Family Friendly Castles to Visit in Scotland

Family Friendly Castles to Visit in Scotland

Looking for a great day out with the family steeped in culture and history? As a kid who grew up visiting castles on my jollies, I can tell you they are amazing and extremely exciting places for a kid to explore. Nothing quite matches the epic scale and dreamlike feel of entering a castle after seeing them in films, television, and books. For young Harry Potter or Lord of The Rings fans, entering a castle can feel like walking into Hogwarts / Rohan. As grown ups, we see the history, as children we see the majesty.

So I’ve put together an easy list containing three incredible castles that can keep kids entertained and educated. Each of these castles can either be enjoyed as the star attraction of a full day. Alternatively, it is possible to visit all three in one day if you’re driving and feeling energetic! This list also contains estimated travel times and average prices for accommodation for a family of four over a long weekend in the summer holidays to help you think ahead.

Three Castles and a Long Weekend:

If you’re looking to visit all three castles in one weekend, you’re going to have a very busy few days! Just to help you out, I’ve put together a quick guide of how long it would take to travel between castles. Along with an average price for accommodation nearby to help you plan ahead. Fortunately, Scotland’s castles are all relatively close together, saving you a mammoth drive between visits.

Total drive time: 1 hour 50 minutes (traffic permitting)
Total number of nights: 3 nights (allowing for a stop over before heading home)
Average overall accommodation cost: £390 – 540 (3 nights, family of 4)
Overall fuel cost: £7 – 15p per mile (directly from one castle to the next)
Other costs to consider: Food and spending money

Edinburgh Castle

Accommodation: £150-200 average (1 night, family of 4)
Alternative Travel: If you’re not driving, it is possible to get a train to Edinburgh Waverley Station and then walk up to the castle. The walk is about 10 minutes, but it is very steep as the castle is at the top of a hill. You can also get a taxi there if needs be.

Ticket Prices (book here):
Adults (16-64yrs): £15.50
Children (5-15yrs): £9.30 (Children under 5 go free)
#1 Family (1 adult, 2 children): £31.00
#2 Family (2 adults, 2 children): £45.00
#3 Family (2 adults, 3 children): £53.00

It is worth noting that the prices listed above are the reduced prices for when you order online. Prices at the gate will be slightly higher.

Let’s starts with the obvious one. You could easily spend a good chunk of the day on Edinburgh Castle. However, what makes this extra special is that you have the ENTIRE CITY to enjoy once you’re out! With Camera Obscura just outside the main gates (another absolute must whilst you’re around that way). As well as epic museums and shops to keep your kids entertained all day. I guarantee you’ll all be thoroughly worn out once the day is done.

edinburgh castle
Image credit: AESU

Things to do:

Edinburgh castle offers a variety of itinerary suggestions so that you can follow a tour route that would give you the most out of your visit. Each route has a different educational theme or different lengths of time for those trying to explore the castle in a tight time frame. With excitingly decorated rooms filled with historic information, it can be an interesting and informative visit for the entire family. Additionally, they provide quiz questions with clues to finding the answers specifically designed to help children to engage in their surroundings.

I found the great hall to be particularly spectacular during my visit, and I just know that as a child I would have been blown away. I often visited castles on my holidays as a kid, but they would rarely be decked out in such a grand manner. Painted in a rich vibrant red colour, with swords and spears adorning the walls and suits of armour standard guard. Furthermore, for any kids that are a fan of Harry Potter, I think they’ll get a kick out of this area.

Edinburgh Castle also has a lovely gift shop that you can stop at either on your way in or out.

Which was great for me during my visit as I hadn’t prepared for cold foggy weather (which is what we got). So I was able to purchase a stunning cream knitted scarf from the shop on my way in to keep warm, which quickly became my favourite! 

I personally feel you could easily spend the entire morning at Edinburgh castle, stopping for a bite to eat in one of their two cafes before heading out into the city for some additional exploration. However, if you’re wanting to do all three castles in a single day, following their itinerary suggestions can help you to keep to a decent time frame.

Stirling Castle

Time to drive from Edinburgh: 1 hour 5 minutes (traffic permitting)
Accommodation: £120-170 average (1 night, family of 4)
Alternative Travel: Train from Edinburgh Waverley Station to Stirling Station. Walking in between. This route takes just over an hour to complete. Please check out the route planner here.

Ticket Prices (book here):

Adults (16-64yrs): £14.00
Concessions
(65yr+): £11.20
Children
(5-15yrs): £8.40 (Children under 5 go free)
#1 Family
(1 adult, 2 children): £28.00
#2 Family
(2 adults, 2 children): £40.00
#3 Family
(2 adults, 3 children): £48.00

It is worth noting that the prices listed above are the reduced prices for when you order online. Prices at the gate will be slightly higher.

Stirling Castle is designed to accommodate families in every way. Down to having actors walking around, that can help them to engage in learning in a fun and exciting manner. They even have games on their website to get children excited about history. This could be a fantastic pre-cursor to your visit and is definitely the kind of thing me and my brothers would have loved! Their website is made to start the teaching before your kids step foot inside the gates.

scotland castles stirling
Image credit: Visit Scotland

Things to do:

There is a fantastic range of fun stuff you can get up to whilst at Stirling Castle. Which, if you’ve got children with you, may delay your trip if you’re aiming for all three castles in a day. Stirling Castle acts like one very grand and beautiful interactive museum. With almost every room containing activities dotted throughout. It contains vaults each containing activities and games for your children to try out. They even offer a chance to meet with some of the characters of the castle, with servants wandering the castle halls that will gladly answer any and all questions you might have (in fact, they encourage it!).

There are some fantastic tour videos on Youtube (like the one below) that give to a chance to check out the castle before you go. I tend to enjoy these types of videos to get me hyped for my trip! However, not everyone wants to go in with foreknowledge of what they’ll be seeing. So it’s totally up to you whether you check out the video or simply go and see for yourself.

Video credit: Lee Freeman Photography Youtube

Stirling Castle even offers family tours for you to get the most of out your visit, whilst keeping up a good pace. These tours run at 2:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday, so perfect for a weekend trip. And to top it off, Stirling also had a lovely little cafe with a range of tasty goodies. As well as multiple gift shops, so you can pick a little something out as a souvenir of your trip. (I know I mention gift shops a lot, but I’m a big fan! So a gift shop is the first thing I look for.)

Scone Palace

Time to drive from Stirling: 50 minutes (traffic permitting)
Accommodation (optional): £120-170 average (1 night, family of 4)
Alternative Travel: Train from Stirling Station to Perth Station and then the 3, 7, 57 or 57A bus from South Street to Scone. Walking in between. This route takes just shy of 2 hours to complete. Please check out the route planner here.

Ticket Prices (book here):

Adults (16+): £20.00
Children (4-15yrs): £13.00 (Children under 4 go free)
#3 Family (2 adults, max 3 children): £28.00

It is worth noting that the prices listed above are for both the palace and gardens. However you can purchase tickets just for the gardens if you prefer.

Depending on where you’re starting, the three castles only take around 2 hours to drive between, so you could potentially head straight home once you’re done at Scone Palace, saving you the cost of an additional nights accommodation. Scone Palace has over 100 acres of ground to explore. So if you’re lucky enough to get some good weather you and the kids could spend a good few hours enjoying the scenery. Though it may not technically be a castle, it is an incredible 200-year-old palace steeped in history.

scone palace
Image credit: The Castles of Scotland

Things to do:

To start with, there is a designated picnic area near the car park, so you can stop off for some food and refuel on arrival before heading off to enjoy the palace. In the incredible gardens, there is a hedge maze and adventure playground, which is perfect for helping your child/children to burn off excess energy! You can even collect an activity book for some added fun and peanuts to feed to the free-roaming peacocks on your travels.

But if you want to get the most out of your visit to Scone Palace, try to arrange your trip around one of their activity days. Even though there is a fantastic tour available to show off the palace interior, they also arrange events over the summer for younger visitors. These events change every year and can range from bushcraft and falconry to circus skill classes and sporting activities. I personally am a big fan of circus skills, even now! I may not be any good… But they’re fun all the same.

Enjoy Your Trip!

Whether you decide to clear all three castles in a day or take a long weekend to savour each environment I hope you enjoy it. Remember to give yourself time to wind down in between locations. You don’t want to be dreading walking around somewhere you paid to be. These castles are far too beautiful to be a chore. So sit down when you can, soak in the sights, and let the excitement of the environment keep your kid(s) occupied so you can have a breather. And above all, have fun! 

Eloise

Eloise

Eloise is a lifelong gamer, a studier of Ancient History and Archaeology, a pet care journalist, a new mother of one, and film studies graduate with a desire to pass on her own knowledge so that others may benefit from it.

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