Scotland is world-famous for its stunning countryside and is a lovely destination for a luxury cottage holiday to take in the highlands and islands. Enjoying the great outdoors is an absolute must and each season brings its own charm, from the magical snow-capped mountains in winter to the sunny shores of the Scottish islands in summer. Scotland is also renowned for its baronial homes and grand castles, a legacy of the country’s long history. With a strong Celtic heritage, abundant myths and legends and culture-rich cities Scotland will tempt you back to visit time and time again.
The Cairngorms National Park is part of the Scottish Highlands and is a destination in its own right – a real ‘get away from it all’ experience. As the largest national park in the UK, and covering twice the size of England’s Lake District, the Cairngorms is a veritable playground for outdoor activities amidst gorgeous vast woodlands, mountains, waterfalls and lochs. From rock climbing and snowsports, to kayaking and cycling, to horse-riding and gorge-walking, the Cairngorms is the place for adventures. With a warm welcome in the villages, family-friendly attractions and an abundance of wildlife too, it has something for everyone.
The Cairngorms also boasts a ski and snowboard resort, and the terrain is very well suited to beginners. There are two water sports centres at Loch Insh and Loch Morlich, whilst for fishermen the River Spey and the River Dee are excellent for salmon and trout. If star-gazing is your thing, you’ll be in celestial heaven at the Glenlivet and Tomintoul Dark Sky Reserve. Family attractions include the Highland Wildlife Park, The Reindeer Centre in Glenmore and Braemar Castle where little ones can take part in a teddy bear hunt. For some gentle retail therapy, head to the popular town of Aviemore,
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is one of the most popular places to visit in Scotland. It was Scotland‘s first national park and encompasses 720 square miles of untamed landscapes that offer plenty of places for walking, climbing, fishing and mountain biking. It’s also the perfect place for spotting Scottish wildlife including red deer, otters, pine martens and eagles. From the area’s sea lochs to the forested glens and mountain peaks, the breathtaking scenery has been made famous by artists and writers for centuries. Perhaps most memorably, Loch Lomond, which is at the heart of the national park and features in Scottish poet Andrew Lang’s ‘Bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond’.
At Loch Lomond, take a sightseeing cruise, hire a kayak or windsurf, or head for some chic retail therapy at the Loch Lomond Shores shopping centre. In the Trossachs, Loch Katrine and the wildlife-rich Queen Elizabeth Forest Park should be on your list. The national park also incorporates the high ground of Breadalbane where highlights include the heritage trail in the village of Killin and the spectacular Falls of Dochart. Meanwhile, in the Argyll Forest Park, known for its rugged beauty, glistening rivers and fjord-like sea-lochs, the drive up Ben Arthur will reward you with superb panoramic views.
If you’re looking for a golfing holiday in the UK, the historic town of St Andrews, on Scotland’s east coast, will not disappoint. The area has several superb golf courses, but perhaps the most hallowed is the iconic and historic Old Course. However, St Andrews isn’t all about golf. The university, founded in 1413, is world-famous and was where Prince William and Kate Middleton (as she was known back then) studied. Visit the university museums for an insight into the town’s history, traditions and artefacts. Meanwhile, the Museum of St Andrews, which is set in a stunning Victorian manor house in Kinburn Park, features a wonderful collection of Scottish Art.
Sightseeing in St Andrews should include the ruins of the Cathedral of St Andrew and those of St Andrews Castle, the lovely Botanic Garden and The West Sands Beach which is part of the Fife Coastal Path. West Sands was the location of the famous opening scene of the classic film Chariots of Fire and it’s a great spot for blowing the cobwebs away with a run, or walk. Back in town, there’s a lovely selection of independent boutiques and shops, as well as places to eat with the seafood from the local area being superb, but for something extra special try the Michelin-starred Peat Inn, a short drive away.
Edinburgh is a fantastic city to explore on a luxury cottage holiday in Scotland. Being fairly compact, it’s easy to get around and see the main sites. It’s a place that’s full of character, with a long history, stunning architecture, from the medieval Old Town to the elegant Georgian New Town, fantastic attractions and cultural experiences. Two stand out highlights of the events calendar here are the new year’s Hogmanay celebration from 30th December to 2nd January, and the world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe held in July and August, that showcases artists and performers from comedians to musicians.
For a panoramic view of the city, walk up to the top of Calton Hill where Edinburgh Castle and the peak of Arthur’s Seat can be seen in all their glory. A visit to the castle is a must and on your way there, along the famous Royal Mile that connects the castle with Holyrood Palace, you can listen to the bagpipers, enjoy a dram at the Scotch Whisky Experience and do some shopping. Princes Street and George Street are also shopping hubs, especially for quality items, along with many top-class restaurants. Other attractions include ghost tours of the Edinburgh underground vaults, Edinburgh Zoo and The Royal Yacht Britannia. The sheer variety of attractions explains why Edinburgh is one of the top places to visit in Scotland.
The Highlands, in the north of Scotland, covers approximately 10,000 square miles. It runs from Fort William in the west, close to the Isle of Skye, around the North Coast 500 scenic route and to John O’ Groats in the far north, as well as up to Inverness and east out to Elgin, taking in Aviemore and some of the Cairngorms National Park too. The Highlands is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes of mountains, lush glens and sparkling lochs. Here you’ll find Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, legendary Loch Ness and the beautiful valley of Glencoe which was carved out centuries ago by glaciers and volcanic explosions.
Fantastic hiking routes include the 96 mile-long West Highland Way, which takes in some of Scotland’s most stunning sights, whilst the rivers and sea offer opportunities for water sports such as kayaking. For a real adrenaline rush skiing is possible in the Cairngorms National Park in winter, whilst in the spring and summer you can witness the Highland Games which feature unique sports such as caber tossing. Rainy day activities include museums, castles, the Speyside Malt Whisky Trail and a scenic journey on the Jacobite steam train which passes over Glenfinnan Viaduct (of Harry Potter film fame).
At 50 miles long, the Isle of Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides, and can be accessed by ferry or by car via the Skye Bridge. Named after the Old Norse phrase for ‘cloud island’, because of the mist that descends over the Cuillin Hills, Skye is a magical place of cliffs that tower over the sea. Here you can hike wild moors and along atmospheric lochs, as well as visiting ruined castles, crofters’ cottages and craft studios. If the weather is cool, there are cosy pubs to warm up in, or attractions including the Talisker Distillery to see, but when the weather is good it’s hard to beat Skye’s natural beauty.
The island’s capital is Portree, and along with the towns of Dunvegan and Trotternish, these tend to be the busiest areas. However, even in the height of summer, if you go that little bit further you can usually find somewhere that feels secluded. Points of interest on the Isle of Skye include the geological spectacle of the ‘Old Man of Storr’, Quiraing for a challenging walk and spectacular views, the enchanting Fairy Glen, the Fairy Pools where you can take a dip and the castles of the MacDonald and MacLeod clans. Meanwhile, wildlife lovers will be in their element and should keep a look out for the island’s majestic sea eagles. The striking scenery and breathtaking views means the Isle fo Skye is one of our favourite places to visit in Scotland.
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