We spent last weekend in my favourite way – exploring new places with the littles, camera in hand. We set off in search of adventure in Angus – we live in Aberdeenshire close to the border with Angus and so we spent two days revisiting and discovering some wonderful family-friendly attractions and activities in the area for a takeover of the the VisitAngus Instagram page. I also shared photos of some our favourite places that we visit quite regularly (Lunan Bay, Charleton Fruit Farm, Edzell Castle and House of Dun – which you can read more about here).
Angus is an ideal location for a short family break, offering something for everyone – foodie delights, historical attractions, the spectacular Angus Glens and a beautiful coastline, to name a few. And, of course, plenty of things to keep the kids entertained. If you’re looking for itinerary inspiration for a two-day family break here’s what we packed into our weekend adventure in Angus.
West Links Park and Kerr’s Miniature Railway, Arbroath
My two preschoolers were in their element at West Links Park, with the variety of things to play on/with from giant bubbles to a pulley system. The play park is a lovely big sandy space, right on the sea front.
Just past the park you’ll find Kerr’s Miniature Railway, which has been running since 1935 and is open 1st April to 1st October. I think it is such a lovely attraction and my son, 4 years old, adores it. I thought that my daughter, 2 years old, would enjoy her first trip and she excitedly cried, ‘Choo choo’ for most of the walk from the park to the railway, but she was slightly unsure to begin with. (She nearly leaped out of my mum’s lap when the horn sounded before we went through a little tunnel). It is a short return journey up to a little station (with teddy bears waiting) and costs £1.50 for both adults and children.
If a miniature train isn’t adorable enough the kids can also take a ride on a miniature bus (or fire engine, which unfortunately wasn’t working when we visited). This also costs £1.50 and takes the wee ones up to the play park and back.
Flora was keen to return to the park rather than go on another miniature ride, but Isaac was desperate to board the mini Stagecoach bus. He loved his trip and waved to everyone as if he was royalty.
A friend told me about Balhungie Berry Farm recently and it was probably the highlight of the day for me. From Arbroath take the Angus Coastal Route (A92) south for 12 miles and take the exit for Monifieth (you’ll see signs for the Berry Farm).
It has a lovely atmosphere and wonderfully relaxed style, with simple yet scrumptious food (they were serving only cream teas and Ploughman’s Platters the day we went) and a homely farm/garden setting. There is an honesty box and a ‘help yourself’ drinks table. We were lucky that the weather gods smiled upon us all weekend and we ate our platters in glorious sunshine. We also bought strawberries and raspberries (fresh from their fields – and SO delicious) and local honey. The platter was an ideal option for the littles – I loved not having to think about it what to give them for lunch and they sat happily on a picnic blanket tucking into the fresh, warm bread, cheese, strawberries, celery and apple.
There were lambs, horses, ducks and a rabbit for the wee ones to get up close to, and a croquet set on the lawn which they attempted to play. But what my littles absolutely adored was Bluebell – an old, characterful caravan. They were actually quite set on moving in. Enjoying our alfresco lunch, watching the littles running in and out of the caravan, playing croquet and just soaking up the laid-back atmosphere… it felt very much like a celebration of the simple things in life. We will definitely be back again soon.
Barry Mill, near Carnoustie
From Balhungie Berry Farm it was a short drive to our last stop of the day – the National Trust for Scotland property, Barry Mill. (Around a 10 minute drive on the A930). Barry Mill is a working watermill near Carnoustie, one of only a few working watermills in Scotland and once the centre of a 19th century community. There has been a mill in this location since the 16th century and I loved its peaceful setting. The tranquil grounds, with the Barry Burn, is a great place for wee ones to explore; they enjoyed our little circuit and a guddle in the burn with the nets we bought in the Visitor Centre.
It’s great that there was an activity for the wee ones to keep them busy – they had to look for three mice on each floor (each with their own name badge). The waterwheel wasn’t working during our visit, unfortunately, but we really enjoyed learning about the milling process and we’ll definitely be visiting a few times over the summer.
Never Land Park and J.M Barrie’s Birthplace, Kirriemuir
We started the morning at the fantastic Never Land Park in Kirriemuir. We had told our son that we were going to the “birthplace of the man who wrote Peter Pan” and so naturally he wanted to wear his Peter Pan outfit for the day. It is a brilliant pirate ship play area, which is great for little imaginations and perfect for my son who wants to climb everything at the moment.
We also visited the Camera Obscura in the nearby Barrie Pavilion which was gifted to the town of Kirriemuir by Barrie (along with the cricket pavillion in which it is set). It is one of only four in Scotland and it was really interesting to see it in action.
I’ve wanted to visit J.M Barrie’s Birthplace for a long time and I was really looking forward to our visit. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside (which was probably a good thing anyway as I was preoccupied with trying to stop my littlest from going near anything that said ‘Fragile, do not touch’. I had visions of her trying to clamber in the antique cot!). It is a lovely museum which tells the story of Barrie’s life and work, with quotes adorning the walls and everything from the box beds the Barrie children would have slept in to the desk at which Barrie wrote Peter Pan to the costumes worn in the first production. I wasn’t able to read as much of the information boards as I would have liked, which is typical when you have two small children in a place where they’re not allowed to touch anything, but I enjoyed sharing information with Isaac and pointing things out to him. It is described as a typical weaver’s cottage, with the family living in the two rooms upstairs and the weaver’s workshop downstairs – incredible to think of Barrie and his seven siblings in this tiny space.
As with Barry Mill there was another hunt around the property, this time for beautiful picture cards of the characters from Peter Pan. (It was also fun to watch other visitors come into the property and see Isaac standing there dressed as Peter Pan). The kids also liked the statue in the garden, which was a nice place to take a few photos.
We LOVED our visit to Glamis Castle – aka the ‘most romantic castle in Scotland’. We couldn’t have asked for a better welcome either, coming down the long driveway behind a horse-drawn carriage. (It only took about 10 minutes to drive from Kirriemuir to Glamis, and although we visited quite a few places over the weekend I didn’t feel like we were in the car for long periods of time).
We’ve visited once before and let the kids play in the grounds before having lunch, but we were excited to explore in the castle this time. We were very lucky to experience a behind the scenes tour as part of the takeover (thank you to the lovely Chimene for a wonderful tour), which gave a fascinating insight into the castle’s history.
The oldest parts of Glamis Castle date back to the 1300s (I loved seeing these rooms – the original kitchen now an atmospheric wedding venue) and it was extended extensively in the 17th and 18th centuries. Home to the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, Glamis Castle is also famously the childhood of home of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
We loved learning more about its history and Isaac particular enjoyed the ghost stories and looking for lions in each room. The tour was pitched perfectly at his level and held his attention for the entire hour (as he’s 4 I think this is a real testament to the tour). His favourite room was one with bear’s skin and jousting armour in the oldest part of the castle, and he was shown things such as a peep hole where servants would spy to see if the course was finished and a 16th century suitcase made of shark skin. He listened intently to the stories and anecdotes, and at the end of the tour he asked us how our guide knew so much information about the castle. The kids were even lucky enough to sit in small wooden chairs that belonged to the Queen and Princess Margaret when they visited their grandparents.
It was a brilliant afternoon (we also enjoyed a lovely lunch here) and we’re looking forward to returning soon to explore some more.
Monikie Country Park
We left Glamis with two tired little people who slept during the half hour drive south to Monikie. I didn’t know much about the Country Park and wasn’t sure what to expect. We really loved our first experience, particularly the Adventure Playground. It is such a peaceful setting and as we arrived in the late afternoon sunshine there were lots of families enjoying BBQs and picnics. There is a Water Sports Centre and we would love to return when the kids are older to try out some of the water sports. After the wee ones had thoroughly explored the play park we walked around the grounds and then had an early dinner at Cafe Byzantium, where we shared some delicious pizza. (And there is a perfect tree-climbing tree right next to the restaurant). It was also a lovely time of year to visit with the rhododendrons looking beautiful at the moment.
It was an ideal place to stretch little legs and a peaceful end to our weekend adventures – there is nothing quite like the pure joy of a child who has been let loose in an open space and finds the perfect tree to climb.
The weekend was full of simple joys, in fact – playing in Bluebell the caravan, picnics in the sun, guddling in burns with nets, running around play parks and treasure hunts. The kids had an absolute ball – and we did too. And surely that’s what makes a great family break – lots of opportunity to savour those simple joys (and let the Peter Pans in us all have a go on the zip wire…).
For more information on the places we visited take a look at www.visitangus.com.
My thanks to Glamis Castle for the behind the scenes tour. This was the only complimentary part of our travels in Angus, and, as always, the opinions and thoughts expressed here are entirely my own.