SCOTTISH POET RABBIE BURNS wrote: ‘The best-laid plans o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley’. This is certainly true for even the most well planned trips in Scotland. Quite often your holiday will ‘gang aft a-gley’. And it’s generally the weather that sticks a metaphorical spanner into the works. Although the unpredictability of the darn Scottish drizzle is out of your control you can make sure not to skip on these locations during your visit.
Note: Place names located above the central belt of Scotland have been translated into Scottish Gaelic to help with navigation.
1. Scott’s View, Scottish Borders
The Scottish Borders, with its breadth of rolling hills and scattered historic villages form a stronghold along the borderline of England and Scotland. The Scottish Borders region is a perfect introduction to the lowlands. One location in particular is a must, Scott’s View looking out over the Tweed Valley. From there you’ll be treated to a stunning advantage point where you can appreciate the distance across the border.
2. Loch Ness (Loch Nis), Inverness (Inbhir Nis)
Located in the Scottish Highlands extending southwest of Inverness the loch is steeped in the mystery of the prehistoric Loch Ness Monster. Stop off at the northern shore in Drumnadrochit at the exhibition centre and have a dram at the Loch Ness Brewery.
3. Dunure Castle, Ayrshire (Siorrachd Inbhir Àir)
The county of Ayrshire is located in the south-west of Scotland, with 80 miles of unspoilt coastline introducing the west coast, in particular Arran (Eilean Arainn), Holy Isle (Eilean MoLaise) and Cumbrae (Cumaradh Mòr). The ruins of Dunure Castle overlook Ayr Bay in the Firth of Clyde. After many years as a derelict and dangerous ruin, the castle has recently been consolidated and is now partly accessible to visitors.
On a side note Scotland boasts some of the clearest skies in Europe, which provide exceptional conditions for nighttime photography. Galloway Forest in Ayrshire is the UK’s first Dark Sky Park and well worth a visit.
4. Ben Nevis (Beinn Nibheis), Fort William (An Gearasdan), Inverness (Inbhir Nis)
Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Scotland, sits at 4,400ft in the western end of Scotland’s Grampian Mountains.
Fort William is delightful and you can easily day hike Glen Nevis in the shadow of the summit. If you are gearing up to summit, it is rare to get clear skies, yet if your time is right and luck is on your side you can experience the falling sun over the eastern peaks.
5. Loch Tummel (Loch Teimhil), Perthshire
The narrow loch sits north west of Pitlochry (Baile Chloichrigh) in Perth (Peairt) and Kinross (Ceann Rois). The north and south banks offer splendid views of the surrounding landscape. Also stop at Queens View an outlook favoured by Queen Victoria. Nip back to Pitlochry and visit the Edradour Distillery for a wee dram of single malt.
6. Forth Rail Bridge, Edinburgh, West Lothian.
The rail bridge stretches over the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland, 9 miles west of Edinburgh City Centre. The bridge connects the southeast to the north coast of Scotland. This summer the bridge was awarded World Heritage status.
7. Loch Achtriochtan (Loch Trychardan), Glencoe (A’ Chàrnaich), Highlands
Under the care of the National Trust of Scotland, Lock Achtriochtan is located east of the village of Glencoe. Glencoe is all about brooding peaks and narrow, oppressive valleys. The A82 runs straight through the middle and makes this a great spot for a day trip or if you have time a full week.
8. Kilchurn castle, Loch Awe (Loch Obha), Argyll and Bute (Earra-Ghaidheal agus Bòd)
Kilchurn Castle sits on the northeastern end of Loch Awe. Access to the ruins is dependent on the water level of the loch, during higher-than-usual levels the peninsula becomes an island. The water runs over 25 miles (41 kilometres) in length, making it the largest freshwater loch in Scotland. The loch is also a super place to enjoy some wildlife photography, there are numerous companies running day tours and longer workshops, but BBC photographer and presenter Philip Price’s company Loch Vision is highly recommended.
9. Machrie Moor on the Isle of Arran (Eilean Arainn), West Coast
The Isle of Arran, off the West Coast of Scotland, is home to numerous stone circles and standing stones dating from the Neolithic period and the early Bronze Age. The finest collection of circles can be found on Machrie Moor, on the west of the island. Arran itself is a delight to visit, considered as “Scotland in miniature”. There are plenty of places one can visit; Machrie beach, Blackwaterfoot, Corrie, Shiskine, King’s cave on the west, Lochranza, Glen Rosa are only some of top locations not be to missed.
10. The Summer Isles (Na h-Eileanan Samhraidh)
Within the Summer Isles archipelago is The Isle of Tanera Mòr, just a mile off the Coigach Peninsula in the North-West Highlands of Scotland. It’s a beautiful and remote place and feels far from the rush and clamour of Glasgow. The island is surprisingly accessible: just a two hour drive from Inverness and 45 minutes from the pretty fishing village of Ullapool. From the east side the hills of Coigach and the ”Sutherland Giants” are visible across the water of the sheltered sound, to the west the other islands of the archipelago and further out the stormy Minch, then the Sea of the Hebrides. If you’d like a little inspiration before your visit, read Gavin Maxwell’s “Ring of Bright Water”, Rowenna Fare’s “Seal Morning” and/or “The Island” by Ronald Lockley.
11. Isle of Skye (An t-Eilean Sgitheanach)
The most popular of Scotland’s Hebrides Islands, the Isle of Skye presents some of the most captivating landscape in western Scotland. You’ll be treated to a panoramic patchwork of mountains, moorlands and mile long beaches. The Isle is a mecca for all outdoor activities. The Cuillin passes offer some of the most outstanding coastal views in all of the UK. Here’s a super location guide that will help you make sure you don’t miss any of the epic locations in Skye.
12. Trotternish, Isle of Skye (An t-Eilean Sgitheanach)
Trotternish is the most northerly of Skye’s peninsulas, extending north from Portree (Port Rìgh) to Rubha Hunish. The peninsula is one of 40 National Scenic Areas in Scotland. One of the major attractions is The Storr (An Stòr) — a 719m tall hill that runs down the centre of the peninsula for most of its length. If The Storr is not striking enough for you, located at the foot of its cliffs is a 50 meters high tooth of rock, the Old Man of Storr. It’s so intimidating it remained unclimbed until 1955.
13. Buachaille Etive Mor (Buachaille Eite Mòr), Highlands
The Buachaille, is a mountain at the head of Glen Etive (Gleann Èite) in the Highlands. It’s one of the most recognisable mountains (photographed and filmed (Skyfall) in Scotland. Personally I’d recommend visiting in low season to avoid the tour buses of tourists making their way to Glencoe.
14. Isle of Lewis (Leòdhas), Outer Hebrides Islands
The Outer Hebrides are a chain of more than 200 islands that sits 43 miles (70 kilometres) off the west coast of Scotland. The Isle of Lewis makes up the northern part of Lewis and Harris (Leòdhas agus na Hearadh). Gaelic is predominately spoken by the isle’s 18,000 inhabitants, which has helped preserve their cultural identity. Also if you are into surfing Lewis is the place to head for incredible reef and beach breaks.