This post is part of our “10 of the best” series, showcasing the best things to do in cities all around the UK. First up is Karen, a blogger from Stirlingshire who blogs over at www.motheringandotherstories.com and knows all the best days out around her stomping ground!
Are you looking for a good family day out in Stirlingshire? Well, you’ve came to the right place!
Days out are my JAM!
Here you’ll find the some of my favourite places to visit with my three children. I’ve tried to keep it varied with places that are free, suitable for all ages and most of all fun for everyone!
I’ll briefly describe each place, if theres a cost, if its dog friendly, how long you could typically spend there, if it has a cafe and toilets etc. I’ll also share the main reason we choose to visit!
We’re very lucky to live in a place where there are so many cool landmarks to visit.
The Falkirk Wheel
The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift that connects the Forth and Clyde canal with the Union Canal. It was first opened in 2002 FUN FACT*: I was actually there when the Queen opened the Falkirk Wheel as I was chosen out of my Primary school to be there for its opening. On the site there’s plenty to do, walks along the canal, a play park (currently under refurbishment Aug 18).
There’s a fantastic water play area which allows kids, and adults, to experiment with water movement with different turntables and fun ways to pump the water using cycles or taps. Our kids love it and its so good to see them understanding and figuring out how things work. Its free to visit although you can book a ride on the wheel which is ticketed.
We’ve done it before at Christmas time when they have a magical Santa village at the top of the wheel, its a really fun experience and the kids loved it!
There’s ample parking (there’s a free car park near Boardwalk restaurant, which is just a short walk away). You can hire Segway’s here too, they have a great selection for ages 7-100 (as per their website) lead by experienced instructors. There is a good cafe serving traditional breakfast and lunches but you could just pop in for a coffee and cake!
The information centre has some really cool facts about the wheel and how it works. If you take a walk to the top of the wheel (following the paths) you’ll find the ‘mini Kelpies’ staged at the top, great for a photo opportunity. In the Summer months they have bouncy castles and water zorb balls at an extra cost.
When we visit we normally take the kids scooters as it has great flat paths and because its so local we pop along after school some days. We typically spend 2 hours here but if you are travelling for a day out I would reckon you could make a day out of it!
*maybe not actually a fun fact.
The Helix and Kelpies
The Helix is a place we visit at least once a week, the kids absolutely love it here. It’s entirely flat with great paths for bikes, scooters and anything else wheeled! The adventure play park is brilliant for my eldest girl, eight, there’s giant slides, a great wooden obstacle course and a smaller area for the little beans. There’s also a fantastic colourful, sensory area for children with disabilities or wheelchair users.
Next to the play park there’s a small cafe (more like a fancy kiosk) which serves snacks, tea and coffee it overlooks the Loch and has some pretty cool decor. The toilets are also here which have really good facilities. In the Summer months, weekends and holidays the water sprayers come on. I don’t even have to tell you how much the kids love this bit, tip: bring changes of clothes!
There are plenty of walking routes to take, benches along the way and lots of things to see. You can hire pedal boats to take onto the loch too, although we’ve never tried this.
The Helix is home to the famous Kelpies which are definitely worth a visit. At the Kelpies there’s a great visitor centre which a short film about the history of Falkirk and the making of the Kelpies, it also hosts a brilliant 3D display of famous landmarks around the world comparing their heights and size. There’s also some colouring and lego play for the kids. The cafe has a good selection of lunch options and kids boxes but you could just pop in for a tea or coffee.
This whole place is free to visit, even the parking is free (first car park only, otherwise £2) you can book into a tour of the Kelpies which can be booked at the visitor centre. Behind the Kelpies in the boat locks you can grab a delicious Milk Barn ice-cream.
If you’re looking for a bigger walk here, continue past the locks following the paths you’ll walk along the canal side. Eventually you’ll come to an iron sculpture called “Love + Kisses” the kids love to race up the middle and slide off the edges!
The Engine Shed
The Engine Shed is part of Historic Scotland. It’s a cool industrial renovated building with plenty to see for all ages. We typically spend 1-2 hours here. There’s tables all around the outer edge of the main hall with different experiments for building and learning.
When you arrive you will be given an iPad which you can use to view the fantastic interactive map of Scotland. You can view the historic landmarks and read about them in detail – its pretty cool. There is a 3D theatre which has different short films on. The kids love the interactive exhibits.
In the building area, they have foam bricks where children can build how they please, lumps of foam clay which they can discover and build. There’s also wooden blocks – similar to Jenga but thinner, with information cards that you can use to create buildings, bridges or something of your own invention! This place is a great indoor alternative for soft play on a miserable day. They also have masterclasses and workshops available.
There’s a small cafe offering snacks, tea and coffee.
Free to visit although donations are appreciated.
This gorgeous woodland park is again right by us. It’s recently had a few upgrades which promote getting out bigger walks with kids, pretty good right? They’ve added a relatively short walking route through the woodland that has some different obstacles for climbing on, balancing beams, bridges and the like. There’s also a wooden carved TV and sofa which the kids love. (They pretend to be on TV shows and make up dances, it’s really funny to watch!). The park also has a big loch which is home to many ducks and swans so bring along some bird feed.
Calendar House is free entry and gives a good history of Falkirk and surrounding areas, some days there are cooks in the traditional Victorian kitchen who make biscuits from an old recipe. There is a few interactive bits for kids on the top floor and it hosts an amazing cafe which looks out onto the grounds – get the scones!
Great for taking a ball, frisbee or kite and have fun.
Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline
This play park is a farther for us but is definitely worth the trip! There’s a great new play area which I would say is more suitable for younger children. There is so much ground to explore here from grassy areas to woodland, where there is hundreds of squirrels. We’ll sometimes walk up into Dunfermline town centre (just a short walk) to Poundland and get some nuts to feed the squirrels. The kids love doing this!
The park has an onsite cafe – I haven’t been to this one so couldn’t make comment. Pittencrief House Museum is also here, we’ve never been in (perhaps something for us to do next time) but just outside of this is an amazing Glasshouse filled with stunning plants and cacti heaven for me! The gardens outside the glasshouse are beautifully maintained with gorgeous flower beds.
Parking here can be tricky when its busy, its a fairly popular park in this area!
This is our favourite castle to visit with the kids, others we have been to have given me the fear as they have steep steps, high climbs and some aren’t well lit at all. Stirling Castle however, most likely because of its large size, is really ‘child friendly’. It boasts a rich history which is creatively displayed. There are free talks available throughout the day which are usually taken by people traditionally dressed. The kitchens are our favourite as they have it all set up like it would’ve been back then.
There’s a restaurant on the grounds but also a little van that sells tea and coffee. At the far end of the castle you can walk along the wall at the edge – we’ve done it once and what began as “little steps, stay close” soon became “hold hands!!!” through gritted teeth as it is SO HIGH. Near here there is a good grassy area for little legs to run off some steam. The children’s play hall is very good, there is some dressing up, music play, puzzles each in a different room but this area does get busy!
The views from the castle are stunning.
Check out online as there is great events held here throughout the year.
If you’re planning a visit I’d recommend joining Historic Scotland as a member, it can be as little as £4 per month which gives you FREE access to all of the Historic Scotland sites. We had one a few years ago and used it every other weekend but naturally the kids get fed up visiting the same places over and over.
Parking is limited here so get there early on.
Beecraigs Country Park / Deer Farm
Beecraigs country park has something for all the little ones! With good woodland walks, a great adventure playground and the chance to meet some deer and highland cows, whats not to love? We normally park at the Visitor Centre (free parking). The visitor centre has recently been refurbished. It was formally a restaurant which has been changed to host a relaxed cafe, toilets, visitor centre and shop. There is a small play park at the front which is handy if you’re stopping for a bite in the cafe.
We normally walk down the hill towards the deer park first. Theres a little wooden walkway which you can climb to view the deer in the fields. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Forth Bridges. We visit the small holding which has some sheep and sometimes cows and then walk down to the fishing loch amongst the woodland. You’ve got a good chance to spot some wildlife as there’s normally a heron or two fishing! It’s just a short woodland walk to the play park from here.
The park is pretty great for kids of all ages. There is three different ‘zones’. We come here because there is two flying foxes (or zip lines). The kids love to race one another to the end. There are no toilets at the play park.
The zone down at the bottom hosts a huge spiders web. Oscar managed to the top just a few weeks ago, a spirited four year old!
The park also has baby swings and toddler play area, sand area, big kid swings, basket swing and has a huge slide.
You could spend at least 3hours here if you do the walk, visit the deer and then play park.
There are three car parks. One is on the Linlithgow side which is at the visitor centre, one further down the hill on the left at the Deer centre and a car park on the Bathgate side which is right outside the large play park!
Jump ‘N’ Joy
We visited here for the first time a few weeks ago. We had so much fun we returned the next again week. Jump ‘N’ Joy is a newly opened trampoline park or ‘urban playground’ as they like to call it. I’ve been to bigger trampoline parks before and they were great fun for me and Eilidh (8 years old) but Jump N Joy is a brilliant for little ones like Oscar and Matilda (4 and 2 years old).
The kids had great fun in their hour session and were plenty tired afterwards!
There’s over 30 trampolines in the area, also two foam pits with a balance beam and log roll. The other pit has a rock climbing wall. There’s a few interactive jumping games, basketball hoops and an airbag (only open at certain times and not for use of under 5s) It’s a great indoor alternative to soft play!
They have a small cafe which serves lunch and refreshments.
The staff were very friendly both times we visited.
My only issue with going here is that I couldn’t take both little ones myself, they have a strict 1:1 ratio for under 4’s so my sister came along with us on both visits.
The times we were able to go was their Junior session which is £5 per child, adults free but everyone must wear the special ‘grip socks’ which are available at reception for £2 (you can keep and use them next visit) I believe other sessions are more expensive and for older children its more expensive too.
It’s located just outside Stirling between Stirling and Alloa.
Muiravonside Country park
Located just outside Falkirk this is one of our favourite places to visit for a ‘child friendly’ walk. They’ve recently received Lotto funding which they’ve used creatively to update the paths and some walking routes to make them more ‘family friendly’. From the main car park heading towards the play park (everything is well signposted and mapped out) There is a nice walk past the allotments to find a small orchard at the bottom, following this route to leads to some climbing rocks, large tractor tyres which our kids love to climb up and slide of the other end. There’s also some wooden balance beams and some sculptures at the top of the hill.
The play park, I’ll admit, hasn’t changed much since I was a child but its perfectly fine to spend 40 minutes or so at. The barns next to the play park host a cafe, toilets and small visitor centre. There is a few empty barns which would be ideal for picnicking!
There are some beautiful riverside walks that all join so you can’t go really wrong on where to begin. The kids love to skim stones here!
Coming back to the car park, there’s New Parks farm which has again seen some much need upgrades. The have a small amount of rabbits, birds and chickens (they have the most gorgeous Silkie hens – you must google them!!) There’s also Hamish the clydesdale horse, highland cow, llamas and alpacas, pigs, hens and donkeys!
The farm is free to visit although they very much appreciate donations.
If you walk towards woodland behind the farm you’ll eventually come to the Avon Aqueduct. Graeme (my husband) would never recommend going up because it is really bloody high but it has really beautiful views. On occasion I’ve walked to Linlithgow using the canal path.
Depending on how big a walk you’re looking to do I’d say you could spend a good 2-3 hours here.
The car park has a newly introduced charge of £1 but you can even use your card to pay, handy if you’re like myself and never have change!!
Almond Valley Heritage Centre
This fun park is one of our favourites. It’s large, has plenty for everyone and has indoor play areas – great if you decide to visit on a wet day!
It costs £8.50 per adult and £6.50 for children aged 3-15. The indoor soft play is an additional £1 per 30 minute play. If you enjoy your visit their annual membership is very reasonable!
Here’s some activities they have: bouncy pillow, farm animals, tractor ride, indoor museum, pedal tractors, duck pond, play mill, swings area, nature trail and lots more to do. When visiting their website I notice some new additions that we haven’t seen before. Their dino dig is a real favourite of ours. Think of a giant sandpit where dinosaur bones are waiting to be discovered. Kids can use the spades and brushes to uncover the dinosaurs!
We’ve visited many places like Almond Valley and always leave slightly disappointed but we always have a great time here and usually spend the entire day! They have a great cafe here with creative lunches for children.
I hope you’ve found this useful if you are visiting the area. There are so many other great places to visit here too! Let me know if you check any of them out.
This is a guest post by Karen over at Mothering and Other Stories. She’s a mum to 3 kids aged 2-8 living in Stirlingshire.
If you’re on Instagram be sure to give her a follow. She’s got tons of ideas for days out and lovely activities to do with your kids.