When you think of seeing Scotland, Lanarkshire might not be the first area that comes to mind. Most people will head to the hills and lochs of the Highlands, or to one of Scotland’s bustling towns and cities. But with its lush green hills, beautiful waterfalls, ancient woodlands and rich history, South Lanarkshire is a wonderful place for families to explore.
Here are some of our favourite places to play as a family throughout South Lanarkshire.
The Museum of Rural Life, East Kilbride
This is one of the most child friendly museums in Scotland, if not the UK. The Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride is a museum, farmhouse and historic working farm. Inside the museum building you’ll find a number of activities and interactive exhibits for kids, plus a room full of tractors and other exhibits. Make sure you have your wellies on before you board the bumpy tractor-trailer ride up the hill to the farm. You can watch the cows being milked, or visit them up close in the barn; they’re a friendly bunch. In the spring and summer months you’ll be able to meet lambs, calves and see some piglets too.
Entry to Rural Life costs £8 adults, £5.50 kids, under 5’s free. (National Museums Scotland sometimes have a “pay once and go all year” deal on so look out for that. This museum also has an arrangement with National Trust Scotland so if you’re an NTS member you get free entry.)
Tinto Hill, near Biggar
Tinto Hill is a prominent hill, just a couple of miles from Biggar. From the top you can see for miles over the green rolling hills of the Lanarkshire countryside. With a clear (though quite stony) path for the entirety of the climb, Tinto Hill is big enough to be a challenge but gentle enough that little legs will manage it without too much difficulty.
The walk up Tinto Hill is steep in parts. The ascent is 486m and takes roughly 2 hours to climb, depending on how many stops you make on the way up. It is steep in parts not the easiest hill for little
Grab a drink, some lunch or a delicious cake at the lovely Tinto Hill Tearoom, situated just at the bottom of the hill.
The car park at Tinto Hill is free. No cost for this activity.
Strathaven Park, Strathaven
You can’t talk about family friendly Lanarkshire without mentioning Strathaven Park. The highlight of Strathaven is the miniature steam railway. This little ride on steam train is now 70 years old, and is exactly as it was 25 years ago when I first visited, from the little trains and their wooden carriages, right down to the tickets and the uniforms of the volunteer staff. Kids and adults alike will adore this nostalgic and delightful activity.
Strathaven Park itself is a lovely, well manicured park. There are a couple of playparks; one aimed at toddlers, and you can take a pedalo out on the pond, play mini-golf, bowls and a few other activities.
The wee steam train costs £1 per person. Boats, mini-golf and other activities start at £1 per person.
New Lanark and Falls of Clyde, Clyde Valley
Nestled in a beautiful little spot within the Clyde Valley is the New Lanark World Heritage Site, a historic mill and museum dating back to the 18th century. Even that first view over the village as you walk down the hill from the car park is stunning. New Lanark is steeped in history and kids of all ages will enjoy the Annie McLeod experience, learning about the mill and about how young children in the workforce lived at the time. They’ll most likely play on that wooden slide within the mill exhibit for half an hour as well!
New Lanark also has a large cafe, an interactive gallery (think soft and sensory play in one; aimed at little kids) and a nice playpark.
Take a little stroll outside at New Lanark and you’ll find the Falls of Clyde Wildlife Reserve. This is a beautiful wooded walk alongside the The River Clyde, taking you to several waterfalls of which Corra Linn, at 27m tall, is the biggest and most spectacular.
With young kids you may want to turn around here and head back to New Lanark: the route is roughly a 90 minute round trip with young kids, uphill on the way there (allowing for time playing too). If you do continue up the hill you’ll come across a wildlife viewing area and eventually Bonnington Linn, a beautiful horseshoe of waterfalls.
Entry to the Falls of Clyde walks and reserve is free. Entry to New Lanark is £13.95 for adults, £9.95 for kids, free for under 3’s. Interactive gallery costs £3.25 per child. You can pay for this by itself or with general entry.
Calderglen Country Park, East Kilbride
Another waterfall, The Horseshoe Falls along the Rotten Calder River, can be found through a scenic wooded glen in Calderglen Country Park, East Kilbride. This is a nice walk with young kids too and not too far for little legs.
Calderglen also has a fantastic playpark, suitable for toddlers and adventurers alike, and a sweet little children’s zoo. In the zoo you’ll find mammals such as marmosets, meerkats, coati and prairie dogs. There are quite a few bird species as well, and inside the tropical glasshouse you’ll find, amongst other things, a mesmerising leaf cutter ant colony.
Entry to Calderglen Country Park is free. The children’s zoo has a small fee of £1.70 for adults, 60p for kids and free for under 3’s.
James Hamilton Heritage Park, East Kilbride
The James Hamilton Heritage Park is a 16 acre man made loch in East Kilbride with a watersports centre offering lessons on kayaking, dinghy sailing, windsurfing and hire of equipment and boats. Lessons are offered on season and must be booked in advance.
The path around the loch is 1.2 km. It’s flat and well maintained making it great for bikes, scooters, roller skates or any kind of wheel.
The park is free. Information on lessons & hire including cost can be found at slleisureandculture.co.uk.
Chatelherault Country Park, Hamilton
Chatelherault Country Park, just outside Hamilton, is home to ancient woodlands dating back to the 1400’s and is one of the most beautiful parks in the central belt of Scotland. Walking through the trees here makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time.
There are loads of walks to choose from; some have stairs and the park is pretty hilly, so it can be quite strenuous for little legs. But the Cadzow Oaks are great for some tree climbing, and the view from the 80ft high Duke’s Bridge is pretty spectacular. If you take one of the lower routes along Avon Water you’ll be able to have a wee splash too.
Chatelherault is also full of history; it is home to the ruins of Cadzow Castle, built around 1530 and which at one point was one of the greatest noble houses in Scotland with links to Mary Queen of Scots. You can find some information on this in the visitor centre within the beautiful Chatelherault House. There’s a lovely cafe in the house too, and a great play area down beside the car park.
Entry to Chatelherault Country Park is completely free.
Cuningar Loop Woodland Park, Rutherglen
Cuningar Loop in Rutherglen is a new Forestry Commission woodland park, opened on the banks of the River Clyde just a couple of years ago. It has a network of paths through the woodland and a boardwalk along a small part of the river. The boardwalk along the Clyde is a quiet and calm little walk; you can’t hear much except the river and the birds which is a wonderful escape from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city.
The paths are all in great condition so Cuningar Loop is an excellent place for wheels. Plus there is a pump track for bikes and scooters to add to the wheely fun. There is also a playpark; it’s sandy and wooden and has loads of bits to climb. And there are several climbing boulders ranging in difficulty from beginner to more advanced.
Cuningar Loop is about a 15 min walk from Dalmarnock station. Dalmarnock Rd is a main road with a few bus options & about a 10 min walk to the park entrance.
Entry to Cuningar Loop is free, and has free parking.
Hamilton Water Palace, Hamilton
Hamilton Water Palace has an ice rink and a great swimming pool. The swimming has a fantastic fun splash pool for under 8’s. There’s lots for toddlers to do in the splash pool with a few tiny slides, a pirate ship to play on (watch out for the bucket that tips water on you) and a slide coming from the pirate ship back into the pool. For the bigger kids there is a fast rubber ring slide & a flume (both have 1m height requirement).
There are also rapids, an outdoor pool and a little spa pool. It also has 25m pool that sometimes has some fun inflatables during school holidays. Kids are allowed in all areas apart from the usual non-swimmers in the deep end.
Entry to the pool at Hamilton Water Palace costs £5.40 for adults & £3.20 for kids. Under 4’s go free.
Biggar Puppet Theatre, Biggar
Biggar Puppet Theatre is the home of Purves Puppets; a beautifully decorated Victorian Style Puppet Theatre that regularly stages large scale glow in the dark puppet shows. The puppet shows themselves are lovely old-fashioned children’s entertainment.
Purves Puppets have themed and seasonal shows throughout the year. Check the website for show information and details.
There is also a charming tearoom where kids can get lunchboxes before the show, and a little play area outside in the garden.
Tickets are available from purvespuppets.com