The west coast islands of Scotland make for a huge natural playground, offering some unforgettable family experiences that you and your children will cherish forever.
Ferry operator CalMac serves the area, unlocking the door to some of Scotland’s most amazing outdoor activities. Here are just 5 of our favourite child-friendly outdoor activities in the west-coast islands of Scotland.
Geocaching in the Hebrides
Geocaching, a family-friendly blend of orienteering and treasure-hunting using a GPS device, has been growing in popularity since the turn of the century and there are now around five million geocachers wandering around the world, hunting down and hiding caches - usually a small plastic container containing a logbook and small item of “treasure” (SPOILER ALERT: It’s usually not treasure) which must be left in place or replaced. There are some 150 recognised geocaches hidden in nooks and crannies across the Hebrides, offering a great way to explore the area’s rugged beauty while also getting the kids actively involved in geography and problem-solving. Lewis is the happiest hunting ground with almost 100 caches, but even uninhabited St Kilda has two, guarded by thousands of seabirds.
Swim in the Fairy Pools of Skye (Skye Raasay and Small Isles)
The myths and legends about the fairies of Skye might be a touch murky, but the waters of the Fairy Pools at the foot of the Black Cuillins are crystal clear and will soon have the whole family under their spell. It’s a fairly straightforward and enjoyable 20-minute walk from the village of Glenbrittle up the River Brittle past a series of waterfalls and the beautiful clear pools they feed but some little ones might struggle with traversing some of the stepping stones and marshy areas. This being Scotland, the water isn’t going to be warm, but in the height of summer there can’t be many things more exhilarating or as bewitching as a spot of wild swimming in the clear blue Fairy Pools of Skye.
Axe throwing in Armadale (Skye Raasay and Small Isles)
Sometimes, children just want to throw axes at things. Don’t fight it. It’s nature.
Fortunately, they can do it in a safe, supervised, fun environment at Armadale Activities on Skye, as long as they’re aged eight or over.
The centre also offers other weaponised fun in the form of archery and clay pigeon shooting but the novelty of axe-throwing is sure to be a winner with infants of an injurious ilk. There are various axes to try, and after a bit of training, you can have a little friendly-family competition to hone your skills. After all, what responsible parent doesn’t want their child to be fully trained in axe-throwing?
Go dinosaur hunting on Skye (Skye and the Small isles)
If the closest your kids have ever come to fossil-hunting is helping you look for your running shoes, maybe a trip to Skye is in order. Most children have an all-consuming excitement about dinosaurs hard-wired into their DNA, so be sure to put some newspaper down before you tell them you’re taking them to what David Attenborough-types call “Dinosaur Island”. Bearreraig Bay, Ardnish Point, Elgol, Dunans, and Rigg are all renowned happy hunting grounds for Jurassic fossils of various shapes and sizes, while the beach at Staffin is famous for its 165 million-year-old footprints. It’s worth checking out Staffin Museum while you’re at it. See www.ukfossils.co.uk for more detailed information on what to look for and some dino dos and don’ts.
Hit the beach on Cowal
The Bahaman-style sands and turquoise waters of the likes of Luskentyre and Scarista on the Isle of Harris are rightly renowned well beyond these shores but, for many people in Scotland, a hidden gem of a beach can be found a little closer to home, a ten-minute ferry journey from Largs. Ostel Bay - also known as Kilbride Bay - on the Cowal peninsula enjoys stunning views of Loch Fyne and Arran, not to mention unspoilt sands on its sheltered beach alongside clear waters perfect for paddling and swimming. It’s a 15-minute walk from the car park but rarely will such a short walk be rewarded with such a perfect spot for the whole family to enjoy.
• This article was produced in partnership with CalMac