Getting the kids outdoors isn’t always easy, but all seven of these activities and attractions do the hard work for you. Head along to any one of them and the members of your mini crew will be enjoying themselves so much it won’t cross their minds to ask how much further they have to walk (or cycle). And since happy children means happy parents, you’ll all finish the day with that contented glow that comes from a day spent outside in the fresh Highland air.
All of these attractions are within a 30-minute drive of each other: choose any one of the excellent accommodation options in Badenoch and you’ll spend more time exploring and relaxing – and less time on the road.
An all-day destination of fun for all
Even if the brilliant Outdoor Centre didn’t exist, Loch Insh would be a great place for all the family to visit, thanks to its pebbly beach, incredible views and resident ducks. Add playparks, a dry ski slope, endless on-water activities, a cosy cafe and so many other things to do we can’t possibly list them all here, and you’re onto a winner of a full-day excursion which will leave you desperate to return. Toddlers to teenagers will be easily amused: it’s worth signing up older kids to try out one of the activities on offer. Thanks to expert instructors who have years of experience with school groups, you’ll see them grow in confidence before your eyes. Finish off your day by coming back together on the Jungle Float, a floating waterpark with a slide, high dive platform and trampolines!
Fly above the trees
If your children are aged eight or over, G2’s Zip Park is a must. The Zip Trek is a guided group adventure down 2km of zip lines that criss-cross stunning Alvie Gorge, while the Zip Adventure sets kids aged ten and over (and their adults) free on an even longer and higher zip-lining expedition. A double zip at the end means there’s bound to be a race to the finish. If you’re visiting from November to January, try the Night Time Adventure and experience the magic of zipping through a beautifully lit Caledonian forest.
An open-air, awe-inspiring day out
While kids will be captivated by the polar bears, tigers (go at feeding time), snow monkeys and snow leopards, grown-ups will be torn between spotting animals and admiring the stunning vistas over the River Spey to the Cairngorms. There’s a superb play park with lots of picnic benches right next to the car park, so bring a picnic and give the kids a chance to go wild when you’re ready for a break. From 2023, visitors will be able to get even more hands-on when Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre opens. The Highland Wildlife Park really is a fantastic day out for all ages.
Binoculars at the ready!
If you love getting out for a walk with your children but usually face resistance, Newtonmore’s Wildcat Experience is the ideal family activity. Pick up a Wildcat Experience Trackpack (complete with brochure, map and pen) and start your hunt for the 132 painted wildcats hidden in gardens, on roofs and up trees all around the village. Warning: it’s addictive! Find 25 and you get a certificate; spot 50 or more and you’ll be going home with a prize. The cats’ names are bound to keep you entertained while you search: our favourites are Cat’s Pyjamas and Advo-cat-e.
A brilliant and affordable family attraction
The word ‘museum’ doesn’t do a good job of explaining what’s on offer at this interactive outdoor experience: there are no hushed voices or dusty exhibits here. Instead, it’s a mile-long path which leads you through life in the Scottish Highlands from the 17th century to modern times, with a school, houses and old-fashioned shops to visit, clothes to try on and even a model cow to milk. There’s a cafe, shop and park at the entrance, and entry is by donation, so you only have to give what you can.
(Open April to October)
Clippedy clop, are you ready to trot?
Pony trekking to a private river beach, horse and carriage rides and longer hacks for the more confident rider are all on offer at this family-run pony centre. Visitors will immediately get a sense of the strong community connection enjoyed by the centre and its long history as the originator of pony trekking holidays in Scotland. There are wee ponies that little riders can make friends with during 30-minute led rides, while grown-up horse lovers could spend their entire holiday with Highland Horse Fun on a trail riding or working holiday.
One of Scotland’s best-loved mountain bike trail centres
If your crew prefers using two wheels to get around, take them to Laggan Wolftrax. Experienced riders will be challenged by the rock slabs and spines on the red and black trails, while smaller family members can cruise around the rolling green which has beautiful views over the Monadhliath hills. A blue trail is being added to the mix in summer 2023, and there’s a skills area and fun bike park full of big berms and tabletops that can be lapped from the cafe, handily located next to the showers/toilets and bike hire shop.