Outdoor Nurseries, Forest and Nature Kindergartens in Scotland

13 February 2017 · 16 comments

in Early Years Outdoors, Nature Play & Learning

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I receive a lot of queries about outdoor nurseries, forest kindergartens and nature kindergartens in Scotland. This post lists the ones I am aware of, but please, if you know of others, then please do get in touch and tell me more. 

One challenge is defining the above terms. Each term represents a broad span of practice. For the purposes of this post, I am referring to early years and childcare settings where children spend almost all their time outside and with lots of opportunities – usually daily – to get off-site and explore local greenspace.

If you wish to visit these establishments, then please make contact directly. However please bear in mind the following:

  1. The nurseries are busy places and staff have limited time to answer emails and phone calls. Be patient. Provide as much information as you can and you need to be the one who is proactive.
  2. The nurseries get many requests each year and can’t always fulfil every one. Look for open days and training courses being offered as this is one way to meet staff and learn more about practice. Big groups can be a lot to accommodate and not all children cope with large parties descending upon them.
  3. Check expectations about how you should behave and interact with the children, including protocol around photographs. Be respectful of children’s rights and of the staff’s need to get on and do their job. Not every nursery will let you visit when children are present, so check in advance.
  4. Be kind and offer a donation to their funds. If a nursery needs to hire an extra person so that time can be made to speak to you, then offer to pay for this.
  5. Follow the guidance for visiting an educational establishment and make the most of the opportunity to reflect on your practice.


Chapter One Treetops Outdoor Nursery, Dalkeith, Midlothian

This is the first outdoor nursery to open in Midlothian and uses Dalkeith Country Park – so lots of space and facilities.


Cowgate Under 5’s Centre, in the heart of Edinburgh

This urban nursery has a long tradition of excellent practice and I have written several blog posts about different aspects of their provision. They have a satellite site in the Pentland Hills for children to visit at least 2 days per weeks as well as use of a local wildlife garden within walking distance of the nursery. In this respect Cowgate perhaps blurs the boundaries between a standard state preschool and an outdoor nursery.


Dunblane Nature Kindergarten, Dunblane, Stirlingshire

The staff at this award-winning nursery are the first to tell you about the transformative impact of changing to a nature-based pedagogy from traditional practice. Read more here.


Evergreen Outdoor Nursery, Maryhill, Glasgow

This outdoor nursery opened in October 2015 as one of several services offered by Maryhill Mobile Children’s Services.


Fenton Barns Nursery, East Lothian

This warm, friendly nursery oozes an outdoor ethos. It is a good example of a nursery where the emphasis is most definitely on outdoor experiences. This is backed up by a Care Inspectorate report which emphasises the outdoor nature of this early childhood setting.


Greenbank Woodland Play, Glasgow

This nursery is based in National Trust Greenbank Gardens in Clarkston Glasgow. It caters for 3-5 year olds and there is a free pick up service from local nurseries. It was established in January 2015.


Livingstone’s Explorers Outdoor Playgroup

Based in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire and catering for children aged 2 to 3.5 years old.


Methilhill Nature Nursery and Nature Tots, Fife

This part-time childcare provision is part of the support services offered by the Methilhill Community Children’s Initiative.


Mindstretchers, Auchlone Nature Kindergarten, Perthshire

This nature kindergarten is well-known through the international work of its founder, Claire Warden, who has written extensively about her nature-based pedagogy.


Mother Goose Outdoor Nursery, Edinburgh

This Edinburgh-based nursery is managed by Jenny McAllister, MBE who worked at the Scottish Sea Bird Centre prior to this appointment.


Mucky Boots Nature Kindergarten, Maryculter, Aberdeenshire

Aberdeenshire’s First Nursery opens in April 2017 following a 2-year pilot by the founder, Dawn Ewan. It is child-initiated and child-led, based upon the principles and practice of Forest School.


Outdoors With Anna, Childminder, Dalry, Edinburgh

The Facebook page says it all! Anna gets her children out and about to Gorgie City Farm, Portobello Beach, local parks and so on. Lovely to see. Anna takes three to four children at any one time from ages 1 through to 8 years old.


Rainbows and Puddles, Troon, Ayrshire

This nursery has a Forest School ethos and runs several other clubs and sessional work in addition to the forest nursery. There is a second site in Alexandra Park, Glasgow.


Riverside Cottage Nursery, Bathgate – West Lothian

This homely nursery is the vision of Sharon Coyle, who sadly passed away just after it opened in 2011. Her eldest son, Luke, decided to switch degrees and careers and now runs the nursery which is held in high regard. This nursery has a strong outdoor philosophy and highly regarded.


Secret Garden Outdoor Nursery, Fife

This outdoor nursery, founded by Cathy Bache, is well-established and began as a child-minding service in 2004. It has a very detailed website which is worth reading to find out more about the life and approach.


Stramash Outdoor Nurseries, Argyll, Highland and Moray

Stramash, an Argyll-based outdoor social enterprise, have three outdoor nurseries in Oban, Fort William and Elgin. Given that Fort William purportedly has only 30 rain-free days per year, this nursery demonstrates that outdoor play whatever the weather is the way to go! Check out the lively Facebook page and wonderful videos on their website.


Summerlings at The Sheiling Project, Struy, Kiltarlity, nr Beauly, Highland

This is part of a sustainable CIC project that enables children to learn experimentally about life in Highland in a Sheiling. Founded by Dr Sam Harrison and truly innovative in approach. Opened October 2017


Tiptoes Nursery, Larbet, Falkirk

This another secret gem! Sheetal and Anoop Shah own this nursery and are actively involved in shaping the nature kindergarten ethos. Furthermore, their nursery manager is Steven White – who used to be at Dunblane Nature Kindergarten.


Wellie Boots Childminding, Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire

This is a childminding service that is based on a farm and has an outdoor philosophy. Its not clear how much time is spent outside but the Facebook photos suggests almost all!


Wellington School Outdoor Nursery, Ayr

This private school in Ayr has an outdoor nursery as part of its provision which operates from two satellite sites in Alloway.


Wild Sparks Outdoor Nursery, Coupar Angus, Perthshire

This is a part-time outdoor nursery that is growing slowly in line with demand from local parents. Opened in January 2017 by Alice Warren and Sarah Hutcheson who have reams of experience running Forest School and nature play sessions.


Wild Wellies Outdoor Kindergarten – Childminding, Stirling

Checkout the Facebook page for more information. Opened in Autumn 2017.


Without Walls – Earthtime Outdoor Nursery, Duffus, Moray

This nursery opened in January 2016. It is part of the Earthtime for All charitable company that provides an assortment of nature-based and environmentally themed outdoor activities for all ages and abilities in Moray. It is based upon Forest School practice.


Woodlands Outdoor Kindergartens, Glasgow

There are two kindergartens operating in different parts of Glasgow. The original one, established in 2009 uses Pollock Country Park.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Cameron November 25, 2015 at 22:18

Hi Juliet, my name is Cameron Sprague and I’m the Early Years and Families Team Leader for the Stramash Outdoor Nursery in Fort William. I had to comment as I couldn’t help but smile at your mention of our supposedly 30 rain-free days a year. I have to admit sometimes it only feels like 3 days…but when they do happen you appreciate them all so much more. If you ask our children and their parents I’m sure they will tell you what we lack in sunshine we more than make up for in Mud!


Juliet Robertson November 26, 2015 at 07:32

Thanks Cameron – I think you are right about the “appreciation” – I lived for 3.5yrs in Achnasheen and the beauty of the surroundings and wildness more than compensated for the wind and rain.


Dawn Ewan February 13, 2017 at 22:11

Thanks for adding us to the list Juliet, it’s all starting to feel very ‘real!’


Juliet Robertson February 13, 2017 at 22:13

You have worked incredibly hard to get to this point – the end of the beginning! It’s very exciting and I hope Mucky Boots grows from strength to strength.


peter stoneman March 8, 2017 at 14:08

Thanks for the wee footnote, my wife worked so hard to bring the first permanent Aberdeenshire outdoor project to life for wee ones, and yes we are out pretty much most of the time.
Finding so many clone businesses up here now and that can only be a good thing!(i think about 4 up here that have a variation on our name, so nice to see our impact on the Shire.)
We have been busy for years but its worth it.
Thanks again.
Peter From Wellieboots


Juliet Robertson March 8, 2017 at 19:08

Thanks Peter – You are the only registered provision that farm-based and this is unique. It’s such a positive example to others.


Adam March 9, 2017 at 16:04

I didn’t even know this was a thing! Do you know if this kind of thing happens in England? I’m in Yorkshire so there’s loads of green space. Could set one up.


Juliet Robertson March 9, 2017 at 17:14

Hello Adam

There’s lots of outdoor nurseries in England but exact numbers are not known because there’s no key place that gathers this sort of information. In Scotland the Care Inspectorate has a list of childcare establishments who have registered as outdoor practice, but this is interesting in itself as some listed are not in fact particularly outdoorsy and there’s others such as Wellieboots and Cowgate U5 Centre which are not registered as outdoor practice but essentially could be.

Hope this helps

PS I’m sure formal bodies will be set up in due course to help with this sort of thing.


Steven White April 8, 2017 at 06:22

Hi Juliet,

Many thanks for the inclusion and continuing support 🙂

Kind Regards,



Rio July 30, 2017 at 13:57

Hello Juliet

these information are extremely helpful since we are relocating ourselves to Scotland from London and are looking for alternative/green/creative educational options for our kids who are at this moment in Steiner kindergarten. However, they are nearly the age of starting a primary school and if you have any information about primary schools who offer that sort of education somewhere between Glasgow and Edinburg apart from Edinburg Steiner School? It seems that Scottish state schools have a bit more flexibility in teaching while English ones are strictly tied to National Curriculum (unless they are not free schools), so there might be some state schools who has big emphasis on outside learning and unique way to teach academic subjects? I made own research but really could not find any, maybe ‘outdoor’ is just everywhere so no appreciation to it?

Thanks a lot


Juliet Robertson July 30, 2017 at 14:11

Hello Rio

You ask a really good question. At the moment I don’t know of any primary schools personally that offer what you are looking for, although there’s some really lovely ones out there – such as Thornilea Primary in Wishaw. The Edinburgh Steiner School is probably your best bet at the moment. Saying that sometimes a small school offers more of an outdoor and creative approach. It’s worth asking Parent Spark – an Edinburgh based parent group which is on Facebook and has their own website, as one of their members may know of a places worth a look.


Rio August 6, 2017 at 22:24

Dear Juliet

Thanks a lot for your prompt reply.
I will ask at Parent Spark definitely!

Best regards


Maria August 2, 2017 at 12:15

Hi Rio,

Having moved to Scotland myself from the south east and having sent my children to a steiner kindergarten in London, I can recommend you get your family to a small village within commutable distance of Edinburgh where schools are small and there’s a lot of outdoor space. Education up here is a lot better than what we were used to, particularly in London! Best of luck.


Rio August 6, 2017 at 22:36

Dear Maria

Thanks for your reply.
Very pleased to know that the education up there is much better than here!
Small village around Edingburgh….we will be visiting Stirling and Linlithgow this Friday, though schools will be still closed. My husband’s work will be in Glasgow rather than Edinburgh, so these are the furthest limit for us. I will also make research small villages around Glasgow.

By the way, I heard that the national assessments for Primary pupils will be introduced from this year on, do you see any impact on schools, teachers or parents’ attitude?? I hate SATs here and wished that Scotland remained as before…

Thanks again


Maria September 13, 2017 at 08:38

Hi Rio,

Sorry for late reply – I only just saw this.

I think compared to England, the system here is a lot milder: really-play-based and with the possibility to defer entrance to P1 (i.e. Reception) without much fuss.

Actually, if your husband is going to be working in Glasgow, the West Coast of Scotland has a more interesting coastline and beautiful villages, and according to this article there are quite a few more outdoor nurseries in and around Glasgow than around Edinburgh.

Best of luck,



Laura October 24, 2017 at 22:06

Hello there,

I couldn’t recommend Drymen Primary School highly enough. I taught there for a time and it is an excellent example of a village school with amazing surrounding’s which they make the most of. Outdoor learning is a massive part of the curriculum Drymen is a small village near Loch Lomond within easy commute to Glasgow.

I hope this helps!


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