M&D's Scotland's Theme Park

Help me plan a trip to Scotland! I’m mostly just joking about M&D’s but I could be convinced to give it a go! I just very desperately need a trip on the horizon and you lovely British ladies sound like great advisors.

I’m eligible for a 6 week paid sabbatical and my DH has accrued roughly 5 weeks of vacation time so we are targeting the vicinity of May 27 - July 9, 2022 for the entire trip to take advantage of two US holidays. My mother in law is located in Heidelberg so we want to do 2 weeks there. I would like to try a redo of at least the Paris/DLP portion of our not-quite-yet-cancelled trip from this summer, so let’s say 10 days France. That leaves a little under 3 weeks for the UK.

About us: family of 4 from Massachusetts. My boys will be 3.5 and 6.5 during the trip and I will be pulling the oldest from the last month of Kindergarten. We chose Scotland originally based on some urging from friends and because it seemed very family friendly and (if we’re being honest) a tiny bit because of Outlander. We would like to do some hikes, scenic drives, explore many castles and lochs. I spent a summer in London in college so I think my family would also LOVE London as well so I’m thinking that if we have some time that it would be nice to spend a few days there. London also might be an easy way for us to get to Paris.

So my spreadsheet goes like this, 17 nights UK, 6 nights Paris, 4 nights DLP, 15 nights Germany. Fortunately the German lodgings are free. I’ve written in $200 per night for an airBnB in the UK. Is that a reasonable average? I know London will be more, but I found some cottages in both Edinburg and Inverness that are only $100/night.

I can pack light, but not ultra light. I would prefer to spend like 4-5 nights in one location. One thought I had was to rent something near Edinburgh for a full 2 weeks and do some day trips. I would be ok if we took one longer trip and did a single overnight away. Or should I plan to do a week one place and a week further north? What is the best way to see the islands/lochs?

Thank you, thank you for all of your help! I am excited to have this on the long horizon and I know the next year will fly by. And I absolutely love the thought of meeting up with anyone who I can coordinate with. I will bring Reese’s and Jellybeans! (The candy that my German relatives all covet.) Or any requests!



Honestly, don’t!!

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If you’re thinking of spending a week in Edinburgh then Arthur’s Seat is a nice gentle hike for kids of that age. Obviously there’s THE castle, but there’s also Craigmillar Castle that’s outside the city. That’s one of our favourites. Will you be hiring a car? If so, it’s really easy to get to. I’m not very knowledgeable about buses.

Point to note that can be disregarded if we have ‘normality’ by your trip, but lots of historic sites that are about to reopen are putting booking systems in place to limit visitor numbers. This includes Edinburgh castle, Craigmillar, Stirling and some other places that I’m likely to mention in the rest of my reply. I hope that’s all finished by the time of your trip, but it’s worth being aware that that’s the current situation.

It would, but there are also direct flights from Edi/Gla too.

I don’t think you’d need to spend more than £100 per night anywhere in Scotland. Obviously it depends on the style in which you’re accustomed to, but I would think something like £80 or £90/night would be reasonable for Edinburgh and £70-ish/night for Inverness.

I think your personal preference on moving around will dictate this, but here’s are some thoughts…

So if you spend some time in Edinburgh, say up to a week, then move around (you also mentioned Glasgow), so maybe you could spend some time at the West Coast. You can easily visit lots of islands from there and maybe just do a day trip or two into Glasgow. I’m not sure that Glasgow has quite as much for the little ones as Edinburgh (I’m thinking of attractions in Edinburgh like Camera Obscura and Dynamic Earth and can’t think of equivalents in Glasgow).
From the West coast you can visit some lovely islands like Cumbrae (where you can hire bikes and cycle around the island) or Bute (where there are some lovely walks with great views and a putting green). The coastal towns, like Largs Dunoon and Oban, are lovely too.

So it might be too much, but a 3-way split stay between Edinburgh, West Coast and North would be ideal. If you don’t want to move around that much, then you’d maybe need to sacrifice some of your exploration for travel time.

Is Inverness set in stone? I wouldn’t try to put you off going there, but if it’s islands, hikes and lochs you like, then I might suggest trying a couple of nights on Skye.

Again, not putting you off the Highlands, but you don’t actually need to head that far north to get beautiful scenery etc. Anything north of Stirling is dramatic in landscape. In fact, I have some lovely hills right here in West Lothian!!

Blackness Castle is great fun for kids. It’s the one I live closest to. I believe they pretended it was Fort William in Outlander.
There are some great nearby historic properties (Linlithgow Palace and Loch Leven Castle ((a short boat trip across the loch to its own Island))) if you headed out that way. Again, those kind of places are probably best and easy if you have a car, but they’re awesome for kids.

I feel like I’m rambling, but I hope something in there helps. If anything I’ve said needs more clarification, just ask.


I need to collect my thoughts but some immediate comments to @ScaffyWitch for tonight will need to suffice for now.

First, small world, didn’t realise you were from West Lothian @ScaffyWitch ! For some reason I thought you were a west coaster.

Linlithgow is easily doable by train from Edinburgh. Although I might suggest The Kelpies and The Falkirk Wheel as an alternative, especially for kids.

The train from Inverness to Skye (well, the mainland, Kyle of Loch Alsh) is very scenic, about 2.5 hrs or so. Driving would take you along the shores of Loch Ness, past Eilean Donan and Urquhart Castle.

I agree, I would spend more time in Edinburgh than Glasgow, especially with kids. But going across by ferry to Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsular would be equally amazing and almost as good as the islands (have a look on the map to see what I mean). It’s where we go for school “camp” (not actually camp but housed in an old mansion), glorious scenery and lots of walking, water sports etc.

Equally though you could stop off somewhere on the way north, like Aviemore, and enjoy the mountains and hiking around there.

And in Edinburgh there is so much. Boat trips along the Forth to see all 3 bridges and get off at Inchcolm to see the ruined Abbey and WWII fortifications. The Royal Mile has something like 2 dozen museums on everything from writers, Edinburgh history, whisky, the museum of childhood down to Dynamic Earth. Bus tours aimed at everyone. The a royal Yacht Britannia is moored in Leith and appeals to everyone, the kids will love it as much as you will.

I so hope this can happen. It’d be great to meet you in person!


Grew up in Motherwell and lived in Edinburgh for a while. Lived in WL for about 13 years now.

Great suggestions for the kids.


This was a favourite of mine until they started putting ‘my toys’ in it. I’m not old enough to have the things I played with put in a museum :flushed::flushed::rofl::rofl:

On the subject of museums, Summerlee in Coatbridge is a great one for the kids - very interactive. As is Glasgow’s Science Center. They would both be easy to visit if you were based on the west somewhere.

Oh and I’ve just remembered the transport museum in Glasgow too. I may have misspoke about Glasgow not being as good for kids!!


I’m so jelly! We did a 3 week trip to Great Britain in 2018 and it was amazing!

Linlithgow was fabulous! It’s not as big as some of the others, but it was SO family friendly. Our kids even played hide-and-seek in it!

Edinburgh Castle was also great. There is a very family-friendly whisky tasting near there called the Scotch Whisky Experience. We knew nothing, so it was a good primer. There’s even a ride! :laughing: (Thus the somewhat condescending tag of “Malt Disney” among serious scotch drinkers.)

We spent 4 nights on Skye and loved that too. Hiking was amazing there.

Our family of 6 went with another family of 4 (kids were 8-17), so our accommodation needs were a bit different from yours, but I’ll add a link to our itinerary if it is helpful.

Note: The calendar wraps from the bottom back to the top, so it starts in column C. :crazy_face:

We made a few adjustments on the fly, but it at least gives you an idea of what is available in those areas.

A lot is probably different since then (and who knows about next year!) and the locals here will probably have lots more to offer but if you have any questions, just let me know.


Ha! I remember taking my boys to the Museum of Scotland before the revamp and they loved the 60s room. Things like Elton John’s costume and the room layouts. And right in the middle there was a small display unit with some toys in it. Lego, a glorified peg doll, pull-along bus and I forget what else. I still have all three of those, although technically not the actual Lego I had as a kid. But the doll and the bus I kept.

@melcort10, Dundee also has a Science Centre, which is 10 minutes walk from the RSS Discovery (Scott’s Antarctic ship) and museum. And they’re right beside the station too. I used to do a day trip from Edinburgh with my boys and they loved it. The Science Centre is a hands-on centre, with talks and demos as well as walk thru exhibits. Smaller than the Glasgow one, no IMAX theatre, but great for kids.

Also Deep Sea World, just across the rail bridge from Edinburgh, easy train ride and walk down from the station (but you do have to walk back up the hill afterwards).


Wow, thank you @ScaffyWitch, @Nickysyme and @amvanhoose!! This is making me so excited to go! Only like 400 days to wait!

I’m going to start filling in my spreadsheet and look up all of these places. I like the 3-way split stay suggestion and that definitely sounds doable. I had to chuckle when asked if we will rent a car. If there is an opportunity for my husband to drive ANY sort of European car, we will take it. (We got engaged in Germany but if you ask him about that trip then he will say the best part was the Mercedes e-class.) So I do think that usually opens up some additional options for us location wise. But I’m not opposed to taking a train either.

I’m also fine if all the sights continue with their reservations systems. I think a lot of the bigger ones did that pre-Covid anyway. Neuschwanstein and Pearl Harbor come to mind. I’m obviously a planner and kind of prefer to have that stuff booked ahead of time. I really need to go get a good map and start plotting where this stuff is. Woohoo!!


We changed our car rental plans several times and on the final one, DH forgot to make sure to reserve an automatic. Normally, a standard wouldn’t be a problem, but switching to left handed…plus all the roundabouts… :laughing:

Omg my DH would love this challenge TOO much! And I get frustrated because I can’t drive a standard well so I can never go off on my own! And all the Germans just make fun of me.

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Following! DH and I are hoping to get to Scotland in the next few years (prob 2023) and I love all the info provided so far. DD23 was accepted to veterinary school in Edinburgh for entry fall 2019. We thought that if she was living there for 4 years, it would be the perfect opportunity for a trip. She ultimately decided to go to our in-state school to save money (wise girl!) and actually, I think she might have been sent home last spring because of Covid. We still want to go sometime!


I went to the UK with my mom when I was 23 and we had to rent a standard because the only automatics were a higher grade of car and they wouldn’t let anyone under 25 drive them. It was crazy to shift with your left hand at the same time as the other changes. Plus, reverse was right next to 1st gear. That created some issues for me! But we survived!


Yes. It was very much this. :upside_down_face:


@melcort10 , I’ve been doing some more thinking. :wink:

With you being an Outlander fan, how neither I nor @ScaffyWitch came up with the obvious places to visit is beyond me.


  1. Stirling has a castle, smaller than Edinburgh but equally historic. And of course the Battle of Bannockburn is “quite” famous. And there is a wonderful visitor centre with audio visual displays of the battle and so on. There’s also the Wallace Monument near by, plus Blair Drummond Safari Park.

  2. Near Inverness is Culloden Fields, site of the even-more-famous battle (although, unlike Bannockburn the Jacobites lost). As far as I recall it’s a vast moorland with plaques to every clan that fought there, on both sides. But there is now a Visitor Centre too (it’s been many, many years since I was there).

Plus of course Cawdor Castle, which is ‘associated” with Macbeth thanks to Shakespeare, but not the real King who lived about 4 centuries before the castle was built. But it’s actually quite a cool kind of Castle, different to the fortified castles off Edinburgh and Stirling.

Also there are a couple of great Stately Homes near Edinburgh, which are the homes of real modern day Earls. Hopetoun House in South Queensferry and Dalmeny which is between Edinburgh and South Queensferry. So more Downton Abbey than Outlander, but still worth a visit. For kids I’d choose Hopetoun, to see how the upstairs and downstairs folk lived back in Victorian times.


Very close to Blackness Castle :+1:t2:

(Which I did mention in relation to Outlander only because we once visited and there was a bunch of Outlander stuff in the ticket office. I’m not a big fan. I’ve only seen the first couple of seasons I think, so I honestly couldn’t tell you anywhere else it was filmed).


Wow, thank you so much! Haha, Culloden Moor is pretty much the reason that we had Inverness on the list. But I have to look at the distance more closely. And don’t we Outlander fans know that the poor Jacobites lost that one. There are literally travel books in the US that will take you on Outlander tours. The fandom is quite high over here. I only recently got into it and I love the show, but I’d rather see the “real” Scotland than run all over looking for filming locations. I think there is a decent chunk of CGI involved. And the show now takes place in the US and is still filmed in Scotland!

I like the Downton Abbey suggestion as I am also a giant fan of that too! I lament lost tea parties and mansion tours as a boy mom more than Princess dining at WDW. But maybe I will drag them through. Or ditch them.

Was talking with my husband last night and he’s very willing to cut days out of the German portion of the trip if we need more time in Scotland! Maybe Oma will meet us there for a bit.

Any thoughts on when I should be thinking about locking in lodging? I know some areas in the US are quite seasonal (i.e. Cape Cod) that you want to book over a year in advance. Does it get like that in Scotland? Thank you a million!

I guess it depends when you’re going.

Summer in Edinburgh is Festival time, and places will get booked up. However your early dates should be OK and even the dates into July are before the Festivals really kick off. Maybe the Jazz Festival might have started by mid July.

That said I would say the earlier the better. A year ahead is not unreasonable, especially for Edinburgh.


Excellent. I will get cracking on the spreadsheet. I already have a few airBnB’s favorited that I can show you all. So many adorable cottages.

Is favourited a word? :joy::joy:

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My spell check is ok with it! But not favourited :yum: