Scotland for visitors

My favourite places

Over the last few years I've been making some connections with family history, as my mother's side is Scottish. If you have Scots ancestors, have a look at my hub "Family History" as it might give you some useful info on how to do this - although I'm not an expert I have found it relatively easy so far, and really fascinating.

Try www.Scotlandspeople.gov.uk - you can buy credits and take it as far as you want to, as these are very comprehensive records. I've gone back to about 1580 with my Scots ancestors. Although I've been to Scotland many times now, I haven't seen it all - but then there is a lot to see!

I think it's good to ask the question- what do I want from my holiday? Scotland scores highly in the following areas in my opinion:

  • Amazing scenery
  • Clean air
  • Deserted beaches
  • Golf, walking and hiking
  • Quiet roads further north
  • Very friendly people

I'm not keen on the cities. Glasgow and Edinburgh don't have a lot to offer, and the traffic is as bad as anywhere. Visitors to the UK should not underestimate the parking hassles in all of our cities, enough to spoil your trip. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I won't be going back.

( I have got some flak from Edinburgh lovers )

Fortunately, it is very quick and easy to escape from Edinburgh airport. Once you cross the Firth of Forth or Fifth from Edinburgh you are in Fife, and there is some beautiful countryside - see pic. The locals are strikingly, charmingly friendly and St.Andrews is great for visitors. There is the golf, a lovely sandy beach with dunes, good shops, great restaurants. It's a town with a lot of history and character and very good for walking. Close by are really nice little fishing villages, like Crail.

Look up the hub on St.Andrews by AC Gaughen for more info and some video and pictures.

Prestwick airport for Glasgow is also great for travel bargains, as Ryanair seem to offer many discounts on Stansted to Prestwick flights. From there there is good golf at Troon, and further north terrific countryside at Loch Lomond and Inveraray.

Fife landscape
Fife landscape

Inveraray

Inveraray is another favourite place in our family. It's a quiet little town on a sea loch with almost nothing to do - but the scenery is stunning, there is a castle and grounds to explore. We stayed at the Best Western hotel, which inevitably had terrific views over the loch, and seems like a good option. All around this area is fantastic countryside, with hills and lochs and forest. Check out the scenery at the link below! 

Travel tips, bargain airfares

There are at least 2 budget airlines you could look at if you are flying from the Bristol or London area - out of season prices can be very low, a fraction of the cost by rail, though obviously less environmentally friendly. Ryanair always has bargains from Stansted to Prestwick (near Glasgow but quite a long drive) and Easyjet is also worth considering. You could find flights for about £50 return - this is only a ballpark figure, because so much depends on the timing. Midweek is often the best bet.

Also be wary of hidden charges on the Ryanair website, and bear in mind the baggage allowance is restricted. Having said that, you can save a lot of money. Ryanair have made themselves deeply unpopular in the UK due to the sneaky nature of their extra charges - but on the other side of the argument there are some genuine bargains, and the Boeing 737s they use are brand new - an important aspect for me.


Further North

Dornoch is nice, and up the coast road from there, through some striking scenery, are Golspie (with miles of sandy beaches) and Brora. I like Brora for it's time-warp charm, a beautiful wild and windswept beach, and that rare thing in this part of Scotland, a great little restaurant. It used to be The Quiet Piggy - now It's called Il Padrino - near the station. That's in downtown Brora, the city that never sleeps.  Also in the area , the Falls of Shin, where you can watch salmon leaping up the waterfalls and have a nice cup of tea. A lovely stretch of river and countryside. 

Oban and the Western Isles

Oban isn't anything special, but it is the gateway to the Isles. You can take a number of boat trips from there around the Western Isles - we did a day trip on the Caledonian McBrain boat, and really enjoyed it - brilliant scenery and a great introduction to the area, coasting around the islands and castles. It is really, really special. Very good value too.

The Queen is spending her summer holiday on a cruise around the Western Isles, and she could go anywhere in the world. The space and the peaceful nature of this area are both very important aspects.

Bagpipes- the Scottish definition of a gentleman is someone who owns a set of bagpipes, but chooses not to play them!

Glencoe, Rannoch Moor

How wild do you want to get? Glencoe and Rannoch Moor are wild, windswept places even in summer but great areas for a drive in very mountainous terrain.

Do not accept hospitality from Campbells under any circumstances - you have been warned! Not even a picnic.

(That was a Glencoe joke, not easy to pull off..)

Scotland - the downside

Although I'm a huge fan of Scotland for holidays, the weather can be a problem. If you're vegetarian like me there is often a lack of options when eating out, and many places in Scotland remind me of the 1950s in terms of cuisine - not a good thing. We've had some awful meals! The sort where you pay the inflated bill through gritted teeth, and it's service with a snarl! On the other hand -

St Andrews is a great place for eating out, with a wide choice of excellent restaurants. Probably because it's a University town.

Finally, watch out for the midges.

Virtual Scotland!

Now here's a strange idea. You could use Google Earth to do a recce before you go, and look up some photos of Scotland and some satellite imagery. Personally, I love Google Earth, and even more amazing the OTHER PLANETS section. I notice that the UK's major contribution to Mars research is a crash site!

Here's my must-see list for Scotland:

  • Loch Ness
  • Inveraray
  • St.Andrews
  • The Falls of Shin
  • Glencoe
  • Loch Lomond
  • Oban and The Western Isles boat trip

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Comments 20 comments

Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 7 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Please use this box to add your favourite places in Scotland. A lot of English people have never been there, which is bizarre! If you like Scottish scenery, time travel etc you may also like Connemara in Ireland. It's similar in many ways, and a place you'll never forget, once you've dried out a bit. JG


LRobbins profile image

LRobbins 7 years ago from Germany

Great article! I did a sailing trip in the Hebrides and was amazed at how beautiful and uninhabited it was - a nice break from the city.


Gennifer profile image

Gennifer 7 years ago from Minsk, Belarus

great hub! I've been impressed! After reading this hub I have a strong desire to visit Scotland! ;)


Emme West profile image

Emme West 7 years ago

This article makes me want to go back to Scotland! I have to disagree with you about Edinburgh not having much to offer though. I found it to be a fascinating city with a lot of culture, history and super nice people. It is remarkably different type of city than you would ever find in the US. I would love to visit all the places you mentioned too. :-)


Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 7 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Hi Emme - well I'm glad you liked Edinburgh. Maybe I was a bit harsh, as the August I was there it was freezing cold and belting with rain,and then we were stuck in gridlocked traffic for hours. But there is something about Scotland, and the people in Fife particularly are really shockingly nice. I'm working on my Scottishness through an intensive diet of porridge, oatcakes and shortbread. Works for me.


excaflowne profile image

excaflowne 6 years ago from The Heavenly Archipelago

i'd love to go there.. my dream..


Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 6 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Hi - it's not a dream at the moment! Bitterly cold with snow and ice everywhere - but I am glad to have Scots ancestry all the same. Cheers, Jon Green


ddhamilt profile image

ddhamilt 6 years ago

Fantastic stuff, being partly of Scottish descent, I know I need to make a trip. Thanks for the info.


Sheelin 6 years ago

Hi

I was in Scotland last December and must say I found the snow and ice rather intriguing. Edinburgh by night in the snow was simply beautiful, but the snow covered countryside on the train trip between Inverness and the Isle of Skye was unforgettable too.

As spots to visit, i would recommend the Orkney Islands there are really beautiful spots. (We had a guided tour in summer). And for those who enjoy a stay a bit away of everything and are not afraid of staying in a hostel, Carbisdale Castle is worth considering. You may sleep in one of the tower rooms having a great view over a river and forest and take a walk up and along the hill.


Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 6 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Hi Sheelin - have been to the Orkneys, well worth visiting though the club scene is disappointing.I have stayed at the castle too- it's meant to be haunted, and I wouldn't be surprised at all. Thanks for your comments.


John 6 years ago

Scotland... NO COMMENT


theherbivorehippi profile image

theherbivorehippi 6 years ago from Holly, MI

I did a series of articles for a client awhile back on Scotland and I must say I definitely put it on my list of places to go. I would love to see some of the old castles. There is definitely a lot of history in the land. Great hub!


Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 6 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Hi- just a warning that's it's not great for veggie food, and it's best to visit April - Oct to stand any chance of decent weather!

The scenery is amazing though.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Brilliant Jon.

Thanks for sharing.

Take care

Eiddwen.


Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 5 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Thanks Eiddwen, you're welcome. I'm getting more interested in Scotland as I do the family history research!


laine harrison profile image

laine harrison 5 years ago

id love to visit Scotland very soon. :)


Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 5 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Hi Iaine - Billy Connolly says the Scots for summer is "august"- but bearing that in mind it's a great place, and generally very welcoming.


Julester profile image

Julester 4 years ago from England

Used to go to Scotland a lot - haven't been quite so much in the last couple of years. Maybe a trip up the A1 is called for again!


Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 4 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Hi julester - try Inveraray next time. You've got to feel sorry for the natives though with the dreadful weather over the last few years.


Julester profile image

Julester 4 years ago from England

Yes, it has been a bit blowy recently. We came down to your neck of the woods for our last holiday, and stayed in a lodge with views of Glastonbury Tor.

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