As a Scottish travel blogger I get asked a lot about where to visit in Scotland from people who are just beginning to plan their trip. They have an idea of a couple of places but want to know where to go to see the locations they see on TV and in magazines such as the vast lochs, the mighty mountains and the cute colourful villages. Often people who visit will take a day trip in Scotland, or several, from their base in one of the cities which is a great idea. It means of course that you can settle into your accommodation knowing you won't be moving for a while. A good idea is to spend a few days in one city, exploring and taking day trips to nearby sights and attractions then moving to another city in another area and doing the same. This A-Z of places to take a day trip in Scotland are some of my favourites. I've included some possible bases where you could stay while taking day trips, mostly cities and towns which have all the amenities you will need including shops to buy food, pubs, restaurants and petrol stations.
This island in the Firth of Clyde is nicknamed Scotland in minuture. As it crosses the highland boundary line the north of the island is dramatic and awe inspiring not disimilar to the mountain ranges in the highlands. The south is filled with lush green fields, cute villages and beautiful beaches. If your short on time while your visiting Scotland but want to head to an island this one is a good bet. You can catch a train from Glasgow which takes just over an hour, arrive in Adrossan and hop on a ferry to Brodick on Arran. The ferry takes 55 minutes. Even if you have all the time in the world I’d still highly recommend Arran, it’s my favourite so far.
Possible bases - Glasgow, Largs, Ayr
Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis, can be found not far from the town of Fort William and stands at an impressive 1346 metres high. One to tick off your bucket list if you're feeling energetic or jump on the Gondola on the nearby Aonach Mor for breathtaking views over the Nevis Range and the Scottish highlands.
Possible bases - Fort William
The Cairngorms national park is a haven for winter sports but the summer is also a great time to stick on your hiking boots and explore. You can take a guided hike to discover the arctic fauna on the mountain trails, paddle board or canoe the River Spey or visit one of the five whisky distilleries. If you are lucky you can spot wildlife such as wildcats, ospreys and mountain hares. The pretty town of Aviemore is the perfect base to explore this stunning mountain range.
Possible bases - Aviemore, Pitlochry, Newtonmore
This historic city is a hub of design and creative talent. With a brand new £1 billion redesign of the waterfront taking shape and the highly inticipated new V+A Museum of Design opening in 2018 this city is becoming a top destination, in fact it’s recently been ranked number 5 in the Wall Street Journal’s “Worldwide Hot Destinations In 2018”. Once the home to “jute, jam and journalism” the city is now the country’s first UNESCO City of Design.
Possible bases - Dundee itself, Fife, Perth
A beautifully cute sea view cottage on the Fife Coastal Path
I adore everything about the East Neuk of Fife, luckily I get to visit often as I live close by. The white washed houses, slotted in between the colourful ones in bright blues, oranges and pinks are cute as a button. They line the harbour front where fishing boats bob gently in the water and the seabirds fly overhead hoping for a bite to eat. The little wonky lanes that head uphill to the small Main Street are home to artists, craftsmen and holiday homes. Up on the Main Street are some lovely cafes which have excellent reputations amongst the locals and I find the locals always know best when it comes to food and where to eat. The East Neuk is an area of Fife that is hugely popular with Scottish families and couples who want a weekend away but is often overlooked by the international visitor who will land in Edinburgh or Glasgow and head up north to the Highlands. I can’t recommend this area enough. Pittenweem and also the surrounding fishing villages of Anstruther, St Monans, Elie and Crail should definitely be added into your Scotland itinerary, just look at the photos!
Planning your Scotland itinerary is an exciting time, researching builds the anticipation. Deciding where to go, which castles you want to explore, what lochs you want to see, which mountains you want to climb (or look at!). It’s a fun task and the perfect excuse you get your travel party together with a nice bottle of wine and a big notepad. Perhaps you've been dreaming about this trip for years. Maybe you have been tracing your ancestors in Scotland and you’ve discovered you have some Scottish blood. So you've decided to take the plunge and book a vacation. But where on earth do you start? This guide will help make the process easier, guiding you through the vital steps to make sure your holiday runs smoothly and you have the time of your life.
In this article, while planning your Scotland itinerary, you will research
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A wee note before we begin. I’m old school and love to write things down on a paper with a pen. I know, weird. I spend so long on computers and phones for my blog that when I get the chance to be creative with pens and paper I grab it. All of your Scotland Itinerary can of course be done on the computer, in word documents and on google maps if you’d prefer. I like it on paper so I can keep it all in a pretty folder , then when I get back I can add postcards, leaflets and photos so I have a nice folder filled with memories of my trip. I've attached a file at the foot of this blog which you can print out to help you plan.
The farm shops in Fife have it easy. The Kingdom of Fife’s vast coastline and fertile farmland means there is ample supply of locally produced food and drink. The long and glorious rugged coastline and the waters of the Firth of Forth and the North Sea supply fresh prawns, lobster, crabs, razor fish, clams and langoustine which are used in restaurants across the region as well as Michelin star restaurants and five star hotels. There are whisky and gin distilleries such as Eden Mill, Kingsbarn Distillery and Lindores Abbey who use fresh local water supplies to make their award winning drinks. There is also a cheese makers, bakeries, butchers, a buffalo farm, sauce makers, jam makers, chutney makers and even a Chilli Farm. Fife’s Farm shops certainly don’t have a struggle finding top class produce to line their shelves and luckily for the customers we can go to these farm shops and fill our baskets knowing we are supporting the local economy and also getting a pretty damn fine selection of goodies too. These four farm shops in Fife do it brilliantly well.
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I love that each of these farm shops support local producers by stocking their products and promoting them in their shops. I love that each of the owners are passionate about the food they sell and about their business. Of course I also love that I can go to one place and get everything I need and it doesn’t involve a multi story car park, a tonne of unnecessary plastic and an abundance of processed junk food.
Nothing beats opening the doors to these farm shops, smelling the fresh handmade breads, picking up your wicker basket, selecting your colourful veg (which are sometimes wonky and always mouthwatering because unlike supermarkets this amazing veg doesn’t have to be perfectly uniform in size and shape), filling your paper bag, browsing the meat counters, tasting the cheese, selecting the perfect wine. It’s a misconception that these farm shops are expensive. Sure, there are some items which are expensive, but you are paying for quality and the knowledge that the best ingredients were used. There are definitely bargains to be had though, I always buy my fruit and veg here, where else can you get 8 massive, fresh from the ground, carrots for £1?
These four farm shops in Fife below are all fantastic. Have you visited any? What did you think? Love them as much as I do?
Looking for things to do in Perthshire?
**Updated November 2018**
Perthshire has so many attractions - castles, walks, mountains; I could go on and on...
Over the years, during family holidays and while travelling the region for my Scottish travel blog I've fallen head over heels in love with the area so I thought I'd write one huge post, detailing all the things to do in Perthshire, to help you while you are planning your itinerary. I'm sure, once you are there, among the rolling hills, standing on top of a mountain or by a loch watching the sunset you will love it just as much as me. I've split the list into parts, so each covers a main village or town and the surrounding area.
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The Beatrix Potter Exhibition
Long summers spent in Birnum and Dunkeld provided Beatrix Potter with the inspiration for her tales of Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher and Mrs Tiggy Winkle and in this delightful centre you can learn all about her upbringing while the kids put on puppet shows, experience a Victorian classroom and find the characters hidden in the gardens.
Open daily from 10am-4.30pm, entry £3 per person, up to £12 per family.
10 Station Road, Birnum, Dunkeld PH8 0DS
A grand and beautiful Cathedral said to hold the relics of St Columba after they were removed from Iona during the Viking raids, half is now owned by Historic Enviroment Scotland whilst the Church is still in use today. It’s easy to see why this is known as the most romantic Cathedral in Scotland, the gothic architecture and the ruined nature of the older half, with its ground now layered with grass is extremely atmospheric.
Open April-September 10am-5.30pm, October to March 10am-4pm, free entry
10 Cathedral Street, Dunkeld, PH8 0AW
The Isle of Skye is probably Scotland's most popularisland and for good reason, it's a stunningly beautiful island with a long and fascinating history. The largest island in the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland, has a romantic and mystical reputation too with fairies and giants believed to be roaming the hills and glens. The famous Skye Boat Song, which tells the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie's escape to Skye after the Battle of Culloden, help to invoke a longing in travelers from every corner of the world. It's an island at the very top of many Scottish bucket lists but what exactly do you do when you get there? Read on to discover my top things to do in Skye and find out why this stunningly beautiful island is so magical and why you should visit.
The Cuillin Mountain Range
The Black Cuillins consist of 11 munros (mountains over 3000 feet) and 16 other summits. Not for the faint hearted these mighty hills should only be attempted by the experienced or under the guidance of a qualified instructor. In the centre of the island, they are a spectacular sight being both dark and dramatically shaped with sharp peaks and steep drops. If mountain climbing is your thing this range will test you and give you a thrill like no other (I'm told, as I wouldn't dream of it!)
The Red Cuillins on the other hand are far gentler and therefore far more popular. Whereas The Black Cuillins is an alpine mountain range and not suitable for hill walking the Red Cuillins can be hiked if you know what your doing. I highly recommend hiring a local guide who will make sure you have a fantastic day and will keep you safe in the hills.
Finding accommodation for your NC500 road trip is easy, if you plan ahead. The route is popular and North Coast 500 accommodation fills up fast so booking well in advance will mean you can get the hotel/campsite/B+B you want.
No matter what your budget is there is accommodation that will suit you perfectly. There are luxury hotels, basic hostels, top notch B+B’s, guest houses and campsites with beautiful views. It’s worth gathering your group together and sitting down with a pen and paper. Write down everybody’s top priorities. Does it need to be accessible? Pet friendly? Write down exactly what you want. Read reviews too to make sure people enjoy staying there. It’s fun finding accommodation, there is so much to choose from.
When I was planning my accommodation I was looking for something a little different, I prefer something quirky but no matter what your taste and budget is the best way to begin planning is with a map. If you are beginning at the start point in Inverness judge how long you want to be driving each day. If you have towns/villages/areas already in mind then use google maps to give you the time to each. If you think you’ll manage to drive that distance then you can go ahead and begin to look at accommodation. If you don’t have any preferences you can have a look at my suggestions here.
Then the fun begins
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Updated April 2019
Are you planning to visit Scotland and looking for some inspiration? How about watching some of the best Scottish movies? This list of films will have your booking your trip before you can say "Take me to the mountains". Whether it's a movie set in Scotland, a Scottish historical romance or movies about those Scottish Highlanders this list has something for everyone. The film industry here in Scotland is booming and with news of new film studios in the pipeline I'm excited to watch this list grow. Rumour has it the new studio will be in Leith, Edinburgh, in a giant warehouse which was used to film scenes in the new Avengers movie. This is fantastic news and should mean even more amazing Scottish movies! Since I first wrote this list in 2017 there has been a massive amount of new films coming out, I'm so happy film producers and location scouts are beginning to notice how absolutely stunning the landscape is here. Take a gander at the films below, I've included a few TV series's as well, as these should not be missed.
Shakespeare’s tale of murder, guilt, witches and tyranny hardly shows off the most beautiful side of Scotland but it’s a well known story and definitely one of watch. I particularly like the 2015 version with Michael Fassbender playing a rather dishy Macbeth. Receiving a prophecy from three witches that one day he will become the King of Scotland, he is consumed by ambition, kills the king and spirals into madness. Filming took place across the UK and the Isle of Skye appears regularly.
The Village of Falkland in Fife, Scotland, was used several times as an Outlander filming location and it's easy to see why when you visit. The traditional stone cottages that line the streets were built in the 17th and 18th century and there are 28 listed buildings including the impressive renaissance Falkland Palace. The door frames of the cottages are small which is typical of the era, there are original marriage lints above several of the doors and some of the cottages even have thatched roofs. The winding cobbled lanes, colourful hanging baskets and quirky artistic touches make Falkland a popular day trip for locals. You read more about Fife here
Filming for season one began in October 2013 and Falkland was used as Inverness in 1946. The real Inverness was not suitable as the buildings and roads are now modern and not exactly the look they were going for!
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Much of the filming concentrated on the main Square. Claire and Frank spent their second honeymoon in Mrs Baird's B+B after returning from the war. The Covenanter's Hotel was used as the B+B and the team didn't have to change much so you will instantly recognise the building. the black window frames were painted a mustard yellow and the white lost outside the front door were painted a matt black.
In the centre of the village you will find the Bruce fountain and you won't be the first to recreate the scene where Jamie's ghost looks up at Claire in the window. Again not much was changed except the horse statues on each corner which are usually red were changed to black using what looked like a black rubber covering.
Walks in Perthshire at any time of the year can be spectacular if you find the right spot.
Each season changes the landscape dramatically. Autumn brings crunchy leaves underfoot and a palette of burnt oranges and chestnut browns. In a region so abundant in stunning forests and woodland you can imagine the spectacular colours the season brings. and people flock to the area to witness it. Summer brings an array of colourful flowers and luscious greenery and villages hang colourful bunting and hold fayres. Winter caps the surrounding mountains with a layer of white and the gateway to the Highlands fills with fans of the snow who are heading north into the mountains. When spring arrives the fields, forests, villages and hills shake off their winter coats and step into the sun with blinking eyes. Spring flowers such as daffodils, tulips and bluebells tentatively emerge and grand houses and castles open open their doors ready for visitors.