For most Scottish school pupils, the Christmas holidays will have already started, and parents will be faced with a fortnight-long headache about how to keep them occupied. Once the toys and presents have been pushed to one side you will inevitably want to get out of the house but this time of year is notoriously expensive. Well fear not, we’ve rounded up some of the best family-friendly attractions across Scotland that are free of charge. Consider it our Christmas present to you

1.The Kelpies, Falkirk

The Helix Park, Falkirk

Open every day

01324 590600

They might have only been around since 2013, but the pair of 30-metre-high horses that make up the Kelpies have become instantly recognisable to most Scots. But while you might already have seen them from a distance while travelling down the M9, standing beneath them is the only way to properly appreciate this feat of modern engineering. The Helix Park, in which they are situated, is a haven for families with its cycle paths, canals and ponds. Kids will love the adventure playground situated near the car park, as well as seeing the swans on the lagoon. But if you want to witness the Kelpies at their spectacular best then visit at around dusk, when the stylishly illuminated horses will captivate kids and adults alike.

www.thehelix.co.uk

2. Aberdeen Maritime Museum

Shiprow, Aberdeen

Open Monday- Saturday, 10am-5pm and Sunday, 12pm -3pm (closed 25, 26 and 31 December and 1 and 2 January)

01224 337700

A maritime museum might not sound particularly child-friendly, but this impressive attraction offers plenty of touch screen consoles and hands-on exhibits to keep younger visitors busy. Situated on the historic Shiprow, it charts Aberdeen’s crucial relationship with the sea, offering a great view of the harbour to boot. There is a particular focus on the oil industry, which might be more interesting for adults, but kids are able to follow a treasure hunt task around the museum and try to find various objects. They will especially enjoy the chance to operate a remotely operated underwater vehicle… and you might too.

www.aagm.co.uk/Visit/AberdeenMaritimeMuseum

3. Riverside Museum, Glasgow

100 Pointhouse Road, Glasgow

0141 287 2720

Open 10am-5pm (11am on Friday and Sunday), closed 25, 26 and 31 December and 1 and 2 January

Many of us will have fond memories from Glasgow’s old transport museum, a higgledy-piggledy collection of trams and buses and cars and motorcycles that was located in Kelvin Hall. But if you haven’t yet visited the new Riverside Museum, designed by the late great Zaha Hadid, then you are in for a visual treat. Kids will enjoy exploring the old cobbled street, a favourite exhibit from the old transport museum, as well as the early subway car and station. There’s at least 90 large touch screens to play with, buses to climb aboard and even an interactive fire engine that lets visitors put out an imaginary fire. And if all that wasn’t enough, you can also explore the historic Tall Ship, moored at the back of the museum, which is also free to enter.

4. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

The Mound, Edinburgh

0131 624 6200

Open daily, 10am-5pm (closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Open on New Year Day's day from 12-5pm)

Situated right beside the (overpriced) chaos that is Edinburgh’s Christmas markets, the Scottish National Gallery offers free entertainment for the family. There is a variety of art, from the striking stag in the Monarch of the Glen to the colours and movement of impressionist paintings. Kids will enjoy poring over some of the giant paintings, but the gallery also hosts hands on art-making workshops and multi-sensory storytelling, with a free family art tour on Saturday, December 28, between 11am and 11.45. There also trails that allow you to explore the displays at your own pace and add a bit of interactivity for children. For kids who are really passionate about art, Edinburgh’s National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery of Modern Art are also free to enter.

www.nationalgalleries.org

5. Glenfinnan Viaduct, Lochaber

Glenfinnan, Lochaber, Fort William

Most kids like Harry Potter. But for parents, it can be an expensive hobby, with the plethora of Potterworld memorabilia, toys and costumes not proving to be particularly cheap. For example, a visit to the Making of Harry Potter studio tour in Hertfordshire starts at £47 per adult and £38 per child bringing a family of four costs a small fortune. But at the Glenfinnan Viaduct, you can relive one of the most magical moments from the Harry Potter films for absolutely nothing. The 100ft viaduct stands on a particularly picturesque west Highland glen, and was shown in the films carrying the Hogwarts Express train on its magical journey north. Arriving in the village of Glenfinnan, you can take a short, steep walk up to a viewing point overlooking the viaduct, with a bit of online research allowing you to time your visit as a train passes over. Photo opportunities out of the way, you can then follow the designated footpath along the top of Loch Shiel, which is a great way to freshen your legs amidst the laziness of the Christmas period. Spectacular views await.

6. Mills Observatory, Dundee

Glamis Road, Balgay Park, Dundee

01382 435967

Open Monday- Friday, 4pm-10pm, Saturday and Sunday, 12.30pm- 4pm (Christmas may affect these hours)

One of the worst things about this time of year is the fact that it gets dark so quickly. But at the Mills Observatory that proves to be a benefit, with the dark skies offering an opportunity to watch stars and planets through their many telescopes (including one that’s fully computerised). Mills was Britain’s first ever purpose-built public observatory, and although it is situated in the city it offers great views across the treetops to the Tay river beyond. There are planetarium shows too, with a small fee of £1 per adult and 50p per child.

www.leisureandculturedundee.com

7. Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Perth

78 George Street, Perth

01738 632488

Open 10am-5pm (closed 3pm Christmas Eve and closed 25, 26 December and 29 December- 2 January)

It might be small, but there is no shortage of things to see at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery. While learning about the Fair City’s history, children will love dressing up as Jacobites, watching wildlife on the live cameras and taking part in the interactive elements of the natural history displays. A great way to kill some time for free.

www.culturepk.org.uk

8. Burns Monument and Gardens, Ayr

Murdoch's Lone, Alloway, Ayr

A visit to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum will cost you £18 for a family ticket (which isn't too bad), but a trip to the nearby Burns Monument is free. Children will enjoy having the freedom to run around the well-maintained gardens, while adults can appreciate the views over the River Doon. The grand monument itself is lovely to look at, and there's sculptures and plaques dedicated to Burns.

9. St Magnus Cathedral, Orkney

Broad Street, Kirkwall, Orkney

Open Monday- Saturday, 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm (Christmas openings may vary)

01856 873312

Dominating the skyline of Kirkwall, this culturally significant cathedral is the most northerly in Scotland. Architecturally it has lots to offer visitors –particularly with its dramatic sandstone pillars and stain glass windows – but it is by no means a stuffy old attraction. Youngsters can use the free app to navigate their way round the cathedral: it provides images, videos and audio descriptions that bring the walls to life.

www.stmagnus.org

10. Pollok Country Park, Glasgow

2060 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow

At this time of year, it is easy to lose entire days spent indoors. But, as your granny used to say, if you do venture out into the fresh air you will feel all the better for it – and Pollok Park is one of the best places to go. Children will particularly like saying hello to the resident Highland cows, and they make great models for a photograph if the grass is frosty. There are also some beginners’ mountain biking trails, a playpark and stables where you can meet four loveable Clydesdale horses. Pollok House is always worth a visit too, but you’ll have to pay to get in.