Travel has changed in 2021 and more and more people are choosing to stay in the UK and explore different parts of England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales instead of travelling abroad. Scotland is a fabulous place to visit for a weekend, staycation or longer trip. With amazing coastlines, mountains, lochs, villages, towns, cities and islands to explore, you will not get bored.
I invited fellow travel bloggers to share their experience of staycations in Scotland that they have enjoyed. I hope you find some inspiration for when we are allowed to take a holiday again.
For now, travel is not permitted. Our content is intended as inspiration for future visits only. This article refers to a visit or visits made before the travel restrictions put in place to deal with the 2020–21 Covid-19 outbreak around the world. Please take into account the advice from your local government before planning any travel and click here to see the current UK government advice regarding Covid-19
Where to go for the Best Staycations in Scotland
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, a fantastic place to visit for a few days and a city that requires repeat visits to see it all – no two trips are quite alike. In Spring it’s a lovely time to take in the architecture, the winter is cold but early evenings make the city light up and Hogmanay (Scotland’s New Year) is a celebration never forgotten, while Summer is home to Festivals like the Fringe and International Festival. If you want Art, comedy, film, music or science, it’s all here.
Day to day, Edinburgh is reach in attractions. You can visit Edinburgh castle on the hill, walk the mile, visit the Queen’s royal residence at Holyrood Park, or climb Arthur’s Seat just outside the city for stunning views to the sea.
Architecture lovers will love strolling the old town and Harry Potter lovers will enjoy seeing the café JK Rowling wrote at, and real inspiration for Diagon Alley. There’s Harry Potter tours and ghost tours too.
Art fans will want to check out the Scottish National Gallery (or the Portrait or the Modern Art) and museum fans can head to the National Museum.
And don’t get me started on the food and drink – chocolate tour and whisky tours, restaurants from tasty street food to fine dining, classic afternoon tea at places like The Dome, the list goes on.
Even the accommodation is swanky with everything from quirky hostels, through chic, bijou hotels to 5-star dames. There’s really something here for everyone.
By Dave from Dave Chant
Isle of Skye
If you’re looking for a magical setting for your staycation, there is perhaps no place better than Scotland’s Isle of Skye. This island is home to dramatic scenery and world-class attractions that must be seen to be believed.
Skye is a fantastic destination for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers, providing some of the best trails in the UK. Don’t miss a trek up to the Old Man of Storr and also allow some time to complete the famous Quiraing circuit. Both hikes will get your blood pumping and offer some of the best views on the island.
If history is more your thing, there are also several castles on the Isle of Skye, all of which charm in their own way. Whilst visitors are likely to have heard of Dunvegan Castle and Gardens, more off the beaten track spots such as Knock Castle are also well worth a visit.
Portree is the main hub on the island and arguably the best place to stay if you want easy access to amenities and restaurants. The Portree Hotel is ideally located within the centre of town and provides a cosy highland hideaway for guests.
Make sure you check out the food in the onsite Antlers Restaurant, it offers delicious local specialities.
By Sheree from Winging the World
If you are looking for accommodation, take a look at these Airbnbs on the Isle of Skye.
While East Lothian is a popular day trip from Edinburgh, the region has lots of lovely spots worth planning a full weekend trip to experience.
The most popular destination in East Lothian is North Berwick. This Scottish town has pastel homes and colourful beach huts, stretches of golden sand and secluded bays.
If you like the birds, check out The Scottish Seabird Centre and consider the catamaran cruise to the Isle of May.
If you want to get up close and personal with the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets, check out the tour of Bass Rock. This striking steep-sided volcanic rock can be seen from the beach. Why is it so white? Bird poo. Or is it? Join the cruise tour to find out.
Dunbar is a quieter seaside town less than 25 minutes away along the coast. It’s a fun spot for young families with East Link Family Park and the gorgeous Belhaven Beach.
This wee town has a historic harbour with boats bobbing about the water. Its history is interesting too, with its name deriving from the words summit fort.
If history is your thing, add Linlithgow Palace in West Lothian to your itinerary. Home to royals in the 15th and 16th century, these ruins can be toured and were used as one of the Netflix movie, the Outlaw King’s filming locations.
By Gemma from Everything Edinburgh
Choose from some of these great Airbnbs in East Lothian.
Located close to Ballantrae, just under two hours south of Glasgow by car, Glenapp Castle is the perfect romantic weekend getaway. As you drive the long approach road through mossy woodland you know you are in for something special.
Glenapp has 17 luxurious bedrooms as well as a drawing room, library and large grounds which guests can use. Only open to hotel and restaurant guests, the castle is intimate and has a friendly atmosphere.
There are two onsite restaurants. A fine dining restaurant located in the castle which is priced accordingly and within the grounds, an old glasshouse has been restored and turned into a more informal place to eat with menu more akin to a gastro pub.
It is easy to spend a weekend not leaving the hotel or its grounds, but the sites listed below are worth leaving your luxurious surroundings to see.
Further south west is Portpatrick, a pretty fishing village with colourful traditional houses. A trip here can be combined with Bladnoch Whisky Distillery and Corsewall lighthouse. The latter has sweeping views across to Northern Ireland (on a clear day) and the restaurant in the old lighthouse keeper’s cottage is a perfect stop for lunch.
Further north is Culzean Castle and Girvan, where boat trips to Ailsa Craig depart. Boat trips are best booked in advance either through Glenapp or one of the operators at the harbour in Girvan.
Public transport is limited so the best way to get to the hotel and around the local area is by rental car.
By Kristin from Adventures with Ensuite
Glencoe in Scotland is one of the best places in the UK for a staycation!
Dramatic scenery, secret lochs, epic hikes, cosy pubs, wild deer and beautiful waterfalls mean that Glencoe is an outdoor lovers paradise. Not to mention it is just a 2-hour drive from Glasgow.
There are plenty of things to see and do in Glencoe. Photographers will enjoy the various Instagram spots in Glencoe such as the magical Glen Etive waterfall and the magnificent Buachaille Etive Mòr. It’s hard not to admire the scenery and you may even recognise parts of Glencoe from films such as James Bond’s Skyfall, as well as Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban.
Adventure lovers and thrill seekers may want to bag one of the many munros (hills over 3000 feet), attempt the terrifying scramble of Aonach Eagach or have a go at ice climbing at the national ice climbing centre in Kinlochleven.
If you are looking for a more relaxing UK staycation, you can enjoy scenic drives and cosy drinks with wonderful views such as at Kingshouse Hotel, finished off with watching the sunset by Loch Leven.
Many people simply drive through Glencoe on their way to Fort William or the isle of Skye. However, Glencoe is a wonderful destination in its own right and is a perfect place for a UK staycation.
By Anna from My Travel Scrapbook
There are lots of Airbnbs to check out in the Glencoe area.
Scotland is home to some of the friendliest places in the world, making it an ideal destination for a weekend getaway. Glasgow offers visitors striking architecture, refreshing art spaces and museums, and a mouthwatering culinary scene.
Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city, meaning there is plenty to do in one weekend. One of the best ways to get around the city is to take a Hop-on Hop-off bus to get to the major attractions. It’ll save you money on taxis and you can get all the highlights in one loop. Enjoy the eclectic mixture of art at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in the west end, then the natural beauty of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, and then enjoy the stunning architecture of The Lighthouse, Scotland’s home for design and architecture.
One tip for visiting Scotland is to enjoy the food and live music! Glasgow doesn’t just have beautiful looking art, but is known for the music coming from every corner. In 2008, Glasgow was named the UK’s first UNESCO City of Music! Visit Ashton Lane, a cobblestone pedestrian street, for a variety of bars, pubs, and eateries – typically with music included!
The charming personality makes Glasgow a great weekend break staycation in the United Kingdom!
By Pamela from The Directionally Challenged Traveler
There are some great Airbnbs in Glasgow
If you are looking for a laid-back staycation surrounded by nature and history, try the market town of Kelso in the Borders. Sitting on the confluence of the Rivers Tweed and Teviot, Kelso may look like a quiet place to visit, there is plenty to see and do.
Filled with shops, coffee shops and restaurants, Kelso prides itself on its range of independent stores. There are very few high street names but you still have a great variety to choose from. Try Seasons or Cafe U for coffee or lunch and Cobbles or Lemon & Thyme for delicious dinners. You can buy fresh meat at one of the two butchers, fresh fish from the fishmongers or divine cakes from the Dessert Diva.
Near the centre of Kelso is Kelso Abbey. A stunning ruin of Romanesque architecture was founded in 1128. Not much is left of the monastery which used to occupy the site, but the west tower shows how impressive the Abbey was when it was in full use. It is one of four abbeys in the Borders with others in Melrose, Jedburgh and Dryburgh, just outside Kelso.
There are two castles in Kelso, the ruins of Roxburghe Castle and across the river the magnificent Floors Castle. Built in the 1720’s, Floors Castle sits in beautifully landscaped gardens with walks and cycle trails, a walled garden, a Millennium Garden and an Adventure Playground for children. As the castle is the family home of the 11th Duke of Roxburghe and the largest inhabited castle in Scotland only parts of the castle itself are open to the public. You can wander through rooms and admire the art, porcelain and tapestries in the grand rooms with amazing views over the Tweed towards the Cheviot Hills.
There are plenty of walks around Kelso taking you through the fields and along the riverbanks. One popular route takes you from the town centre along the old railway either towards Coldstream or out of town towards Heiton. For sporty people, you can visit Schloss Roxburghe and try the 18-hole championship golf course, or try fishing, clay pigeon shooting, cycling or horse-riding.
by Larch from The Silver Nomad
Aberdeen may not be the most well-known city in Scotland but it has a lot to offer to those looking for a weekend break in the UK.
Located in the north of the country this city is just the right size to give you plenty of things to do without being too overwhelming. Aberdeen is surrounded by incredible nature such as the Cairngorm Mountains and the beginning of the Scottish highlands.
Spend the day by the beach and see the seals or go on a boat tour for some whale and dolphin watching. If the weather isn’t cooperating you should visit the Aberdeen Maritime Museum or the Aberdeen Art Gallery.
Of course, no trip to Aberdeen is complete without a trip to a traditional pub. Visit one of the three Brewdog pubs in town which offer incredible craft beer that is brewed locally. You can even go on a guided tour through the brewery if you’re up for it.
If beer is not something you’re interested then add one of the famous local whiskey distilleries to your itinerary instead. Some of the best whiskey in the world is made in Aberdeen and its surroundings so make sure to take a bottle home as a present.
Aberdeen is known for its impressive castles which are located in the countryside. You’ll love Dunnottar Castle with its impressive cliffside location. Don’t forget to take your camera because this place is absolutely amazing.
By Victoria from Guide Your Travel
If you are looking from accommodation, have a look at these Airbnbs in Aberdeen.
Inverness is ideal for a weekend break, there’s so much going on in the area that it’s the perfect taste of the Highlands. Inverness itself is a gorgeous Scottish city packed full of charm. Wander the streets to pick up some treats and head over to the Ness Islands to promenade as the Victorians would have done. Within the city, Inverness Castle is great to climb up for a look over it and the Botanic Gardens are also a lovely visit.
There are some great places to visit around the city, the top one has to be atmospheric Culloden. Here, the last stand of the Jacobites witnessed the death of 1600 men and there’s something decidedly eery in the land here. It is a wonderful place to visit though, so evocative and packed full of history brought alive by the staff and the interactive museum.
Inverness is also the ideal base for a day trip to Loch Ness and a chance to spot the legendary Loch Ness Monster. Take a trip out on this quirky coloured lake and over to the wonderful Urquhart Castle. Inverness is perfect for family holidays in Scotland and weekend breaks for everyone.
by Nichola from Globalmouse Travels
Nestled below Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the United Kingdom, the area around Fort William is full of scenic hikes and train journeys. The town itself might not be the prettiest or the most interesting but the beauty of its surrounding countryside more than makes up for it.
The challenge of climbing Ben Nevis should not be underestimated but the views from the top are worth the hard slog. If you are an experienced hiker consider taking one of the longer and more challenging routes up the North Face. These routes should only be attempted in clear weather.
Not far from Fort William, Glen Nevis and Glencoe National Park also has many beautiful hikes. Glencoe’s scenery is dramatic and best of all these amazing views can even be experienced from the car parks dotted along the A82.
A trip on the Jacobite steam train (maybe better know as the Hogwarts Express from Harry Potter) to Mallaig is a more relaxed outing. The trip pretty much takes a whole day including a couple of hours in Mallaig where it is possible to take a boat trip to see seals. Sightings are (nearly) guaranteed.
Most activities in the area are weather dependent. However, one good option for a rainy day is a visit to Inverlochy Castle restaurant for afternoon tea or lunch.
May to October is the best time to visit for hiking but the region can be visited at any time of year.
by Kristin from Adventures with Ensuite
Dunkeld and Birnam
The villages of Dunkeld and Birnam are a gem of a destination tucked away in Perthshire, the Gateway to the Highlands. Sitting on the bank of the River Tay, they offer so much for a staycation.
Surrounded by hills and forests with great walking, hiking and mountain bike tracks for the adventurous, you can immerse yourself in nature. Look out for hawks, eagles, ospreys and falcons soaring overhead, shy red and roe deer that stroll through the woodland or red squirrels who have made their homes in the trees.
Take to the waters for a bit of stand-up paddle-boarding or angling for salmon on the Tay, or fish for trout in nearby lochs.
You can visit Dunkeld Cathedral which dates back to the early 1300s. Although it was partly destroyed during the Reformation in the 1560s, the roof of the choir is still intact and
Beatrix Potter spent summers in nearby Dalguise where she explored the countryside and explore the nature around her. If you are travelling with young children, treat them to a trip to the Beatrix Potter Exhibition and Garden. With dressing up in different costumes, storytelling, puzzles, drawing and colouring their favourite characters from the books, there is plenty for kids to do.
You can take the train from Edinburgh Waverley Station (2 hrs) or Glasgow Queen Street Station (1 hour 20 minutes) directly to the Dukeld and Birkham station. If you are driving, it is just off the A9, an 1 hour 20 minutes journey from Glasgow or Edinburgh.
by Larch from The Silver Nomad
The Scottish Borders is a great place for a weekend break, giving you a taste of Scotland without the long journey north. Melrose makes the perfect base for exploring the wider region, but there’s plenty to do right here in the town, which lies beneath the iconic Eildon Hills.
Melrose Abbey is one of the best places to visit in the Scottish Borders, and not just because legend has it that Robert the Bruce’s heart was buried here on his request. Founded by David I, the abbey dates back to 1136, and the ruins today are truly spectacular. Keep an eye out for the famous bagpipe-playing pig sculpture! There’s also a small museum next door which houses an impressive collection of medieval artefacts found in the abbey. Beside the abbey, you’ll find Priorwood, a historic walled garden with organic apple orchards and plenty of rustic charm. Harmony Garden is worth a visit too, with its far-reaching panoramas over the hills and town – visit in summer to see the flowers in full bloom.
Just 3 miles from Melrose is the famous Abbotsford House, which was once home to the renowned Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott. It’s a tranquil spot on the River Tweed, with woodland walks to enjoy after an audio tour of the house. Inside there are several staterooms to wander through, which are little changed since Scott’s time. Whilst you’re in Melrose, head up to Scott’s View for some of the best scenery in the Borders.
by Heather from Conversant Traveller
Isle of Mull
Isle of Mull is the second largest island in Inner Hebrides, next to the famous Isle of Skye. Hugging the west coast of Scotland, Isle of Mull is one of the gorgeous islands, and must visit destination in UK.
Whether you are looking for stunning coastline, plenty of lochs, lovely beaches, postcard-perfect towns or a plethora of wildlife watching, there are an array of interesting things to do on the Isle of Mull.
Explore the capital of Isle of Mull – Tobermory. The colourfully laid houses and pubs on the main street is insta worthy place not to be missed. If you fancy a walk, take a 3 mile hike to Tobermory lighthouse, and enjoy the stunning views.
Want to hop over to another island? Take a 10 minute ferry from Fionnphort to Iona Island, famously known for Iona Abbey and spiritual retreats.
With 300 miles of coastline, there are plenty of beaches ranging from crystal clear to secluded ones. For a Caribbean look-alike, visit Calgary Bay or Knockvologan Beach. Grab your binoculars and join the wildlife tours and spot golden eagles, otters, grey seals, moles, deers and a lot more.
The Isle of Mull can be reached by a 45-minute ferry ride from Oban. The laid back island offers more than what fits into a weekend getaway, but is certainly one of the places not to be missed in UK.
By Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple
I hope you have enjoyed this tour around some of best places to take a staycation in Scotland. Do you have a favourite place to visti for a break in Scotland? Let me know in the comments below.
Larch lives a semi-nomadic life. Her life changed 20 years ago when a silly accident left her with restricted use of her right arm and neck and was told she would never work again. She turned her life around, retrained herself and set up as a self-employed website designer. This allowed her to work wherever she was in the world. Her passion for travel led her to start up her travel blog The Silver Nomad, to inspire over 40s to explore new destinations and expand their horizons. In 2019 Larch qualified as a CAA Drone Pilot which she combines with her travels.