in General February 22, 2020
Now, it may come as a wee surprise, but did you know Scotland was voted the most beautiful country in the word not once, but three years in a row in the annual survey produced by Rough Guides?
Yep, Scotland held the top spot against stiff competition in 2017, 2018 and 2019. It only slipped to fourth in 2020 when Scotland was re-grouped under the ‘United Kingdom’. Some would say that is a reason for independence alone but we have a rule of no politics here so we will leave that one there!
Now, I’ll be honest, I was surprised. Not because I don’t think it is a worthy winner. I do. In fact, I have been lucky enough to travel to some amazing countries around the world and have always said that as beautiful as those places have been, nothing can beat Scotland on a sunny day. I just didn’t know other people felt the same.
It’s very easy to overlook what’s on our own doorstep. But we shouldn’t. We have the most amazing playground in our back yard, full of beaches to rival the Caribbean (just not the mercury), mountains to clear the mind and enough world class routes to see you walk well over 500 miles! Just check out this pretty compelling video from Visit Scotland to see for yourself:
It’s time to embrace the weather, the midges, and explore Scotland to the full. Edinburgh is a world class city but why not pack up the car and head out on a road trip and enjoy everything Scotland has to offer.
From now on we are going to have one staycation a year to experience Scotland’s treasures with our family. Our friends are working their way through the islands alphabetically, planning a trip to coincide with each wedding anniversary which I think is fantastic. So however, you want to make a staycation work for you, just do it, you won’t regret it.
Here are our top stunning sights of Scotland to get your staycation started…
Voted Scotland’s most romantic Glen, it’s not hard to be blown away by the breath-taking beauty of this place. Sat within a steep sided valley, Glencoe is the gift that keeps on giving all year round offering hiking trails, mountaineering and a ski resort.
But you don’t have to be an adventurer to enjoy the beauty of this place. Just being in the Glen and taking in the surroundings will give you memories to treasure forever. It’s hard to find the words to do this landscape justice. Scotland has many beautiful mountains and fabulous glens, but there is just something extra special about the combination of everything in this one.
The route north on the A82 drives straight through Glencoe and is an absolute must for road lovers. From April to October we do weekly deliveries to Glencoe and Ballachulish as part of our Highland summer delivery schedule, so get to enjoy this incredible landscape more often than most. From snow-capped mountains to spring flowers, bright blue skies and then Autumn colours, whatever time of year you visit, this forever changing landscape will be picture perfect.
Where to stay:
Ballachulish makes a great base for exploring Glencoe and the surrounding area. For the best views over Loch Linnie and the hills of Glencoe try The Ballachulish Hotel. Or for a little luxury and something truly unique check out Riverbeds luxury wee lodges with hot tubs.
2. Loch Lomond & the Trossachs
Scotland’s synonymous with Lochs and with so many beautiful ones to choose from it is hard to narrow it down to just a few to appear on this list.
But Loch Lomond is a sight to behold. Sitting at the foot of the highlands it doesn’t have the rugged scale of Glencoe, instead it has a polished beauty with lush green banks that make it a great family friendly and accessible option for those of who don’t know their cramp ons from a camel pack!
Loch Lomond is a playground for water sports with boating, kayaking, canoeing, jet skiing and cruising all possible on the Loch. It’s also a firm favourite among anglers for those after a more relaxing past time.
The impressive Loch Lomand Shores complex provides retail and entertainment options as a well as a great base to explore the shoreline from. Loch Lomond is just a short drive from Glasgow or hop on the train to Balloch where most of the action can be found. But don’t limit yourself to the start of the Loch, the road up the A82 on the west side of the loch is a stunning drive in itself. Every curve in the road reveals a slightly different perspective on this picture postcard loch.
Half way up the Loch is Luss, a conservation village that comes alive in the Spring and Summer as the cottages are adorned with flowers. Well worth visit, if not a stay!
This is another route we get to drive on a weekly basis as part of our highland deliveries. It’s always a pleasure to deliver to Glasgow and on to the Highlands when this is the view from the window!
Where to stay:
For quaint self-catering stays try The Gardeners Cottages, a selection of quintessential homes nestled among the picturesque villages along the banks of Loch Lomond. For a luxury break Cameron House is hard to beat. While the hotel is still undergoing refurbishment and due to reopen late 2020 you can still enjoy all the luxury of the lodges and the Cameron spa.
3. Bealach Na Bà road trip
If you are a car enthusiast or just love a good road trip, the Bealach na ba to Applecross should be on your list of must do’s. Translated the road means Pass of the Cattle and you will need to have nerves of steel around some of the bends where it’s single track. However, if you can hold your nerve, the views at the top are breath taking.
The whole journey is picture perfect, the approach to the pass is incredible and fills you with anticipation for what’s to come. The peak itself offers some of the best views over to the Hebrides, Skye and Wester Ross which just keep on giving as you descend into Applecross.
There’s not much to do in Applecross apart from grab lunch at the Applecross Inn, (and perhaps a wee drink to steady any passengers’ nerves!) but that’s not a problem as just sitting back and taking in the view is what this trip is all about.
To make this trip even more special for a petrol head why not drive it in style? You can hire Caterhams in Elgin from Highland Caterham Hire then drive from East to West, finishing in Applecross. It’s possible to do this drive and back in a day or you could pack a (very small!) overnight bag and make it a short break to take in some of the other amazing sight this far north.
Orkney is perhaps one of the easiest opportunities to miss when thinking of a staycation. So far north you probably wouldn’t consider it but in actual fact by air it is quicker and easier to get to than the Western Isles which draw huge crowds.
The real attraction in Orkney is the contrast. A contrast between green lands sparse of any trees where the only uprights are mystifying standing stones, and the lively towns and villages which show this part of Scotland is truly alive and kicking!
Rich in history with some of the best-preserved historical sites in the country, you can walk around the prehistoric village of Skara Brae. Fascinating for adults but imagine the fun little minds can have learning about Vikings while walking the streets they created hundreds of years ago.
Dramatic sheer rock face coastlines contrast pretty beaches while animal lovers can enjoy the arrival of puffins on the island from April. With so much to see and do why not check out this post from Love From Scotland for the full run down.
Where to stay:
Accommodation is largely based around Inns and guesthouses as well as plenty of self-catering holiday lets. For rustic charm The Little Bothy is hard to beat while Heatherlea B&B receives an exceptional 9.8 from traveller reviews on Booking.com
5. Fort William
Just up the road from Glencoe you will find Fort William which is the largest town in the Highlands. A pretty town in itself but the real attraction to Fort William is the base it provides to explore the highlands from.
Standing in the shadow of Ben Nevis, this is also the place you want to be if attempting to climb it. Climbing the tallest mountain in the British Isles is a bucket list item for many so doing it from lovely surroundings is a bonus. Be warned though, Ben Nevis should not be underestimated. While some get to the top in trainers alone, conditions change dramatically and suddenly on the mountain so always be prepared for the conditions at the top, not those at the bottom.
Fort William is also the base for some of the most iconic train journeys in the UK in terms of the wonderful scenery en route…and their appearance in Harry Potter! In fact Fort William to Mallaig is considered one of the finest railway journeys in the world and doing it under steam is surely the only way to travel this one? For more info on steam rail journeys visit Great Rail.
Fort William is another one of our weekly summer delivery destinations but we have to get there under our own steam…or should I say our own Man with a Van power! Get it? Unfortunately, when we arrive in Fort William though there’s no time to climb the mountains. We have removals and deliveries to make back from Fort William to Glasgow and Edinburgh so have to enjoy this scenery from the driver’s seat.
Where to stay:
Sat right on the waterfront, the Wilderness Apartments offer crisp, clean contemporary living with huge glass fronts to enjoy the lake and mountain views. They also have the added bonus of a private beach. If contemporary definitely isn’t your thing, for a real treat stay at Inverlochy Castle Hotel that has traditional elegance in abundance.
6. Isle of Skye
The road trip up to Skye is beautiful, passing through Loch Lomond and Glencoe along the way. So a trip to Skye can be as much about the journey as well as the destination. Although it is the Isle of Skye no ferries are required thanks to the road bridge connecting it to the mainland. This is part of the reason why Skye is so popular as you get to experience a western Isle without the transport faff.
Skye offers something for all tastes and budgets. So whether you prefer good old fashioned camping or staying in a luxury holiday home, you won’t be disappointed. Skye has also become a bit of a foodie haven with the critically acclaimed Three Chimneys that for many years held a Michelin Star, and now Loch Bay which is currently the only one starred restaurant on the island. However, given it has a population of 10,000 people and two Michelin worthy restaurants it’s fair to say they know how to cook up there!
Skye’s rugged landscape is captivating at every turn and boasts some of the most beautiful rock formed treasures. The old man of Storr and the Mealt waterfall are just a few of the highlights. In fact, there are so many things to see on Skye, it would be an article in itself. I strongly recommend you read Jordan’s post from Inspired by maps on ten incredible things to do on Skye. Sometimes it takes a tourist’s perspective to see just what our own country has to offer.
Where to stay:
There are plenty of accommodation options on Skye but if you plan on travelling in peak season it would be wise to book early to avoid disappointment. The Isle of Skye Apartment Company offers a number of serviced apartments and cottages so you can combine hotel/B&B services with your own homely space. They have 2, 4 and 6 person options so whether it’s a romantic break, family holiday or group trip there’s bound to be something to suit.If you really want to be close to nature and embrace the glamping trend try Skye Yurts where you can sleep under the stars but with all the creature comforts.
7. Luskentyre, Isle of Harris
If you make it to Skye and you can extend your trip a few days I would highly recommend popping over to the Isle of Harris too. While it does require a ferry it’s an easy hop across from Uig to Tarbert with the crossing taking approximately 45 minutes.
Harris is a small place, but a very special one. If you go out of the peak season chances are you will have the place to yourself which I would highly recommend, if you go in Summer then it’s a completely different story! And the reason? One of the most picturesque beaches in the world. Yep, I’m throwing the world out there because it’s true. Turquoise water, pure white sand and a vista looking onto Taransay that sits in the water like another mythical land to be discovered. And the icing on the cake? Perfect sunsets as it is on the west if the Island. Magical.
Harris in the off season can give you the feeling of being undiscovered. It has a quiet charm about it that is certainly overshadowed by Skye. But stepping onto this Isle is like slowing down time, it’s a relaxed pace, there are small communities filled with vibrant, talented and creative people who love their tranquil island and the inspiration it gives them.
A trip round the island, there’s only one road so you won’t get lost, is like a little treasure hunt. Hopping out your car every 5 minutes to see something else wonderful. Here the sheep rule the road which can make for an interesting journey but it all just adds to the charm.
Where to stay:
The western Isles offer some fabulous new build holiday accommodation and The Sheep Station is no exception. Don’t be put off by the name, these two houses overlooking Scarista are pure luxury and have even been featured in Elle magazine. If you are looking for tranquillity, these are for you.If you want to step off the ferry and straight into your accommodation then look no further than Hotel Hebrides, a Boutique hotel in Tarbert offering comfy modern rooms with a fantastic restaurant.
8. Loch Ness
Ask anyone around the world about Scotland and at some point, they are bound to mention the Loch Ness monster. But Loch Ness is so much more than Nessie. For starters its sheer size is awe inspiring. Standing on the edge and looking out try and get your head around the fact that it contains more water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined!
At nearly 23 miles long and almost 2 miles wide, it takes a good while to get around this behemoth. So, the best thing to do is stop off at Urquhart Castle in Drumnadrochit to enjoy one of the best vantage points of the Loch. The visitor centre is fantastic while walking the ruins of the castle feels like a giant playground. Kids will love it!
However, there is another way to enjoy the Loch and that’s by boat. The Caledonian canal runs from Inverness to Fort William covering 60 miles of locks…and Lochs. In the world of canals, it’s considered unusual as it uses the Lochs as natural reservoirs instead of man-made feeder systems. It means as you glide down the routes carved out by man, every now and then you get the pleasure of boating along a stunning Loch. It’s quite a unique experience if you like boating or a holiday with a difference.
If you don’t fancy boarding the boat though you don’t have to miss out. Simply watching the variety of boats and yachts pass through the locks is fascinating. Or for keen walkers, you can enjoy the Great Glen Way, one of only 4 official long-distance routes in Scotland that follows sections of the canal towpath and forestry tracks alongside Loch Ness.
Where to stay:
If you like self-catering options but prefer a more traditional setting look no further than The Highland club at the southern tip of Loch Ness. This impressive estate offers fabulous apartments within the grade A listed gothic building. You can also enjoy an indoor pool, spa and plenty of other activities to keep young and old entertained. This is self-catering on a very grand scale!…and if you want to try your hand at cruising check out Caley Cruisers who have over 28 vessels to choose from!
9. Loch Earn & Ben Vorlich
Sometimes for our Edinburgh to highland deliveries we will take the Stirling route to Ballachulish, which is always a pleasure, never a chore!
If you love a good loch and mountain, but don’t love the crowds then Loch Earn is the place for you.On the Eastern edge of the Trossachs and in the heart of Perthshire, Loch Earn is like the baby sister to Loch Lomond. It offers all the same water sports and leisure activities, but its banks are not lined by 5-star hotels, small towns and you certainly won’t see a tourist cruise liner on this loch!
The loch and surrounding mountains are stunning, but even more so when viewed from St Fillans on the eastern tip of the loch. Loch Earn is all about serenity and really getting away from it all. Loch Lomond has so much to offer but it’s difficult to find a little piece of it to enjoy on your own. Loch Earn gives you just that.
Of course one of the best viewpoints of any Loch is from a neighbouring mountain. But this can be off limits if you are not an experienced climber. However, you have the best of both worlds at Loch Earn in the form of Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin. Ben Vorlich is a popular hillwalk that provides accessible views, while serious walkers can continue on to Stuc a’Croin which is steep and rocky, so appropriate gear required.
Loch Earn is also a great base for visiting the nearby Killin which the Falls of Dochart run through. A spectacular series of rapids run through the heart of the village with a pretty stone bridge connecting both sides. Great for a little coffee and cake trip. Or why not visit the pretty bustling market town of Callander to enjoy walks along the river bank and spot the pretty pink façade of the Roman Camp Hotel.
Where to stay:
For a little luxury pop down the road and head for nearby Balqhuidder and stay at Monachyle Mhor. Here you can enjoy fine dining, wildlife safari’s and the beautiful Loch Voil as well as an award-winning restaurant. For a traditional family getaway on the banks of Loch Earn try Lochside Cottages who offer stone cottages and wooden chalets overlooking the loch which is a view you can never tire of.
I hope this post has helped you get excited about Scotland as a staycation destination. For more information on the places on this list, or to discover other place, Visit Scotland is a great starting place.