Unbeknown to many, the Isle of Bute is up there with the best places to visit in Scotland. Adorned with seals (yes, seals!) and enchanting beyond belief, not only does it have a fantastic array of eateries and spots to stay, but it happens to have one of the most impressive neogothic mansions in the world — Mount Stuart House. A resplendent display of architecture, this mansion has it all, from mountains of marble and elaborate décor to a rare copy of Shakespeare’s first folio, and themes of astrology, art, and mysticism. Hours can be spent touring the many Victorian gardens, shops, pubs and even a seaweed shop!
One of the many jewels surrounding Edinburgh, Dunbar is the perfect day-trip kind of place. If escaping from the capital sounds appealing, make way for East Lothian and don’t stop until you reach Belhaven Fruit Farm, just as you enter Dunbar. A fruit farm with a twist, visitors can pick their own strawberries, grab a delicious bite in the café and spend an age drooling over everything in the farm shop. Expect a tremendous gin selection, artisanal chocolates and gourmet food. Another must-visit destination is Fox Lake, Scotland’s first cable wakeboarding park and the only ropes course over water in the U.K. From scenic Segway treks at the edge of John Muir Way and ringo rides on inflatables to cable wakeboarding, this spot is an adrenaline junkie’s dream.
Blink and you may miss it. St. Abbs, a picturesque fishing village on the southeastern coast, is the kind of place you read about in an adventure novel. Those interested in scenic seaside walks and listening to the soothing swishing of the waves will be in their element. Before it was renamed St. Abbs during the late 19th century, this wee haven was called Coldingham Shore. Today, the crystal waters and ethereal underwater scenery make this spot a magnet for scuba divers. In fact, it’s so stunning that St. Abbs was the first Voluntary Marine Reserve site in the U.K. Asides from beach walks and sea-related activities, the few inviting watering holes are a treat, as is Number Four, the local art gallery.
Game of Thrones fan or not, this was the first Westeros! Situated amidst the awe-inspiring Highlands, Wester Ross is a loosely defined place perfect for a spontaneous getaway. Copious villages lay within this region, including Applecross, Torridon and Ullapool. Graceful and striking, Loch Maree is described as the most beautiful Highland loch. Oh, and forget Nessie — this loch has her own denizen of the deep in the form of Muc-sheilche, who perhaps guards the nearby chapel ruins, graveyard, Holy well and Holy tree on the wee Isle of Maree. Skeptical? Why not bathe in her waters, which is thought to hold medical qualities and help combat lunacy. Inverewe Garden and Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve and Hiking Trails cannot be overlooked, either.
The city of Stirling makes a welcomed change from the likes of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Described as the ‘brooch which clasps the Highlands and Lowlands together’, Stirling, back in the day, played a most important role as the ‘Gateway To The Highlands’. A haven for history buffs, tradition states that when the Vikings attacked, an astute wolf would howl to the people, informing them of the pending invasion, hence why the Beast of Stirling is a wolf. From admiring the Great Hall and touring the Renaissance Palace in Stirling Castle to Loch Rusky, Stirling deserves a standing ovation in the fun factor.