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Best Scotland Staycation Ideas for UK Travellers

Last Updated: 30/07/2021

If you live in the UK, you might already know that Scotland is a world-class holiday destination filled with stunning scenery, thrilling activities and fascinating attractions.

Scotland is the sort of place you could visit time and time again, and there'd still be so much to experience.

Imagine spotting wildlife in the UK’s largest national park, walking on white sand beaches, and exploring medieval castles with intriguing stories to tell. Or simply cosying up in a holiday cottage, soaking in a private hot tub while you look out over a sparkling loch.

We’ve rounded up the best Scotland staycation ideas here to help you learn more about the country and decide if it’s the right destination for you. Given everything Scotland has to offer, chances are it will be!



Contents:


Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland

Reasons to visit Scotland on your UK staycation

Scotland offers some of the best staycations in the UK. Here are some of the reasons why you should visit on your next holiday:

  1. Breathtaking Highland landscapes – discover mountains, waterfalls and lochs
  2. Delicious cuisine – taste just-caught seafood and Scotch whisky
  3. Scenic walking trails – expect routes and paths to suit all levels
  4. Intriguing history and heritage – visit castles, palaces and Neolithic sites
  5. Thrilling outdoor adventures – go climbing, kayaking and mountain biking
  6. Vibrant arts and culture – attend festivals, concerts and exhibitions
  7. Picture-perfect beaches – walk barefoot over pristine white sands
  8. Characterful islands – escape to the remote corners of the UK
  9. Friendly locals – enjoy warm Scottish hospitality
  10. No passport control or flights – Scotland is right on your doorstep!

Where to go on your staycation in Scotland

With its stunning variety of backdrops, ranging from mountainous scenery to medieval cities, there are so many places in Scotland you could visit. Where you choose to go all depends on the sort of holiday you are looking for. You might want an active break, a relaxing escape, or something else.

These are the best staycation destinations in Scotland to add to your travel wish list.

1. Best for… British seaside getaways

You just can’t beat a classic British beach holiday, and Scotland has plenty of seaside towns and islands to escape to. So pack your bucket and spade and get ready for a spot of wild swimming at these top beach locations in Scotland. Oh, and they are all dog-friendly ones too!

Luskentyre Beach, Isle of Harris, Scotland

Isle of Lewis & Harris

Did you know that Scotland has pristine white sand beaches lapped by turquoise waters? On a sunny day, the islands of the Outer Hebrides look like a postcard from the Caribbean. Arguably the most beautiful of all is the Isle of Lewis and Harris.

Walk along the powder white sands of Luskentyre and Scarista, consistently voted as two of the best beaches in the UK. Take in the view of the clear blue sea and rolling Harris Hills which stretch into the distance.

While you’re here you can’t miss a visit to the Callanish Standing Stones, a Neolithic monument thought to date back 5,000 years. Its silhouette is simply stunning to admire against the beautiful island backdrop, particularly at sunrise or sunset.



Orkney Islands

Just 1.5 hours north of the mainland you’ll find the Orkney Islands, rich in Viking history and ringed with golden beaches. As this archipelago is made up of some 70 isles, you’ll find plenty of sandy stretches to discover. In particular you should visit Tresness, Rackwick Bay and Grobust beaches.

It’s not all about the beach in Orkney though. Venture here to witness Norse archaeological sites, such as the old houses, smithy and church at Birsay, as well as St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.

What’s more, Orkney is home to Neolithic sites that are even older than the Egyptian Pyramids. Be sure to explore the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar and Skara Brae during your visit.

Caithness & Sutherland

Travel to the very north of the Scottish mainland for some of the wildest scenery in the UK. You could explore the regions of Caithness and Sutherland by driving the North Coast 500 road trip route. Visit untouched beaches like those around Durness, where swathes of sand lie wedged between limestone cliffs and azure sea.

While in Durness you should also take time to see Smoo Cave, a magical sea cavern with a waterfall and tunnels. Or make a detour to relax on the powdery sands of Achmelvich beach, just north of Lochinver.

Another worthwhile stop on your North Coast 500 road trip is Ardvreck Castle, perched on the edge of Loch Assynt. Rumour has it that these ruins are haunted by ghosts.



2. Best for… Outdoor activities

You may already know that Scotland is a haven for outdoor adventures. Thanks to the country’s sublime nature, you can go hiking, biking and mountain climbing in the hills and glens. Or take to the lochs, rivers and seas for kayaking, rafting and other watersports.

There are even 5 ski centres to consider visiting if you’re looking for winter staycation ideas in the UK.

Ben Nevis and Loch Linnhe, Scotland

Glen Coe & Fort William

A favourite for Scotland’s hikers and bikers, the breathtaking valley of Glen Coe is a must-visit spot for an active getaway. You can’t help but be entranced by the sight of the Three Sisters mountains, an iconic image starring on many a guidebook.

Then there’s nearby Fort William, which is known to many as the “Outdoor Capital of the UK”. This is a great base if you want to explore the many peaks all around it, including the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.

From short walks to long hill climbs, here you’ll undoubtedly find the perfect sort of hike for you.



Cairngorms National Park

Or how about discovering the largest national park in the UK? The Cairngorms is twice as big as other British national parks, including the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales in England, and Snowdonia in North Wales.

Awash with mountains, forests, rivers and glens, the Cairngorms National Park offers you outdoor activities in spades. Plus, this huge natural haven is an important habitat for local wildlife, so keep your eye out for red squirrels, red deer and birds during your trip.

You could drive through the Cairngorms en route to Inverness from Aberdeen. Or base yourself in Aviemore, considered one of Scotland’s adventure hubs, with access to incredible walks.

Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park

A patchwork of hiking and biking trails await you in the pretty Trossachs National Park, located only an hour or so from Glasgow. The forested hills and shimmering lochs are a world away from the bustling streets of Scotland’s largest city.

As well as walking or cycling through the lush scenery, you could take a dip in the refreshing waters of Loch Lubnaig or Loch Lomond. Or have a go at watersports like kayaking, sailing and stand-up paddle boarding.

A great way to soak up the breathtaking Loch Katrine is to hop aboard the Sir Walter Scott Steamship. This world-famous vessel has been cruising the waters here for 120 years.



3. Best for… Iconic views

Scotland has many iconic sights, some of which we have already mentioned, such as the striking Three Sisters at Glen Coe or the legendary Loch Lomond. As well as these, we recommend you visit the following famous spots in Scotland. Don’t forget to bring your camera!

The Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Isle of Skye

Skye is one of Scotland’s most popular holiday destinations for good reason. Come here to marvel at the mind-bending scenery, where extraordinary rock formations protrude from the land and mystical glens are thought to be home to fairies.

Don’t miss a drive to the Quiraing, winding your way along hairpin bends and stopping to photograph the otherworldly landscape. You’ll want to pass by the Old Man of Storr, a craggy basalt outcrop that juts out from the Trotternish Ridge.

You could also spend your Scottish staycation hiking in the Cuillin Mountains, exploring Dunvegan Castle, and admiring the pastel-hued houses in the town of Portree. As for fairies, there are a couple of spots where you should look out for them: the aptly named Fairy Pools and Fairy Glen.



Loch Ness

Travel to Scotland’s most famous lake and try your luck catching sight of the mythical Loch Ness Monster. Some believe that the legendary creature, Nessie, dwells in the deep waters here, near Inverness. Will you manage to capture it on camera?

As well as keeping an eye out for Nessie, at Loch Ness you can wander through the ruins of Urquhart Castle. Not only can you imagine hundreds of years of history here, but the medieval fort also provides you with an excellent view of the loch from the water’s edge.

There are excellent walking and biking paths to tackle if you want to get active, including the 360 trail that loops around the entire loch. Nearby you could also visit the Culloden Battlefield, where up to 2,000 Jacobites were killed during the Battle of Culloden Moor in 1746.

Glenfinnan

The Glenfinnan area is another significant place in the Scottish Highlands for reflecting on Jacobite history. It is located north of Fort William and south of Skye.

Gaze up at the Glenfinnan monument here, which rises 59 feet (18 metres) from the ground and commemorates the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The shimmering waters of Loch Shiel and the surrounding green hills make for a beautiful backdrop.

You’ll also want to come to this region if you’re a Harry Potter fan. Don’t miss a visit to the unmistakable Glenfinnan Viaduct, which was the famous backdrop for Harry’s journey on the Hogwart Express. You could even take a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train.



4. Best for… Cuisine and whisky

You probably already know about some traditional Scottish food and drink. Who could forget the national dish, haggis? And then there's moreish shortbread and super-sweet Irn Bru. Of course, Scotland’s cuisine is much more diverse than that.

On your staycation you could sample some of the exquisite seafood freshly caught from Scottish waters. Enjoy fine dining in contemporary restaurants across the country. Or taste quality Scotch whisky and learn how the country’s best single malts are made.

Seafood in Scotland

Oban

Like the sound of a trip to Scotland’s "Seafood Capital"? Then be sure to add Oban to your UK staycation ideas list.

Scotland is one of the world’s largest seafood producers and Oban lies at the heart of it all in the Western Isles. Taste your way around this foodie mecca and devour fresh oysters, mussels, langoustines, prawns and scallops, to name a few. Dine at esteemed restaurants or laidback seafood shacks.

You might also stop for a wee dram at the Oban Distillery, or pick up some irresistible treats from one of the chocolatiers in town. Or simply grab some fish ‘n’ chips and sit by the harbour, admiring the view of Oban Bay and the nearby islands.



Speyside

If you love Scotland’s “water of life”, hit the Malt Whisky Trail in Speyside. You could tour some of the 50 distilleries here, located in one of the country’s most acclaimed whisky regions.

In fact, Speyside is home to more than half of Scotland’s distilleries, including the famous Glenlivet and Glenfiddich. You can also taste fine single malt whiskies from the likes of Macallan, Benromach, Balvenie and Aberlour, to name a few.

As Speyside is located in northeast Scotland, you might combine your whisky discovery with a visit to the Cairngorms National Park nearby. This means you get the best of both worlds: delicious drams and beautiful scenery.

Isle of Islay

Another top whisky region in Scotland you should consider visiting is Islay.

Located in the west, this small island lies just 30 miles from Northern Ireland and is home to a clutch of highly esteemed distilleries. Learn how the island’s peat bogs play a part in creating the smokiness during tours and tastings. 

In the south of Islay, you could taste the smokey and complex notes of whiskies at the Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg distilleries. Head to the north of the island and you could sample different Scotch varieties that are less peaty and instead are influenced by coastal notes.

If you really love your whisky, we recommend you visit Scotland in May. You could go along to the Islay Festival of Malt and Music, or the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, or both!



5. Best for… A Scottish city break

When you think of a city break you might imagine jetting off to European hotspots like Barcelona, Paris or Rome. Opt for a staycation in Scotland, however, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by all that the Scottish cities have to offer.

Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh ©Paul Tomkins - VisitScotland
Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh ©Paul Tomkins - VisitScotland

Edinburgh

Take a short break in Edinburgh to experience the medieval architecture and enchanting atmosphere of Scotland’s capital city. You could spend hours wandering through its warren of cobbled alleyways and hidden stairwells. Stop to explore landmarks like Edinburgh Castle, Calton Hill and Holyrood Palace.

Admire fine art at the Scottish National Gallery, take a ghost tour in the Royal Mile, or go shopping at Princes Street. You could climb Arthur’s Seat for panoramic views of the city and sea. Visit Scotland in August to attend the Edinburgh Fringe, one of the world’s biggest arts festivals.

Dining out is a big part of the Edinburgh experience, with everything from cosy pubs to award-winning restaurants and bars awaiting you here. Ask our Edinburgh-based travel experts for their personal recommendations as they know all the best haunts.

Glasgow

If you love music, you should consider a staycation in Glasgow. This cultural hub is a UNESCO City of Music, with an eclectic live music scene that attracts artists from all over the world. Glasgow is fun, electrifying, and also happens to be brimming with friendly locals.

When you’re not soaking up the music, while away the hours strolling through Glasgow’s leafy green parks and Botanic Gardens. Admire the city’s Victorian architecture and visit art galleries such as the Kelvingrove Museum. Tuck into delicious food and make new friends at the lively bars and pubs.

Another perk is that you can explore beautiful Scottish scenery on day trips from Glasgow. Within an hour or so you could be hiking in the Trossachs National Park or taking a boat ride over Loch Lomond.

Head to Stirling and the surrounding area for the day to explore fascinating historical sites, including Stirling Castle. You could also visit Doune Castle, a filming location for the popular TV shows, Outlander and Game of Thrones. You may also recognise it from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.



Inverness

Head to the northernmost city in Scotland (and the UK) for a staycation in the “capital of the Highlands”. Inverness is a great base for exploring top sites in northern Scotland, including the unmissable Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle which we mentioned earlier.

Head east from Inverness to discover the cliffs, dunes and seaside villages of the Moray Firth. You might even spot dolphins playing in the water. For a dose of history, visit the grand Cawdor Castle, the Culloden Battlefield, or the Bronze Age cemetery at Clava Cairns. All are easy to access from Inverness.

As Inverness is a gateway to the Highlands, you have so much on your doorstep here. Enjoy day trips to Cairngorms National Park, or drive part of the North Coast 500. You could head to the west coast for the day, discovering highlights such as the Inverewe Gardens, Corrieshalloch Gorge and Rogie Falls.



Rogie Falls, Scotland

These are just some of the many Scottish places you could visit. There is so much more you can see and do on your trip! Check out these staycation holidays in Scotland to choose the perfect one for you, with a choice of self-drive, private or guided small group tours.

When you book a Nordic Visitor trip, we organise everything on your behalf. Your personal travel consultant will book you into handpicked accommodation, plan your route and arrange activities based on your interests.

What’s more, you get access to our 24/7 helpline during your holiday. Should you need any support, we are only a call away.

Get in touch with our Edinburgh-based Scotland travel experts about tailor-made tours. They’ll customise an itinerary for you to ensure you have an unforgettable Scotland staycation.

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Post by: Emma Gillies

Wanderlust has taken Emma across much of the world, but it was Scotland that she made her adopted home. Aside from enjoying countryside walks, campervan weekends and gigs in Glasgow, you’ll often find her writing about European travel and plotting her next trip.

More posts by Emma Gillies

Getting there

We'd love to give you the same amazing travel experiences as you read about in our blog! To visit the destinations and attractions mentioned in this post - and to discover a few new highlights along the way - check out these recommended Nordic Visitor tours.