With the British Weather providing a glorious start to the kids’ summer holidays, now is the time to get the family enjoying the great outdoors. Playing outside is important, as it allows kids to discover new skills, make friends, and develop independence.
It was just the other day during a forest walk with my fiancé Steve when we both turned to each other to discuss how much we appreciated nature, and as kids, we both admitted not really appreciating all of these things at the time.
Did you know that according to the Office for National Statistics some children spend only 16 minutes a day playing outside or exploring open space?
It’s so important to grasp those opportunities to get the family out of the house, away from screen time and to enjoy the activities that are right on your doorstep. To help you, we have prepared a list of our top 10 things to do this summer! Some are based in our local area of Aberdeen and the surrounding, however we hope with our list you will be able to use Facebook Groups and Google to help find something in your own locality. We hope this gives you some inspiration! We have included some free activities too, however many are paid for and before taking part in any activity you should always check each company’s reviews, safety advice and frequently asked questions page to establish if it is suitable for your family.
This is something I just love to do, but not on my own! My arms can only work for so long before they get tired, so this is where my partner Steve comes in. So I would recommend a double Kayak! It makes it more enjoyable and you can share the work and have rests when you get a bit tired like me! Find a calm lake or loch and you can paddle your way around, exploring the coast, any beaches you pass and of course spot wildlife along the way. Remember to always wear a life jacket and take some binoculars.
I can personally recommend Loch Tay, this is a beautiful spot to try kayaking, where you can hire kayaks and Canadian canoes from the outdoor shop in Killin. There’s also Loch Earn in the districts of Perth, Kinross and Stirling. Loch Morlich (10 minutes from Aviemore) is also a great base for water sports and very gentle. For somewhere closer to Aberdeen, you can try Knockburn Loch, set in the heart of Royal Deeside.
The link below will provide you with a range of beautiful places to choose from.
2. Paddle Boarding
This is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and it suits many ages and levels of fitness! You can try sitting down on the paddle board to start with until you feel confident to stand, our advice is to find a loch or lake and avoid the sea as it’s too bumpy with the waves for beginners. Once you are ready you can try SUP (Stand-Up Paddling Boarding) which is great fun, and also a great way to tone your body, as you will be using muscles to help you balance on the board.
Knockburn Loch have a timetable of events and you can hire all equipment, including wetsuits. Remember to check the timetable and give them a call in advance during the summer to book your place, as they will get very busy.
A favourite for many families! Grab the bikes and find a trail for all abilities. The Deeside Way is a great traffic-free place to start, you can join this 50 mile track at any point, such as Duthie Park, Peterculter, Drumoak, Banchory etc and it stretches all the way to Ballater. Most sections are relatively flat and a lot safer than cycling on the road.
Check out the map below to start planning your journey.
The National Cycle Network also have a great page filled with traffic-free paths and quiet on-road cycling. www.sustrans.org.uk
Kids love camping and it’s even more fun if you get the whole family involved or even better ask your friends to join with their kids. This is also a great way to teach your kids some survival skills, especially for those Bear Grylls wannabies. Camping doesn’t have to be in the wild, you can start with your back garden on a summer’s night. Get the kids involved in pitching the tent, grab the pillows and duvets and have a BBQ, remember the marshmallows for later! Or you can find a campsite that has facilities, where you can fire up a BBQ and also have the luxury of toilets and showers. For a more comfortable option you could try glamping!
Interesting fact: you can pitch a tent virtually anywhere in Scotland on unenclosed land, except for the East side of Loch Lomond, which is subject to wild camping bye-laws.
5. Dolphin Watching
You don’t have to travel all the way to Florida or Australia to see Dolphins! You will find the RSPB Dolphin Watch Aberdeen team based at Torry Battery in Aberdeen from 10th May – 20th August 2018 Thursday – Sunday from 11 am – 6 pm (weather permitting)! The staff have telescopes and binoculars to help visitors spot the Dolphins, and they run various activities throughout the summer.
You will find the list using the following link.
When we visited in June, the staff said they had spotted dolphins every day they have been on-site so far this summer!
Now I loved this as a kid, my parents and grandparents would take me and my brother to the beach and we would go exploring the rocks and try to find crabs, snails and anything else that moves. You can organise this yourself, finding a nearby beach, such as Aberdeen or Balmedie Beach or Cruden Bay is very popular. Remember the sunscreen and appropriate footwear.
As mentioned above the RSPB team are based at Torry Battery in Aberdeen and they have a range of events on from May – August 2018. Rockpooling is taking place on the 19th of July, and the 3rd of August from 2-4 pm for just £3.00 – booking is essential!
You can use the following link to book your place.
You can take the kids to a nearby leisure centre or you can try Stonehaven’s Olympic-sized heated open air pool, which is heated to a very comfortable 29 degrees. But you can’t beat wild swimming, this is not only a lot more fun, it’s free! If your children are confident swimmers you can take them to a calm river, loch or beach. Wait for that really warm day and let the kids take the plunge into the water. Remember to stay with your kids, especially in the open water, keeping them close to you at all times. Avoid fast-flowing or deep water and always heed safety advice and look out for signage.
The River Dee is known for its salmon and flows from the Cairngorm Mountains through Southern Aberdeenshire to reach the North Sea at Aberdeen. Along this river there are many access points to go for a dip. We personally love the section in Drumoak and Cambus O’May, it’s easy to reach the river here and provides a great point for the family to go wild swimming.
To find other areas to try wild swimming use the link below.
8. The Forest
There are many forest trails across the country from ancient woods and wild parklands, to trails and public gardens. To find your walk the National Trust have a great website that will help plan your route, just click onto the following link >>> https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walking
For those seeking more of an adventure and adrenaline visit Go Ape! An outdoor treetop adventure, that includes Segway hire, tree top junior adventures and zip lines!
To find your nearest Go Ape just visit https://goape.co.uk/ I can personally recommend the Aberfoyle location as I tried this out myself a couple of years ago and had a fab time. Please remember to check if they have any age and height restrictions before you book.
9. Take a Boat Trip
There are many boat trips you can hop onto with the family. You can choose to go on a wildlife trip to spot Dolphins from Spey Bay or the Loch Ness Monster from Inverness. For those seeking more of an adrenaline boost, try Eco Ventures speed boat and wildlife trip from Cromarty in the Moray Firth, Scotland. Hang on tight as this boat reaches speeds of up to 25 knots.
10. Find a Cave or a Waterfall to explore
Who doesn’t love exploring caves or running under a waterfall! Burn O’Vat is top of my list in our local area; with a car park, visitor centre and toilets on site, this is a great base to spend the day. Remember to pack a picnic! There are four walks to choose from and they range from just under a mile to the Burn O’Vat and up to four miles on the Loch Kinord circular path. You can stroll through the woodlands looking out for wildlife along the way. This will always be a special place to me, as this is where my partner Steve proposed to me last November 2017.