TOP 10 ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
Family holiday magic awaits in the East Neuk & St Andrews!
With a little forward planning family holidays in the East Neuk and St Andrews are truly magical. Here’s my top 10 of activities for kids to help you make the most of your precious holiday time, maximise the fun and minimise complaints from the wee ones!
1. A DAY AT THE BEACH
Don’t forget your buckets and spades!
Great family holidays always include a trip to the beach and the East Neuk and St Andrews have some real gems. Closest to Rose Cottage are firstly the beautiful Kingsbarns beach which has masses of space and a handy car park right beside it. Secondly Crail has a great little sandy beach right beside the historic harbour – ideal for playing in the sand and watching the boats coming in and out.
Other legendary beaches in the area are the dramatic West Sands beach in St Andrews and Elie beach, where you might even catch a game of cricket being played.
2. A PLAYPARK WITH A VIEW
It’s time to play!
There are plenty of children’s playparks in the East Neuk villages but for a playpark with a view you can’t beat Roome Bay in Crail with its beach-side location and views out to the Isle of May. Another beach-side great is the playpark (and outdoor gym) at East Sands beach in St Andrews, including pirate ship for mini adventurers.
For more adventurous outdoor play I highly recommend Craigtoun Country Park, just outside St Andrews (by the Dukes golf course). There the kids will be kept entertained for hours with all manner of adventure playgrounds, zip line, mini train ride, trampolines and boating on the pond (we also enjoyed a picnic on the grass).
3. MEET THE LOCAL WILDLIFE
Puffins, seals and even meerkats
Your little ones will see lots of birds, butterflies and maybe a bunny or frog in the Rose Cottage garden. In the fields at the front of the cottage they might encounter a pheasant or even a herd of deer (though they are quite shy!). If they keep their eyes peeled they might be lucky and see a pod of dolphins out at sea when you’re down at the beach. Take them on one of the boat trips from Anstruther to the Isle of May Nature Reserve and you’re sure to see a whole range of wildlife from puffins and sea birds galore to seals, ducks, bunnies and maybe even a whale – do go prepared with suitable clothing and food though as it can be a 5 hour trip, including 3 hours on the island with very little shelter. They’ll love the meerkats (!), sharks, tropical fish, seals and penguins at the small but fun St Andrews Aquarium and the butterflies at the Butterfly House at the St Andrews Botanic Gardens. Slightly further afield are the Scottish Deer Centre and the excellent Edinburgh Zoo. NEWS: Fife Zoo is coming soon to a site at Ladybank and already has its excellent, animal-themed soft play and café open – watch this space for more news!
4. ENGAGE THEIR IMAGINATIONS
Fairies, Glingbobs and Tootflits
For more fantastical local creatures there’s a little fairy door in a tree at the bottom of the Rose Cottage garden.
There’s a whole Glingbobs and Tootflits trail at nearby Cambo Estate (trail map available in the cottage) plus the estate has a Hidden Elf nature garden, brand new for 2017 (and already a big hit with our wee one).
A magical Fairy Glen with fairy doors, toadstool seats, den etc is hidden near the wishing well at Craigtoun Country Park.
5. STRESS-FREE EATING OUT
Places where little ones are welcomed
Eating out with wee ones can be a stress so it’s always good to know where the child-friendly restaurants are. The good news is that most places are pretty accommodating and will almost always have a high chair if you need one, though not always a kids menu.
In St Andrews the Italian chain restaurants – Zizzi’s, Pizza Express and Prezzo – and Nando’s are the most kid-friendly with proper kids menus, colouring in crayons / stickers etc. Forgan’s (Market Street) is also a great spot for a family lunch, there’s a box of toys and they run kids films, face-painting etc. in school holidays. The Doll’s House is quite good too – much better than you might expect when you first walk in. The cafe at The Byre theatre has an area with kids toys and books. For dessert it has to be Jannetta’s Ice Cream Parlour, 31 South Street (the Cathedral end of the street) – so many flavours to choose from and less busy usually if you sit in.
In and around the East Neuk villages my top picks are:
- Anstruther Fish Bar to sit in or takeaway (fish, chips and wipe clean everything)
- The Cocoa Tree Cafe in Pittenweem (toys to play with and legendary hot chocolate)
- The Nosebag Cafe at Cambo Estate, just a short walk or drive from Rose Cottage (toys to play with and colouring in)
- East Pier Smokehouse in St Monans (nice and informal)
- Crail Harbour Gallery (it has chickens!) or the East Neuk Hotel in Crail (hang out while they enjoy the toy corner or free wifi) and
- The 19th Hole in Earlsferry.
See Number 6 below for the child-friendly local farm shop cafes.
6. FUN ON THE FARM
Time to get those welly boots on and get muddy!
What better way to enjoy the country than some fun on the farm!
Close by (near Anstruther) there are lots of Anster cheesy delights to be munched at the St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company’s “Butterpat” Coffee Shop. No play area as such but plenty of grass to run around on by the outdoor tables while peaking at the cows in the field. There’s also the opportunity to watch the cheese being made in the viewing area.
On a larger scale, slightly further away but very much worth the trip is a popular farm near Cupar for family days out March-October: Cairnie Fruit Farm. Mega Maze and large Funyard which is jam packed with fun outdoor activities from go carting to trampolines to peddle tractors. Plus farm shop and café. From June the pick your own season starts including delicious strawberries and raspberries, sunflowers and pumpkins. The mega maze is lots of fun to try and navigate your way around, with a couple of lookout areas if you get stuck! It’s made from maize and usually opens mid July with a different shape each year – 2017 was all about Star Wars. 2018 is a hedgehog theme. (10am-5pm, 7 days)
Equally fun-packed is Muddy Boots Farm, near Pitlessie which offers lots of outdoor fun and indoor soft play to burn off that energy. There are giant bouncy pillows, pottery, zorbing, grass sledging, mini tractor racing, cute animals and more as well as the excellent farm shop and cafe.
7. HISTORY AND MUSEUMS CAN BE FUN
…and they might even learn something too
For something educational why not try a family trip to the National Trust’s Hill of Tarvit mansion near Ceres, St Andrews Castle and St Andrews Cathedral, the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther or Kellie Castle near Anstruther (which has an outdoor playground). About 40 minutes’ drive away is the excellent Falkland Palace and Garden – in 2018 there’s a lego trail for kids, involving spotting historical lego figures around the palace. Our little one also enjoyed the interactive exhibits and play area at the British Golf Museum and the excellent kids activity room at the St Andrews Museum, both in St Andrews.
8. SPLASH TIME
Splashy fun in St Andrews’ swimming pools
While some hardy souls do go swimming in the sea in Scotland your little ones (and you) may prefer a heated indoor pool to splash around in. The public pool at East Sands Leisure Centre in St Andrews (by East Sands beach) has a baby pool with slide, bigger pool and flume and the whole family will probably love it when they get the giant inflatable obstacle course out (the Aqua Run) – so much fun even when you are as good as I am at falling in! There’s also a steam room and spa bath for the adults. More expensive but with a lovely jacuzzi, steam room and sauna for the adults, towels and plenty of places to go for post swim refreshments (though no slides) is the pool at the Fairmont St Andrews hotel spa. There’s a baby pool and standard pool and some floats you can use. In the school holidays check ahead though to see if a splash time is in operation, i.e. set times when you can bring in kids.
9. CATCH A MOVIE
It Disney get much better than this (ha ha!)
We’ve got lots of children’s films on DVD at the cottage (yes, that includes Frozen of course!) and lots of channels on Sky TV. You can also take your kids to the cinema in St Andrews at the New Picture House, where you can even sit upstairs.
10. JUNIOR GOLF
Start them early with the great game
Where better to learn to be the next golfing star than the Home of Golf itself! There’s lots of fun to be had for ages 3+ attempting to navigate The Himalayas, the famously hilly putting green just by the Old Course. Or during school holidays you could even book them in for junior golf lessons at somewhere like the St Andrews Golf Academy.