Soft play is shut, sleepovers are off-limits and for the next few weeks you can’t go out for a meal together in the pub. It’s fair to say that entertaining kids is no easy task at the moment. But while the weather might be a bit chilly, there are still lots of activities that you can enjoy as a family in Scotland’s great outdoors, keeping safe while also keeping kids busy. In addition, there’s a fair few family-friendly businesses that are able to remain open while abiding to the current government guidance. Here’s our pick of the best.

Try a Spy Mission Treasure Trail, various locations

Glasgow spy trail begins at Ruthven Street, Woodlands, Glasgow

01872 263692.

Can be completed whenever you want;

£9.99 for one trail booklet, which is for 4-5 people, can be posted out to you or printed at home.

For a relatively small cost, this clever initiative will keep kids busy while also teaching them more about the area around them. Little explorers (accompanied by adults) can follow the Glasgow trail around the city’s west end, solving clues on buildings and monuments as you go. The aim is to deactivate a device created by a vengeful professor at the university, so it is pretty high-stakes stuff. If you get stuck then there is a text message service with clues, but bear in mind that no one likes a cheat! Once you complete it there are dozens of other treasure trails throughout Glasgow, in Newton Mearns, East Kilbride, Lanark and the Merchant City, and indeed across Scotland beyond.

Visit the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

The Mound, Edinburgh, 0131 624 6200

Open daily, 10am-5pm, Free.

Offering free entertainment for kids and adults alike, this gallery provides a sanctuary of peace away from the chaos of Edinburgh’s Princes Street. Post-Covid the visitor experience is slightly different, with the gallery requiring visitors to book a time-slot online in advance of each trip (although there is no charge for this) and everyone aged five and over being required to wear a face covering. But once you get in there is a wide variety of art on display, from the striking stag in the Monarch of the Glen to the colours and movement of impressionist paintings. There’s also a special exhibition on throughout autumn that focuses on the life of film special effects superstar Ray Harryhausen, the godfather of stop motion animation.

Do some pottery painting at The Craft Pottery, Glasgow

The Craft Pottery, 48-54 Washington Street, Ground Floor, Suite 16, Glasgow

0141 221 1067.

£3 flat charge for painting and then prices depend on objects chosen.

Offering a much-needed creative outlet for both adults and kids, pottery painting is the perfect antidote to the stresses of a global pandemic. You can learn how to make, as well as paint pottery, with painting suitable for all ages and the pottery creation welcome to all ages six and over. For painting classes you can choose an object to paint – using a stencil if you prefer – and then leave it to be finished and glazed, while pottery making is offered via specialised kids classes that last at least an hour. But if you aren’t comfortable in a classroom scenario then you can pick up one of the Craft Pottery’s “paint at home kits” and conduct the whole thing from the comfort of your own kitchen.

Visit the Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick

North Berwick Harbour, North Berwick, East Lothian, 0871 2002233.

Open every day, 10am- 6pm

£11.95 for adults, £7.95 for children, family tickets available.

There’s tons to see at the Scottish Seabird Centre. A key highlight is the Discovery Centre, where you can control interactive live cameras – linked up to local islands – to zoom in on gannets, puffins and other wildlife in their natural habitat. If you feel like it, they also run sightseeing boat trips from the centre, which are open for pre-booking provided that you wear a face covering on board. Fancy a refreshment afterwards? The popular Seabird café is still open for business under the current restrictions, albeit without alcohol. And as if all that wasn’t enough, the Seabird Centre is a truly family-friendly attraction that even welcomes dogs to all its indoor and outdoor public areas.

Get on your bikes at Glentrool Mountain Biking Trail, Galloway

Glentrool, Newton Stewart, Galloway Forest Park, Free.

Grab your bikes and prepare to get muddy at the Glentrool mountain biking trail, where you can explore forests, glens and enjoy views over the stunning Loch Trool. The trails offer fun routes for families and those easing themselves into mountain biking, with the option of more challenging paths for those that feel up to it. It is particularly lovely to visit at this time of year when the autumnal colours reflect onto the water in a postcard-perfect fashion.

Meet the animals at Mabie Farm Park, Dumfries

Burnside Farm, Mabie, Dumfries

01387 259666.

Open every day, 10am- 5pm, £8 for children (2-16 years), £8.50 adults.

With bags of space for kids, and animals, to run around in, Mabie Farm Park makes social distancing easy. You can pet the sheep, goats, bunnies, guinea pigs, ferrets and baby ducks, with lots of hand sanitiser provided, as well as meeting the new foal that was born in July. When you finish with the animals don’t worry – you will easily be able to fill a full day there with donkey rides, a quad bike-pulled choo choo train and paddle boats to keep you busy (all included in the entry fee). Great value for the price.

Go skating Rollerstop Roller Rink, Glasgow

139 Middlesex Street, Kinning Park, Glasgow, 0141 429 7298.

£7.50 with skate hire, £5 without for children. Session times vary.

Eighties inspired but with a modern twist, the disco balls and colourful lights make Rollerstop a far more pleasant (and warm) place to hang about than at an ice-skating arena. Due to the current restrictions their sessions are under-18s only until the end of the month, but adults are welcome to relax and spectate at the on-site café while the kids get on with skating. They allow participants from ages 4-17, with beginners welcomed just as warmly as pro skaters.

Climb at Avertical world, Dundee

7 Blinshall Street, Dundee, 01382 201901

Adults £11-£9, juniors £7.

Open Monday-Friday, 11am-10pm and Saturday-Sunday, 10am-7pm.

Tayside’s only dedicated indoor climbing centre has reopened and is welcoming kids over seven (provided they are supervised by an experienced climber). Once you are there, there are three types of rope climbing to try out as well as bouldering: where you climb low level walls, without a wire, above crash mats. It is as much about problem solving as physical strength, and will tire out even the most energetic children for at least a few hours afterwards.

Ski at Midlothian Snowsports Centre, Edinburgh

Biggar Road, Hillend, Edinburgh

0131 445 4433.

Practice skiing and snowboarding is £16 for adults and £10 for children for an hour and a half

Open Monday-Friday 9.30am-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 9.30am-7pm

We are still a bit early for snowfall, but you can ski and snowboard all year round on the artificial slopes of Midlothian Snowsports Centre. They are currently welcoming skiers ages eight and above, at a minimum of level four standard, to enjoy the three different slopes that are on offer at the longest dry ski slope in Europe. There’s even a fully operational chairlift to take you up to the top.

Pretend to set sail on the Maid of the Loch, Balloch

Pier Road, Balloch, West Dunbartonshire

01389 711865.

Children go free, £3 per adult.

Open Wednesday- Sunday,


Tucked around at the side of Loch Lomond Shores, this is one of the country’s best museums that you might have never known about. You can tour the lower decks of the boat (with recreated rooms to give a sense of on-board life), admire the pistons of the engine, and recreate a “Titanic” moment on the ship’s bow. The views across Loch Lomond aren’t bad either. Hand sanitisers are available throughout the ship and track and trace details will be taken from visitors, but apart from that the ship is open as usual until it closes for the winter on November 1.