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How to spend a week in Scotland with kids

Scotland has always had a piece of my heart. From being a child and driving to the Trossachs and Cairngorms to exploring the Scottish Isles, I’ve always had a lot of connection to this country.

The Borders and East Lothian, which is where my itinerary will take you, is really accessible from the North East of England and great for every season. It will take you around two and half hours to drive, it is an easy route which mainly involves a straight run on the A1. The scenery as you cross the Borders is stunning, a mix of the sea and deep forests.

Over the past few years, we have spent many weeks in this southerly part of Scotland and have now created this itinerary for you. All of the places you need are right here and will ensure you have the best week in Scotland with kids, making memories to treasure forever.

I have recommended a great variety of places and there is something to suit everyone. from a lodge on a family friendly leisure park to a luxury stay in a stunning lodge. You can choose between getting up close with nature and staying in a beachfront cottage.

October 4, 2022

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The best places to stay in The Borders and East Lothian

Scotland offers so many places to stay, it can be a minefield. I have narrowed it down to four fantastic places within the same area but all with a different appeal. Do you love to glamp? Or would a cottage with a back garden leading to the sand be what your family would love?

Here are my top 5 tried and tested places to stay.

Pease Bay

Pease Bay Holiday Park is situated in a quiet bay on a secluded beach, it is easily accessible from the A1 and a fantastic base from which to explore the area. Turn off from the motorway and drive down a narrow track for about two miles. As you near Pease Bay you will catch a glimpse over the hills of the bay and the holiday park below, every time I catch this view it takes my breath away as I know exactly what’s in store for the coming days. A small holiday park with a variety of lodges and static homes on offer, Verdant Leisure have created the perfect haven for you and your family. The beach is used by the residents on the site and the surfers who visit when the tide is high. It is sheltered from the elements making it a perfect place for a family beach day. There is a small shop, restaurant and surf school, everything you need for a relaxing base for your week in Scotland.

Cove Farm Wigwams

Along the same stretch of track as Pease Bay, just off the A1, lie these rustic wooden wigwams. If a tranquil and peaceful stay is on your list, then this is the place for you. Set in an area of outstanding beauty with breath-taking scenery right on your doorstep, you will switch off, unwind and immerse yourself in precious family time. The luxury wigwams have ensuite facilities, hot tubs and a beautiful porch area to eat and relax. With views of both coast and country, this glamping experience will be second to none. You will be within walking distance of two stunning beaches and a small village nearby.

Whitekirk Hill

If it’s award-winning luxury you are looking for, head to Whitekirk hill. Sitting within the beautiful countryside near North Berwick and within easy reach of Edinburgh, it’s the perfect luxury family retreat.

The self-catering lodges are made to the highest specification with attention to detail throughout. All family lodges have a fully equipped kitchen and luxurious bathrooms. There’s no need for you to compromise luxury and family time at Whitekirk Hill.

Also on site is an award-winning spa, stunning orangery and terrace restaurant and a beautiful indoor children's play area. There is plenty of outdoor space for children to run and explore. A fabulous venue, set to the highest standards.

Cottage on the Beach

The Cottage On the Beach, North Berwick is a favourite of ours, we stayed here many years ago. The cottage is a modern fisherman’s cottage on two floors. Sleeping six, it has three large double bedrooms and two bathrooms, making it a great escape for families. The back garden is where the magic happens, the sea views are beautiful and the garden gate opens directly onto the sand. Imagine having your morning cuppa on the beach while the children play on the sand!

A two-minute walk up the road brings you to the award-winning Scottish Seabird Centre, the old fishing harbour and another stretch of beach. The high street is two minutes in the other direction. If you want a well decorated, spacious cottage with a fantastic location, you will love The Cottage On the Beach.

How to spend a week in Scotland with kids – a seven-day itinerary

This seven-day itinerary is packed full of adventures, days out, exploring and sampling local food. If you only have seven days and love a jam-packed schedule then follow this itinerary and you won’t be disappointed. If you have longer, then spread out the activities and spend longer at some of the wonderful beaches and villages I am about to share with you.

Day 1

North Berwick is so often confused with the town of Berwick but these two towns are as different in location as they are in what they offer.

North Berwick is a small, bustling seaside town with a lively atmosphere, it’s a great place for you to spend the day with kids. There is plenty of parking around the town centre, some free and some with quite a hefty charge, it’s worth having a little drive around to find the free ones if you can.

There is a fantastic park and gardens right in the heart of North Berwick. It’s a great spot to take the kids to have a run around and let off some steam. It's an ideal location for you to take some time out, enjoy a coffee and relax while the kids have fun.

The high street is a traditional and pretty collection of shops, bakeries and cafes with something to suit everyone. The little ones will love the little toy shop and the traditional sweet shop. It has to be one of the biggest collections of sweets I’ve seen and you’ll be swept back in time finding many sweets from your childhood.

There is a mix of some well-known high street shops such as Joules and FatFace, as well as some wonderful independent gift and homeware shops.

One of the main attractions for families is the beach. It is small but perfectly suited to small children with its tidal swimming pool, fine sand and beautiful shells. The shallow pool is built within the sea and fills up at high tide with fresh sea water keeping it clean, fresh and a safe space to swim.

The Scottish Seabird Centre and lobster hatchery are a few minutes stroll away and well worth a visit if you or your little ones are wildlife fans. There is a lovely café inside if you need some refreshments while you are there. You can enjoy panoramic views across the sea from the clifftop walk, they are very narrow however, so do keep hold of any little ones especially if it’s windy.

There are plenty of tea shops serving light lunches and cakes and a couple of small Italian style restaurants and bars should you want something more substantial. If you love good quality handmade sandwiches and cake, visit Bostock Bakery, they serve a delicious selection, but be quick – they sell out in record time.

If you are a coffee geek and love tasting and talking about the best grinds, you’ll love Steampunk on the high street, with an industrial interior and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, it’s heaven for any coffee fans.

Day 2

Scotland is well known for its many castles. Tantallon is North Berwick’s stunning ruin, which sits on the edge of the cliffs with stunning sea views. It’s well worth a stop off when you are in the area.

For lunch a visit to Drift café is a must. This is by far our favourite place to eat in this area of Scotland. Built from shipping containers and perched on the edge of a cliff, you’ll have views as far as the eye can see, including Bass Rock. We visit this little gem a few times each summer and haven't been disappointed yet. The food is always excellent quality. This year we attended one of their supper clubs and I’d definitely recommend adding this to your list. Think twinkly lights, sea views and a delicious seasonal menu.

A few minutes' drive away is Seacliff Beach. It is a well-hidden bay accessible only down a steep woodland track. There’s something about finding a beach that is little known and usually deserted. A small entry fee of £3 is payable at the top of the track so make sure you have some change before you make the journey here. As you descend the short flight of wooden steps you will be met with a spectacular view of Bass rock. It’s probably as close as you will get to it on land.

When the tide is out, take a walk around the cliffs to get spectacular views of Tantallon castle. The backdrop to the beach is Green and lush, full of trees, which creates a feeling of being deserted on an island. At low tide the powdery sand is littered with a variety of starfish and shells and there are rockpools galore which will excite and entertain your children for hours.

Day 3

A day for adventure! If you love an outdoor adventure, then you’ll love a visit to the five-star Foxlake outdoor adventures. Choose from a huge variety of exhilarating water sports and adrenaline filled activities. Why not try the UK’s first ropes course over water or wakeboarding? There are great activities suitable for younger children too. Be sure to book ahead of your visit as this is a really popular centre. There is a café serving a lovely range of food and drinks to refuel and warm up after all of your water sports.

For lunch take a trip to Strawberry Barn, a café, farm shop and deli all set in rustic surroundings. The café serves up really good breakfasts, lunches and cakes. If you need gifts to take home or want to stock up on farmhouse or speciality food, you’ll be spoiled for choice here. There’s a small play area with seating outside and there are often special events and workshops, so do keep an eye on their website.

A few minutes' drive away is the Dancing Bear, a huge sculpture built by Andy Scott to honour John Miur. It’s a short walk from Dunbar Garden Centre which has plenty of free parking. A beautiful symbol of wilderness, it is sure to delight both your children and you with lots of photo opportunities if you are feeling creative.

Day 4

Today is a day to visit a movie and music video setting. The small, unassuming village of St. Abbs has been used to film both The Avengers and also the music video of Harry Styles’ Adore You. It’s a gorgeous place for a stroll and some refreshments.

St Abbs is a small harbour with a few cottages and one small café. It’s a pretty working harbour and the café Ebbs Café is a well-known eatery and somewhere I would highly recommend. Their famous dish is their freshly caught crab sandwiches, a tastebud extravaganza! The cakes are baked in house each day. They are huge and have the most delicious flavours, we had to get a few to share as we just couldn’t make a decision.

St Abbs is also well known for the headland walk to St Abbs lighthouse. The 5.8K walk will allow you the most spectacular views from the clifftops and the scenery throughout is breath-taking. I would advise you take drinks and a picnic, stop half way round and admire the views and refuel.

Day 5

Coldingham bay is a small, sheltered beach on the coast in the Scottish Borders. Its soft golden sand and shallow waters is the perfect combination for children. It’s a fantastic place to try out or learn your surfing and body boarding skills – take some tips from the experts who flock here during the warmer months. The facilities are very good at Coldingham, everything you need is on hand making it the perfect place for you to spend a relaxing day.

You’ll find plenty of car parking, toilet facilities and a lifeguard station. You can hire a beach hut for the day (do book ahead) and you can find plenty of good food and refreshments at the beach café.

If you love History, visit Coldingham Priory. Founded in 1098, it is now ruined but is a wonderful place to visit. The gardens are filled with nooks to sit and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. The grounds have wonderful community gardens which have culinary, medicinal and aromatic plants.

Day 6

Melrose is a pretty little town with views of the famous triple peaks of Eildon Hills. Perfect for a morning stroll to take in its Scottish Charm. Melrose boasts a good variety of coffee shops including the delightful Apples for Jam, a gorgeous little café serving artisan coffee and food.

Abbotsford is a must see on a day in Melrose. It was once the extraordinary home of the 19th century novelist Sit Walter Scott. Take a walk in the woodland or explore the beautiful formal gardens. The house itself holds many historic items and is well worth a visit. Enjoy lunch in the café which serves delicious seasonal food and drinks.

In the afternoon head to Melrose Abbey to continue your day of history and culture. This is the best-preserved abbey in the Scottish Borders. Take a stroll through the ruined walls and arches. Just next to the Abbey is Priorwood Gardens. Think rustic walled gardens and an abundance of apple orchards – in fact there are 90 varieties! Run by the National Trust for Scotland it specialises in growing flower species suitable for drying, there is even a gorgeous dried flower shop to purchase some of your own dried flowers to take home.

Day 7

Today is a quiet beach day, Pease Bay beach is a beautiful sheltered bay with great places for swimming, body boarding and surfing. With beautiful soft sand and fabulous rock pools, it is guaranteed to keep little ones entertained for hours. The little shop sells wetsuits and surfboards if you decide to try your hand at some water sports or take some lessons from the surf school near the beach.

When the tide is out walk to the far end of the beach past the red cliffs and onto the small beach behind. It has the softest, white sand and as it is very sheltered it’s often warm. This is a lovely place to sit and relax, have a fire and cook dinner or make s’mores. Keep an eye on the tide and make sure you leave before high tide or you will be trapped.

For lunch pop to the little shop next to the beach and pick up some of their fresh rolls and a few picnic supplies, there is also a small restaurant on site if you want something more substantial.

After lunch take a twenty-minute walk across the Upland way or drive five minutes up the track to the wonder that is Cove. Use the small car park and take the cliffside walk – keep an eye on the cliffs until you find a small opening. Take a torch with you to light the five-minute walk through the dark tunnel and be prepared to have your breath taken away. As you emerge you will be greeted by a beautiful, perfectly formed harbour which feels like you’ve emerged in the south of France. It has a sandy bay and clear, shallow water, wonderful for swimming and paddling. beautiful shells and pebbles adorn the sand and a rustic fisherman's cottage overlooks the bay on one side.

To finish off your day at Pease Bay, book a visit to Hillside Alpacas. This is an Alpaca experience like no other. It is not your usual walk with the alpaca – this is an up-close experience. You will be taken into the field, with 26 friendly alpaca and be able to feed and stroke them for a full hour. We were really lucky on our visit and got to cuddle with a couple of very new baby alpaca.

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My top tips for a great stay

1, Be prepared to travel 20 – 30 minutes between locations.

2, The weather can be changeable, go prepared with suitable clothing.

3, Book cafes ahead to ensure you get a seat.

4, Take a camera and binoculars, there are lots of opportunities for birds, seals, dolphins and stunning views.

5, Go prepared with swimming and beach equipment – surf suits, surf boards, body boards etc.

6, Have a list of indoor venues to visit if the weather isn’t good. (Whitekirk, Seabird Centre, Aircraft Museum)

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October 4, 2022