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United Kingdom for Families

The United Kingdom may be the most family-friendly destination in Europe. It’s filled with history, culture, nature and plenty of fun activities. At Scott Dunn, we’ve selected the best Blue Badge guides, who will not only look after your family throughout the day, but most importantly, will be able to make everywhere you go come to life from a child’s perspective. They’ll also make sure to discuss your family’s interests to create an entirely bespoke itinerary just for you. So, whether your kids want to ride on the London Eye, see where Harry Potter was filmed or hunt for dinosaur fossils on the Jurassic Coast, we can make it happen. This also gives your family the freedom and flexibility to do as little or as much as you’d like. A fun-filled vacation lies ahead for your family the UK.

Seriously Special

London is an incredible, diverse global city of trade, culture and arts. It would take lifetimes to explore everything, but we know how to customize the perfect trip to take-in the most London has to offer. The city is the land of Harry Potter, Peter Pan and Paddington Bear, so you know your family will have an enchanting time.

For younger children, there’s an inexhaustible number of fun things to do from hopping on a double-decker bus to view the city’s monuments and watching street performers at Covent Garden to catching a family-friendly show like "The Lion King" or "Matilda" in the West End. With seemingly endless options in this vast metropolis, we can help you organize your days by location so that no time is wasted. It’s also important to keep in mind that London’s hectic pace can be tiring for little ones, so we recommend incorporating some downtime into your days. Whether that be a picnic in the park, a "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" themed afternoon tea or a stop at Hamley’s Toy Shop.

There’s just as much for tweens and teens to do in London as younger children, and while little ones may get tuckered out by the afternoon, teens feed off the bustling excitement around them. The city is exploding with fashion, music, art and history. Teens will appreciate iconic sites like Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. They’ll love exploring the museums and galleries, spending the day with shopping and spa treatments in Knightsbridge, taking a stroll through Kew Gardens, snapping selfies with the lions at Trafalgar Square, or spending some time on the South Bank discovering Borough Market, the Tate Modern, Gabriel’s Wharf and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Your family will have a hard time choosing what to do next.

One-of-a-kind experiences

After the hectic pace of London, we recommend that your family take some much-needed downtime in the Cotswolds. Just a couple hours from London, the Cotswolds is a picturesque countryside filled with quaint English villages, winding roads and rolling hills. Little ones will feel like princes and princesses exploring the fairy-tale castles, stepping back in time at Stonehenge, seeing the birthplace of William Shakespeare, touring some of the world’s best preserved Roman baths and discovering Britain’s oldest University in Oxford.

A must do for your family while in Oxford is discovering the real-life sets and locations of Hogwarts hidden throughout the city. Then, you and your little wizards can continue on to the Warner Brother’s Studio, home to any array of sets, props and costumes from the film. Climb aboard the Hogwarts Express and refresh with a delicious glass of Butterbeer!

While in the UK, Scotland needs to be on every family’s list. In Edinburgh your family can join a kid-friendly ghost tour, wander to the castle to watch the One O’clock Gun or head to the Royal Mile. And for the most outdoor adventure in the UK, head to the Highlands.

The Scottish Highlands are an outdoor adventure playground brimming with natural beauty, scenic glens, heather-clad peaks and glistening lochs. Its one of Europe’s last wilderness regions and a nature lover’s paradise. Get your family out and about with cycling, riding, falconry, golf, hiking, off-road safaris, fishing and canoeing.

Experiencing the famed lochs by boat is one of the most fun things to do. Explore the Sound of Lorn in search of seals, dolphins, sharks and orcas, or hop aboard a RIB for a private expedition in search of the fabled Loch Ness Monster. Finish your boat trip with a stop at Britain’s highest waterfall or a visit of the most remote chocolate producer in Europe.

There’s no better way to end your trip in the UK than by heading to the hills of Cairngorms National Park in search of the only wild reindeer herd in the UK. These animals wander freely around the park and your guide will take you to meet the ranger, who will introduce you to the herd. Your family even have the chance to feed them!

At a Glance

  • Visit must-sees in London, watch the Changing the Guard, ride the London Eye, tour Big Ben, the Tower of London and St Paul's Cathedral.

  • On rainy days in London, take in the fascinating Natural History, Science or Victoria and Albert museums.

  • For quintessential English countryside, head to the Cotswolds with its thatched cottages built from honey colored limestone and rolling hills.

  • Discover the secrets of Edinburgh with a private walking tour of the Old Town and Edinburgh Castle.

  • Explore one of Europe's last wilderness regions and take in some epic vistas in the Scottish Highlands.

  • Tuck into out of this world fish and chips in the home of the Beatles, Liverpool.

  • Lazily float down the Thames to the glamour of a day at the races at Royal Ascot.

Did you know?

Stonehenge is older than the pyramids. It's believed to have been created around 3000 B.C.

We recommend

Go to Edinburgh, Scotland in August for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Did you know?

Once a year a cheese rolling competition is held in Gloucestershire, where competitors roll a 9lb block a cheese down a steep hill.

We recommend

If you're a family of foodies, visit Ludlow, whose food market filled with fine local produce is a Mecca.

Did you know?

Golf was invented in Scotland and is the country's national sport.

We recommend

Stop by the Miracle Theatre in Porthcurno. Originally built in Roman times, it hosts an array of open air shows, with the Atlantic Ocean as a spectacular backdrop.

Younger Kids

The UK is a safe, fun, family-friendly destination for young children. Under the watchful eye of our expert guides, you’ll surely have the perfect vacation. Your kids will be enthralled searching for Nessie in the Scottish Highlands, watching the Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace and pretending to be royalty at fairy-tale castles in the Cotswolds. London especially, is the perfect destination for family travel. Books and movies come alive here. Your children will love trying to follow Harry Potter through the wall into Platform 9 ½ at Kings Cross Station, seeking out the statue of a certain bear at Paddington Station, and clambering over the pirate ship and seeing how many fairies they can spot as they climb the statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. Exciting activities combined with a range of child-friendly hotels will make your family feel right at home.

Brown's Hotel - London

Brown's Hotel personifies the refined sophistication of modern British luxury. London's famous theaters, shops and dining are all on the doorstep of this exquisite hotel. Just a short walk to Buckingham Palace, Brown's Hotel is surrounded by rich history, as well as beautiful parks nearby, making it the perfect base to explore the city from for families with younger children. Brown's Hotel welcomes children of all ages and can cater to their every need - from milk and cookies with a teddy turndown service to teen spa treatments. Find hooded towels and rubber ducks in the bathroom ready for younger guests, while older children can settle in and make full use of the kids' library, or enjoy the movies and games consoles in each bedroom. There is a 24-hour babysitting service if needed, and extra beds or interconnecting rooms available on request.

Calcot Manor - The Cotswolds

Children are incredibly welcome at Calcot Manor and the hotel has a range of facilities to ensure the stay is as fun for the kids as it is relaxing for mum and dad. Parents looking for a rural retreat with activities for the little ones will not be disappointed. In summer the outdoor swimming pool and play facilities allow children to blow off steam and enjoy the sunshine. For days when mum and dad need a break, there is daycare, The Playzone is an accredited nursery while The Mez children’s area for over-eights has a range of games, computers, a cinema and activities on offer. There are also ten rooms and suites designed for families, located away from the main building in the converted barn. The suites are particularly spacious and have separate sleeping areas, for tiny ones, rooms come equipped with a sterilizer, bottle warmer and changing mat.

Older Kids

The UK has enough to excite even the most angsty teens. For music lovers, there’s Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles. For sports fans, there’s exciting soccer matches. For bookworms, there’s the inspiration behind Harry Potter, Shakespeare’s plays and Jane Austen novels. For culture vultures, there’s museums, art galleries, and fashion houses. And for history buffs, there’s an overload of iconic historical sites and Oxford University. Your teens will have a hard time deciding how to pack everything into your family vacation and we’re happy to help you find a way to fit everything in to get the most memorable trip possible.

The Balmoral - Edinburgh, Scotland

The Balmoral was opened in 1902 and is located just up the steps from Edinburgh Waverley Station at the top of Princes Street - the best address in town. Following a loving make-over, the hotel retains its historical and charming atmosphere, yet features contemporary touches. Truly a fun ambiance embodying the spirit of Scotland, your family will be met at the front door by the doormen who are kilted up to the nines, and you will often pass the odd bagpiper if for any reason you weren't in the mood already. But what makes The Balmoral even more ideal when traveling with teens is its excellent location, which means that your family is within walking distance of the beautiful Georgian Terraces of New Town, or a hop, skip and the jump to the Royal Mile which leads up to Edinburgh Castle.

Gleneagles - Perthshire, Scotland

For families, Gleneagles comes into its own. As well as the range of fantastic experiences that all children will enjoy such as training a gun dog to dabbling their hands at falconry, Gleneagles offers structured programs from infants to teenagers. Though Gleneagles has three championship golf courses, sure to appeal of kids and parents alike, the hotel is not just about golf. It offers boundless activities for families within its 850 acres. From fishing, falconry, cycling, walking, off-road driving and riding - Gleneagles is very much an adventure playground of the highest order. A place that every teen will be thoroughly entertained at.

Multi-generational Families

Part of the appeal of the UK is that it really does have something to suit everyone, from ages seven to seventy. Your family’s days can be filled with boat cruises down the Thames to the Tower of London, clambering around the ancient site of Stonehenge or searching for herds of reindeer in the Highlands. Days can be as busy or laid back as you’d like and the flexibility in the UK allows every member of the family to do as they’d please. This, combined with a number of beautiful lodges, castles (yes, we said castles), and homes that can be taken exclusively, makes the UK the perfect destination for your next family gathering.

Hound Lodge - Goodwood, Southeast England

Hound Lodge is the ideal estate to be taken over exclusively by your entire family. With the elegance and style of a traditional country house, Hound Lodge has been designed with comfort in mind, you need simply ring the bell in your room and the private butler will be on hand for any requests, large or small. The drawing room is the warm and welcoming heart of Hound Lodge, where afternoon tea is served and the perfect place for your family to gather and relax on comfortable sofas beside the roaring fire in this home away from home. Hidden away on the Goodwood estate, Hound Lodge is surrounded by picturesque woodland, where there are several paths offering delightful countryside walks. If your family is looking for a more active stay, you can try your hand at clay pigeon shooting, golf or even racing around Goodwood's famous motor circuit before returning to the lodge to unwind in the utmost style.

Aldourie Castle - Loch Ness, Scotland

Dating back to the 17th century, Aldourie Castle Estate is the only habitable castle to sit on the banks of Loch Ness. It underwent a massive renovation in 2004 to become an exclusive retreat for private parties yet retained all of the magic of its baronial past. The entire family will feel like royalty sitting in your picture-perfect castle overlooking Loch Ness and the youngest members of the family will love pretending they’re princes and princesses. The castle features turrets, roaring fire-places, nooks, crannies, secret doors and traditional fixtures. Aldourie Castle is set within a 500-acre estate, with a multitude of things to do by day. From September to January you can head off deer stalking, maybe try your hand at shooting at nearby estates, seek out a traditional Scottish links for a spot of golf, go 4x4 driving, fishing and on boat trips on Loch Ness. A team of on-site staff are on hand to arrange bespoke experiences for you and your family.

Active Families

With boundless things to do in the UK, your active family will have no problem finding activities, the problem will be trying to fit them all in. London is a pulsating, fast-paced city with a multitude of museums, galleries, restaurants, parks and shops. The things to do in this city will delight any on-the-go family. If your family prefers more wildlife than city life on vacation, then the Scottish Highlands are perfect. They’re an outdoor adventure playground with hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing, falconry, golf, 4x4 nature tours, and the list goes on and on.

Alladale Wilderness Reserve - Near Ardgay, Scotland

Nestled in the Scottish Highlands, Alladale Wilderness Reserve is a 23,000-acre expanse of glens, rivers and hill lochs. With a wealth of wildlife and a team of dedicated rangers, Alladale has a focus on conservation and an aim to restore the local ecosystem to its former glory. For nature loving families, Alladale is the ultimate retreat. Get to know the reserve with a 4x4 tour or a ranger-guided walk and perhaps meet some of the local residents! Deer are in abundance here, red squirrels have been re-introduced nearby, and there is a huge herd of Highland cattle. Alternatively, head to one of Alladale's 10 hill lochs to try your hand at brown trout fishing, or even try out clay pigeon shooting. With such a wealth of activities available it's possible to spend your whole time at Alladale out exploring the reserve.

Killiehuntly - Kingussie, Scotland

Just a two-hour drive north of Edinburgh is the beautiful Cairngorms National Park, home to wildlife, distilleries and castles in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Within the national park lies Killiehuntly Farmhouse, a traditional stone building which dates all the way back to the year 1603. The farmhouse can be taken exclusively, and as such is the perfect location for a family getaway. Delicious home-cooked meals using fresh, seasonal ingredients are served at the dining table in the kitchen, while in the summer months it is possible to sit out in the garden sharing some quality bonding time with your family. The area surrounding Killiehuntly is bursting with natural beauty, and home to a variety of wildlife including deer, Highland cattle and even reindeer. From Killiehuntly, it is easy to explore with a walk through the hills, and activities such as biking and fishing nearby can also be arranged.

Time to unwind

Though the UK is full of excitement and activities, sometimes your family needs a vacation where they can kick their feet up and enjoy some rest and relaxation. Luckily, there are plenty of hotels in the UK that can accommodate this type of laidback trip perfectly. There are endless tranquil spas to choose from and hotels that cater to your every whim, so you won’t have to lift a finger. Many accommodations also offer babysitting services, so mum and dad can steal some much-needed private time away to enjoy a dinner prepared by a Michelin-starred chef, a wine tasting or a play. We know how to get your family away from the crowds and into a sanctuary of peace and quiet.

Dormy House Hotel - near Broadway, Worcestershire

Dormy House is a lovely boutique hotel, providing the perfect base from which to explore the delightful Cotswolds. On arrival you are greeted with a warm smile, this is a hotel that feels like you have just arrived at your dream home, it is cosy, welcoming and friendly. The hotel has recently opened its house spa, and this is a real gem, a 16-meter infinity pool awaits you and the spa menu offers you over 40 treatments to choose from. The Veuve Clicquot Nail Parlour is also excellent for a spot of pampering. Then head to the spa cafe for a healthy smoothie or green tea, and for those looking for a guilty pleasure, Dormy serves wines and champagne too. Children of all ages are welcomed here. High chairs, cots and put-up beds are available on request and child bathrobes and slippers are put in the rooms.The hotel can organize a family visit to the Cotswold Farm Park as well.

Gilpin Hotel & Lake House - Windermere, Cumbria, England

Run by the Cunliffe family, Gilpin Hotel & Lake House is a gorgeous property consisting of two separate estates above Lake Windermere. Gilpin Lake House is a stylish rural sanctuary, where six suites provide exclusive access to 100 acres of private grounds, including a beautiful small private lake, boat house, swimming pool, hot tubs and spa treatment room overlooking the lake. An air of tranquility and intimacy pervades the Lake House. At Gilpin you can be as active or relaxed as you choose. In between enjoying revitalising spa treatments and soaking up the gorgeous surroundings, you can head for the boathouse and have a row on the lake or stroll up nearby Cat Crag for an extraordinary panorama of the Lake District that reaches as far as the Isle of Man on a clear day.

Our Guide to the UK and Ireland

Call us on 858 345 1764 to start planning your family vacation to the United Kingdom

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