Most of the travel blogs out there have a blinkered view of Scotland. So, if you believe that the land of the Scots is mostly a thin, straight rainy corridor linking Edinburgh to Loch Ness… you’re right about the rain. Okay, you’re mostly right about the other stuff as well.
But! If you really want to make the most of your holiday in Scotland, consider venturing outside the typical tourist route and visiting some other Scottish gems as well. And no, we are not talking about the Harry Potter bridge.
The Malt Whisky Trail
If you crave a vacation that encapsulates the true spirit of Scotland, ditch the rental and get yourself a public transportation travel pass, because you won’t be in a condition to drive. And yes, by “true spirit” we mean whisky.
The Malt Whisky Trail connects the best whisky distilleries in the world. And all of them happen to be located in the Speyside whisky region.
As you go from distillery to distillery, you will meet families that have been guarding Scotland’s national drink for generations. Distilling whiskey is an intimate art, so they may not be willing to share all the details of their know-how. But they will happily let you indulge in the fruits of their labour.
The nine locations that make the Malt Whiskey trail are fairly close together, so you can complete the whole trail within two days (at least in theory). However, if you really want to take in the distinct lore, traditions, and tastes at each stop, you may want to dedicate a few days to this heritage trail.
The Malt Whisky trail isn’t famous just for the whiskey. The Moray Speyside region is a great place to sample Scottish cuisine, go golfing, clothe yourself in the finest woollens, and enjoy sweeping landscapes.
Walk the Ayrshire Coastal Path
Scotland is famous for its rugged landscapes, gorgeous mountains, magical white sand beaches, and tranquil lakes. Hiking and trekking are some of the best ways to experience the Scottish countryside.
You can try and hike the aforementioned Whisky Trail, but, for obvious reasons, you’re more likely to end up crawling it. So, the Ayrshire Coastal Path may be a better alternative if you want to explore Scotland on foot.
The Ayrshire Coastal Path is one of the best long-distance hiking routes in Scotland. It stretches over rough rocky shores, up gullies, and along cliff-tops. In other words, it is perfect for active and agile holidaymakers.
The trail runs for 100 miles, consists of 12 stages, and takes 6 to 9 days to complete. But you don’t have to walk the whole trail to experience the best it has to offer.
So, including a few stages of the path in your Scotland itinerary is well worth considering. The trail is very-well served by public transport so you can shorten your hike as you please.
The path will take you through many coastal villages and towns. The coast itself is a traditional holiday destination, so it offers a wide choice of accommodation—ranging from 5-star hotels to self-catering and B&Bs. Of course, camping is also an option.
The Ayrshire Coastal path offers spectacular views of the Kintyre peninsula and the islands of the Firth of Clyde. In the coastal town of Largs, there is an award-winning Viking experience centre where you can learn all about Vikings and their history.
The centre is also home to a few people pretending to be real Vikings. Beware: the Black Death and the Justinian Plague have left them paranoid, so they may use their axes and longswords to ‘social distance’ you if you refuse to follow COVID-19 protocols.
Also, the Vikings prefer it if you call ahead (perhaps they are not that good at method acting after all).
The trail is also famous for its many historic castles, including Leburn, Dundonald, Dunure, and Culzean. However, the Coastal Path is best known for the town of Ayr.
Ayr is the birthplace of Robbie Burns—the country’s greatest poet. So, each year, the town hosts the Burns an’ a’ that Festival—a month-long celebration of Scottish culture and heritage as well as Burns’ life.
This arts festival usually takes place in January, so time your Ayrshire coastal adventure accordingly if you want to join in on the fun.
Isle of Skye
Contrary to popular belief, the Glenfinnan Viaduct that carries the Hogwarts Express is not the most magical sight in Scotland. The Isle of Skye is.
It is famous for its outstanding landscapes, rich history, picturesque fishing villages, and the most enchanting natural pools in Europe.
Located amidst a backdrop of greenery, the Fairy Pools on the River Brittle are full of beautiful, crystal clear water. If you don’t mind the cold water, be sure to take a dip under the natural arch of the Fairy Pools.
If you don’t see any mythical creatures sunbathing by the pools, don’t be disappointed. They are probably hanging around the magical Fairy Glen (probably). The Fairy Glen is a small, strange but delightful landscape located in the hills above the village of Uig.
The Fairy Glen is a popular filming destination. Some of the famous movies and series filmed here include Outlaw King, Stardust, the Last King, Legend of the Sword, and King Arthur.
The list doesn’t include Harry Potter movies, but feel free to make that claim when you show holiday pictures to your friends. They probably won’t doubt you because the spot is truly magical and otherworldly.
I’m Rebecca, a translator and avid traveler, a book worm and horror flick enthusiast. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.