Alternative Ideas for Vacation Destinations in Scotland

The River Dochart, Viewed from the Clan MacNab Burial Grounds, Killin
The River Dochart, Viewed from the Clan MacNab Burial Grounds, Killin

Visiting Scotland

There are millions of people visit Scotland every year from all around the world. While it is of course understandable, it is in many ways regrettable that the vast majority of those people visit only the most famous, established tourist attractions and population centres. This means that a high percentage of visitors to Scotland miss out on seeing the lesser known gems which Scotland has to offer in abundance.

This page is dedicated to taking a step back from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Loch Ness and the likes and affording a look at alternative destinations which may very well be of wider appeal in Scotland. It will look at four very different parts of Scotland, diverse not only geographically but in terms of accessibility and population density. There are unlikely to be any coach tours or packaged trips which will take in all of these locations but each can be accessed via public transport or - in some cases - ideally by renting a car for the purpose.

It is possible to enlarge any of the photos on this page and view them full size in a new window, simply by clicking on them once.

Inverness, Capital of the Scottish Highlands

The River Ness flowing through Inverness
The River Ness flowing through Inverness
Inverness Castle
Inverness Castle
St Andrew's Cathedral, Inverness
St Andrew's Cathedral, Inverness
Storm Clouds gather over Inverness and the Moray Firth
Storm Clouds gather over Inverness and the Moray Firth

Inverness is the most northerly city in the United Kingdom and is often referred to as the capital of the Scottish Highlands. While a great many visitors to Scotland will visit Loch Ness, just a few short miles away, in the hope of seeing one very particular Scottish visitor attraction, a high proportion will not take the time to visit Inverness and see what the city has to offer.

Inverness Castle can be found in the very centre of Inverness, on a hill overlooking the river. The castle in modern times is Inverness' court building and is thus not open to the public but it is possible to freely wander the grounds and admire the views of the city and beyond. The present Inverness castle dates back only to the early 19th century but legend has it that it was in an 11th century castle in Inverness that Lady MacBeth killed King Duncan - as made so famous in, "The Scottish Play" - and that Duncan's ghost still patrols the banks of the River Ness to this day.

It is possible to walk a great way along both banks of the River Ness, exploring the city in stages and using the river as a landmark guide. One site which can be seen almost immediately across the river from the castle is the city's Anglican Cathedral, St Andrew's, photographed right from the grounds of the castle.

Getting Around in Inverness

show route and directions
A markerInverness Castle -
Inverness Castle, 41 Castle St, Inverness, Inverness-Shire IV2 3DU, UK
[get directions]

B markerSt Andrew's Cathedral -
15 Ardross St, Inverness, Highland IV3 5, UK
[get directions]

C markerInverness Railway Station -
Inverness Railway Station, Inverness, Highland IV1 1, UK
[get directions]

A Taste of the Scenery of Scotland

Killin, Perthshire

Killin Main Street
Killin Main Street
The Falls of Dochart
The Falls of Dochart
Breadalbane Folklore Centre
Breadalbane Folklore Centre
Tarmachan Ridge
Tarmachan Ridge

The village of Killin in West Perthshire is often referred to as the Heart of Scotland. This is not for any sentimental or romantic reason but simply due to the fact that geographically it is located in almost the very centre - or heart - of Scotland. Although it is possible to get to and from Killin by bus, the services are extremely infrequent and vary depending upon the time of year. Hiring a car is therefore an excellent idea not only for getting to Killin but for exploring the beautiful, surrounding scenery.

Entering Killin from the West along the banks of the River Dochart, visitors will cross the narrow bridge at the Falls of Dochart, pictured right. Also on the bridge, access can be obtained to what is the traditional, island burial grounds of the Clan MacNab. The key for access to the grounds can be obtained from the Breadalbane Folklore Centre, across the bridge and to the left, which also serves as the local tourist information centre.

Turning on to Killin Main Street, The Tarmachan Ridge is one of the mountainous features which can be seen to the north and north-east and Loch Tay is only a few hundred yards beyond the far edge of the village, where a variety of water sports can be undertaken.

Killin and the Surrounding Area

show route and directions
A markerFalls of Dochart -
Falls Of Dochart, Gray St, Killin, Perthshire FK21 8SL, UK
[get directions]

B markerLoch Tay -
Loch Tay, United Kingdom
[get directions]

The Royal Burgh of Lanark

Lanark High Street
Lanark High Street
The Clyde Valley, Nr Lanark
The Clyde Valley, Nr Lanark
Castlegate
Castlegate
Reputed Site of William Wallace's Marital Home
Reputed Site of William Wallace's Marital Home

The town of Lanark was formally made a Royal Burgh by King David in the year 1140 but predates that period by several centuries. It was actually the location for the first sitting of a Parliament in Scotland in the year 978.

Lanark is a market town and is perhaps best known in Scotland as such but it has a great many attractions likely to be of interest to visitors. Just outside the town is the World heritage Site, New Lanark, close to the Falls of Clyde. New Lanark was first built as a mill operation in the 18th century but has today been fully restored as a visitor attraction.

Lanark Loch is a couple of miles outside the town of Lanark. As well as fishing in the loch, there are a number of other activities in which to engage, including scenic walks and pitch and putt golf. The restored boathouse at the entrance to the site, The Inn on the Loch, is now a licensed restaurant and music venue.

At the bottom of Lanark High Street stands St Nicholas' Church. There has been a place of worship of some form on this site for many centuries but during the lifetime of arguably Lanark's most famous ever resident, it would have been very humble indeed. Immediately across the narrow street that is The Castlegate from the church, an inobtrusive stone block stands with a metal plaque attached. This site marks the precise spot where it is believed once stood the marital home of a gentleman by the name ofWilliam Wallace.

A common story is that William Wallace, when already an outlaw, was in hiding in Ettrick Forest, near Lanark, when he met and married Lanark woman Marian Braidfute. Following the execution of Marian's brother on the orders of the English Sheriff of Lanark at the time, Wallace and his men killed several English soldiers in the town in an act of revenge. Hazelrig - the sheriff - unable to get to Wallace, thereafter had Marian executed. Overcome with rage and grief, Wallace and his men stormed the English garrison and castle which lay at the bottom of The Castlegate where the bowling green is now situated. They killed not only Hazelrig but every soldier in the garrison and every Englishman in the town, sparing only women, children and clergymen. It is these events which are believed to have inspired the masses to take up their swords with Wallace and fight for real against the English occupation of Scotland.

Below is a photo of the plaque on the memorial to William Wallace, which can be enlarged and read simply by clicking on it.

Plaque at the Monument to William Wallace's Marital Home in Lanark
Plaque at the Monument to William Wallace's Marital Home in Lanark

In and Around Lanark

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A markerLanark Railway Station, UK -
Lanark Railway Station, Lanark, South Lanarkshire ML11, UK
[get directions]

B markerLanark Loch -
Lanark ML11 9BJ, UK
[get directions]

C markerNew Lanark -
New Lanark, South Lanarkshire ML11 9, UK
[get directions]

The Isle of Islay

Boarding the Islay Ferry at Kennacraig
Boarding the Islay Ferry at Kennacraig
Arriving at Port Askaig, Islay
Arriving at Port Askaig, Islay
Main Street, Bowmore
Main Street, Bowmore
The Round Church, Bowmore
The Round Church, Bowmore
The Sound of Islay
The Sound of Islay

The Isle of Islay is famous for many things, from its fresh and delicious seafood to its wonderfully warm and friendly people. There can be no doubt, however, that above all, Islay is famous for its single malt whisky. This small island presently has no fewer than eight working distilleries, producing single malts of many types and to suit many tastes, from the intense peaty varieties of Laphroaig, to the beautiful smoothness of Bowmore.

Islay can be reached by air from Glasgow but travelling by road to Kennacraig and from there by ferry to either Port Ellen or Port Askaig allows the visitor to see first hand some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole of Scotland.

Bowmore is the capital of Islay and holds many attractions apart from its distillery. There are a number of hotels at which to stay and sample the local hospitality, there is a leisure centre and a curious sight is the small round church at the top of the Main Street. The story is that the church was built round so that there were no corners for the Devil to hide in!

There is a bus service between the main villages on Islay and taxi services on the island but either taking a car across on the ferry or hiring one when there allows access to places which the buses don't go and to which taxis would be extremely expensive. One beautiful drive is to take the coastal road around Loch Indaal, from Bowmore all the way to Portnahaven - not forgetting to stop off at a distillery or two along the way!

Map of the Isles of Islay and Jura

show route and directions
A markerKennacraig Ferry Terminal -
Kennacraig, Argyll and Bute PA29 6, UK
[get directions]

B markerPort Askaig -
Port Askaig, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA46 7, UK
[get directions]

C markerPort Ellen -
Port Ellen, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA42 7, UK
[get directions]

D markerBowmore -
Bowmore, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA44, UK
[get directions]

E markerPort Charlotte -
Port Charlotte, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA44, UK
[get directions]

F markerCraighouse -
Craighouse, Isle Of Jura, Argyll and Bute PA60 7, UK
[get directions]

G markerIslay Airport -
Islay Airport (ILY), Glenegedale, Argyll and Bute PA42 7, UK
[get directions]

H markerPortnahaven -
Portnahaven, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA47, UK
[get directions]

The Isle of Jura

Islay Ferry Approaching Jura
Islay Ferry Approaching Jura
The Paps of Jura
The Paps of Jura
Craighouse, Jura
Craighouse, Jura
The Bay at Craighouse, Jura
The Bay at Craighouse, Jura

The Isle of Jura is accessed from Islay via Port Askaig. The ferry crossing only takes a few minutes over the narrow channel but the currents in the Sound of Islay can be so strong, you may find the route taken across to be decidedly eliptical!

There are only a couple of hundred people live on the Isle of Jura. There is only one road and one settlement of any real size, Craighouse. It is in Craighouse that the Jura Distillery can be found and the only hotel on the island, The Jura Hotel. The bay at Craighouse affords some stunning views and the palm trees are real. This is possible due to the fact that Islay and Jura lie on the Gulf Stream and receive warmer air from more southerly climes.

The Paps of Jura are a formation of three hills which can be seen from much of the island, as well as from the sea approach to Islay. The island is also famous for its red deer population, which outnumber the humans by more than twenty to one. A car is really essential to see much of Jura, though there is a passenger ferry from the mainland direct to Craighouse and those arriving on the Islay ferry without a car can be met by the small, private bus service at the terminal.

Distillery Map of Islay and Jura

show route and directions
A markerBunnahabhain -
Bunnahabhain, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA46, UK
[get directions]

B markerCaol Ila -
Caolla, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA46, UK
[get directions]

C markerArdbeg -
Ardbeg, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA42, UK
[get directions]

D markerLagavulin -
Lagavulin, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA42, UK
[get directions]

E markerLaphroaig -
Laphroaig, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA42, UK
[get directions]

F markerBowmore -
Bowmore, Jamieson St, Bowmore, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA43 7HL, UK
[get directions]

G markerBruichladdich -
Bruichladdich, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA49, UK
[get directions]

H markerKilchoman -
Kilchoman, Isle Of Islay, Argyll and Bute PA49, UK
[get directions]

I markerJura -
Jura Distillery, Craighouse, Argyll and Bute PA60 7, UK
[get directions]

More by this Author


What is your favourite part of Scotland? 8 comments

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

What a hub! It's nice to see some of the more off-the-beaten-track things one might see in Scotland, and your photos, helpful links, and convenient map placement make for a truly great, user-friendly guide. Thanks for making it!


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 6 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Thank you, Simone. I enjoyed making the Hub. Deciding which spots to feature and which to leave out was probably the biggest challenge!


WordCustard profile image

WordCustard 6 years ago from Scotland

What a beautiful tribute to Scotland. I'm ashamed to say I've only been to one of these locations, which just goes to show there is always something new to discover no matter how long you've lived somewhere. Anywhere in the Highlands is worth a visit but now Islay and Jura are calling me too.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Och aye! What a lovely Hub to be sure! Despite my Scottish heritage I have never been further north in the British Isles than Liverpool! Sad but true. A cousin of mine is in Britain now and hopes to make it to Scotland, where I have asked him to get to Glen Fruin and take some photos there for me as I'm planning a Hub on the battle.

Thanks for this info which has really made me long to get to Scotland myself.

Love and peace

Tony


bac2basics profile image

bac2basics 3 years ago from Spain

Hi Gordon. What a fantastic guide to some of the lesser know destinations in beautiful Scotland. Killin caught my eye immediately as I have camped there on the banks of the river at a first class site with wonderful views of the mountains. I have also spent many happy weeks camping at my favourite place in Scotland which is Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and galloway. I too have written many travelogues to try and tempt people to visit places not normally thought of by visitors from abroad and if it´s OK with you I will link this hub onto one of mine about kircudbright. Loved your delicious recipes too :)


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 3 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, bac2basics and thank you very much for your in-depth comment. Killin is indeed beautiful and I also know Kirkcudbright fairly well but purely as a sea fishing venue. I regularly used to go out in a boat from Kirkcudbight harbour. Thank you very much also for the link and I will definitely be taking a look at your guides.


CyclingFitness profile image

CyclingFitness 3 years ago from Nottingham UK

Nice hub. I'd love to visit Islay but it could be a messy trip with all the Whisky tasting.


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 3 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, CyclingFitness. Yes, Islay can prove to be something of a temptation. I am visiting for a stag weekend in July this year and it's likely to be a whisky heavy experience... There is much more to do on the island than drink whisky, however, and we have all agreed that the fishing rods are getting packed to keep us away from the whisky at least some of the time :) Thanks for visiting and commenting and I hope you get to visit Islay for yourself some day.

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