Where to Stay in Scotland.
Many of us at the moment want to travel. Yet, while we are all craving a break away from home, for many the idea of getting on a plane just doesn’t appeal. Apart from the complex new regulations around air-travel after lockdown, there’s also that risk that a local flareup might lead to lockdown in a foreign land. Lovely as holiday resorts are, the concept of being stuck in a hotel room overseas thanks to an outbreak of Coronavirus just isn’t my idea of fun. Instead, this year I’m holidaying in the UK and very soon will be heading to Scotland for a short break. My father’s side of the family comes from Scotland and I’ve been visiting since I was tiny. What I love about Scotland is that it is both close to home and yet, very much another country. Thinking of visiting yourself but not sure where to stay? Here are a few places you shouldn’t miss. Firstly three Scottish Cities that make a great base for exploring:
The Auld Reekie – Edinburgh
Edinburgh is possibly my favourite city in the world, let alone in the UK. I love the idea of the Old Town and the New Town. The first has a network of rambling medieval streets and a massive castle. It’s ancient, dour and altogether like something from a Harry Potter novel. Of course, JK Rowling DID live in Edinburgh and wrote many of the Harry Potter books there. The New Town, by comparison, isn’t new at all. As the population of Edinburgh grew, there was a need to build on the other side of the glacial scoop which is now Princess Street Gardens and the City Council held a competition. That was back in 1766. The winner, James Craig, proposed a simple grid with elegant houses. Now UNESCO listed, the Georgian architecture of Edinburgh New Town makes it a joy to stroll through.
Beyond the well-known sights of the Old Town and the New Town, Edinburgh has a few hidden places to explore. Dean Village, for example, is a fascinating and well-preserved series of warehouses and grain mills dating back to Victorian days.
Portobello has a wide sandy beach and is a popular place for locals to swim (though the Northern chill might put me off dipping more than a toe in the water). Leith used to be an industrial shipping district but is now home to some very swanky restaurants and the Royal Yacht.
Check out more about where to stay in Edinburgh in our roundup of tried and tested hotels
Glasgow – Dear Green Place.
Glashu, the Gaelic word for Glasgow can be translated as ‘Dear Green Place’. It’s very appropriate for Scotland’s biggest city, which has more green spaces per capita than any other in Europe, with over 90 parks and gardens. For me though, Glasgow is all about Charles Rennie MacKintosh (1868-1928) , the architect, designer and artist who was one of Scotland’s most influential figures. Glasgow is still scattered with examples of his work from the Glasgow School of Art, to the art deco houses, WindyHill and the Hill House, (a National Trust property that is open to the public) and Scotland Street School, which is also now a museum open to the public. You can even have tea in one of the city centre tea rooms he designed, now known as Mackintosh at the Willow.
If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Scotland you may well be able to find great hotel deals. Glasgow is less popular as a tourist destination than Edinburgh but every bit as good to visit.
Why would you visit Dundee? Scotland’s fourth-largest city is on the Firth of Tay estuary, was an important centre for shipbuilding and for jute-manufacture. Today it’s home to two nautical museums, the first for the RRS Discovery, Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition ship which was built in Dundee and the 19th-century warship HM Frigate Unicorn, built in Chatham Kent, but moved to Dundee in 1873 where it was a reserve training ship for the Navy. On the same regenerated waterfront, there’s the V&A Dundee which opened in 2018 and is used both to host major visiting exhibitions and as a showcase for Scottish heritage.
A University City, Dundee has a lively restaurant scene and a thriving arts centre. The Verdant Works offers a unique insight into the city’s jute-manufacturing past, with working machinery manned by helpful volunteers together with a series of exhibitions showing what life was like for the women who worked there.
Scottish Country Vacations
If you prefer a country vacation and are willing to drive, Scotland has plenty of options. On the East coast, you can choose to stay in pretty coastal towns and villages like Arbroath, Ellie or St Andrews (excellent for golfers!). You’ll find fresh seafood, quaint fishing villages and unspoilt landscapes.
There are over 130 malt and grain distilleries in Scotland and you’ll find a wealth of whisky distilleries almost anywhere you go in the Country. Some have tours for the public and tasting opportunities. Just make sure that you don’t drive after a tasting experience but find a nearby great local hotel.
While Loch Ness and Loch Lomand are perhaps the best known of the Scottish lochs, there are a total of over 31,000 freshwater lochs to explore – inland lakes that range in size from an area of 56km downward. Often stunningly beautiful, the lochs are great places to use as a base for an outdoors activity holiday as they are mostly in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, with great hiking opportunities to clear your head after the whisky tasting! Check out our review of Stonefield Castle on Loch Fyne for a great example of what to look for.
As a Maclean, I love to visit the Western Isles. Mull, one of the larger islands, is the home of the Maclean clan – and Duart Castle, which featured in the Sean Connery film Entrapment, is our clan headquarters. Apart from the castle, there’s plenty to see and do on Mull and on the surrounding islands. The main town in Mull is Tobermory, with a row of brightly coloured fishermen cottages lining the seafront. The inspiration for the children’s show Ballamory, it really does look like a picturebook town. From Mull, take a boat out to Iona, Staffa and the Treshnish isles. Iona is a religious centre even today and has a sense of total tranquillity. Staffa is an uninhabited island that is home to the world-famous Fingal’s Cave. Known for its unique natural acoustic and stunning appearance, it is formed of hexagonally jointed basalt columns from a volcanic lava flow. And the Treshnish isles are of particular interest to bird lovers with everything from Golden Eagles and Barnacle Geese to Puffins and with sea life including dolphins and seals.
For walkers, the nearby island of Skye is particularly popular. It’s known for rugged landscapes and there is a range of hikes from easy beach walks through to hikes up the Black Cuillins, the UK’s most challenging mountain range. You can reach Skye by bridge from the mainland and the main town of Portree provides a great base to explore the island with harbourside pubs, boutiques and restaurants.
So, whether you are looking for a city break, a coastal escape or just a few days in the countryside, Scotland has it all to offer.
Disclosure: Post sponsored by MyHotelBreak, all content is editorially given.