For some people visiting Scotland is a long cherished dream and the media is full of Top 10s: castles, views, beaches, stone circles, …
So it’s very understandable that you might start with a list of Must Sees that might include:
- Ring of Brodgar and Callanish Standing Stones
- Edinburgh, Dunnotar and Eilean Donan Castles
- Culloden Battlefield
- Rosslyn Chapel
- Loch Ness
- The Storr and the Fairy Pools.
Of course you could hit all these hot spots, but by fastest routes and assuming that ferries to Orkney, Lewis/Harris and Mull/Iona are waiting for you to roll onto them without stopping, it’s a full day and a half (36 hours) surface travel. That out of a 10 to 14 day trip to Scotland would be crazy. So unless you are planning on no sleep or you’ve a helicopter ….
Scotland Time was founded by a group of people who think that Scotland is best experienced slower: there is such a wealth of things to see and do that you can spend 3-7 days anywhere and find enough of interest.
But where might those 3-7 day bases be?
I mentally divide Scotland up into
- Big Cities : Edinburgh, Glasgow – plus Stirling, Dundee, Aberdeen.
- South agricultural : Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire, Clyde valley, Borders
- East agricultural : Fife, Perthshire, Angus, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Black Isle, Cromarty, Easter Ross
- West and central highlands : Argyll and Lorn, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Cairngorm, Great Glen, Ardnamuchan/Mallaig.
- Remote Highlands and Far North : Caithness, Sutherland, Wester Ross
- Inner Isles : Arran, Mull/Iona, Skye/Raasay, Islay/Jura/Colonsay
- Outer Isles : Lewis/Harris, Uists/Benbecula/Eriskay, Orkney, Shetland
- Smaller Isles : Coll/Tiree, Eigg/Rum/Muck/Canna, Barra
More information on these is in our Round Up post series (see links at end of this post)
Now I think if you are looking for a rounded view of Scotland, forget the list of Must Sees approach: pick one area from each bullet point per 3-7 days of your stay and make a base. Explore and move on. You’ll not run out of things to see/do. They might not be things on the TripAdvisor Top Tens: but you didn’t want to follow the herd, did you?
Obviously a holiday that goes to Shetland, The Borders, Western Isles and Cairngorms is going to be a crazy (and expensive) amount of travelling so look at a map and try to move on 100-150 miles only in a day. That means you can see a few sights on your way and change bases feeling relaxed : it is supposed to be a holiday not a route March!
I do think that a visit to an island should be part of the Scottish experience. There is something about island time that is different. I’m thinking of the islands connected by ferry (so I’m not counting Skye) : lots of the rhythms of life change to fit with the ferry timetable. So whether it’s just a day trip from Skye to Raasay, or a hop to Arran while visiting Ayrshire, do try to have some Island Time. You might never want to go home.
Explore. Discover. Follow a sign. Just stop and stare.
You won’t run out of things to see/do. I live in Aberdeenshire and there is a super series of leaflets coverings Castles, Distilleries, Stone Circles, Pictish Stones, Victorian Heritage, Coastal Villages. Add walks into fantastic scenery into the hills and along the coasts and a heap of wildlife watching opportunities, stay a week. Stay two. Come back again and again.
The same is true of every area : Skye is more than the ‘big five’ MisAdvisor of The Storr, Quirang, Neist Point, Fairy Pools, Fairy Glen: what about the castles, museums, dinosaurs, Elgol, Loch Coruisk, MacLeods Maidens, …? What about the other waterfalls? It’s not a two night stop: it’s a week. I reckon the Trotternish peninsula is two-three days – and that’s without any serious hill walks.
So, relax. You are going to find your own bit of Scotland to treasure and, hopefully, share with your ScotlandTime friends. You might get places all to yourself: and you can share your delight (or keep somewhere special tucked away in your heart). Scotland is here to share her intricate loveliness with you.
Find your Scotland.
More information at
I’ll add links to the remainder of Scotland when I’ve written them.