If you live one of our Scottish cities, or perhaps dwell in the suburbs of Glasgow or Edinburgh, you probably think you know the place inside out. But, when you think about it, how much of the country have you actually seen? Sure, your hour-long commute on the train allows you do to a fair bit of hill-gazing every day, but when was the last time that you really experienced the countryside? Or breathed in the fresh sea air? Or just wandered without needing to be at a certain place by a certain time? It’s probably been a while.
This summer, in between travelling Eastern Europe and that party weekend in Ibiza, make sure you find time to appreciate Scotland in all its glory. If you’re just visiting us, use this guide to take you somewhere other than Edinburgh Castle – we promise your photographs will be even more impressive.
Best For: Being at one with nature. This National Nature Reserve offers plenty of walking routes and areas to explore, and is thought to be the most beautiful of all the Scottish glens. Glenaffric.org
Food & Drink: The Slaters Arms bar and restaurant is a traditional gem, serving tasty pub grub at reasonable prices. Slatersarms-selfcatering-lochness.com
Sleeping: If you really want to experience nature, try camping. Cannich camping and caravan park is situated at the head of Glen Affric, and has the coolest camping pods which sleep up to three adults, for £39 per night. And, if you get a little chilly, you can always switch to a caravan! Highlandcamping.co.uk
Getting There: Stagecoach run regular bus services from Inverness to Strathglass. Stagecoachbus.com
Best For: Golf, of course! The famous South Ayrshire resort has three links golf courses, a golf academy and a five-star hotel, plus plenty of celebrity visitors during major tournaments like the Open Championship. Turnberryresort.co.uk
Food & Drink: The resort itself has six different bars and restaurants. Expect to pay upwards of £55 for a set menu in 1906 or The James Miller Room, while Tappie Toorie is far more reasonable, with mains between £10-17.
Sleeping: An entry-level room at Turnberry will set you back £300 for a night, but the room does sleep three, so you could split the bill for a £100 treat. Self-catering apartments are also available from £665 for a seven-night stay. Comfortably sleeping six, ￼￼that’s around £110 each for the full week. You do the math.
Getting There: Maybole and Girvan train stations are just ten minutes away from Turnberry. Nationalrail.co.uk
The Isle of Skye
Best For: Taking a dip. The clear blue waters of Skye’s fairy pools may be cold, but they are beautiful, and everyone should experience them at least once. Pack a wetsuit if you’re worried about hypothermia.
Food & Drink: Sea Breezes restaurant in Portree is a great place to sample the local seafood, including mussels, scallops and lobster. Make sure you book in advance – it’s always busy. Seabreezes-skye.co.uk
Sleeping: Portree Independent Hostel is a bright and welcoming place to spend a night, with beds from £17. Hostelskye.co.uk
Getting There: Citylink operate a regular bus service to Skye with returns from £20 with advance booking. Citylink.co.uk
Best For: A little bit of history. Portencross Castle is an ancient monument constructed in 1360 and, during the summer months, it’s open for public exploration. Entry is free and if you visit during the last week in July or first week in August you’ll also get to see the Castle’s contribution to the West Kilbride Scarecrow Festival. Yes, that is a thing. Portencrosscastle.org.uk
Food & Drink: The Waterside restaurant on nearby Ardrossan Road is a great choice, whether you’re sipping hot chocolate by the fire in winter, or cocktails in the garden in summer. The menu is delicious and reasonably priced; a main course averages around £11, with a 3-course lighter menu available for just £11.95. We’d highly recommend the generously portioned chicken caesar salad and a seat in the garden, for the view. Watersideayrshire.com
Sleeping: Portencross Holiday Cottage is a great choice for groups of up to eight. A three-star cottage with a large deck and sea views, it’s the perfect place to chill out away from the hustle and bustle of Glasgow, particularly during a rare sunny week. Portencross-holidaycottage.com
Getting There: This small seaside district in Ayrshire, nestled somewhere between West Kilbride and Largs, is easily accessible from West Kilbride train station. Nationalrail.co.uk