It's hard to imagine a better place for a running holiday (or a holiday with a bit of running!) than the Highlands of Scotland. Beautiful scenery, challenging trails and quiet roads combined with a variety of family-pleasing attractions mean that the Highlands have something for everyone.
We've kept it simple by focusing on three main areas...
Aviemore and the Cairngorms
With a gorgeous sandy beach at Loch Morlich, its own reindeer herd and no shortage of activities, Aviemore and the Cairngorms pretty much set the standard for year-round Highland family holidays. The bustling town is a solid base for every outdoor pursuit you can imagine, from kayaking to pony trekking. Accommodation ranges from plush hotels you need never leave to well-equipped campsites; there's also no shortage of places to buy or rent equipment.
The main attraction is Cairngorm Mountain itself, staring down at the town and now complete with its own railway straight to the top. Here you'll find a shop, interpretive displays, a café and viewing platforms. Be warned though, you're not allowed to walk or run back down the hill if you've taken the easy way up!
Runners looking to get a few miles in before the kids get out of bed have plenty of options, from a gentle jog on the trails around Loch Morlich to a lung-busting blast up the snow road to the base station of the Cairngorm Mountain Railway. Glenmore Forest just outside of Aviemore also offers a good range of signposted trails of varying distances.
As you'd expect, the area is home to several events, including Aviemore half marathon and 10K (October). Anyone looking for an entirely different sort of running challenge can take on the Strathspey Steam Railway and 'Race the Steam Train' from Boat of Garten to Aviemore (May). It's just as well the race ends at the Cairngorm Brewery!
Fort William and Lochaber
Fort William is known as the 'Outdoor Capital of the UK', and with good reason. Nestled at the base of the UK's highest peak, Ben Nevis, the town is base camp for all manner of running, walking, cycling and water-based activities throughout the year. Plenty of tour and equipment-hire companies make sure you're never short of adrenaline. Family-friendly events like the UCI Mountain Bike Championships, the Glenfinnan Gathering, the Agricultural Show and the No Fuss River Race provide excitement for both spectators and competitors.
If you're looking to stretch your legs, head out on the West Highland Way, a 95-mile-long trail which links Fort William with Milngavie, near Glasgow. You can also run along the Caledonian Canal - all the way to Inverness, if you please - along the Great Glen. If you've any energy left, a sprint to the top of Ben Nevis should tire you out nicely.
Inverness and the Moray Coast
Inverness is served by good air and rail links which makes it a great base from which to explore the Moray coast, one of the sunniest parts of the UK. Fort George, the Culloden battlefield, Brodie Castle, the ruins of Spynie Palace and the home of MacBeth - Cawdor Castle, are all easy day trips from the town. Nature-loving families should also pack their binoculars for a dolphin or whale-watching tour of the Moray Firth.
The Black Isle Wildlife Park is as popular with kids as a tour of the Black Isle Brewery is with their parents! Nessie spotting is also a must, and you can take your pick of several different Loch Ness cruises. If time allows, choose a trip that allows you to explore the atmospheric Urquhart Castle.
If you're planning on taking in a local race while you're visiting, Inverness Half Marathon (March), the Culloden 10K and 17.46K (October), the Northern Scot Spring Series of 10K races (Nairn, Elgin and Forres) and Moray marathon (which also includes a half marathon and a 10K, September) are all friendly events. And of course, there's the big one: September's Loch Ness Marathon Festival. This event also includes a 10K, a 5K and kids' races, proving that the Festival, just like the Highlands as a whole, really does have something for everyone.