Ever wondered where the best places to stay in Scotland are? It is a country with such a diverse offering that it can sometimes be hard to know where to begin. Whether you are a culture vulture or nature lover; we have hand-picked the best places for your next trip.
Each location has its own unique charm and amazing attractions; so whether you’re going with your loved one for a romantic getaway or you have the kids in tow for a family holiday, we are sure there is a perfect place for you in Scotland.
If you see anywhere you like, make a trip of it with one of the best holiday cottages in Scotland. If you’ve left everything a little late, but are still dreaming of a stupendous Scottish getaway, check out the best last-minute cottages in Scotland.
Cairngorms National Park
Best for: Stunning wildlife and memorable adventures
The Cairngorms National Park is one of the highlights of Scotland. The largest National Park in the UK, it is home to an impressive array of wildlife. There are also plenty of beautiful walks to enjoy throughout your stay and some fantastic adventure activities for all abilities.
The brilliant Osprey Centre is a must-visit for bird lovers and is only a 20-minute drive from Aviemore. If you want to get up close and personal with the 150 wild reindeer that roam freely here, or even see if you can spot some of the few remaining wild cats in the UK, there are also guided nature tours available.
For the adrenaline junkies, there are great opportunities for climbing, kayaking and cycling across the park’s spectacular landscape. Kingussie Crag is particularly popular with over 51 climbs up to 100 metres across a range of difficulties.
Best places to drink A short drive from the town of Aviemore, the Pine Marten Bar is a cosy alpine-style bar in the heart of the park. With live music most Fridays and Saturdays, it’s a great place to unwind with a local whisky, beer or wine and enjoy your beautiful surroundings.
Best places to eat: The Druie Cafe at Rothiemurchus serves delicious food from artisan producers in a relaxed and friendly environment. The rainbow trout, wild venison and local beef served here are known across the UK as some of Scotland’s finest produce and there is also a range of vegetarian options to enjoy.
Best for: Historical splendour and natural beauty
Inverness is known as the capital of the Scottish Highlands and for good reason. In this vibrant city, you will find a wealth of things to do and award-winning places to eat, with all the wild beauty of the Highlands still within easy reach. You’ll get the best of both worlds here.
Sitting at the point where the River Ness meets the Moray Frith of the North Sea, Inverness is the most northerly city in the UK. This strategic location has led to the city having an eventful history. If you want to find out more, head to Inverness Castle or book a walking tour of the city’s many historical sites.
The world-famous Loch Ness is only a half an hour drive and can also be reached by bus or bike. Once you’ve spent some time looking for Nessie, why not explore the surrounding wooded islands which are connected by footbridges and a charming miniature railway.
Best places to drink: Inverness has a fantastic selection of drinking spots. Lauders is close to the river and is popular with locals and visitors alike. You’ll find all your favourite drinks here, served in a characterful and cosy setting.
Best place to eat: Housed in a former church, the Mustard Seed has spectacular views across the river from its equally impressive dining room. With fixed-price lunch and early dinner menus available, you can enjoy some of the best food in Inverness at fantastic prices.
Best for: Thrilling outdoor activities
From skiing to mountain biking and hiking, Fort William is a paradise for those who love to get active on their holidays. This is the UK’s ‘Outdoor Capital’ and it’s home to more ways to enjoy the great outdoors than any other region in Scotland.
The region is home to Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles. While 100,000 people climb to the summit every year, this is no easy feat. Thankfully, there are a number of less taxing climbs and scrambles to enjoy too.
Whether it’s white water rafting with Active Heights, mountaineering with Mudrock Adventure or sea kayaking with Rockhopper, there are a huge number of outdoor adventure companies based here ready to get your heart racing.
Best place to drink: At the foot of the mountain, the Ben Nevis Inn is the ideal spot to soak up your surroundings with a drink in hand. During the warmer months you can enjoy spectacular views from the beer garden or if the weather forces you inside, nestle inside the 18th century stone-built converted barn.
Best place to eat: With fantastic views across Loch Linnhe, Crannog Seafood Restaurant is housed in a delightful red-roofed building on the Fort William Town Pier. The menu here celebrates the fantastic local seafood and prides itself on serving simple and unfussy dishes that make the most of the teaming local waters.
Best for: Unique culture and unforgettable nightlife
Glasgow is a vibrant and bustling city to explore in the day, but at night it really comes alive. From its thriving music scene to a plentiful choice of pubs, bars and brilliant places to eat, this city is a great spot for night owls.
After you’ve soaked up the local culture in the many independent art galleries and fantastic museums, there is sure to be a nighttime spot to take your fancy. In the town centre, the legendary King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut has concerts every night and is a firm favourite of locals, students and visitors.
If you want some downtime after a night on the town, you can drive down to Ayr in under an hour. The beautiful spot that looks the Firth of Clyde on the West Coast and is a great spot to soak up some refreshing sea air.
Best place to drink: Kelingrove Cafe takes its drinks seriously. The speciality wines and superb cocktails are matched by a wide selection of whiskies and spirits, and carefully selected local ales and beers. The grand European-inspired space is the perfect spot to begin, or end, a great night out!
Best place to eat: Opened in 2002, Mono has quickly made its mark on the Glasgow food scene. This vegan kitchen serves fresh delicious produce in exciting and innovative ways. The restaurant’s popularity means it is always best to book ahead to guarantee a table.
Isle of Mull
Best for: Rich history and independent shopping
Smaller than neighbouring Isle of Skye, the Isle of Mull is one of the larger islands in the Inner Hebrides and is well known for its independent shops and locally crafted items. The old fishing village of Tobermory is the main town, and as well as a colourful waterfront you’ll find independent businesses; from a chocolate shop to a pottery maker.
You can learn all about the history of the region at the Mull Museum. From the 12th century battles between Scots and Norse Vikings to the dominance of the Maclean and MacDonald clans in the Middle Ages, there is plenty to take in!
Once you’ve got your history fix, there are also many other small towns and villages to explore during your stay, such as Dervaig, which has fantastic sandy beaches. Duart Castle and the Isle of Staff are also popular tourist attractions
Best place to drink: The Craignure Inn is a cosy dog-friendly pub with great views and a fine selection of drinks. It’s just a few yards from the ferry terminal so a great spot to pop in for a drink after a day exploring the surrounding islands.
Best place to eat: Am Birlinn is in a stunning location between Dervaig and Calgary and serves fantastic local produce in a bright and airy dining room. Seafood lovers won’t be disappointed and the seafood stew is one the best the region has to offer!