable location amid lovely scenery, and when your children have stopped gorging on their ice creams and frozen yogurts, there’s lots more for them to do.
The adventure playground has underground tunnels and climbing towers, and there are pedal karts and a 3D maze. There’s a play area for under-fives, too, complete with a pirate ship.
The family can go wildlife-watching on the nature trails, or just throw down a blanket for a picnic. There are even pre-bookable ice cream-making events.
Summerlee, Coatbridge, Lanarkshire
They call it ‘Scotland’s noisiest museum’, and this living celebration of the nation’s industrial history has just had a major 21st-century refurb.
You can take a trip down a coal mine, hop on the tram, check out the old miners’ cottages, and then have a rest as the kids attack the revamped playpark.
The big new attraction is the interactive Discovery Zone, where children can try experiments using levers and pulleys, and have a go at making iron, 19th-century-style, in the virtual-reality blast furnace.
As for the noise, Summerlee now has even more working machinery, with the addition of a massive winding wheel from the former Cardowan Colliery.
Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick
Overlooking the islands of the Firth of Forth, and the white-sand beaches of North Berwick, this award-winning wildlife centre and the outlying islands are home to seabirds such as puffins, guillemots, shags and kittiwakes. There’s a huge grey seal colony, too, with the pups on parade in October and November.
The animals are filmed live, and in the Discovery Centre there are giant screens showing their close-up activities, guaranteed to leave the kids in wild-eyed awe.
Special boat trips (bookable in advance) include a visit to Bass Rock, the world’s largest rock gannet colony – the annual return of its 140,000 birds is one of Sir David Attenborough’s ‘wildlife wonders of the world’.
Top 10 bird-spotting locations from estuaries to marshes.
Soaring mountains, deep gorges, stunning waterfalls and the Northern Lights.
Fabulous castles from medieval forts to the Queen's private residences and moats.
Find whelks, periwinkles and starfish on the Uk's rockier shorelines.
Caves, steam trains, history and miles of beautiful sandy beaches.