Want to experience the best places to visit in Scotland? Read on for 20 unique trip ideas filled with adventures and experiences you will remember for a lifetime. From stunning beach breaks to romantic adventure holidays – Scotland has it all!

This post contains affiliate links from which I may make a commission. Find out more here. All opinions are my own.

Travelling is all about making unforgettable experiences.

The stunning view from my hotel bedroom. The taste of a delicious meal made from locally sourced ingredients. The warm welcome extended to me on arrival at the ferry port. The beach recommended to me by the lovely lady in the village shop. The otter I spotted playing in the kelp at low tide and watched for 15 minutes. These are the kinds of things and encounters I remember best from my trips.

This is a post for experiential travellers like me. People who want to dive deep into the local culture and experience the country they visit the fullest. Does that sound like you?

Read on for 20 concrete trip ideas to experience some of the best places to visit in Scotland

Whether you are looking for a beach break with white sands and Caribbean flair, an action-filled adventure holiday with stand-up paddling or mountain biking, or a romantic couples getaway with immersive experiences.

Note, this is not a list of must-see places in Scotland that you can “tick off” on one single road trip. Instead, I offer you 20 suggested mini-holidays ranging from weekend breaks to week-long adventures. You can easily combine multiple of these suggestions into a longer trip and I offer plenty of suggestions which trips might go will together below.

I hope you find inspiration on this list for an unforgettable trip to Scotland!

PS: If you are here for inspiration for a Scotland staycation, also read my guide to adding oomph to your staycation!

Is this your first trip to Scotland? Read…
20 Must-Have Experiences for Scotland First-Timers
How to Plan a Trip to Scotland

Scotland for all travel types

What kind of experience are you looking for?

Each of the unique trip ideas provided in this guide fits in one or several of the following categories: 

  • Beach Break: Visit an area with beautiful sands to rival the Caribbean.
  • Island Hopping: Bag one or several Scottish islands.
  • Mountain Escape: Immerse yourself in Scotland’s mountain landscapes.
  • Nature Experience: Keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife tours and visit nature reserves.
  • Active Holiday: Choose from the many outdoor activities available in the area.
  • History & Heritage: Visit castles, museums and heritage sites.
  • City Break: Explore one of Scotland’s vibrant cities.
  • Road Trip: Hit the road and discover Scotland from the roadside.
  • Romantic Getaway: Book a romantic getaway with your partner.
  • Unique Experience: Experience something absolutely unique to the area.
  • Food & Drink: Taste the best of Scottish food and drinks.

Use the category levels on the map below to filter trips that match your travel type.

Each trip idea includes a suggested time frame you should allow for this getaway, my recommended mode of transport, suggestions for places to stay and my top highlights in each region.

Find out how to choose the best Scotland itinerary for you!

Epic experiences in the best places to visit in Scotland

A traditional building with thatched roof on South Uist

Island hopping in the Outer Hebrides

The Outer Hebrides (or Western Isles) are a beautiful island destination off the west coast of Scotland. With their strong sense of Gaelic culture and otherworldly landscapes, a visit to these islands feels like a trip abroad.

Discover the endless sandy beaches framed by colourful Machair meadows all over the west coast of these islands. Or drive around the rugged coastline facing the Minch and the mainland on their east coast. 

Learn about ancient societies and past generations who made their home on the Outer Hebrides, defying the natural forces of the North Atlantic. Visit standing stones and brochs, Blackhouse villages and croft communities,

Apart from the ten main islands – Lewis, Harris, Uist (Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay, South Uist, Eriskay), Barra and Vatersay), it is easy to visit many other islands on boat trips or via causeways – for example, St Kilda, the Shiant Isles, Great Bernera or Mingulay. Island baggers will love it here!

You can tour all the islands in one extended island-hopping road trip, or focus on groups of islands that are connected via causeways (to limit how many ferries you have to take).

Highlights:

  • Marvel at the Callanish Standing Stones
  • Discovering the best beaches on each island
  • A day trip to St Kilda

Explore the islands of the Outer Hebrides with my ready-made Outer Hebrides itinerary!

A trip for… Island baggers, couples, solo travellers and families.
Timeframe: One to two weeks
Transport: Car or Walking Holiday on the Hebridean Way.
Where to stay: Stornoway B&B (Lewis), Vigadale Guest House (Harris), Berneray Hostel (Berneray), Hamersay House Hotel (North Uist), Tigh na Mara B&B (Barra)

The steep steps to Dunnottar Castle in Scotland

Visit Stonehaven and the Scottish Castle Trail

Stonehaven is one of my favourite places to visit on the Aberdeenshire coast. Easy to get to, lots of options for accommodation and restaurants, a fairytale castle in walking distance and plenty of other things to do to fill a weekend getaway.

No trip to Stonehaven would be complete without a visit to the romantic ruins of Dunnottar Castle. The best way to reach the castle is by following the coastal path from the picturesque harbour. It takes about 40 minutes one way and the views are stunning. The best time to visit for photos is around sunset, but it’s worth coming during the day to step inside the castle ruins.

Visit the Tolbooth Museum by the harbour and walk along the waterfront to Market Square and on to The Links. There, grab an ice-cream from Aunt Betty’s (vegan options available), a portion of fish & chips or a sit-down meal at Molly’s Cafe Bar – they are all right next to each other. For a more active break, hike in the Dunnottar Woods or go stand-up paddle-boarding by the harbour.

Dunnottar Castle is one of 19 castles on the Scottish Castle Trail and Stonehaven would make a great home base for a few road trips to the Royal Deeside and other parts of Aberdeenshire to see more of these beautiful castles.

Use my Stonehaven travel guide and my Aberdeenshire road trip guide to plan your trip.

Highlights:

  • Sunset at Dunnottar Castle
  • Taste the thriving local food scene
  • Stand up paddling along the coast
  • Explore the Scottish Castle Trail

Experience the best of the east coast with my ready-made East Scotland itinerary!

A trip for… Active Couples or Families, Outdoor Enthusiasts.
Timeframe: 3 to 5 days. 
Transport: Public Transport or Car (if exploring beyond Stonehaven)
Where to stay: Bayview Apartments (AirBnB)

You might also like: 14 Romantic Getaways in Scotland

Standing stones at Kilmartin Glen

Explore the ancient Heart of Argyll

Few areas in Scotland are so deeply steeped in history as Kilmartin Glen in the Heart of Argyll. Over 350 ancient monuments can be found here, many of which are pre-historic. From standing stones, stone circles and chambered cairns to the fascinating remains of Dunadd Fort – history buffs will find that this is a must-see place in Scotland, yet still a hidden gem.

The nearby Knapdale Forest is a paradise for nature lovers. Try to spot beavers on the Scottish Beaver Trial site, choose from a plethora of remote trails through the forest and enjoy views of the Crinan Canal and the Argyll coast.

A little further afield, visit the lush Arduaine Garden, stop for lunch at Loch Melfort Hotel or book a boat tour to Corryvreckan or the Slate islands from the Isle of Seil. 

Use my Kilmartin Glen travel guide to plan your trip to the Heart of Argyll.

Highlights:

  • Ancient standing stones at Temple Wood
  • Remote wilderness at Knapdale Forest
  • Boat trips to the Slate Islands

A trip for… History Buffs, Nature Lovers, Outdoor Enthusiasts, Vegans.
Timeframe: 3 to 5 days
Transport: A car is essential to explore all corners of the Heart of Argyll.
Where to stay: Loch Melfort Hotel (Arduaine), Inveraray Youth Hostel (Inveraray)

Flowers, a beach and a village on the Fife Coastal Path in Scotland - Photo by Kathi Kamleitner -75

Follow the Sun to Fife

Did you know that Fife is one of the top Scottish regions when it comes to average sunshine hours? Perfect for a sunny beach break near Edinburgh!

Begin your journey through Fife in Dunfermline, Scotland’s former capital and burial place of Kings and Queens, including Robert the Bruce. Continue to explore the heart of Fife – the colourful murals in Cowdenbeath, the romantic village of Falkland and the stunning scenery of the Lomond Hills Regional Park.

Then, head on to the coast. Explore the fishing villages along the East Neuk of Fife from Elie to Crail and join a boat tour to the Isle of May from Anstruther. Spend some time in St Andrews, the home of golf, and discover its beautiful beaches, thriving food scene and impressive historic sites.

Outdoor enthusiasts should spend at least one day on the Fife Coastal Path or follow the route for a couple of days. My favourite section runs from Elie to Anstruther and the entire trail takes around 9 days.

My Fife travel guide is a great resource to plan your trip.

Highlights:

  • The former capital of Scotland: Dunfermline
  • Hiking in the Lomond Hills
  • Colourful fishing villages of the East Neuk of Fife

A trip for… History Buffs, Outdoor Enthusiasts, Foodies, Active couples and families.
Timeframe: 3 days to one week
Transport: Car or Public Transport
Where to stay: The Cosy Vegan B&B (Dunfermline). Or stay in St Andrews or in any of the villages on the East Neuk of Fife.

The viewpoint near the WWII bunker on the Isle of Bute.

Hike the West Island Way on Bute

Hiking is one of my favourite things to do in Scotland. The West Island Way is a beginner-friendly, 30-mile long-distance hike on the Isle of Bute. It begins in Rothesay and offers two loop trails around the south and the north of the island. You can either stay overnight in Rothesay or wild camp to enjoy Bute’s romantic wilderness. 

My personal highlight along the route is the walk from Glencallum Bay, a remote bay with a small lighthouse, to Kilchattan Bay, a picturesque village with stunning views over the Firth of Clyde and neighbouring islands. 

More advanced hikers might enjoy the Affric Kintail Way from Loch Ness to Morvich by the coast. It takes 4 days and requires you to camp for 2 out of 3 nights on the trail. 

Use my West Island Way hiking guide to plan your trip to the Isle of Bute.

Highlights:

  • Wild camping at Glencallum Bay
  • Hiking up to an old WWII bunker with fantastic views of the Kyles of Bute
  • Spend a day sunbathing at Ettrick Bay or Scalpsie Bay

A trip for… Island Baggers, Outdoor enthusiasts and active couples.
Timeframe: 2-3 days
Transport: Public Transport or Walking Holiday.
Where to stay: Wild camping or base yourself in Rothesay.

Got the hiking bug? Learn how to plan a walking holiday or long-distance hike in Scotland.

Run a bookshop in Wigtown

Ever dreamt of running your own bookshop? The Open Book in Wigtown – one of many bookshops that make it Scotland’s National Book Town – offers the unique opportunity to fulfil this dream.

For a modest fee that covers the running costs of the shop & housing, you get to be a bookseller for a week or two. Each guest can put their own stamp on the bookshop, whether you want to reorganize the shelves in rainbow colours or feature your favourite authors on the most prominent shelf.

A similar experience is available at Glaisnock Guest House which also runs Shoots & Leaves, a fantastic vegetarian book cafe in Wigtown.

This is a unique destination for bookworms who don’t think running a bookshop sounds like work, but pleasure.

Use my South Scotland itinerary to plan your trip to the area.

Highlights:

  • The experience of running your own bookshop
  • Explore Wigtownshire and the Mull of Galloway

A trip for… Booklovers, anyone keen to dabble in Scottish small-town life.
Timeframe: At least one week
Transport: Car
Where to stay: The Open Book or Book Lover’s Holiday at Glaisnock Guest House.

Torrisdale Bay on the Kintyre Peninsula in Scotland

A road trip on the Kintyre Peninsula

The Kintyre Peninsula is Scotland’s only “mainland island” – connected to the rest of Argyll only by a narrow strip of land near Tarbert. It is a hidden gem that you have to make a little effort to visit as it does not lie conveniently on the way to popular destinations (apart from maybe the Isle of Islay).

Kintyre is a paradise for everyone who loves coastal scenery, remote bays and long sandy beaches, but also outdoor enthusiasts, foodies and island hoppers. Arguably, it offers everything you could ask for – apart from maybe a Munro. The enjoyable Kintyre Way long-distance hike might make up for that though!

Plan a day trip or overnight stay to the Isle of Gigha, book a surf lesson on Westport beach, visit and compare drams at Campbeltown’s whisky distilleries and walk across the sea to Davaar Island – at low tide, of course.

My travel guide for the Kintyre peninsula contains everything you need to know!

Highlights:

  • Eerie public art at Saddell Bay
  • Island hopping to the Isle of Gigha
  • A surf lesson on Westport Beach
  • Tasting drams at whisky & gin distilleries

A trip for… Active couples and families, foodies, outdoor enthusiasts, whisky & gin lovers.
Timeframe: 3 to 5 days
Transport: Car or Public Transport. Summer ferry from Ardrossan to Campbeltown.
Where to stay: Carradales Luxury Guest House (Carradale), Ardshiel Hotel or Campbeltown Backpackers(Campbeltown), Achamore Lodge (Gigha)

Southern Upland Way in the Galloway Hills

Discover the Galloway Hills

Longing for the Scottish mountains without the crowds? The Galloway Hills in the south-west of Scotland offer the perfect outdoor getaway for solo travellers, couples and families alike.

These mountains in the Southern Uplands fly under the radar of most outdoor enthusiasts, even though they offer days out on all levels. The tallest peak in the Range of the Awful Hand – the Merrick – is just a couple hundred feet short of being a Munro!

Go kayaking on Loch Trool, deep-dive into Scottish history at Bruce’s Stone, learn about nature conversation from local Biosphere guides or discover some of the darkest night skies in Scotland with a Dark Sky Ranger.

Use my adventure guide for the Galloway Hills to plan your trip.

Highlights:

  • Hiking in the Range of the Awful Hand a part of the Southern Upland Way
  • Stargazing in the Dark Sky Park
  • Learning about nature conservation in Glentrool

A trip for… Active couples and families, Outdoor Enthusiasts, Nature Lovers, Slow Travellers
Timeframe: 3 to 5 days
Transport: Car or Bike Hire – contact Biosphere Bikes.
Where to stay: Creeside Escape Shepherd’s Hut or House o’Hill Hotel (Glentrool)

Lagavulin distillery on Islay, Scotland

Go island bagging on Islay, Jura & Colonsay

Islay, Jura and Colonsay are three islands that could not be more different from each other. Yet their location and proximity to each other make them a fantastic group of isles to visit in one trip. 

Start on Islay, visit its whisky distilleries, indulge in fresh local produce and book outdoor activities like sea kayaking or fat biking on the beach. 

Next up is Jura – a big, yet largely uninhabited island just north of Islay. Taste the difference in Jura whisky, go for a hike up the Paps of Jura and book a boat trip to the Corryvreckan whirlpool.

Finally, set sail to Colonsay, the smallest of the three islands on this itinerary. Discover its paradise beaches, walk across to Oronsay at low tide and indulge in the surprisingly thriving local food & drink scene.

I recommend spending a week on all three islands, but if you have more time, you could connect island hopping with a road trip round Kintyre, the Heart of Argyll and/or boat hopping from Oban.

Use my Islay, Jura & Colonsay travel guide to plan unique experiences for your Scottish island escape.

Highlights:

  • Stunning beaches on Colonsay
  • Remote wilderness on Jura
  • Whisky distilleries & outdoor fun on Islay

Explore the islands of the Inner Hebrides with my ready-made Island Hopping itinerary!

A trip for… Gin & whisky lovers, Island baggers, Active couples, Outdoor Enthusiasts.
Timeframe: One week
Transport: Car or Public Transport
Where to stay: Colonsay Hotel or Gin Lover’s Retreat (Colonsay), The Jura Hotel (Jura), Port Charlotte Youth Hostel (Islay), Islay House, Allandale B&B or Storm Pods (Islay)

North Coast 500: A woman walking down the stairs to Smoo Cave

A Road Trip on the North Coast 500

The North Coast 500 barely needs an introduction. Hailed as the Scottish answer to America’s Route 66, the NC500 offers 500 miles of incredibly enjoyable driving through the north-western Highlands. It leads past many of my favourite places to see in Scotland.

Starting and ending in Inverness, the route makes its way up the steep Bealach na Bá pass road, visits numerous scenic villages and bays, and loops around the diverse range of coastal landscapes of the north-western Highlands.

The NC500 can be done on a budget – with a campervan, staying in family-friendly hostels or pitching your tent on some of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches. Or more luxuriously with romantic glamping pods, castle stays and traditional B&Bs.

My North Coast 500 travel guide is a great resource to plan your road trip. Or get my ready-made Northwest Highlands itinerary to follow step by step!

Highlights:

  • Breathtaking beaches all over the west coast
  • Canyoning in the deep Corrieshalloch Gorge
  • Exploring Smoo Cave
  • Puffins and sea stacks near John O’Groats
  • Island hopping to Handa and the Summer Isles

A trip for… Active couples and families, Road trippers, Budget travellers, Wildlife watchers, Birders and Adventurers.
Timeframe: At least one week
Transport: Car
Where to stay: Move on every night or base yourself in 3-4 places along the route. I recommend Torridon, Ullapool, Durness, Helmsdale and Inverness areas. Hostelling Scotland, for example, has many hostels along the NC500 (including these stops and more).

You might also like: 16 EPIC Road Trips in Scotland

A house on Gunna

Island and wildlife trips in Oban and Coll

Oban is one of my favourite Scottish seaside towns – and such a picturesque place too! It is also known as the Gateway to the Isles and has a busy ferry terminal with connections far and wide. Indeed it is a perfect home base for day trips or overnight adventures to numerous Scottish isles in the area.

All over Oban’s harbour and esplanade, you can join boat trips to nearby seal colonies – a good introduction to what awaits you on this Island hopping break in Scotland. 

Spend at least 2 full days here and choose from the following suggestions: Learn sea kayaking and explore the coastline paddling. Visit Kerrera or Lismore for a remote hike around these small Hebridean islands. Sail to the Isle of Coll in search of the rare basking sharks or stay a few days longer. Book a tour with Staffa Tours to visit Mull, Iona, Staffa and a puffin colony on the Treshnish Isles. Go snorkelling in a crystal-clear lagoon and meet the local seals. 

Highlights:

  • Spotting seals, puffins or basking sharks
  • Remote trails on Kerrera and Lismore
  • A boat trip to Iona Abbey and Fingal’s Cave

A trip for… Animal Lovers, Seafarers, Island Baggers.
Timeframe: 4 days to one week
Transport: Train and Boats. If you visit the Isle of Coll, hire bikes on the island.
Where to stay: Witchwood House B&B or Oban Youth Hostel. Find more accommodation in Oban. On the Isle of Coll: Coll Hotel!

You might also like: A practical guide for snorkelling in Scotland

Kilchurn Castle ruin in Scotland

A Great Railway Journey on the West Highland Railway Line

There is nothing quite as beautiful as a train journey through the Scottish Highlands. The West Highland Railway Line passes through remote glens and along deep-blue lochs – the surrounding mountains always in sight.

The line runs from Glasgow to Oban, Fort William and on to Mallaig, usually splitting in two in Crianlarich. On both branches of the line, there are various stops where you could easily spend a few days.

On the southern section of the line, get off in Arrochar for a few days of hiking in the Arrochar Alps or trips over to Loch Lomond. On the way to Oban, stop at Loch Awe station to explore the loch, Kilchurn Castle and the fascinating Cruachan Power Station. Going north to Fort William, consider a break in Bridge of Orchy or a remote getaway at Corrour station – the highest railway station in the country.

Highlights:

  • Scenic train journeys through the Highlands
  • Relaxing getaway without a car
  • Romantic Highland wilderness

A trip for… Couples, Foodies, Outdoor Enthusiasts.
Timeframe: 3 days to one week 
Transport: Train
Where to stay: Ben Cruachan Inn (Loch Awe station), Bridge of Orchy Hotel (Bridge of Orchy station), Loch Ossian Youth Hostel or cottages at Corrour Lodge (Corrour station).

St Abbs and cliffs in the Scottish Borders.

Explore the Berwickshire coast

Stretching from Berwick-upon-Tweed just across the border in England to Cove in Scotland, the Berwickshire Coast boasts unspoiled coastlines, colourful seaside towns and plenty of outdoor activities, like the 28-mile long Berwickshire Coastal Path.

Among many other colourful harbours, the tiny village of St Abbs is definitely a highlight on the Berwickshire Coast. Not only for its quirky harbour and as a film location for one of the Avengers movies, but also for its stunning nature reserve. The cliffs and bays of the St Abbs Head Nature Reserve are a great place for a day of hiking.

Finish your tour with a detour to North Berwick (not technically on the Berwickshire Coast, but only 20 miles north) and join a boat trip to Bass Rock or the Isle of May from the Scottish Seabird Centre.

Highlights:

  • Hike the Berwickshire Coastal Path
  • Visit St Abbs Head Nature Reserve
  • Join a boat trip to Bass Rock from North Berwick

A trip for… Active couples and families, long-distance hikers, wildlife watchers.
Timeframe: 2 to 4 days
Transport: Car or Walking Holiday
Where to stay: Unless you hike the Coastal Path, base yourself in one location – Eyemouth or St Abbs.

A mural at the Green on the Nuart street art trail in Aberdeen

A city trip to Aberdeen

When it comes to city trips in Scotland, Aberdeen lives in the shadow of Glasgow and Edinburgh which are much more popular and wider known destinations. Even though Aberdeen has so much to offer!

A city trip to Aberdeen can last one night or more – there is plenty to do: colourful street art, iconic Aberdonian architecture, a historical university campus, and long sandy beach and beautiful parks.

If you get a chance, visit Aberdeen during one of its many festivals. From artists opening their studios to nights packed with music, theatre and comedy – there is a festival for everyone.

Highlights:

  • Follow the NUART street art trail
  • Discover Old Aberdeen and Brig o’ Balgownie
  • Spend time in quirky Footdee
  • Taste the delicious vegan food scene

A trip for… City trippers, Solo travellers, Couples, Families, History Buffs.
Timeframe: 2 to 4 days
Transport: Train
Where to stay: Skene House Rosemount

image source

A road trip to remote Ardnamurchan

When it comes to stunning and remote landscapes off the beaten track, few areas are as awe-inspiring as the Ardnamurchan peninsula. 

Far away from the bustling main routes through the Highlands, but easy to reach from Glencoe and Fort William, the peninsula is perfect for a road trip through rugged wilderness. Drive through volcanic landscapes and sunbathe on beaches that rival the Caribbean. From historical castles to an eco-friendly distillery, the Ardnamurchan Distillery has it all – plus those glorious west coast sunsets.

Add a few days near Arisaig, continue with an island escape to the Small Isles or connect the road trip with island hopping from Oban (via the Isle of Mull).

Highlights:

  • Whisky tasting at Ardnamurchan Distillery
  • Visit the westernmost point of mainland Scotland
  • Building sandcastles at Sanna Bay
  • Go sea kayaking on Loch Sunart

Use my Ardnamurchan travel guide to plan your trip.

Follow my ready-made Hidden West Coast itinerary to see the best of Ardnamurchan & co!

A trip for… Families and couples, Road trippers, Outdoor enthusiasts.
Timeframe: 3 to 5 days
Transport: Car
Where to stay: Lots of options around Kilchoan, Glenborrodale or Acharacle.  

Glenfiddich Distillery on the Whisky Walking Tour in Dufftown, Speyside

Follow the Malt Whisky Trail in Speyside

The Speyside is Scotland’s most prolific whisky region – nowhere else has such a high density of whisky distilleries. From big names like Glenfiddich, Glenlivet or Macallan to smaller producers like Ballindalloch, Benromach or Tamnavulin, there is an endless choice of distilleries to visit and drams to try.

Between distilleries, drive through the beautiful Cairngorms National Park, visit castles and monuments, explore the Snow Roads and the Royal Deeside, and hike along the scenic hiking trails of the region.

If you are an avid long-distance hiker, discover the Speyside on foot and check out my guide to walking the Speyside Way.

Highlights:

  • Trying different Speyside whiskies and visiting distilleries
  • Driving along the Snow Roads through the Cairngorm Mountains
  • Hiking on the Speyside Way or the Dufftown Spur

Use my Speyside travel guide to plan your trip!

Explore the whisky regions of Scotland with my ready-made Scottish Whisky itinerary!

A trip for… Whisky Lovers, Road Trippers, Outdoor Enthusiasts.
Timeframe: 2 to 4 days
Transport: Car If you want to enjoy Scottish whisky at the distilleries consider hiring a private driver or join a guided tour in the area.
Where to stay: Davaar B&B (Dufftown), Craigellachie Hotel (Craigellachie), Delnashaugh Hotel (Ballindalloch), Smuggler’s Hostel (Tomintoul)

Melrose Abbey in Scotland

Dive deep into history in the Scottish Borders

If you are interested in Scottish history, the Scottish Borders are a fascinating must-see! Visit the Border Abbeys in Melrose, Kelso, Jedburgh and Dryburgh, learn about Roman history at the Three Hills Roman Heritage Centre in Melrose and follow the footsteps of Scottish writer and historian Sir Walter Scott.

The Borders are also great for families or couples who want to mix culture & heritage experiences with easy-going hikes and other outdoor activities. Climb the Eildon Hills near Melrose, soar through the air at Go Ape Peebles and explore the trails around The Hirsel in Coldstream.

Plan a trip to the Scottish Borders with my Melrose travel guide.

Highlights:

  • Visiting the four Border Abbeys
  • Learning about Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford House
  • Climbing the Eildon Hills

A trip for… History Buffs, Active couples and families
Timeframe: 1 to 3 days
Transport: Car You can also reach some places by public transport or book a Scottish Borders day trip with  Rabbie’s.
Where to stay: Stay in Melrose or Kelso to be near all the Border Abbeys.

Cairngorms National Park

Hiking holiday in the Cairngorms National Park

The Cairngorms National Park is a hiker’s paradise – nowhere else in Scotland has so many Munros and so much unspoilt nature to explore. 

The actual Cairngorm Mountains west of Aviemore offer pretty challenging terrain and lots of Grade 4 or 5 hikes from the Glen More direction. If you are an experienced hiker and up for the challenge – go for it! 

More casual hikers and families might prefer the southern part of the National Park though, which covers the Grampian Mountains and the Angus Glens. There, the Cairnwell mountain group and countless scenic glens offer many moderate trails to enjoy.

Base yourself around Pitlochry or Blairgowrie and choose a different train every day. For a break, drive down to the Royal Deeside to visit Balmoral Castle, lunch in Ballater and stop for a dram at the Royal Lochnagar whisky distillery. 

Highlights:

  • Bagging the Cairnwell Munros
  • Walk among ancient Caledonian Scots pines in Rothiemurchus
  • Visit the beach at Loch Morlich and hike to the green An Lochan Uaine
  • Exploring the Angus Glens: Glen Clova and Corrie Fee
  • Follow the scenic Snow Roads road trip to the Royal Deeside

Use my Cairngorms National Park guide to plan your trip and listen to The Land of Stories for an audio journey to the area!

Explore Scotland’s national parks and natural beauty with my ready-made Mountains & Lochs itinerary!

A trip for… Active couples and families, Outdoor enthusiasts.
Timeframe: 4 days to one week
Transport: Car or public transport (especially in the Aviemore area)
Where to stay: Aviemore Youth Hostel or Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel (Glenmore), McInnes House Hotel (Kingussie), Loch Insh Chalets (Kincraig) The Field Shelter B&B [vegan] (Kirkmichael).

Isle of Canna view

Island Escape to the Small Isles

The Small Isles are a small group of islands south of Skye. Despite their central location and good ferry connection to Mallaig, they are far off the beaten track – probably because they are largely car-free islands and home to very small island communities.

The largest island is the Isle of Rum. Tour the Victorian mansion of Kinloch Castle, the peaks of Hallival and Askival, hire bikes or kayaks, spend a night in a bothy or watch wildlife around Kilmory beach.

The Isle of Eigg is significantly smaller than Rum, but home to the largest community in the Small Isles. The island is also owned by the community, which creates a very special atmosphere of welcome. The island offers fantastic hiking trails and many beautiful beaches.

The tiny Isle of Muck is a perfect island getaway – white sandy beaches, peaceful bays, lots of wildlife at your doorstep. So relaxing.

The Isles of Canna and Sanday (connected by a tidal causeway) are famous for their stunning cliffs, waterfalls that drop right into the ocean and a thriving puffin colony.

Highlights:

  • Stunning views from Hallival and Askival on Rum
  • Remote paradise on Muck
  • Seeing the puffins on Sanday

A trip for… Outdoor enthusiasts, Active couples, Wildlife watchers
Timeframe: 3 days to one week
Transport: Train and Ferry
The Small Isles are best discovered on foot or by bicycle. If you travel with a lot of luggage, your local B&B host should be able to arrange to pick you up at the ferry port.
Where to stay: Bring your tent or visit the local community websites to find up-to-date lists of accommodation providers.

Up Helly Aa in Lerwick had been on my bucket list for years, and at the end of January you have a chance to see it too. Here is everything you need to know!

Delve into Viking history on Shetland

No other Scottish getaway on this list feels as “un-Scottish” as the Shetland Islands. 110 miles north from the mainland, this archipelago has a strong Old Norse influence, tangible until this very day. been influenced by its Old Norse connection as much as its Scottish

With its mix of Scottish and Scandinavian heritage, Shetland is a unique destination to visit through and through. Both adults and kids can learn an awful lot on this getaway! Some of the highlights to experience Viking culture on Shetland are Jarlshof near Sumburgh Head, the Shetland Museum in Lerwick and Haroldswick on Unst.

Shetland is also a great destination for nature tourism – especially during the summer – and has a great artist & crafts trail to connect with creatives across the islands.

If you visit in winter for Up Helly Aa, use my winter travel guide to plan your trip.

Highlights:

  • Attending Up Helly Aa in Lerwick
  • Exploring Shetland’s Viking history
  • Beach day on St Ninian’s Isle
  • Following Shetland’s Arts & Crafts Trail

A trip for… Families, Active Couples, History Buffs, Nature Lovers, Artists & Knitters
Timeframe: 4 days to one week
Transport: Fly to Sumburgh with Loganair or take the overnight ferry from Aberdeen. Bring your own car or hire one in Lerwick.
Where to stay: Base yourself in Lerwick.

As you can see, Scotland is full of unique experiences and beautiful places to visit! 

I hope this post will inspire you to think a little outside the box and explore a handful of places in-depth on your next trip!

Where would you choose for a getaway in Scotland?


Pin this post:

Planning a trip to Scotland?

Download my FREE Trip Planning Checklist

Join my Facebook group to find inspiration for big & small adventures

Listen to my podcast Wild for Scotland for lots of travel inspiration

Use my Scotland Travel Journal to document your trip

Make trip planning easier with my Scotland Resource Library

Save time and get one of my pick-up-and-go Scotland itineraries

Beat the overwhelm and hire me to plan a bespoke itinerary for you

3 thoughts on “The Best Places to Visit in Scotland: 20 Inspiring Trip Ideas

  1. Pocket Wanderings says:

    I’d love to explore more of Scotland and this has definitely inspired me! Thank you for sharing such an informative post.

  2. Pingback: The 25 Best UK Beaches For Families

  3. Pingback: The 25 Best UK Beaches for Families

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *