The Great Scottish Staycation: 7 Beautiful Places to Visit in Scotland
- Thursday 10 June 2021
We are heading into a summer quite unlike any we have experienced before. Living a life on the whims of a pandemic, means that many of us are searching for adventures closer to home. What if we were to tell you that there is a land, only a car ride away, that may be just as exotic and wild as some of your foreign holidays? Whether you choose to follow the M6, A1 or A68, it is hard to miss the big blue signs welcoming you to Scotland (or in the case of the A68, a large piece of stone at the Carter Bar).
Scotland has a lot to offer as a holiday destination. Outdoor exploration is positively encouraged with the legality of wild camping and free-wandering across most of Scotland’s wild landscapes. There is certainly no shortage of fresh air, and provided you do not mind the occasional shower, Scotland is a place where every member of the family can find something of interest. Hikers, climbers, runners, swimmers, and cyclists will find a wealth of activities, and this blog post only demonstrates the beginning of what Scotland has to offer keen adventurers.
Each location featured in this blog is taken from one of Vertebrate Publishing’s Scottish publications. If a certain place inspires you to look into a holiday in Scotland, simply click on the book title referenced for more information on ordering the book. As always, you can expect 20% off and free UK postage when ordering through the Vertebrate Publishing website. There has never been a better time to explore the land in the north!
Arran is a perfect microcosm of Scotland. If you are curious to sample the Scottish culture, Arran is an obvious place to start. Accessible from Glasgow, Arran is the destination of many seeking to escape the city for a weekend, providing plenty of local attractions and atmospheric scenery. Depending upon the time of year, there are various ferries that can take you across the Firth of Clyde to Lochranza or Brodick, which are where the main services and shops are located on the island.
Standing at 874 metres, Goatfell is the highest mountain of Arran, although it is one of the easiest of the island’s granite mountain ridges to climb. The easiest ascent is from Brodick, easily walked within a day, although there are a number of harder ascents, which include a bit of scrambling up the rocky terrain. On the clearest days the views are spectacular, reaching as far as Ireland to the south west. Scottish islands tend to be known for their wildlife. While on Arran, you may be lucky enough to spot a golden eagle or buzzard riding the sea breeze.
Head to Arran in May when the annual Goatfell Race takes place. Battle the fastest and fittest runners who have been known to complete the course in under an hour and a quarter.
For wild campers
The Scottish outdoor access code allows for wild camping in most natural places in Scotland, and Arran has some stunning spots to set up camp. The Arran coastline is a scenic route for hikers, and with some planning a circuit can be completed within a week. Arran is a place of many historic interests, such as Hutton’s Unconformity, where geologist James Hutton made a remarkable discovery in 1787, and King’s Cave, which lays claim to be where Robert the Bruce had his famous encounter with the spider, which lead to his triumph at the Battle of Bannockburn.
For more information on Arran and its various attractions, see our guidebook on Scotland’s islands, Scottish Island Bagging.
The white sands on Jura © Paul Webster
It is most likely that you have heard of Jura from the world-famous whisky. If you are looking to explore a Scottish island that has given over to the wilderness, Jura should be your next destination. Jura is one of thirty-five inhabited Inner Hebridean islands, and one of the largest. Surrounded by the western Atlantic Sea, Jura is joined to Islay only by a narrow sound. Although inhabited, Jura’s population is vastly outnumbered by the 6,000 red deer responsible for the tree-less moorland terrain. Access to Jura is usually by ferry from Port Askaig on Islay, landing at Feolin at the southern end of Jura.
The Gulf of Corryvreckan is the third largest whirlpool in the world, and is located in the north coast of Jura. Take the long rough track from Ardussa as far as Kinuachdrachd and then a final boggy moorland path to reach the viewpoint overlooking the narrows. During high spring tides, the whirlpools are dramatic to watch, as tadial water rushes between Jura and Scarba. Once declared by the Royal Navy as ‘unnavigable’, the Gulf of Corryvreckan was almost the cause of George Orwell’s demise. George Orwell frequented Jura from 1946 to 1949, and wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four during his visit.
Corran Sands is a huge expanse of white shell sand beach. It is the ideal place for a paddle if you are willing to brave the chilly Scottish waters. Historically, this sheltered beach was the site of cattle loading, destined for the mainland markets, and the port of New World travellers during the years of the Highland Clearances and famine.
How can we talk about Jura and not mention the whisky? The month of June is the Tastival whisky festival, but all year-round whisky enthusiasts can tour and sample the Jura distillery. All moderate whisky drinkers know that the water is the key to a proper dram, and hikers can walk to Market Loch to find the tranquil waters.
You can find out more about Jura in our guidebook, Scottish Island Bagging available from our website with 20% off and free UK postage.
Fort William from Cow Hill © Paul Webster
Cow Hill lies between Fort William and Ben Nevis. There are plenty of outdoor activities in Fort William, often referred to as the Outdoor Capital of the UK. If you have arrived in Fort William and are yearning for views of Ben Nevis, you will have to climb Cow Hill for these sights.
Cow Hill is offers mountain and loch views and its modest height (426m/1,398ft) means it is a relatively easy ascent. The walk is estimated to take around four hours, suitable for an afternoon or morning climb with the family. The walk begins at Fort William high street, making the ascent vary accessible. You will even be able to soothe any aching limbs in the local leisure centre with a swim or a steam.
Glenfinnan Viaduct © Paul Webster
Most Munros in Scotland are named in the Scottish Gaelic language. Sgùrr Thuilm translates to ‘rocky peak of the hillock’ and pronounced ‘sker houlm’, so practice your Gaelic pronunciation in the event that you have to tell the mountain rescue team your location. The walking route takes you under the thirty-five-metre-high Glenfinnan Viaduct made famous by the Harry Potter films. On the descent there is the option to cast out to the Glenfinnan Monument where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the red and white flag to the Glenfinnan breeze, which signalled the start of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion.
Sgùrr Thuilm and Sgùrr nan Coireachan Munros are normally climbed as a pair, and you can expect the 14.4 mile walk to take around ten and a half hours to complete. These Munros are for experienced hillwalkers, as the rugged, rocky terrain and almost pathless route needs excellent navigation skills, especially on the intricate descent. The difficult route is made worth it by the stunning views to be had from the summits, and although Sgùrr Thuilm is higher, traverse the ridge to Sgùrr Coireachan for an even better view.
For further detail of the Sgùrr Thuilm and Sgùrr Coireachan Munros route, order Day Walks in Fort William and Glen Coe with 20% off and free UK postage through our website.
Glasgow to Loch Lomond
If you are considering a trip to the ‘Dear Green Place’ otherwise known as Glasgow, there are many outdoor excursions accessible from the city centre to consider. Many Glaswegians venture north west to beautiful sights and tranquil waters of Loch Lomond, whose banks are considered the start of the highlands geographically.
There is a traffic-free route linking the lowlands to the start of the highlands. The route begins at Bell’s Bridge in central Glasgow, near the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre, only a mile further along the River Clyde is the Riverside Museum, which features a fascinating collection of historic vehicles and transport information. After Clydebank, the route to Loch Lomond joins the Forth & Clyde Canal towpath, which opens up to views of the Kilpatrick Hills. Beyond Dumbarton, the route joins the waterside path parallel to the River Leven, leading you all the way to the banks of Loch Lomond at Balloch.
For more traffic-free routes in Scotland and the rest of the UK see our bestselling book Traffic-Free Cycle Trails, which you can order through our website with 20% off and free UK postage.
The Isle of Mull © Dave Barter
Isle of Mull
The Isle of Mull is large and epic to offer any adventurer a full day of exploration. Located in the Inner Hebrides, just north of Jura, the Isle of Mull is easily accessible by ferry from the mainland at Oban. The Hebridean island is full of character and outside of peak season quiet enough to have large sections of its roads to yourself.
The Isle of Mull can be circumnavigated within a day, with an eighty-one-mile route beginning at Craignure, heading south east, with the option to shorten the route to forty-eight miles by cutting off the northern end of the island. This is a ride for serious cyclist, as there are multiple climbs and descents, though the navigation is straightforward. The up and down nature of this route is worth the sweat, for every climb is met with hillside views, and everything descent with tranquil waters of the various Lochs along the route. Simply put, the scenery is stunning.
For more information, including directions, maps, and route information, visit the Great British Bike Rides page to order the book with 20% off and free UK postage.
In the north east of Scotland is Moray, which borders Aberdeenshire and the Highlands. The north of Morray has miles coastline, dotted with towns and villages that look out to the North Sea. The River Spey winds its way north east from Loch Spey is the central highland to its river mouth in the small village of Kingston on the coast of the Morray Firth. There are numerous distilleries in this area of Scotland, relying on the water from the River Spey to make Speyside whisky.
Morray Way is a 155km circular loop, which is made up of the Dava Way, the Moray Coast Trail, and the Speyside Way. Starting at Grantown-on-Spey join the Dava Way and walking through pine woods and farmland. At Forres, the route joins the Morray Coast Trail stretching to Garmouth, just west of the River Spey. Along this section there is the opportunity to watch for dolphins in the Morray Firth. The final section on the Speyside Way, follows the River Spey south, where there are multiple Speyside whisky distilleries. The trail continues through woodland and farmland to return to Grantown. This route, although long, has no major ascents and descents, or tricky navigation, making it an easy walk that can be undertaken in sections.
To order your second instalment of the Big Trails series, go to Big Trails: Great Britain & Ireland Vol 2 on our website for 20% off and free UK postage.