Lagangarbh cottage with Buachaille Etive Mòr.jpg Attribution: Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)       Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lagangarbh_cottage_with_Buachaille_Etive_M%C3%B2r.jpg

Visiting Scotland

What to see and what to do, where to stay.  Follow us on IG logoFB logo

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Skye thatched cottage

Holiday Cottages.co.uk

They have a focus on rural holiday cottage rentals and log cabins, so if that's what you want this is the place to check. Sort by price, or by facilities like internet, hot tub, pool, pets allowed, open fire, enclosed garden and access to beach, pub or shops.

Cottages and cabins
Blackrock cottage - Attribution: Andrewmckie / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) - 
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HomeAway

Homeaway has self-catering properties and cottages, cabins, lodges and apartments all over Scotland, cities and countryside. Find your unique and perfect place by filtering on features like reviews, pets allowed, hot tubs, on the beach, wifi and accessibility.

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Edinburgh - castle and city - Attribution: Saffron Blaze, http://www.mackenzie.co/  
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Hotels.com - Scotland

They cover not just hotels, but all types of holiday destinations in Scotland such as self-catering cottages, cabins, guest houses, Bed and Breakfasts and villas. You can sort by themes, such as family-friendly, luxury, romantic or spa facilities too.

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Craigievar castle - Attribution: Anais Culot / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Craigievar-Castle.jpg

National Trust for Scotland

The NTS offers access to some of the best of Scotland - castles, stately homes, iconic landscapes, battlefields and nature and mountain reserves. Join and support its work, and get access to everything, now that their most iconic properties are open again.

NTS


Scotland as a holiday destination

What you should know about Scotland

The Trossachs with mist - Attribution: Michal Klajban / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) 
							Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sunset_in_The_Trossachs,_Scotland.jpg

Scotland is a beautifully varied and multiform country, and your favoured destinations will depend on your preferences – if you like hillwalking and searching out archaeological sites and wildlife you will head for the Highlands or the Southern Uplands, if you like taking ferries and exploring islands you could head to Arran, Orkney or The Hebrides, and if you want to see architecture and experience Scotland’s art, creative culture and museums you would go to Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Of course, if you have a few weeks you could to all of this, and this site aims to do two things – present the top things to see and do in every city, island, or region, and to give you an easy way to find accommodation, or rent a cottage, a caravan or a hotel room in the place in Scotland you want to be.

Scotland’s cities and cultural life

Edinburgh is famous for its International Festival in August every year (alas, cancelled in 2020), but is worth visiting at any time for its museums and galleries, and its sense of history. It is now also the centre of political life for the country, and you can visit the Scottish Parliament. Glasgow often surprises visitors with the quality of its own museums and galleries and music and cultural life, and Glaswegians like to believe the city has more parks within its boundaries than any other city in Europe. Aberdeen, rich and comfortable from its place as centre for the oil industry, is another welcoming destination, but with the most impenetrable accent in the country.

The Highlands

Passing north from the Lowlands, which have most of Scotland’s population, you enter the wide open spaces, mountains and lochs of the Highlands, which have some of the wildest country left in Europe. This is a wonderful destination for climbers, walkers and trampers, photographers and ornithologists, and those seeking peace and tranquillity. The mountains over 3000 feet in height are magnets for those climbers who wish to go Munro-bagging, but smaller mountains can often be just as challenging, and likely to be less visited if you want some solitude.

Scotland's Islands

These special places, accessible by ferry or by air, preserve a slower and gentler way of life than elsewhere, and in the case of the Outer Hebrides, a whole different culture based on the now much valued Gaelic language. Regular ferries, mostly run by Calmac, make visits to island like Arran very easy. Some uniquely attractive islands, like Orkney and Iona, have a palpable sense of calmness and a deep history which you can appreciate even on a short visit.

Finding accommodation in Scotland

At the top of each guide page in this site you will find a choice of accommodation providers you can use to select the best place to stay depending on your needs and on your budget, and other recommendations for trips and attractions. You will find Scotland has a huge range of holiday accommodation options, from basic cottages through to log cabins, guest houses, B & Bs, hotels, lodges and luxury houses.  There has been a huge country-wide program of upgrades in recent years to meet holidaymakers' higher standards for short breaks and weekly or 2-weekly bookings, and facilities such as hot pools, fast wifi, patios, enclosed gardens and glamping options are common everywhere in Scotland. If you have special requirements such as level access to all rooms, child-safe properties or you want to bring your dog then all booking sites allow you to check these before choosing your rental. Busy periods when prices are highest are July and August and Christmas.  As the weather is usually drier and more stable in Scotland in May and June, and also September, you may wish to book for those times if you can.  You can find our guide to providers of holiday lets and cottages in Scotland here.

Scotland’s archaeology and history in monuments

Scotland has been inhabited since the Mesolithic period, when humans survived by hunting and gathering. The earliest site found so far is at Cramond, near Edinburgh, which dates to the 9th millennium BC. The following Neolithic, or New Stone Age period saw the adoption of farming, and people of that period were keen on large stone monuments like stone circles and chambered cairns, some of which can still be visited. There are the remarkable remains of a Neolithic village on Orkney, and a huge stone avenue and circle at Callanish on Lewis. As the weather deteriorated in Bronze Age and Iron age times and living become tougher, many duns and hillforts were built for defence and protection, and many of these survive to be visited. Roman influence in Scotland was much more limited than in England, though they left some large forts and the turf-built Antonine Wall between the Firths of Forth and Clyde.

The Early Christian and Pictish periods have left more stone monuments, while the Medieval era introduced the many cathedrals and large castles, some of which survive intact today. Perhaps the most significant impact humans have had on the environment is not in buildings and monuments but in the clearing of the great forest which covered the land almost completely in Neolithic times, and the introduction of sheep, which now keep the hillsides mostly bare. However, the forests may be slowly returning (see Natural Forests below).

Walking in Scotland and 'freedom to roam'

Walkers in Scotland benefit from a legal right to walk over most open ground. The belief in roaming rights had been universal, but in 2003 the Land Reform (Scotland) act formalised the practice in law. This statutory right covers non-motorised access to land and inland water, and means you have access to all of Scotland's hills and mountains, and you do not necessarily have to follow a track. Of course, you cannot walk through crops, disturb animals, or walk through people’s gardens. See the Scottish Government’s Public access to Land.

The success of this remarkable freedom to roam, which is not enjoyed by the public or visitors to England, Wales, or Ireland, depends on walkers being responsible and following the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. This mostly involves showing respect and consideration of farming and sporting activities on the land, but also covers special cases like dogs, camping and cycling.

Wildlife of Scotland

Visitors with a special interest in birds will enjoy their visit to Scotland, with many easily spotted species like buzzards, eagles and sea eagles, and the hosts of seabirds like gannets, shearwaters, and in a few places, puffins. On the moors, you are sure to startle a grouse or two. Rarer birds like goshawks and capercaille may be seen of you are lucky, and the Northern isles of Orkney and Shetland have migratory birds passing in great numbers in season. There are hides in many places to enable the spotting of peregrine falcons, ospreys and more recently the reintroduced red kites. One delight of the otherwise dull spruce forests is the number of great tits, coal tits, goldcrests and siskins to be seen.

Any visitor to rural Scotland will see deer – red deer, roe deer and fallow deer are all present. Red deer in particular are now in great numbers. They are also likely to see rabbits and hares, foxes, both red and grey squirrels, and perhaps also badgers. There are many grey seal colonies around the coasts, where you should also look out for otters.

Natural forests in Scotland

Scotland is less deforested than it used to be, mainly because of the postwar planting of great conifer forests, mainly consisting of rows of Sitka spruce and Norway spruce, but it must be admitted that hills covered by heather are characteristic of the country. However, if you have a longing to experience real native woodland, and to see the environment in its natural state, there are many places you can go. As you would expect, these are in some of the most remote, but beautiful parts of the country, including Glen Affric near Loch Ness, Taynish in Argyll, the northern slopes of Beinn Eighe in Sutherland, and The Great Trossachs forest, which is an active programme of reafforestation, and which one day will become the largest nature reserve in Scotland.

Driving adventures in Scotland and long distance routes

If you want to follow a specified driving route around Scotland, you have many options. With the success of the North Coast 500, many other driving routes have been created, including the South West Coastal 300, which goes through Dumfries & Galloway and south Ayrshire, and the North East 250 which goes through the Cairngorms, Royal Deeside and the Speyside distilleries. Having said this, you don’t need to follow a set route on a set timetable, and sometimes following any backroad that strikes your fancy can be serendipitous!

The geology of Scotland

Geology has created the spectacular mountain terrain as well as the more benign farmlands of the lowlands and the north-east of Scotland. Going from south to north, the geology of Scotland encompasses the Southern Uplands, of Silurian age, then the Central Lowlands which are Palaeozoic and produce the coal and iron which fuelled the industrial revolution. Across the famous Highland boundary fault there are the Cambrian and earlier rocks, containing younger igneous rocks which form the mountains of Skye and the central Highlands. Around the Moray firth the beds of the old red sandstone are famous in geological science for their association with Hugh Miler. Finally we cross the straight Great Glen Fault, which contains Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness, and which can be seen from space, into the North West Highlands. The rocks here are so interesting that there is now a Unesco geopark, with a visitor centre at Unapool.

Preparing to visit Scotland – the weather and the midges

Scotland is not a dry country, and if you have a week to spend then within that week you will get a few days of rain, even in the middle of summer. While visitors may expect this, what they often don’t expect is how chilly it can be in the wind, which is persistent and strong all year round (this is why windsurfers do so well in Scotland). So bring some wet weather gear and a windproof coat. Umbrellas are mostly useless, except to give the locals a laugh when you try to put one up. If going walking, your feet will get wet, so bring a change of shoes. Of course, you may be lucky, and have some fine sunny weather and the wind may drop. Some of the Scottish-Holidays.org team climbed Ben Cruachan near Oban on a day when the weather gods were mellow, and it was calm and balmy even at the summit. Days like that become memorable!

Midges, small flying insects which bite (‘Culcoides impunctatus’), are another hazard visitors may not expect to have to endure. Scotland’s moorland is boggy and full of standing pools of water, which is the midges’ breeding ground. They are in the air from May to September (yes, the summer), and active when the wind drops; if you plan to be outdoors in the countryside you can prepare by carrying insect repellent, having clothing that covers all of your skin, and by purchasing a headnet: these are sold by most chemist shops in Scotland. A hat with a brim to wear under the headnet will make it more comfortable.



Scotland attractions and activities

North Coast 500

This touring route around the north of Scotland has become wildly popular.

Loch Ness

Someone has to see the monster again, and it might be you...

Dundee

The city on the Tay has reinvented itself with its new tourist attractions.

Guide to holiday cottages

A helpful guide to choosing your holiday accommodation in Scotland.