Looking for ideas for family days out in and around West Lothian? We’re so lucky to have lots of fantastic attractions to visit - but what about FREE places for families to go to and enjoy nature and the great outdoors?
As a local nature-based childcare setting, we know our stuff when it comes to the best outdoor places and spaces for families in West Lothian. Here’s our list of 15 free (or very cheap) things to do to keep your family entertained come rain or shine!
Taking a walk or scoot around the loch and feeding the ducks and swans - as well as the geese who make a cameo appearance now and again - is almost a rite of passage for children in West Lothian. Make sure you take the right food for the birds (white bread is a big no-no) and enjoy a play at the swing park afterwards. This picturesque setting is gorgeous all year round and when the sun is out, you can enjoy an ice cream treat from one of the town’s many excellent cafes.
A wee gem which is located just minutes from us here at Riverside and a great spot for a walk or a cycle among the many routes. One highlight is to climb to the top of the Law (hill) and rest the legs while enjoying the views over swathes of West Lothian. But the true brilliance of this local nature reserve location is the excellent access to wild spaces, local wildlife and specific peatland flora and fauna. Watch out for the local deer - always a lovely surprise! You can find a wealth of information here about why our peat bogs are important - and this may be of interest to older children, too.
A beautiful woodland right on the site of the former Whitrigg Colliery with all sorts of flora and fauna to see and many’s a tree to climb. Enjoy wandering the many footpaths that wind through the woods and find the locally-named Chuckie Burn to skim stones and jump over. Ascend to the top of the bing and on a clear day you can see the Forth Bridges. Children will enjoy picking raspberries, blackberries and sloes in Autumn - and will be amazed by the fairy story bright red mushrooms (not to be touched or eaten!) which line the paths around August time.
Officially a hill but a steep mountain to conquer for wee legs (278m) with amazing vistas of the Forth Valley at the top. Triumphant climbers can enjoy a picnic at the summit and enjoy spotting towns below, and of course the iconic Three Bridges. Say hi to the sheep that live on the hill as you pass.
If you like a walk, you may also like to try Witchcraig woodlands, near the Korean War Memorial in the Bathgate Hills. Families can enjoy the only Korean war memorial in Scotland and access the woodlands from the memorial garden. Here, you can enjoy a series of short walks and can climb the hill to find the Witchcraig Wall and Refuge Stone to see panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
A lovely woodland walk with a historic story behind it! You need to get to the Westfield viaduct and climb up and pass under one of its arches. You will cross a metal footbridge, where you can stop at Wallace’s cave, the place where William Wallace hid from the army of Edward I after the Battle of Falkirk in 1298.
The pretty town of South Queensferry is ever-popular but an added draw is the natural space down by the beach. Enjoy a dip in the sea and spend hours beach-combing before heading over the road for meal, a drink or an ice lolly.
8. While you are nearby, you might like to walk across the Forth Road Bridge - the only one of the three Forth crossing bridges that can be crossed by pedestrians. Enjoy the walk (the bridge is 2.5km long) and the views, and if you choose a clear day, you can see the islands and perhaps even a Humpback whale!
This cool 15th century castle is built of stone and looks literally ship-shaped from the sea. From the castle, there are gorgeous views of the Fife coast and the Forth Bridges. Children will enjoy the history, prison pit and 17th century skeleton - but for a nature play experience, you can take the children to the grassy area or the stone beach, for some outdoorsy fun :-)
The Pentlands are very accessible from West Lothian and there is so much to do here for children and families. For those who enjoy walks, there is a huge expanse to explore here. Families might also like to head to Flotterstone Glen and investigate water and water life in the Glencorse Burn, or go on the Harlaw Biodiversity Trail around Harlaw Reservoir (self-led). There is also Bonaly Country Park, where families can enjoy cycling alongside the reservoir, or go walks or bird-spotting.
Beecraigs has something for all the family. The park is huge, with many beautiful, wild areas to explore and to run and hide in - or build dens. There are miles and miles to explore on the 913 acre site. There is also an adventure playpark, a cafe and a visitor centre, which is good when you need to refuel. One of our favourite things about this location, is the great access to the river! There are lots of spots which are perfect for stone skimming, pond-dipping, fishing and paddling! You’ll also enjoy a wander around Animal Attraction, which is an area with red deer, highland cattle and sheep. Other excellent parks for families in West Lothian are Almondell & Calderwood, and Polkemmet, which also have great access to natural wooded areas, playparks and the river.
14. Beaches near West Lothian
Due to the central location of West Lothian, the small beach at Blackness Castle is the only one actually in West Lothian, however the closest beaches to West Lothian are Cramond, West Edinburgh and South Queensferry. Both are excellent and offer lots of bird-spotting and beach-combing opportunities. Both also have fab access to ice creams!
15. Your own garden!
If you have one, there’s sometimes nothing better than getting into your own garden and enjoying it as a family. Plus, it costs nothing to visit :-) Children will enjoy growing plants, fruit and veg from seed, if you have the room in any beds or allotment areas. If not, why not invest in a few tubs the children can call their own. Local gardening centres will be pleased to help you decide what to grow, given the soil type you have - and they often sell smaller sized gardening tools which are easier for children to handle.
Your garden will also likely have stones to upturn, insects to observe and your plants, trees and shrubs will change with the season. Spark a passion for nature by talking about the changes with your child!
If you love nature and nature play, you'll probably enjoy our other blogs!