Best Time to Visit Scotland

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It's May, It's June—the Merry Months of May and June!

The weather is variable but generally mild, with temperatures mostly in the 60s. There are tourists, but not the throngs you'd have to fight your way through in July or August. There's a big-deal event happening especially for kids in Edinburgh. The countryside, particularly when viewed by rail, offers stunning views of the Highlands. Perhaps late May to early June is the best time for your holiday in Scotland.

Hopping Along in Glasgow

Try starting off your holiday in Glasgow, where you can take a double-decker bus tour that takes you all over the city. When you come to any of the tour's stops and want to spend a bit of time there, you just hop off the bus. When you're done, you can hop on the next bus (buses run every 10 minutes). The tour route loops through the city, with stops at parks, greens, shopping areas, museums, even the National Piping Center (30-34 McPhater St., Glasgow, UK), where you and your kids can take a crack at playing bagpipes yourselves. Children under the age of 5 ride the bus for free, and there's also a family rate. Kids (recommended ages 6 to 12) are invited to take their own spooky tour called "Ghoulish Glasgow." Through the magic of headphones, the kids can listen as two ghostly narrators spin tales of Glasgow's infamous past.

An International Festival Just for Kids

Travel by rail from Glasgow to Edinburgh for the International Children's Festival (Administration Office: 30B Grindlay St., Edinburgh, UK). The festival organizers scout acts from all over the world to present the very finest in children's live entertainment from street performers to comedy and drama, music and dance. The kids aren't just a passive audience—they can join in the fun too. The scheduled acts are intended for kids up to age 14 (though, of course, kids of all ages may well enjoy them, too). The festival typically begins the last week of May and carries on into the first week of June. Check the website for details on the next festival and its performers.

The Highland Line

Scotland has an excellent railway system, and the lines, especially those going north through the Highlands, offer beautiful scenery along the way. From Edinburgh, you can take the train via Perth, where you can stay over to explore the Perth Treasure Hunt Trail, which begins at the Kinnoull Street Car Park (35 Kinnoull St., Perth, UK). From there, you will continue on a self-guided walking route clearly marked with clues along the way, ranging from easy clues for the younger kids to challenging ones for tweens, teens and even adults. If you have time, take a tour of the Black Watch Castle & Museum (Hay St., Perth, UK) on Hay Street and then refresh yourselves at the Perth Leisure Pool on Glasgow Road, a short distance from the Perth City Centre, where you'll find six pools catering to different ages and abilities.

From Perth, you can continue by rail to Aviemore and explore the many outdoor activities offered there and in the surrounding countryside: Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig; Highland Folk Museum (Aultlarie Croft, Kingussie Rd., Newtonmore, UK); Cairngorms National Park, where you'll find a little railway service up to the top of the sixth-highest mountain in the UK; Cairngorm Reindeer Centre in Glenmore, where you and your family can join the herders as reindeer graze in their natural environment; and an adventure park at the Alvie Estate in Aviemore, just to name a few. The Speyside Heather Centre (Skye of Curr Rd., Grantown-on-Spey, UK) within the Cairngorms National Park is worth a visit, not only because of what it can offer, but also because of its brave perseverance despite a devastating fire in 2016. Among the attractions at this lovely place are gardens (including a garden shop and plant center), a tea room, a wildlife feeding center, a play area for toddlers, antiques and collectibles, and a gift shop. After all that energetic adventuring, you might want to take a short drive to Alba Chocolate (Station St., Newtonmore, UK), where the chocolatiers take great pride in their flavorful handmade chocolates. No artificial colors or preservatives are used here, folks—just chocolatey goodness in various forms and flavor combinations. You can even order your own bespoke batch!

From the Aviemore train station, you can either travel back the same way you came or continue a short distance north to Inverness. From Inverness, you can take a railway line that heads in a southeasterly direction till it reaches Aberdeen, at which point it takes a turn to the west and heads toward Dundee. This is yet another scenic ride, so sit back and enjoy the view from the window. At Dundee, you have a choice of routes; you can return either to Edinburgh or to Glasgow quite easily.

How About Travel by Rental Car?

Although travel by rail is highly recommended, especially in the densely populated areas around the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, it is also fairly easy for an American driver with a license to rent a car for local travel (as in the Highlands near Aviemore, for instance). Bear in mind that you will have to adjust as you make the change to driving on the left side of the road. Your reflexes may cause the car to drift and/or make turns you didn't intend. But with practice comes expertise. Familiarize yourself with the dashboard, make sure you know where all the elements of the car are located, and then make a few try-out trips in less-trafficked, rural areas. You'll be comfortable once you get the hang of it. Your kids, all properly secured by their seat belts, will also be happy to be your back-seat drivers.

Completely Optional

You need not stuff yourself with haggis to feel you've had an authentic Scottish experience. You don't need to acquire a kilt, either, although that might be a fun thing to bring home. What you do need to do is collect a lot of memories along the way. Take pictures, and go ahead and buy some of the memorabilia that catches your eye (or your children's eyes). Most of all, bring home stories. This trip will remain vivid both to you and to your children.