IT is the railway which whisked Harry Potter off to Hogwarts and set him on the way to his otherwordly adventures.

And now it appears that the Glenfinnan Viaduct and the West Highland Railway is still casting its spell over children's imaginations with more than half of those who come to Scotland on holiday saying it's one of the sights they want to see.

In a remarkable first, VisitScotland has conducted a survey solely talking to little ones who have come on the tourist trail with their parents or guardians.

It is hoped that getting the low-down on the holiday experience straight from a child's point of view will help businesses and attractions get a better handle on what can make a fulfilling family vacation.

And it has also revealed the places and activities children want to do when they make the trip north of the Border to spend time in Scotland.

Fiona Carruthers, Insight Manager at VisitScotland who led the research, said: “This is the first time VisitScotland has used research to speak directly to children, as well as their parents, to find out what we should be telling families who are considering Scotland for their next break.

“Family dynamics can be complex but from our research we discovered that there are some key aspects that Scottish tourism businesses can build on and really emphasise when marketing to families so that Scotland is their next holiday destination."

The report dives into how much influence children themselves have on where a family holidays – with almost one in four saying that their offspring had a big influence on the destination.

It also identifies the "core passions" of 8 to 12-year-olds – which include visiting the great outdoors, taking part in sport, or seeing animals.

But it seems that Scotland may not be best placed to cater to all their needs, as children also want to see sunshine, go to the beach, and go swimming.

The survey stressed the importance of offering services to different types of families, from single parents to grandparents taking grandchildren on a break, the "boomerang" generation of younger adults who still live at home and holiday with their parents, and "Panks and Punks" – professional aunts and uncles with no kids who take their siblings' little ones on short breaks.

Children were also asked what they thought of Scotland – with almost half saying their first thought was it was "far away", while 38 per cent said it was cold, 36% adventurous and 15% "magical".

Chief among the things they like to do on holiday were go swimming, visit the zoo or a theme park, and go shopping.

However, more than 40 % said that visiting castles and monuments was something they wanted to do on holiday, while one in three said they wanted to see somewhere made famous by a book or a film.

Asked about activities that Scotland can offer specifically, the biggest draw was its white sandy beaches, followed by the natural world and the chance to spot wildlife or even a monster at Loch Ness.

As well as see the Glenfinnan Viaduct, other big draws included the chance to go camping and sleep under the stars, cycle on woodland trails, visit a haunted house, or take part in water sports.

Asked about their ideal place to stay, children taking part in the study said a wooden tree house, an eco-friendly wigwam, or a castle.

Ms Carruthers said: "Enjoying experiences together was key for both children and parents. Children told us about their joy of simply playing football with their parents on holiday to trying out new adventurous activities. Doing something that fits with children’s passions, interests and even school curriculum is an important holiday requirement.

"So, dialling up these aspects, signposting where families can do things together and showcasing the opportunity to learn new things and inspire the imagination is vital."

“Owning the space for action-packed fun, creating a strong association with the outdoors and highlighting the wealth of shared family activities that Scotland offers is also a key strength and a real opportunity. The fact that Scotland has a diverse range of experiences - adventure, history, wildlife and scenery - coupled with family friendly accommodation gives us much to talk about.

She added: “We believe that Scotland is a destination for families offering endless opportunities to bring them together to explore the breath taking, inspiring locations across Scotland and to create unique memories of time together that you can get Only in Scotland.”