What used to be a Victorian fad — collecting it became a craze for genteel women (including the queen) — is now big business.
I’ve selected some of the best Airbnb options in Scotland. These have been chosen because they showcase the rich history and culture of the Scots, our Celtic heritage and the magnificent Scottish landscape.
$54/night, Forgandenny, Perth and Kinross
Located 5 miles outside of the city of Perth, this hut sleeps two and has wondrous views of the Perthshire countryside.
$132/night, The Gatehouse of Ayton Castle, Ayton
Many of the stately homes and castles in Scotland offer accommodation in stables, gatehouses and other external buildings. Ayton Castle located in The Scottish Borders, one of Scotlands most diverse and beautiful regions.
$142/night, Royal Mile, Edinburgh
This apartment is located within ten minutes walk from Edinburgh Castle and would be a perfect place for first timers to the city.
$161/night, Southside Glasgow
This renovated church near Queens Park in Glasgow sleeps six people. If you are looking for a unique property in the city with history and character this will serve well.
$127/night, The Tower, Thornton Castle, Aberdeenshire
The Thornton-Kemsley family rent the wing of the 16th-century Scottish tower in Aberdeenshire. The castle dates from the 13th century. The family have updated some of the fixtures but original features remain.
$173/night, Balmaclellan, Dumfries and Galloway
You can rent this 16th-century watermill in Dumfries and Galloway for little to nothing and it sleeps ten. The building is surrounded by fourteen acres of rivers, waterfalls, and woodland. Galloway is well-known for being one of the better regions in Scotland for stargazing. Out here, there will be no the glare of streetlights or other buildings.
$33/night, Coulter, South Lanarkshire
This bothy is 1.5 miles south of Bigger, has a wood burning stove and views up to Coulter Fell and Tinto. A bothy was traditionally a home for people who worked the land. Many have been converted into rental properties. It’s a really lovely way to get to know Scottish culture and landscape.
$220/night, Kilmartin, Argyll
Kilmartin Castle was constructed in 1550 for John Carswell, Rector of Kilmartin Glen and later Bishop Of The Isles. At one point it was occupied by the Campbell Clan, before being abandoned for 200 years. There are three bedrooms available, each decorated with a blend of original and modern fixtures.
$114/night, Fort Augustus, Loch Ness
At the south end of Loch Ness, the former St. Benedict’s Abbey has been renovated into apartments. This one-bed unit was once the secret ‘writing room’ of the monastery. It’s an ideal place to rent if you are exploring the landscape around Loch Ness.
$67/night, Pitlochry, Perthshire
This farmhouse is a perfect option for a stopover if you are driving through Perthshire. When in Pitlochry be sure to visit Loch Tummel, a narrow loch that sits north-west of Pitlochry and Kinross. There are splendid views of the surrounding landscape. Also, visit the Edradour Distillery for a wee dram of single malt.
17 incredible experiences to have in Scotland in 2017
WHAT DOES YOUR DREAM ADVENTURE LOOK LIKE? Maybe it involves white sand beaches, brilliant blue water, and kayaking secluded coves home to seals and sea birds. Maybe it’s hiking desolate mountains and dropping in on Michelin-starred restaurants or cozy pubs, exploring ancient ruins and grand museums, or tracing whisky trails and partying at ceilidhs. In Scotland, there are endless incredible experiences worth having. Here are just 17 to get you excited for your 2017 trip.
1. Exploring the architecture of Edinburgh
From the Old Town’s jumble of towering tenements and mysterious wynds, to New Town’s Georgian and neoclassical buildings, there’s no doubting the Scottish capital is a dramatic city. Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid described it as “a mad god’s dream.” On Princes Street, climb the Scott Monument’s 287 steps for views among the gargoyles that extend across the city, past volcanic crags, and out to sea. Head up 700-million-year-old Castle Rock for a peek inside Edinburgh Castle. Wander from the castle down the Royal Mile to grand Holyrood Palace and the modern Scottish Parliament for even more insight into the diversity of Edinburgh’s architecture.
Photo: Kenny Lam for VisitScotland
2. Driving Scotland’s answer to Route 66
The North Coast 500 is an amazing road trip starting in the city of Inverness, weaving over to Wester Ross and the seaside village of Applecross, heading north up to Ullapool, then to Caithness, and the tippy top of the mainland — John o’Groats — before turning back south through Dingwall to Inverness. You might want to bring your bike for parts of this incredible trip. If you’re feeling tough enough, cycle the hairpin bends of the 2,053-foot-high Bealach na Bà pass, where the views look back towards Loch Kishorn and over to the Isles of Skye and Raasay as you descend to lovely Applecross.
Photo: Kenny Lam for VisitScotland
3. Visiting a fairytale castle in the Highlands
Dunrobin Castle dates back to the Middle Ages, though most of what you see today was built in the French style in the mid-19th century. All towers and turrets, with 189 rooms, this is the largest house in the Northern Highlands. It’s completely stunning, with views looking out to the Moray Firth (known for its dolphins!) and gardens reminiscent of Versailles.
Photo: Paul Tomkins for VisitScotland
4. Partying at a real ceilidh
There’ll be jigs. There’ll be reels. There’ll be fiddles, accordions, and an announcer who’ll explain how to whirl your partner just right for the Flying Scotsman dance. Originating in the Highlands, ceilidh parties are so much fun. Fair warning: The later it gets into the night and the more the whisky flows, the wilder the dancing gets. Head to Counting House and Ghillie Dhu in Edinburgh, Sloans in Glasgow, and Skipinnish Ceilidh House in Oban to find out just what the Gay Gordons is all about.
Photo: Iona Spence for VisitScotland
5. Discovering Scotland’s dark skies
Scotland’s home to some of the darkest skies in Europe, and because wild camping is allowed, here you can sleep under the stars for free. Head to Galloway Forest Park — the first Dark Sky Park in the UK — to see more than 7,000 stars and planets visible to the naked eye. The Isle of Coll in the Inner Hebrides lies 20 miles from the nearest lamppost — visit to experience the night sky from one of only two International Dark Sky Islands on the planet.
Photo: Loch Lomond, John McSporran
6. Tasting the local delicacies
From Aberdeen Angus beef to west coast salmon, Stornoway Black Pudding to Orkney cheddar, Scotland has an amazing larder. Whether you drop in on one of the country’s 13 Michelin-starred restaurants, a traditional tearoom, or a seafood shack, you’re in for a treat. As for drinks, there’s all local microbrews you could want, as well as a gin tradition that goes back to the 18th century. And of course, there’s whisky. Dufftown is arguably the hub of whisky country, and you’ll definitely want to hit up Glenfiddich and Balvenie before heading to Aberlour to taste the local single malt. Also check out Elgin’s Glen Moray Distillery, then Benromach and Dallas Dhu Historic Distillery in Forres for even more tours and tastings on the famous Speyside Whisky Trail.
Photo: Glenfiddich Distillery, Paul Tomkins for VisitScotland
7. Seeing live excavation in action at the Heart of Neolithic Orkney
With 2017 being Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage, and Archeology, archaeological events are taking place across the country throughout the year, including on Orkney. See what life on this remote archipelago was like 5,000 years ago with a visit to the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a UNESCO World Heritage Site made up of the amazingly well-preserved Stones of Stenness and Ring of Brodgar, Maeshowe tomb, prehistoric village Skara Brae, and a number of unexcavated burial,fcs ceremonial, and settlement sites. These are the most important New Stone Age sites in Western Europe, and in the summer you can see live excavation in action at the Ness of Brodgar.
Photo: Ring of Brodgar, Colin Keldie for VisitScotland
8. Cheering on competitors at a traditional Highland Games
Colorful and full of fun, Highland Games take place in towns and castle grounds throughout the summer and involve everything from tug-o-wars and caber tossing to bagpipe parades and Highland dance competitions. Look out for the Cowal Highland Gathering (August 24-26, 2017) near Glasgow. It hosts 23,000 revelers each year, as well as the Scottish and World Highland Dancing Championships.
Photo: Kenny Lam for VisitScotland
9. Gearing up for Outlander Season 3
Author Diana Gabaldon’s incredible world of standing stones, castles, and sweeping Highland scenery was inspired by real places and Scottish heritage, and with Starz set to release the third season of the TV adaption in September 2017 — which was filmed partly on location in Edinburgh and Scotland — now is the perfect time to get your Outlander geek on.
Photo: Doune Castle, VisitScotland
10. Touring a Scottish country estate
Bowhill House in the Scottish Borders is one of the homes of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. Built in 1708, this Category A-listed building is known for having one of the world’s greatest private art collections. See the duke’s Gainsboroughs and Canalettos on a tour of the house, head into the surrounding glens and heather-covered hills on a hike, visit the Minstrel tea room for scones with jam and cream, and get in on the action on a Land Rover tour of the estate.
Photo: Bowhill House
11. Unearthing the secrets of Scotland’s abbeys
Founded by St. Columba and his Irish followers 1,450 years ago, Iona Abbey is one of the oldest, most sacred places in western Europe — and is still a focus for Christian pilgrimage today. Then there’s Melrose Abbey, one of four main abbeys in the Scottish Borders. It was founded by King David I in 1136 for the Cistercian Order, then largely destroyed by Richard II’s English Army in 1385. The ruin’s exterior is amazing — it’s decorated with hobgoblins and bagpipe-playing pigs. See displays of what’s been dug up from the church in the Commendator’s House.
Photo: Melrose Abbey, Kenny Lam for VisitScotland
12. Bagging Munros across the Highlands
Scotland’s home to most of Britain’s mountains, and 282 of them are 3,000 feet or higher. We call those Munros, and we like to “bag” them. You might not manage to tick all of them off on your Scotland visit, but one or two is definitely doable. Easier day hikes include Cairn Gorm in the Highlands, and Ben Lomond in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. For an overnight adventure, there are bothies dotting the wilder parts of the country. They’re run by the Mountain Bothies Association charity, and the shelters are free to use, with no booking system or wardens.
Photo: Sgurr a Ghreadaidh, Allan Jamieson for VisitScotland
13. Finding out if you belong to a Scottish clan
By the 13th century, clans had roots in the Scottish Highlands. They lived off the land, got involved in bloody battles with each other, used their cattle to earn their keep, and stayed mostly intact until the Battle of Culloden in 1746, when the Jacobite rebellion was crushed by King George II’s army. The Highland Clearances marked the end of the clan system, as thousands moved to the New World in search of a better life. Find out your ancestral history on a trip to Scotland, and maybe take a trip to your clan’s homeland.
Photo: Culloden Battlefield, Cut Media for VisitScotland
14. Touching down on Barra
On Barra, life’s a beach…and so is the airport runway. In fact, Traigh Mhor is the only beach runway in the world that handles scheduled airline services. You can also reach Barra — one of the most southerly of the Outer Hebrides’ inhabited islands — by ferry from Oban. Take the five-minute boat ride from the island’s main village, Castlebay, to medieval Kisimul Castle and explore the ancient seat of Clan Macneil. Play a round at the most westerly golf course in the United Kingdom. Sea kayak the island’s sheltered bays. Wander the beaches, machair meadows, and moorlands. Do it all.
Photo: Paul Tomkins for VisitScotland
15. Taking on the Jacobite Steam Train
To some it’s the Jacobite Steam Train. To others it’s Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express. To just about everyone, it’s the greatest rail journey in the world. Starting in Fort William, this train takes guests on an 84-mile round-trip through the Highlands to the west coast of Scotland. Along the way, there’ll be stops in the lovely village of Glenfinnan and the bustling fishing port of Mallaig. There’ll be beautiful scenery, like Loch Nevis, the deepest seawater loch in Europe, and the iconic Glenfinnan viaduct. And if you feel like wearing a wizard hat while you ride, let’s just say you won’t be the only one.
Photo: Getty Images/VisitScotland
16. Seeing more puffins than people on the Isle of May
From April to mid-August, the Isle of May’s cliffs and ledges are home to circuses of puffins — around 120,000 in all — as well as hundreds of thousands of guillemots, razorbills, and shags. Ferries run to this national nature reserve, five miles off the Fife coast, from April to September. Once you’re back on the mainland, head to Anstruther Fish Bar for the best (sustainable and award-winning) fish and chips around.
Photo: Kenny Lam for VisitScotland
17. Being part of history at the wildest festivals
Thousands flock to Edinburgh’s Calton Hill for a night of dancing among giant, flickering bonfires as part of the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane. Archaic and New Age all at once, Beltane Fire Festival (April 30, 2017), is amazing — even the trash collectors dress up like creatures of pagan lore. Then there’s the award-winning HebCelt festival (July 19 – 22, 2017), on the Hebridean island of Lewis, where bands like the Peatbog Faeries and the Waterboys play Celtic music for massive crowds.
And of course, there’s Up Helly Aa, celebrated in the middle of winter across Shetland, especially in the main town of Lerwick, where squads of up to a thousand “guizers” in full Viking costume march through the streets, torches blazing. They burn a replica longship while singing old Viking songs, then it’s off for a night of dancing so fun that the next day is a local public holiday so everyone can recover. The next festival isn’t till January 30, 2018, but it’s never too early to plan!
Photo: Up Helly Aa, Austin Taylor
Scotland is one of few the places in Western Europe where you can leave the urban life behind and enjoy some serious wilderness. If you crave silence and awesome views from mountain peaks, if you long to see the most amazing shades of green, and if you don’t think you can live the rest of your life without having seen a Highland cow up close, this place is for you.
If you’re still undecided about traveling to Scotland, here are 5 reasons why exploring this amazing place is a decision you won’t regret.
The green hills
The Coire Scamadal
Eiliean Donan Castle
Harry Potter’s famous viaduct is a big draw for tourists in Scotland and it definitely lives up to expectations. The Jacobite steam train which runs from Fort William to Mallaig over this bridge was made famous by the Harry Potter film series, and gives you a great view of western Scotland and its varied landscape. The curve of the bridge, as well as the 21 arches is visually stunning. Having being built in the late 19th century, the bridge is still in good shape and rightfully draws many visitors still.
Loch Arklet in the Trossachs
Buachaille Etive Mòr
The Storr is a steep rock hill that gives good views down to the Sound of Raasay and is a popular dayhike destination.
Sron na Creise
Highland Cows are the unofficial animal of Scotland. Harsh Scottish winters brought about their enticing, long, scraggly coat unique to this breed; flanked by long wide horns, they really are as sight up close. While quite friendly, you must approach with caution, and probably not at all if any babies are nearby. Still, there’s something about their gaze, their hair in their eyes, and their stature that is enticing and alluring to passersby.
Scottish Red Deer
Scotland is home to indigenous populations of this large deer species, which served as prime hunting prey among the Picts during the medieval period.
Dunvegan Castle is a small castle on the north of Skye and is known for its seal trips around the coast. Sighting a seal is nearly guaranteed; we probably saw over 100 on a single visit.
Note: Place names located above the central belt of Scotland have been translated into Scottish Gaelic to help with navigation.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
2. Ayr → Turnberry (Ayrshire, A719)
As you leave the town of Ayr (Inbhir Àir, “Mouth of the River Ayr”), head south on the A719 and visit the birthplace of Robert Burns, Scotland’s most famous bard. Jump back on the coastal main road and check out the Electric Brae, or Croy Brae as it’s known locally. The hill is an optical illusion where you appear to be going uphill when actually you’re traveling down. Next, stop at Culzean (pronounced “Culain”) Castle and Country Park, where General Dwight D. Eisenhower had an apartment during the Second World War. Finish at Turnberry and enjoy a walk down the magnificent beach bordered by a championship golf course.
3. Fort William → Inverness (A82)
Follow the Caledonian Canal north from Fort William on the A82. The canal links the lochs of the Great Glen to form a maritime route from west to east, precluding the need to sail round the often stormy seas off the north coast. Stop at the Commando Memorial just north of Spean Bridge, which commemorates the men of the original British Commando Forces of World War II. Look back south and on a clear day you’ll see Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain.
Continue north along the banks of Loch Lochy (Loch Lochaidh) and Loch Oich (Loch Omhaich) to lunch in Fort Augustus. As you go further north aside Loch Ness, keep an eye out for the elusive monster, Nessie. Stop at the visitor centre just after Urquhart Castle in Drumnadrochit (Druim na Drochaid) to learn about the hunt for the monster. Continue north along the loch to Inverness, where the canal finally joins the sea spilling into the Moray Firth.
4. Crail → Elie (Fife, A917)
Drive southwest along the A917 and visit the fishing villages of the East Neuk of Fife. Don’t miss the Anstruther Fish Bar down at the harbour, one of the best chippies in Scotland. Journey on to Pittenweem and St Monans, finishing up at Ship Inn in Elie, which overlooks the natural harbour.
5. Balloch → Inveraray (Argyllshire, A82/A83)
Cruise north up the “bonnie banks” of Loch Lomond (Loch Laomainn) and turn left at Tarbet (An Tairbeart) onto the A83. Climb up through Glen Croe (Gleann a’ Chrò) and stop at the summit of the Rest and Be Thankful. Look back down the valley to view the old road twisting its way up the pass. Drop down off the top and stop at Loch Fyne Oysters to enjoy some of the very best of Scottish seafood. Finish up at the wedding cake, Inveraray Castle, home to the Duke and Duchess of Argyll.
6. Craignure → Tobermory (Isle of Mull, A849/B8035/B8073)
Take the ferry from Oban (An t-Òban) to Craignure on the Isle of Mull. Drive north and turn left at Salen (An t-Sàilean) onto the B8035, then right onto the B8073 up the northwest coast of the island. Stop off and take the pedestrian ferry over to Ulva (Ulbha) Island for a pint of prawns at the Boathouse. Continue to Calgary Bay, where island emigrants boarded ships for the New World after being evicted from their crofts during the Highland clearances. Enjoy a bracing swim in the Atlantic off the stunning beach. Journey on to Dervaig (Dearbhaig) and finish up at Tobermory (Tobar Mhoire), with its multicoloured houses. Don’t miss a pint in the Mishnish bar on the harbour front.
7. Crianlarich → Ballachulish (A82)
Glen CoeHighland, United KingdomOut of this world view of the Scottish Highlands in the vicinity of Ben Nevis. If it’s cloudy or foggy when you arrive, just wait it out to see some of the greenest mountains on the planet. #free #hiking #mountains #views
Follow the West Highland Way (Slighe na Gàidhealtachd an Iar) north to Tyndrum (Taigh an Droma) past the Green Welly shop. Climb up onto the moon-like landscape of the Great Moor of Rannoch, past the ski centre, before dropping down through the stunning scenery of Glen Coe (Gleann Comhan), site of the massacre of the MacDonalds by the English. Take time to stop and try to spot the many climbers and walkers on the surrounding Munros (mountains reaching over 3,000 feet).
8. Fort William → Mallaig (Inverness-shire, A830)
Take the A830 west from Fort William along the Road to the Isles. Stop at Glenfinnan (Gleann Fhionghain) to admire the railway viaduct made famous in a number of Harry Potter films, particularly The Chamber of Secrets. Walk down to the shores of Loch Shiel (Loch Seile) and view the monument where Bonnie Prince Charlie called for the local clansmen to assemble in 1745, proclaiming the throne of Great Britain to be denounced and rightfully returned to his family, the Stuarts. Continue on to Mallaig (Malaig), where the road finishes at the ferry to the Isle of Skye (Eilean a’ Cheò).
9. Armadale → Elgol (Isle of Skye, A851)
Take the ferry from Mallaig over the sea to Skye. Visit Grumpy George’s shop on the right as you come off the ferry and say hi to his parrots, then drive north up the A851 till you reach the A87. Turn left, then left again after two miles onto the B8083. Follow this challenging road all the way to the end at Elgol (Ealaghol). Park and take in the views south to the islands of Eigg (Eige), Rhum (Rùm), and Canna (Canaigh). Grab the picnic and catch the boat across the bay, then walk up to Loch Coruisk (Coire Uisg) into the natural amphitheatre of the Black Cuillin and marvel at the scale of the mountains.
1. Selkirk → Moffat (Scottish Borders, A708)
From Selkirk, cruise up the side of St Mary’s Loch, at the head of the Yarrow Valley in the heart of the Scottish Southern Uplands. Stop at Tibbie Shiels Inn for an excellent pub lunch. The surrounding area forms a nature reserve spanning 922 hectares, owned by the National Trust for Scotland. To work off lunch, climb up the pass and drop down to view one of Scotland’s finest waterfalls, the Grey Mare’s Tail. The Southern Uplands are a wonderland for botanics, bird watchers, and hill walkers.
10. Invergarry → Plockton (A87)
Leave Invergarry (Inbhir Garadh) west along the north side of Loch Garry (Loch Garraidh). As you climb up from the loch, stop at the viewpoint and drink in the view west up the glen. Turn left past Loch Cluanie through Glen Shiel (Gleann Seile), where the Five Sisters ridge (three of which are Munros) dominates the view to your right. Drop down to Shiel Bridge, and at the head of Loch Duich (Loch Dubhthaich) is the iconic Eilean Donan castle built on a small island. After Kirkton, turn right off the A87 onto an unclassified road over to Plockton, which fringes a natural harbour just inside Loch Carron (Loch Carrann). Try either the Plockton Hotel or the Plockton Inn for excellent seafood.