We have been living in Scotland for nearly five years now. In this time we have only been abroad once and spent four days in Berlin. Pounding the pavements all day to make the most out of our time. I do love a city break but it’s not our usual type of holiday. Our last all out big holiday was to Nepal in 2013. We spent nearly a month exploring Kathmandu, trekking in the mountains and canoeing in Chitwan National Park. An experience of a lifetime. Since then we have discovered there are many reasons to staycation in Scotland.
Many of our trips have revolved around the wildlife here in Scotland. We always travel with at least one pair of binoculars in the car, just in case!
There are many nature reserves, guides and tours that can help you maximise your wildlife sightings. However, with patience and maybe some local knowledge you can find your own?
Many of the coastal areas around Scotland are home to otters. Watching these charismatic creatures brings joy to my heart every single time. After years of returning to places we now know where we can easily find these elusive beauties.
Puffins and osprey are probably the most famous of the migatory birds that choose to breed here. Cliff top burrows for the puffins make them easy to watch (from a distance). The best chance of seeing an osprey would be to visit one of the Scottish Wildlife Trust or RSPB sites where staff and volunteers are available to answer questions.
Tune your eyes in to the hillsides and chances are you will spot magnificent red deer. Their white bums are a giveaway in autumn and winter months. Sometimes you’ll spot whole herds and others a lone stag.
Talking of large beasts. Did you know we have a herd of free roaming reindeer in the Cairngorms? If you go walking in the area there is a good chance you may encounter them. But if you fancy a more close up experience, visit the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre. It’s quite magical.
Then of course there is the sea. We are surrounded by it and it offers a myriad of wildlife. Whether you fancy some rockpooling, diving wrecks or a boat trip there will be something to see. And if there isn’t I can still bet you’ll have had a great time anyway.
When I was younger I’d never have thought a walking holiday would take my fancy. There are many multi-day walking routes – the Fife Coastal path (183km), the West Highland Way (154km), the Cateran Trail (103km), to name but a few. Obviously you don’t have to go yomping for miles and miles to enjoy a good walk.
Here in Scotland we have the “right to roam” as part of the Land Reform Act 2003. This gives people rights of access over land and inland water with the proviso we all behave responsibly and leave no trace. Allowing access to mountains, lochs, woodlands and rivers, through farmland and managed estates. It’s the perfect agreement.
To be fair you don’t have to walk very far to be stopped in your tracks by an incredible view. I sometimes have to control myself and refrain from taking too many photos otherwise we would never get anywhere.
There are even some good walks in the city. My favourite is the Mural Trail in Glasgow. Giant street art dotted throughout the city on buildings, walls and under bridges. An amazing way to explore this vibrant city and I am certain you will speak to locals along the way too.
Try something new
Scotland is basically a massive playground. So many opportunities to try canoeing, canyoning, bungee swing, climbing or SUP’ing. With some of the best rivers and lochs it’s easy to see why water sports are so popular here too.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to ski or snowboard? There are several ski centres across Scotland that can make that dream come true. You won’t have to spend a fortune, just hire the kit on site before you decide if it’s for you or not first.
Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is one of the fastest growing sports of the past few years. If you have your own then you are spoiled for choice with lochs, rivers and the sea. Otherwise there are plenty of outdoor companies who can teach you the basics in a morning.
Our dogs are part of the family so if you staycation in Scotland they can come along too. With plenty of outdoor space and many accommodation providers (even hotels) allowing pooches there is no better reason.
Many of the pubs and cafes will also allow well behaved dogs inside. This makes it super easy when you’re out for the day and fancy a bite to eat. Check out Dugs ‘n Pubs for dog friendly suggestions.
Imagine your pup being this happy with a beach and a tennis ball. Simple things.
History, myths and legends
You won’t have to travel far for a piece of history, that’s a guarantee.
There are around 2000 castles (lived in, tourist attractions and ruins) across Scotland, each one with it’s own tale to tell. With family feud’s, romance and royal visitors all ranking highly. Aberdeenshire has the highest concentration of castles anywhere in Scotland and is home to the Castle Trail.
With a unicorn as the national animal of Scotland, you won’t be surprised to learn there are myths and legends a plenty here. Caves where giants have lived, murderous serpents and even a vampire.
Of course there’s also Nessie. If you visit Loch Ness then you might be in with a chance of spotting her. Don’t forget to look out for the other water dwellers – Selkies. Mythical creatures that can transform themselves from seal to human and back again. They are known to be quite mischievous.
If you don’t have any luck with that then I think the next best thing is to visit the Kelpies near Falkirk. A kelpie is the Scots name given to another shape-shifter, this time in the equine form. So magnificent artist Andy Scott was commissioned to make 30metre high sculptures of a pair of kelpies. Well worth checking out (and it’s free to visit).
When you think of beaches in the UK you probably think about Bank Holiday Monday’s and the overcrowding. Hoards of people with wind-breakers and cool boxes spread out on the sand for the day.
Most beaches (with a few exceptions) in Scotland are quiet and if there’s more than six people you’ll say it’s busy! That’s the truth.
I think my favourite time to visit the beach is winter. It definitely blows the cob-webs away and the hot chocolate afterwards will taste amazing. A lot of our road trips are in the colder, wetter months and we still always seek out the nearest beach or fishing harbour.
Find your Scotland
Ultimately a staycation is the best way to find your Scotland. What do I mean by that?
Find your Scotland is something I came up with as a way of promoting holidays, roadtrips, city breaks, day trips that suit you. It’s not always about the big tourist attractions or treading in other peoples footsteps. It’s not about what you’ve seen on Instagram, it’s about blazing your own trail.
One thing many of us have learnt from recent events is to slow down and take in everything. We can’t do that if we’re racing around the countryside ticking boxes.
Think about staying in one place for the duration of your break and explore what’s on the doorstep. We normally give ourselves an hours driving radius and that should cover everything you would need from a holiday.
Reasons to staycation in Scotland also include a reduced carbon footprint with no air miles. Most accommodation providers have a check in of mid afternoon, this means you can stop off on the way for a walk. Meaning your holiday will have already started without you realising.
We are looking forward to continuing exploring Scotland and not straying too far from home when it’s safe to do so. So, what are you waiting for? Get planning.