Five Outdoor Activities for Half-Term

by Sara Barton, 22nd September 2021
Five Outdoor Activities for Half-Term

Finding activities to suit the whole family over half-term holidays is not always easy. But the south of Scotland has a multitude of family-friendly outdoor activities on offer. Scotland is about stunning landscapes, rugged coastlines and heavenly views. And with the fall colours dappling the countryside, October is an ideal time to experience it all.

Do you have a head for heights? Could you scale a Douglas Fir and traverse through the canopy? Or would you prefer to see the canopy from a walkway? Have you tried paddleboarding? Or kayaking? Have you ever met an alpaca – or taken one for a walk? Here are a few options to help you plan an active half-term holiday. Guaranteed to wear out the kids and leave you all with happy family memories and a desire to come back for more.

Alpaca Trekking

Where: Various locations

One of the more unusual options for a family walk is to take an alpaca along! Yes, these cute and cuddly South American natives have reached Scottish shores. Whether you fancy a walk or just a meet & greet there are five different organisations across the south of Scotland that offer Alpaca Trekking and related activities. Whether you want to check out the views in the Cheviot Hills, or take in the spectacular countryside of the Tweed or Nith Valleys; tramp along the coastal paths of the Solway Firth or walk in the UNESCO Biosphere in Galloway, there are alpacas waiting to take you on an excursion.

In the Borders, there are Beirhope Alpacas and Velvethall Alpacas offering visits and trekking opportunities. In Dumfries & Galloway, you can visit Galloway Alpacas.

Stunning walks, Galloway Alpacas
Alpaca Trekking is a great family activity

Where: Glentress Forest, Peebles

GoApe is a well-known adventure company, specialising in climbing and traversing through trees at dizzying heights. At Glentress Forest, it offers its Treetop Adventure. Even in the rain, if appropriately dressed, you can have a fantastic climb protected by the trees. The scenery is stunning and you will get a great dose of fresh air! If this doesn’t tire the kids out, there are plenty of mountain bike trails on offer too. There is even bike hire if you need it. For those needing a wee sit down, there is the Watch Centre. Here you can see live video streams from cameras located around the park to capture up-close wildlife moments without disturbing the animals and birds.

Fantastic fun high up in the trees at Go Ape in Glentress Forest near Peebles.

Where: Loch Ken

On the shore of Loch Ken, on the edge of the Galloway Forest Park, the Galloway Activity Centre has outdoor activities galore! There’s everything from climbing to sailing, archery to laser tag, paddleboarding to kayaking. You can plan a half or full day out, mixing the variety of activities. There are taster sessions for those who want to try something new. There is a cafe on site so you can grab something nourishing before you head out for the next activity. And it is somewhere for the older generations to stay dry and enjoy the stunning views.

Stand up Paddleboarding at GAC
Paddleboarding is just one of the options on offer at the Galloway Activity Centre on the shores of Loch Ken

Farm visits

Where: Various locations

A great option for city dwellers is to head off for a farm visit. These can allow you and your children to get up close to animals and experience life on working farms. What time do the farmers get up? While you’re at school or work in an office, what is happening on a farm? What do the animals eat and how do they in turn contribute to the food we eat?

Jacksons at Jedburgh is a mixed livestock farm with wool shedding sheep and Saler cross cattle – there are often seasonal events – all tours require pre-booking. Kitchen Coos & Ewes in New Luce offers the chance to learn about Highland Cows, those most iconic of Scottish farm beasts. Take a tour and you will leave understanding how these animals live in a matriarchal group and how they play a vital role in maintaining the natural environment.

Get up close to a Highland Cow during a farm visit

Royal Botanic Gardens

Where: Stobo & Port Logan

This area has an abundance of amazing gardens including TWO Royal Botanic Gardens. Not only that but Logan Botanic Garden was recently voted The best garden in the UK and its sister garden Dawyck Botanic Garden tied for second place. These amazing horticultural delights should be at the top of any list of places to visit with their awe-inspiring trees and their stunning autumnal colours.

Logan Botanic Garden has a grove of gunneras and eucalyptus for children to explore. Great for a game of hide and seek. Check out its palms and tree ferns, which are very much at home in this southwest Scottish garden. During October, the garden has a guided tour of its autumnal colours, a day of kite making and a scary skeleton workshop in time for Hallow’een.

At Dawyck Botanic Garden children and adults alike can have fun trying to spot 24 puzzle pieces. These are mostly hanging in the trees throughout the garden as part of the art installation, A Puzzle in the Garden. The pieces use part illusion, part camouflage and part artist’s interpretation to blend into the background, so you’ll have to look closely!

But you don’t have to stick to the botanical gardens as there are plenty more gardens on offer.

Rich Rowe
Rich autumnal colours await at Dawyck Botanic Garden in Stobo