The ultimate staycation

With our changeable, temperate climate here in the British Isles, annual holidays have many of us heading overseas in search of lands with more reliable sunshine. We can’t wait to escape our everyday and to immerse ourselves in the exoticism of different cultures without needing to remember a jumper. 

But as an increasing number of us grab our passports to enjoy a foreign holiday each year, nearly 40 million foreign tourists are choosing the UK as the destination for their overseas trip. In fact the UK is the 10th most visited country in the world. 

So have we been forgetting all the great places we have right here on our own doorstep? Now might be a good time to find out! Remembering there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, read on to discover the very best of Scotland. A cultured capital, heathered hillsides & haggis, glittering lochs, steely mountains, remote isles, secret luxury hideaways, wilderness, wildlife and whiskey await.

The Perfect City Break

Scotland’s elegant and historic capital is the perfect destination for a city break (or to top or tail a lengthier tour of the country). Edinburgh is a compact city making it great to explore on foot and jam packed with all the right ingredients of history, culture, arts, fine dining, shopping and romance to delight any visitor. It has a medieval Old Town and elegant Georgian New Town with gardens and neoclassical buildings.

Edinburgh Castle stands proud over the city atop Castle Hill. From here take a walk along the length of the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace, an official royal residence. Art lovers won’t want to miss the fantastic collections at the Scottish National Galleries and the City Arts Centre. If literature is more your thing head for The Writers’ Museum which celebrates the lives of three giants of Scottish Literature – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Grab a decent coffee from one of the many independent coffee shops to recharge, ready to hit the excellent shopping scene. Princes Street is the main shopping area, home to Jenners (one of the world’s oldest department stores) and great for high street fashion. But, let’s be honest, one Apple or Zara store is very much like another so take the opportunity to be more adventurous. Multrees Walk is the place to find all your favourite designer brands and Harvey Nichols. For the hidden gems brimming with Scottish designers, artisans and independents selling world crafts, vintage clothing, antiques and gourmet food head to the West End Village with it’s indy bohemian feel or the Grassmarket and Victoria Street area in the old town just behind the castle. Much loved bars and bistros complete the mix making these delightful areas to explore and live like a local.

Now some time for a bit of calm and tranquility. The world famous Royal Botanic Gardens are breathtaking at any time of year. Set in over 70 acres of beautiful landscape and just one mile north of the city centre, the Garden offers superb panoramic views of the city skyline featuring Edinburgh Castle.   

An interesting walk is a great feature of any city break and Edinburgh offers more variety than most. Climb up to Arthurs Seat ( an extinct volcano) in Holyrood Park for views across the city or join the river known as the Water of Leith and take the walkway all the way to Leith Docks for a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia. Replenish in the Royal Deck Tea room or explore the waterfront for plenty of other tasty options including great seafood. 

Best time to go: Anytime! But August if you want to catch the Edinburgh Festival, Fringe and Tattoo.

Where to Stay: Spoil yourselves with a stay at The Balmoral located at the premier address of 1 Princes Street. Or for something more unusual head to Leith and check in at Fingal, Britannia’s sister ship and luxury floating hotel. Check out the video below to take a peak inside!

Belmond Royal Scotsman

Whilst in Edinburgh you are in exactly the right place to board Belmond’s Royal Scotsman. A trip onboard this luxurious train is like a Scottish country house party on rails.

Various journeys are available and taking the West Highland line guarantees the scenery will be sensational. Their Clans, Castles and Isles tour gives you a real flavour of Scotland’s highlights. Head for the observation car to ensure the best views as you pass Loch Lomond, Ben Nevis and cross the iconic Glenfinnan viaduct (famous location from the Harry Potter movie). Taste one of the world’s finest single malts on a distillery visit, see the marvellous gardens of Mount Stuart House, hop over to the Isle of Mull to visit the iconic 13th century Duart Castle, historic seat of the Clan Maclean and view the wonderful art collection at Drumlanrig Castle.

​And if you can tear yourself away from the captivating scenery rolling past your window, you can even indulge in a bit of extra special pampering in the Spa car.

Luxury Island Hopping

If you’d like to explore the islands further, what better way than a cruise? The Hebridean Princess is a small luxury cruise ship. With just 50 passengers and 38 dedicated staff it is like a wonderful floating country house hotel. The Queen herself is a fan having chartered it for private celebrations.

Experienced guides accompany every cruise and, on selected themed itineraries, knowledgeable guest speakers share their passion for their subject. 

The Kingdom of the Isles 7 night itinerary explores the Outer Hebrides, home to Scotlands magical white sandy beaches and Harris Tweed.  Boasting an extraordinarily rich culture and heritage, spectacular wildlife and bird havens, the treasured Outer Hebrides are untainted and sublimely secluded.  

Very conveniently, Hebridean Princess and the Belmond Royal Scotsman train have teamed up to offer the ultimate luxury tour of Scotland.

Wildlife Watching

If you thought you had to travel to the other side of the globe for whale watching, prepare to be amazed!

Home to over 90,000 species, Scotland has a rich and diverse natural history which attracts thousands of wildlife-enthusiasts each year. Whether you want to hear the roaring of rutting stags, see a graceful soaring white-tailed sea eagle, sail alongside playful dolphins or watch whales in the wild, there are incredible opportunities to get up close and personal with the wildest of the residents. 

A third of the North Atlantic whale’s population migrate through the sea around the Scottish’s west coast every year. The minke whale is commonly seen offshore in summer, and occasionally is seen near the coast in September-October. The humpback whale is found offshore from June and Orcas can be seen at any time of the year.

Of all the Scottish islands, the Isle of Mull boasts one of the most diverse eco-systems in Britain. From otters to red deer, puffins to eagles, seals to harbour porpoise, and dolphins to minke whales, this is the perfect base for a Scottish wildlife holiday.

All the sea air is bound to make you hungry so you’ll be glad to know the Isle of Mull is also very foodie. There’s even a Mull & Iona Food Trail which has been developed to showcase the delicious island produce available on Mull, Iona and neighbouring islands, Ulva, Gometra and Erraid; to encourage visitors and residents to enjoy food that is grown, caught and produced.

Tobermory, the colourful, picture-postcard main town (famous as the setting of TV’s Balamory), is an additional bonus to a visit to the island.

Tobermory Scotland Staycation

And I would walk 500 miles ...

With landscapes like these, even the most committed couch potato can’t fail to be inspired to take a walk. The 1000 miles target in the Proclaimers song is a little ambitious but you may still be tempted by one of the many longer walking trails available. What could be more peaceful and life affirming than spending a few days on foot, fully immersed in the outdoors?  Especially when you have a comfortable bed, a good meal and, as if by magic, your luggage waiting for you at the end of each day.

The West Highland Way is one of the world’s classic long-distance walks. It stretches 96 miles north from Milngavie, in the northern suburbs of Glasgow to Fort William.

The West Highland Way route is spectacular, following the banks of Loch Lomond, across the wilderness of Rannoch Moor and into the breathtaking beauty of Glencoe and the very heart of the Scottish Highlands. Depending on your fitness or inclination, you can choose to cover the distance in a speedy 5 days or up to 9 days if you fancy lingering a little longer to soak up those views (or to enjoy a little lie in after a few medicinal whiskies for easing aching legs!). The West Highland Way ends close to the foot of Ben Nevis so you have the option to end the trip literally on a high with the added satisfaction of having bagged the highest munro.

Watch the video below for a little taster!

And Finally ... Some Pure Pampering

If you’re in the mood for some serious five star R&R, Scotland has some truly exceptional and unique hideaways that are sure to fit the bill.

Highland Hideaway

Just west of Balmoral,  The Fife Arms opened in the Scottish Highlands in December 2018 after a three-year multimillion pound renovation project. It is a traditional hotel with a modern twist. Voted The Sunday Times Hotel of the Year in 2019, this 19th Century building has been completely reimagined by the owners of the Hauser and Wirth art gallery with their creative flair evident in every detail. Housing 16000 antiques, works of art and objects (including an original Picasso and Leucian Freud on the walls) come and experience a totally new way of appreciating art up close and personal.

Whether you want cocktails or a pint, an intimate dinner for two or some hearty Scottish fayre in the convivial local, it’s all here under one roof. And no retreat would be complete without a spa. Enjoy a luxury treatment with views over the tranquil gardens.

Hotel, spa and private island! 

There’s a certain magic about staying on a private island.  Located on the west coast of Scotland, the Isle of Eriska boasts gorgeous views overlooking Loch Linnhe and the dramatic Morvern mountains beyond. This 300 acre paradise offers a truly unique and memorable experience.

Words are simply not enough here. Watch the video below for a real treat. (Oh! And it’s close to Oban so an ideal resting spot before joining a Hebridean Cruise or Isle of Mull wildlife trip!)