I love Scotland, but then I would say that as I’m Scottish. However, I’m sure you can appreciate why, once you’ve read about some unusual and fun things to do in Scotland, selected from posts about Scotland written by the Europe a la Carte blogging team. If you want to explore beyond the major Scottish cities, you’ll need to hire a car, as there’s isn’t much public transport in rural areas.
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North of Scotland
Admire the Beauty of St Ninian’s Beach, Shetland Islands
I visited the Shetland Islands for the first time in May 2010 and they are absolutely beautiful. My favourite spot was St Ninian’s Beach, which was recommended to me by the taxi driver who picked me up at the airport. Which just goes to show it’s always worth asking locals for tips. If you stay in the Shetland capital Lerwick, you can explore the main island from there and/or take day trips to some of the smaller islands.
St Ninians Beach, Shetland Islands
Go North at Dunnet Head
Andy visited Dunnet Head, which is the most northerly point of the UK mainland and not John O’Groats as popularly believed.
Dunnet Head by ifry
Get in Touch with Your Mystical Side at Callanish Stones, Hebrides
Andy also wrote about his visit to the Callanish Stones, a stone circle on the Island of Lewis in the Hebrides. I’ve been to the stones on a misty morning when no-one else was there and it was a really mystical experience.
Callanish Stones by luxpim
Marvel at the Cliffs on Staffa, Hebrides
Andy thought that the hexagonal basalt cliffs on the island of Staffa look like they’ve been sculptured but it’s all natural.
Staffa by wjmarnoch
Go Underground at Smoo Cave, Durness, Highlands
Durness is the most north westerly village on the UK mainland. Taking a boat trip into Smoo Cave is the best way to see the interior.
Be Amazed You’re so Far North at Inverewe Gardens, Highlands
Inverewe Gardens, located on the west coast close to Poolewe in Wester Ross, lies in a sheltered bay warmed by the Gulf Stream. I’ve been there twice and it’s hard to believe that you’re in the north of Scotland.
Be Wowed by Colour at the Biblical Garden, Elgin
The very colourful Biblical Garden in Elgin contains all 110 plants mentioned in the Bible. The sculptures around the garden are based on characters in various parables including the Good Shepherd and the Prodigal Son. You can see all my Biblical Garden photos on Flickr.
Biblical Garden, Elgin
Imagine Watching Horse Racing from Pitfour Observatory, Aberdeenshire
Pitfour Observatory was constructed by a rich Lord to get a good view of the race track he had specially made, so he could indulge in his hobby of horse racing while still on the grounds of his estate.
Visit the Queen Mother’s Birthplace at Glamis Castle, Angus
Andy asked if Glamis Castle is Scotland’s prettiest castle. I’m not sure about that as it’s got some stiff opposition and it didn’t make my three favourite Scottish Castles. It was the birthplace of the mother of the current UK monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
Glamis Castle by Andy Hayes
Imagine Yourself in Antarctica at Discovery Point, Dundee
Board the Antarctic explorer Captain Scott’s ship at Discovery Point in my city of birth Dundee, where the ship was built. You can buy a joint admission ticket for the Verdant Works which tells of the history of Dundee’s jute industry. Here are my recommendations for hotels in Dundee.
Discovery Point, Dundee
Meet Robert Burns at the Birks of Aberfeldy, Perthshire
The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the Birks of Aberfeldy after taking a walk up to the Mo’ness Falls. The sculpture was unveiled in 2009, in honour of the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Scottish poet.
Robert Burns Sculpture at the Birks of Aberfeldy
Explore Two Follies at the Hermitage, Dunkeld, Perthshire
Falls of Braan and Ossian’s Hall at the Hermitage, Dunkeld
Walk for Miles along West Sands Beach in St Andrews, Fife
Although St Andrews is synonymous with golf and the University where Princess Diana’s elder son William studied, there’s a lot more to this lovely historic town. There are two beaches, West Sands (pictured below) and the smaller East Sands and a very tempting ice cream shop.
West Sands, St Andrews
Go Back in Time at Culross, Fife
Step back to into the 17th century in Culross, with its palace and abbey.
View from Culross Palace Garden
See Pictish Cave Art at Wemyss Caves, Fife
In the Wemyss Caves you can see several drawings believed to date from over 2000 years ago.
Trident in Jonathan’s Cave
Explore the 14th Century Alloa Tower, Clackmannanshire
Alloa Tower, renovated in the 1990s, is the largest surviving medieval tower house in Scotland.
Discover History at the Old Town Cemeteries, Stirling
On the way up to Stirling Castle it’s worth spending some time in the cemeteries. The Old Kirkyard has headstones from as early as the 16th century.
The Valley Cemetery, Stirling
Be Spoiled for choice by Glasgow Restaurants
Rogano Restaurant Glasgow
Stroll along the Water of Leith Walkway, Edinburgh
The Water of Leith Walkway stretches for 12 miles from Balerno through the city centre, with an Aids and HIV memorial between the exits for the Gallery of Modern Art and Dean Gallery. The river flows into the Forth Estuary at Leith. The Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Waterfront is located a few minutes walk from the Water of Leith.
Water of Leith Walkway Edinburgh
I love the Prestonpans Murals Trail which celebrates the industrial heritage of the village. The cow below is at the site of a former dairy. You can get to Prestonpans by bus from Edinburgh city centre.
The cow mural at Prestonpans
Fly 1st Class at the National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, East Lothian
The big attraction at the National Museum of Flight is a Concorde. I was fascinated to learn that the first return crossing of the Atlantic by air was undertaken by the airship R34 which took off from East Fortune in 1919.
The Concorde Experience at the National Museum of Flight
South of Scotland
Learn About One of the Fathers of Conservation in Dunbar, East Lothian.
Display at John Muir’s Birthplace, Dunbar
Contemplate the Power of the Sea at St Abbs, Scottish Borders
St Abbs is a pretty little fishing village which is now a marine reserve and popular with divers. The Eyemouth Fishing Disaster Memorial in St Abbs portrays some of the anguish caused by the death of 189 fishermen on October 14 1881.
Eyemouth Fishing Disaster Memorial, St Abbs
Find Out About 1930s Motorcycling at Hawick Museum, Scottish Borders
Hawick Museum, located in Wilton Park, has a display about the 1930s motorcycling champion, Jimmy Guthrie, who was born in Hawick. There’s a lovely walk along the River Teviot through Wilton Park. If you walk along the river toward the town centre, you’ll find the James Thomson Bridge, opened in 2006 to honour the 19th century local poet.
Hawick Museum in Wilton Park
Take the Waters at St Ronan’s Well, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders
Drink from the Spa in the village of Innerleithen, featured in Walter Scott’s novel, St Ronan’s Well.
View from St Ronan’s Well, Innerleithen
Enjoy Threave Gardens, near Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway
Threave Gardens consists of several themed areas; a secret garden, a rock garden, a rose garden and a peat garden. If you’re lucky with the weather, the cafe has an outdoor seating area.
Threave Castle Garden
Where to stay in Scotland
Find the best deals at hotels all over Scotland with the HotelsCombined price comparison site, which quickly searches through more than 30 of the best travel sites to find the lowest prices for you.
Podcast on Unusual & Fun Things to Do in Scotland
Europe a la Carte Scottish Destination Guides
- East Lothian
- Edinburgh – Off the beaten track
- Scottish Borders
- South Queensferry
More Tips for the UK