Travelling to Scotland to visit my family and celebrate John and my seventh wedding anniversary was a wonderful experience... but it was also a super expensive one; even without the £600+ bill to fix the oil leak in my car. As lovely as it was to spend time at Parkdean's Nairn Lochloy (with plenty on site to do), we still wanted to have days out together and so we looked for things we could do in the Scottish Highlands that wouldn't cost the earth.
Luckily for us there are plenty of places that you can visit throughout the Highlands of Scotland that are free with plenty of amazing views and things to do as a family. Here are my top spots to visit for free days out with your children if you're holidaying in the Highlands.
Pictish Fort, Burghead
We found the old Pictish fort in Burghead by accident really, seeing one of those brown signs on the road and following them down to the village. This is not somewhere to visit if you aren't prepared to fully supervise your children, as there is nothing to stop them running straight off the side of the cliffs but it is still a beautiful place to go and there is even picnic benches just down the hill from the fort itself.
Squidgy loved our time there. She and I took a walk along the front to check out the view and she was so happy to have some one on one time while John had Pickle. We sat and chatted together, she played with the flowers and we looked out at the blue sky and blue sea and had some lovely time together.
When we visited Scotland when Squidgy was younger we found the amazing site of Duffus Castle and so it was inevitable that we would visit again. This time it was fully open, where our previous visit was just after a land slide had caused some of the castle to become unstable. The girls loved it, and the beautiful weather made it so enjoyable to visit, although we certainly needed cardigans to take off the chill of the breeze at the top of the hill.
Being completely free in terms of expense and exploration makes it the perfect place to spend some time together as a family. There is so many different areas to explore outside from the river at the bottom of the hill complete with hundred of tadpoles when we visited in May, to the outer walls and rooms each labelled with information and even a map to show you how it all would have looked back in the day.
The girls were (mostly) excited to explore inside the main building, with Squidgy asking so many questions about the different areas. She was super inquisitive about what the signs said, what the stairs inside (that you couldn't reach as the bottom was no longer there) were for, and how people would have gone for a wee without a toilet inside. She was less than impressed by the hole in the floor that we explained was the toilet! The view was stunning and we had such a lovely time there.
Ruthven Barracks, Kingussie
Ruthven Barracks was another accidental find, just down the road from where my Aunt and her family live. We actually saw it from the road as we were driving down and came off at the following junction to try and find it. I'm glad we did, because it was so lovely and definitely worth the visit. Ruins always seem to provide the most fun for all the family and we all had a lovely time exploring.
Walking up the hill to it was a bit of a slog, especially when Squidgy decided that she was too tired to walk and her legs hurt. Funnily enough, once inside she seemed to forget she had been moaning five seconds before... and ran around so excited to see what she could find. No alcove, wall and room was safe from our girls loud exploration and their favourite part was the hole in the cider cellar over looking the land below.
Fort Augustus, Loch Ness
Loch Ness has got to be one of the most famous landmarks in the Scottish Highlands and it is such a lovely place to visit with so many little villages and places to stop all the way around it. One such place is Fort Augustus. Even better there is a lock there to watch the boats come and go. Squidgy was super fascinated by the whole experience, her first time seeing how one works.
Seeing everything from sail boats to a massive cruise ship we didn't think was even going to fit go through the lock was amazing. Squidgy's excitement was infectious as she watched the water fall, flow and fill each section of the lock to raise and lower the ships each way. It is not a quick process, which means an hour or so of watching the boats come and go passed by before we decided it was probably time to wave goodbye and head back.
John did a Google search for somewhere to visit on one of our final days in the Scottish Highlands and came across Logie Steading, and it was so worth the drive out to it. It was not 100% pushchair friendly, so halfway down the hill we stopped to take some photos of the amazing view over the salmon river below and John stayed with Pickle in the pushchair while Squidgy and I carried on down to explore.
Back at the main complex there was not only a cafe which we bought ice creams from, but also little shops selling everything from local meats and whiskeys to handmade goodies. Before the walk to the river, there is also an amazing playground with little benches and adventure trail. The girls spent tonnes of time racing around, climbing up and chasing each other; complete with plenty of smiles, laughter and squeals.
We had such an amazing time in Scotland, and I loved every second of spending time with my family and my grandparents. I can't wait for our next trip up and I know that we have so many great places that we will want to revisit when we go up again; and knowing there are free days out makes it much easier.