From sealife and surfing to farming and football, this summer offers a variety of unusual treats for all the family , Deedee Cuddihy suggests
Catching sight of a dolphin might be a rare occurrence in some parts of the world, but not at Broughty Castle, on the mouth of the River Tay.
From the observation windows at the four-storey 15th-century fort, dolphins can be spotted almost every day, often in groups of three or four, say the castle museum staff.
The museum features displays on the wildlife of the area, the history, the soldiers who were stationed there and the story of Dundee whalers in the Arctic. Historic Scotland will be running a series of enactments at the castle during the summer, including the life of the Brochtie family and their journey through time in Broughty Ferry, from 400 million years ago to the present day.
Next to the castle is a beach with a safe swimming area for children and a lifeguard. A new play park includes swings, slides and water features.
The native fish and invertebrates of Scotland's north-east coast can normally be seen only by scuba divers braving the chilly waters of the North Sea, but visitors to Macduff Marine Aquarium can experience them all without getting anywhere near a wetsuit or a pair of flippers.
The aquarium features marine life from the Moray Firth in a variety of natural settings. The biggest attraction is the living kelp reef, the only one of its kind in Britain. Several times a week, visitors can watch hundreds of fish being fed by resident divers.
Schools coming to the aquarium can opt for a beach visit and the chance to explore rock pools with a guide. There is a 60-page education booklet for teachers and a new outreach service means the aquarium will now be able to go out to schools with a chill tank of live specimens.
Paper-based activities for children, such as a quiz, wordsearch, colour-in sheets and origami, are available at the aquarium and its website.
Aberdeen Maritime Museum is hosting Surfing - A History of British Surfing.
This is the first time an exhibition on the subject has been mounted in Scotland. The show, which runs until mid-September, is on loan from the British Surfing Museum, which opened in Brighton two years ago.
Visitors will learn how surfing has developed in the UK since the time when Captain James Cook first saw people riding waves on boards in Hawaii in 1778. Among the many objects on show will be a replica of the surfboard used in the late 1880s by the Hawaiian princess Victoria Ka'iulani Cleghorn, whose father came from Scotland.
Aberdeen beach has been used by surfers for over 30 years and Thurso beach has now become famous for its world class waves. A recent film of surfing in Scotland will be shown, alongside photographs, clothing, boards and memorabilia.
Two farm museums on Orkney are ideal for families looking for summer fun.
Kirbuster Museum at Birsay is Orkney's last surviving fire hoose, which features a peat fire burning in the middle of the floor and a stone neuk bed. Surrounding the house is a Victorian garden, a wooded area and a small putting green that can be used by visitors. Shetland ponies are also in residence.
Only a few miles away at Harray is Corrigall Museum, a late 19th century farmstead with traditional furnishings and heather thatch, a working barn and grain kiln, plus hens, ducks and sheep.
There are more creatures to be enjoyed at Dundee Contemporary Arts, where a summer exhibition aims to bring a sense of the outdoors inside. Where The Wild Things Are looks at the ways we attempt to relate to nature. The show, which takes its title from the popular children's book by Maurice Sendak, features the work of nine artists from the UK and abroad.
Unusually for an art exhibition, it includes two live birds, a beautiful pair of long tailed glossy starlings (brothers, apparently) which artist Dave Allen has installed in a large, purpose-built aviary for the run of the show, before being returned to their home in the Lake District.
A recording of solo piano pieces based on natural bird song will be played to them throughout their stay in the hope that the starlings will mimick the music.
Tigers also feature in the show, on film. Artist Diana Thater captured the antics of these beautiful animals at the Shambala big cat sanctuary near Los Angeles that is run by the actress Tippi Hedren. They can be seen playing with a sturdy rubber ball in a galvanised metal paddling pool.
A programme of talks, events and activities complements the exhibition.
Included are "Wild as Nature" Saturday art workshops for children in July and storytelling at Tentsmuir Forest and Kinshaldy Beach on August 3.
If you like football, and have still not had a surfeit of the world cup, you will love The Saints: A Celebration of St Mirren Football Club. This exhaustive exhibition at Paisley Museum throughout the summer marks the 125th anniversary of Paisley's Love Street team. The story is told in words and pictures, enlivened by objects and memorabilia. "The Manager's Lot", "Down But Not Out", "Cup Glory" and "Hampden Heroes" are just some of the themes covered.
Newspaper photographs of Gerry Baker slamming home goals illustrate the Saints' 3-1 victory over Rangers in October 1959. Their 1-0 defeat of Dundee United in the 1987 Scottish Cup final is marked with a huge photograph of the cup in the St Mirren FC boardroom, a picture of the crowds in Paisley surrounding the team in an open-topped bus and a caricature of goal scoring hero Ian Ferguson.
A hall of fame highlights the tragic story of James Dunlop, one of the club's first captains, who died of tetanus from a cut knee sustained at a New Year's Day match in 1892. Framed shirts, a club shares certificate dating from 1905, a mock-up of the St Mirren dressing room and a selection of Saints' souvenirs also feature.
Visitors can try their hand at table football and a "What's the Score?"
quiz. Competitions, activities and events will also take place during the run of the show.
Doon the watter, a summer series of workshops and activities for adults and children will run at Greenock's McLean Museum and Art Gallery to accompany the Passport to Japan exhibition.
The focus of the exhibition, which runs until August 31, is the McLean's renowned collection of Japanese objects, including swords, armour and lacquer ware, which was gifted to the museum by the wealthy sugar trader George Macdougall, who came from the town. In addition, there will be a display of contemporary, origami-inspired paper jewellery by the Edinburgh-based designer Naoko Yoshizawa and dolls lent by the Japanese consulate in Scotland.
Broughty Castle Museum, near Dundee, tel 01382 436916, www.dundeecity.gov.ukMacduff Marine Aquarium, Aberdeenshire, tel 01261 833369, www.marine-aquarium.org.ukKirbuster Farm Museum, Orkney, tel 01856 771268, and Corrigall Farm Museum, Orkney, tel 01856 771411, www.orkney.orgmusuemsWhere The Wild Things Are, Dundee Contemporary Arts, until July 30, tel 01382 909900The Saints: A Celebration of St Mirren Football Club, Paisley Museum, until August 20, tel 0141 889 3151Passort to Japan, McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Greenock, until August 31, tel 01475 715624Surfing - A History of British Surfing, Aberdeen Maritime Museum, until September 17, tel 01224 337700