3 Great Scottish Trips To Plan Now
Weaving around the Highlands, the famous West Highland Way is a 516-mile loop that starts at Inverness, taking visitors through Easter Ross, Wester Ross, the Black Isle and up north to Sutherland and Caithness, before journeying back to the city. Travelling through six Scottish regions, set aside ten to 14 days to complete the whole loop, or pick a side and spend a week exploring either the East or West coast. If you fancy, extend your trip to include a stop-over at the beautiful Isle of Skye (see below), which connects to the northwest coast via a bridge.
While in Inverness, make sure to take a 25-minute drive from the city centre to visit Loch Ness. The perfect start to your Highland adventure, the mysterious Loch is a must-see. For more dramatic scenery, journey to the eerie Smoo Cave in Durness, which stands over 50ft tall and can be explored either by boat or on foot. This route also offers plenty of opportunities for hikes and walks, either through the vast forestland or mountains, where you can expect to spot plenty of local wildlife, including the eponymous Highland cow.
The Highlands are home to some of the largest castles in the country. Dunrobin Castle is a grand chateaux-style stately home in Sutherland, which overlooks the Moray Firth. Once a boarding school and home to the Earl of Sutherland, the house and grounds are now open to the public between April and October. In neighbouring Caithness, be sure to visit The Castle & Gardens Of Mey, once a royal residence, which is famous for its walled gardens and view of the Orkney Islands.
Where To Stay
The Torridon is a luxury hotel in Wester Ross. A traditional, castle-like exterior contrasts with a contemporary, stylish design concept, with pops of colour breathing life into the oak panelled rooms. For dining, Bo & Muc offers gastropub-style food, while the hotel’s formal restaurant, 1887, serves up a seasonal tasting menu. The hotel also offers exclusive adventure packages for guests, so if you’re up for a pre-organised hike, cycle or boat ride, then make sure to reserve a spot well in advance.
Located in the village of Gairloch in the north-west Highlands, Shieldag Lodge is a stunning property that offers excellent value. Part of a 26,000-acre estate overlooking the shores of Gairloch, it’s a 90-minute drive from Inverness. The lodge was renovated a few years ago and all 12 bedrooms are filled with unique antiques, traditional Scottish fabrics and luxury furnishings. For a special stay, book the suite which has a four-poster bed, a roll-top bath and beautiful bay windows with sweeping views of the loch. During the summer months, guests can enjoy picnics and croquet on the lawns, while open fires warm the house in the winter. In terms of food, expect hearty full English and Scottish breakfasts, champagne afternoon teas and a varied lunch and dinner menu that features special seafood like loch-fresh langoustine and large scallops.
Scottish Highlands Lodge
Kip Hideaways has just launched Kip With Friends, its collection of larger properties that work especially well for family trips. One of them is Scottish Highlands Lodge in Perthshire, an ‘eco-luxe’ lodge that combines the privacy of a holiday rental with all the bells and whistles of a five-star hotel, such as a private chef and butler and full concierge services. You’ll arrive with a bespoke itinerary tailored to your group’s wishes, whether that’s independent self-catering and walks from the front door or excursions such as wild swimming in lochs, golfing at Gleneagles or local whisky tasting. Surrounded by woodlands and wildflower meadows on a private estate, the lodge itself is calm, with impressive green credentials and contemporary interiors, including four lovely bedrooms.
ISLE OF SKYE
The second largest of Scotland’s islands, Skye is a 50-mile amalgamation of sea cliffs, jagged mountains, huge lakes and vast moors. A beautiful destination for a summer staycation, the scenery is seriously impressive, and there’s no shortage of activities on offer if you’re travelling with younger family members. From London, it takes between ten and 11 hours to reach the island by car, or 14 hours via a sleeper train, though many travellers choose to spend a few nights in Glasgow first.
Once you’ve reached the island, make a beeline for the Quiraing, a huge set of cliffs, and Spar Cave. Corach Beach is one of the prettiest on the island and has several good walking routes, while Dunvegan Castle and Gardens is must-see. There are several natural wonders to see too, such as the Old Man of Storr and the Cuilli. The area is also excellent for spotting wildlife, including red deer, dolphins and puffins. Coral Beach is located in Claigan, a small coastal settlement just north of Dunvegan. A great option for a family walk, the beach is made from white coral-like seaweed that gives the sea the illusion of being a brilliant blue when the sun comes out. Take a picnic to enjoy on the beach, swim out to sea and explore the coastline.
No trip to Skye is complete without visiting Dunvegan Castle, the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland which has been the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years. Visitors can take a tour of the grounds, walk through the beautiful formal gardens and take a boat trip to see the Loch Dunvegan seal colony. The Fairy Pools are a collection of beautiful crystal-clear blue pools on the River Brittle. A great spot for wild swimming, it takes about 40 minutes to reach them on foot from the car park, passing waterfalls and interesting rock formations along the route.
Where To Stay
This family run hotel is in a truly spectacular location. Tucked away on the southern shores of the island, the lodge feels totally remote – you’ll need a car to reach the property, but it’s well worth the journey. Once a 16th-century hunting lodge, the Kinloch is now home to an impressive, stylish hotel that pays homage to its historic roots. Inside, bedrooms have been decorated in colours and textures chosen to reflect Skye's distinctive landscape, while a bar with boardgames awaits in a newly renovated wing. Guests can eat in the restaurant or dine al fresco beside a firepit looking over a nearby loch. Be sure to book a table for Sunday lunch where guests can feast on roast whisky-aged venison, Aberdeen chicken or Highland beef served with all the trimmings.
Mint Croft has two beautiful cottages with some of the best views on the island. Set on the Waternish peninsula of Skye overlooking Loch Snizort, each cottage sleeps two, with lovely antiques, custom furniture, local tweeds and designer linens. Ideal for a remote romantic getaway, book The Blackhouse Cottage which has a traditional turf roof and stone walls nearly a metre thick, an open plan living and dining area, a bathroom with a rain shower, and a spacious bedroom with a super-king bed and sitting room. Guests can relax on the outside patio to take in the views, then fire up the indoor wood burner during the evenings. The Loch Bay, Skye’s Michelin-starred restaurant is nearby, as is The Stein Inn, a lovely pub.
If you’re into food, The Three Chimneys is the place to stay. It’s home to a top-notch restaurant and neighbouring guesthouse. Overlooking Loch Dunvegan in the north-west of the island, it’s the perfect nesting hole for those spending a day or two exploring Skye. Attached to The Three Chimney’s restaurant, House Over-By is located on the edge of Colbost, a small village on the north coast of the island. A stylish place for a couple of nights, there are six luxury suites, all spacious and furnished with super king-size beds and lots of locally crafted design details. Each room also comes with a direct sea view and access to the garden and its pathway to the seashore. The en-suite bathrooms feature a large, double-ended bath and power shower, plus a selection of Temple Spa toiletries, warm bath towels, bathrobes and slippers.
Ideal for a romantic trip for or solo getaway, Supernova is a beautiful house which overlooks Loch Harport. The property was once a chapel and has since been carefully restored with many of the original features intact, including two entrance doors and beautiful arched windows. It has a reversed-level design, so the living areas make the most of the views, while the king-size bedroom sits on the ground floor down a bespoke spiral staircase, complete with its own en-suite. Guests can fire up the BBQ during the summer months and enjoy the welcome hamper which includes a bottle of prosecco.
ABERDEENSHIRE + CAIRNGORMS
On the north-east coast of Scotland, Aberdeenshire has some of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland, with mile-long rugged cliffs and sandy bays. At the centre of the district is Aberdeen where you’ll find excellent galleries and museums, including Aberdeen Art Gallery and Gordon Highlanders Museum, as well as interesting historic houses, many of which date back to ancient times. St Cyrus National Nature Reserve in the east is a particular highlight, as is Dunnottar Castle, perched high on a hill overlooking the sea. From there, you can follow a castle trail and stop off at the most beautiful places – it passes over 260 castles, stately homes and ruins, so make sure to plan your route beforehand. Those seeking adventure should follow the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail, comprised of 120 miles of rugged coastline, then take a dip in the Olympic-sized Stonehaven heated outdoor swimming pool. From October to December, visitors can also take a guided tour around Balmoral Castle.
Where To Stay
If you’re looking for some serious escapism, look no further than the beautiful Fife Arms in Braemar. This pretty village is next to the royal hideaway of Balmoral and is famous in its own right for its Highland Games. Against a backdrop of the majestic mountains of Cairngorms National Park, the hotel dates to the 19th century when it was built by the Duke of Fife as a coaching inn after Queen Victoria’s purchase of Balmoral sent the popularity of Braemar through the roof. As well as the fine-dining restaurant, the hotel contains a spa, pub, cocktail bar, whisky bar, lots of private spaces for group dining and weddings, and some lovely grand public spaces for reading the paper, drinking a coffee or perhaps ordering something a little stronger after a long walk around Braemar’s neighbouring ancient birch woodlands. Picture three-metre-high mahogany fireplaces, tasteful tartan wallpaper, impressive chandeliers and imposing staircases, all set against a truly impressive collection of art – including original Lucian Freuds and Picassos. If you fancy spending the night, there are 42 individually designed bedrooms to choose from.
This beautiful country house retreat is full of style and character. Just outside the small village of Tarland, in a remote corner of Aberdeenshire, guests will feel totally secluded. There are 13 beautiful bedrooms in the main house, plus eight cottages dotted around the estate. Book one of the deluxe rooms which have antique furnishings, a host of luxury amenities and free-standing baths in a spacious ensuite. The interiors have been thoughtfully revamped, while furniture and accessories remain from the original family who lived there in the 1940s. Outside, there are 17 acres of gardens to explore, including a beautiful walled garden and a rock pool, as well as a nine-hole golf course. There’s also an indoor swimming pool, a gym, a tennis court, and a steam room and sauna. Douneside House is the only restaurant in Aberdeenshire to hold a triple AA Rosette, so you can expect excellent food, from six-course tasting menus to a generous breakfast.
This is a great base to explore all Aberdeenshire has to offer, from rolling countryside to world-class golf. Thainstone House hotel is an 18th-century grand family mansion that has been transformed into a country house hotel in Inverurie. Inside, period details blend with modern touches and there’s everything from a spa and pool plus three restaurants and bars to explore – we like the sound of afternoon tea in the Drawing Room, local influences on the menu in The Green Lady restaurant and the selection of local ales and malts in Stockman’s Bar.
Another from Kip Hideaways, this lovely property is on the edge of the peaceful forest village of Nethy Bridge, with the wilderness of the Cairngorms on its doorstep. Inside, the beautifully restored lodge combines eclectic furnishings, traditional features and natural materials that reflect the natural surroundings. Guests can unwind from the journey in the deep Victorian claw-foot bath. With four bedrooms, this is a great base to explore craggy mountains, Caledonian pine forests, towering munros, fast-flowing rivers and lochs by day before returning to the cosy farmhouse kitchen to relax and cook up a feast inspired by the local produce.
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