Category Archives: Scotland

What to do in Scotland; attractions in Scotland and the best places to visit in Scotland.

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Walking Along Water of Leith to Edinburgh Botanic Garden

When I was staying at the Travelodge Edinburgh West End (on a £19 a night Saver rate) in March 2011, I walked along the Water of Leith from Belford Bridge (next to the hotel) to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Belford Bridge with Travelodge Edinburgh West End on left

A few minutes later I arrived at a weir.

Weir near Dean Village on the Water of Leith

I thought it must be wonderful to live in one of the turreted flats overlooking the Water of Leith in Dean village.

Waterside flats at Dean Village

There’s a statue at St Bernard’s Well as you approach Stockbridge.

St Bernard’s Well

Looking back towards St Bernard’s Well (on left)

You’ll find public toilets in Stockbridge as you have to come up from the Water of Leith Walkway there. After crossing the road at the traffic lights, head right and then left immediately and the toilets are after the bus stop on your left. There’s a pizza restaurant just by the bridge where you rejoin the walkway.

Pizza restaurant on Water of Leith in Stockbridge

I was very fortunate as I arrived at the Botanic Gardens as a heavy shower started. The John Hope Gateway was ideal for shelter and there was even free wifi for me to upload some of my photos to Flickr.

View from terrace of John Hope Gateway

The sun was soon shining for a walk around the garden. You’ve to pay to get into the some of the Glasshouses.

Rhododendrons at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Then I had a look at the two exhibitions at Inverleith House in the Garden.  One was work by the French artist Claude Cahun.

Exhibition poster using Cahun self portrait from 1927

The other exhibition featured pieces by Sue Tompkins.

Untitled 2011, Typewritten text on newspaper, fabric

I even made it back along the Water of Leith to my hotel without any further rain, after a very enjoyable, free day out in Edinburgh.

You can get more ideas for free days out in Edinburgh my “Edinburgh Off the Beaten Track” article. You can see all my Water of Leith and Botanic Gardens photos on Flickr.

Find Budget Hotels for Your Stay in Edinburgh

My favourite Edinburgh budget hotel is Travelodge Edinburgh West End due to its location close to the Water of Leith, the Dean Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art and the fact that you can walk to the city centre in 15 minutes.

View over Water of Leith from my room at Travelodge Edinburgh West End

If you don’t mind being further away from the city centre the Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith and Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Waterfront are good options.

Tips for Things to Do in Edinburgh

We’ve lots of Edinburgh tips on Europe a la Carte.

Click here for the lowest prices on Edinburgh hotels

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Cheat’s Guide to Climbing a Scottish Peak: Falkland Hill

When I was staying for three nights at the Travelodge Edinburgh West End in April 2011, I decided to drive north over the Forth Bridge to climb up Falkland Hill, aka East Lomond, in Fife. Now although Falkland Hill is a landmark in the surrounding area, the picnic area car park is half way up the hill, so you can get great views even if you don’t do any hard work. Or like me, you can say you climbed a hill when your car has done half the ascent.

View from Falkland Hill car park down to Forth Estuary

There was a heavy shower as soon as I arrived at the car park and I thought what timing. However I was determined to get up the hill, even if I’d to don my waterproof gear.

 

Some windswept daffodils on Falkland Hill

View from half way up my ascent on foot

Rainbow starting in middle of photo curving right toward the sky

The summit beckons but that grey cloud looks ominous

Almost there

The summit of Falkland Hill, no rain but extremely windy

I was very fortunate in having a dry ascent and descent. If you’re in the area and are lucky with the weather, do go up Falkland Hill. You can also visit the nearby village of Falkland and its palace.

Love UK

Love UK

premierinnglenrothesexterior

Review of Premier Inn Glenrothes in Fife, Scotland

I stayed at the Premier Inn Glenrothes in east central Scotland for one night on Saturday 22 January 2011. I managed to bag the room for only £19 a night (room only) during the Christmas sale on the Premier Inn website.  Now I recently did a comparison of the two biggest UK budget hotel brands in the UK, Premier Inn versus Travelodge in which I concluded that Travelodge was better mainly due to wider availability of cheaper rooms. However on this occasion a room at the Glenrothes Travelodge for the same night was priced at £23.50.

The Premier Inn Glenrothes is located just off the big roundabout as you drive into the town heading north from Kirkcaldy. There’s plenty of parking at the front and the back of the hotel. I checked in just after 2pm and requested a room at the back of the hotel at the end of the corridor, which I judged would be quieter.  The receptionist was very helpful, although I’d already been allocated a room she gave me a room which matched my request.

Exterior of Premier Inn Glenrothes

My room was a good size with the sofa bed made up as a single bed.  There’s a thermostat to control the heating and the room was warm within minutes. I also like the fact that there’s a  heated towel rail in the bathroom to make it a bit warmer and to avoid soggy towels.  The bed was very comfortable but I didn’t like the pillows, they were too soft for my liking.

Breakfast is served next door at the Brewer’s Fayre. It costs £8 per adult but kids eat free with paying adults. I didn’t bother with breakfast at the restaurant, I just ate some cereal and fruit I’d brought with me in my room. I noticed that the restaurant was doing two main courses for £10 and two desserts for £2 Monday – Friday until 18.30, meaning a couple could eat a two course meal for £12,. That seems better value than breakfast for £16 for two guests?

My room at the Premier Inn Glenrothes

While the town of Glenrothes may not be on many peoples’ top Scottish destination list, it does make a good overnight stop as you head north up the east coast from Edinburgh or as a base for spending for exploring the Fife region. Some suggestions of things to do in the area are a visit to Falkland to see the Palace and climb up Falkland Hill, the historic village of Ceres and the seaside town of St Andrews.

I’d recommend the Premier Inn Glenrothes if you can find a cheap room here by booking in advance on the non refundable rate or during a sale.

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It’s a good idea to check  prices for the Premier Inn Glenrothes on the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

Find Great Deals on Hotels in Glenrothes

Click here to check availability and price for all hotels in Glenrothes on the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

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Review of Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith

I stayed at Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith for one night on Sunday 23 January 2011 after the Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up that afternoon. I paid £19 for the night (room only) booked during the Premier Inn Christmas sale in December 2010.

Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith on the Forth Estuary

I was looking forward to staying at that Premier Inn as I really like the location down on the Forth Estuary next to Newhaven Harbour.  One big benefit of staying here is the free parking, as parking around Edinburgh city centre is expensive and it can be hard to find a space. The hotel is located around 2 miles from the city centre but there are regular buses from a stop just across from the hotel.

I was delighted with my room at it was on the first floor with an estuary view. The room was a good size with two comfy chairs and a coffee table, as well as a chair at the desk.

My room at Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith

I’d recommend the Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith if you prefer not to be in the city centre and/or are coming to Edinburgh by car. You’ll either need to book well in advance on the non refundable rate or during a promotion, if you want to get a cheap room here.  There’s a Brewers Fayre restaurant attached to the hotel, a large Asda supermarket and another couple of pubs within walking distance.  The Ocean Terminal shopping and leisure centre and the home of the Royal Yacht Britannia is around half a mile away from the hotel. You can see all my photos/videos of the Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith on Flckr.

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It’s also worth checking prices for the Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith on the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

Search for the Best Deals on All Edinburgh Hotels

Click here to search for low prices on all hotels in Edinburgh on the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

Tips for Things to Do in Edinburgh

We’ve lots of Edinburgh tips on Europe a la Carte.

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3rd Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up, Sunday 10 April 2011 at the Missoni

The 3rd Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up took place at the Hotel Missoni Edinburgh on Sunday 10 April 2011 from 3 – 6pm.  The Missoni kindly provided chefs choice canapes, Prosecco and soft drinks for attendees.

3rd Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up at Hotel Missoni Edinburgh

This event followed on  the success of the 2nd Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up in January 2011 and the 1st Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up in July 2010.

3rd Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up at Hotel Missoni Edinburgh

You can see all my photos from the event on Flickr here.

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Review of the Hilton Edinburgh Airport

We stayed for one night in February 2011 at the Hilton Edinburgh Airport, on a complimentary basis arranged by hotels.com from their selection of Edinburgh hotels.  As we had to be at the airport by around 5am the next morning, we were concerned if there was bad weather we wouldn’t be able to reach the airport in time, so wanted to play it safe by staying close to the terminal.

Review of Hilton Edinburgh Airport

Lobby of Hilton Edinburgh Airport

We were allocated a double deluxe room on the 3rd floor. The room was very spacious and decorated in muted brown/cream colours. I appreciated that the chair by the desk was padded and very comfortable. There was a good selection of tea, coffees and drinking chocolate sachets.

The Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries in the bathroom had a lovely scent. The towels were thick and fluffy. The bed was one of the best I’ve come across in a hotel. There was a padded mattress cover and I was sorry that I had to get up at 4.30 to catch a flight, as I’d have loved to have a long sleep in that bed.

Review of Hilton Edinburgh Airport

Deluxe double room at Hilton Edinburgh Airport

There was some exterior noise of banging doors and guests laughing loudly around 3am in the corridor. However I didn’t hear any noise from outside the building.

The negatives were a large crack in the sink and some cracks in the tiles of the bathroom floor and the fact that there’s a £15 charge for internet connection.  I think that the Hilton is charging far too much for internet connection and this should be provided free of charge to guests.

We had a takeaway breakfast consisting of fresh fruit salad (heavy on apples), a bacon roll (delicious lean bacon), croissant (very doughy), a muffin (some of the best I’ve had) and an apple. I was a bit surprised that there was no drink included, I thought there would be at  least a carton of fruit juice.

The hotel offers a free shuttle bus to and from the airport but as it’s such a short distance, we walked there.  You can park your car at the hotel at a guest rate of £6 per day.

Overall I’d recommend the Hilton Edinburgh Airport if you have an early flight departure time or a late arrival.  The deluxe rooms are very comfortable and beautifully furnished and it’s great to be so close to the airport.  The only thing that let down the room were the cracks in the bathroom sink and floor, which is a pity as everything else was of very high quality.

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Click here for the lowest prices on Edinburgh hotels

clydewalk

Tips for Things to Do on a Glasgow Short Break

The Scottish city Glasgow is a great UK short break destination. It’s on the main west coast railway line and served by Glasgow Airport (Ryanair flies into Prestwick Airport), making it easy to get to from many parts of the UK and Europe.

River Clyde Walkway in Glasgow

Glasgow has come a long way since the days of post industrial gloom, to become top UK tourist destination. Below are some ideas for things to do in Glasgow during your short break.

Things to Do on Glasgow Short Break Podcast

 

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Take in Some Culture

One of my favourite Glasgow museums is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. The Burrell Collection and the Gallery of Modern Art are also very interesting.  It’s free to enter state museums in the UK, although there is sometimes a charge for special exhibitions. You can follow the Rennie Mackintosh Trail and admire the work of the Scottish architect. We had fun at the Glasgow Mela, a free multi cultural event held in Kelvingrove Park, in June.

Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art

The Riverside Museum, Scotland’s Museum of Transport and Travel, opened in June 2011.

Reflective exterior wall of Riverside Museum

Admire the Parks and Gardens

Glasgow has some beautiful parks and gardens. Glasgow Green is the city’s oldest park, home to the Winter Gardens. The Botanic Gardens have so many colourful orchids and begonias in the main glasshouses and the recently restored Kibble Palace has a collection of trees and ferns.

Winter Gardens at Glasgow Green

Shop ’til You Drop

There’s ample opportunity for shopping in Glasgow, with Princes Square, the St Enoch Centre, Sauchiehall Street & the Argyll Arcade, all in the city centre.

Princes Square Shopping Centre, Glasgow

Enjoy the Music

Glasgow has a very vibrant music scene, one of the main reasons our son Simon, a part time DJ, lives there.  There’s traditional music in pubs, techno in trendy night clubs and big names performing at the SECC.

Simon’s gig at the Lite Club by subcityphotos

Sample the Restaurants

Glasgow has the widest array of restaurants in Scotland, catering for all tastes and budgets. It’s not all fish suppers and deep fried Mars Bars! Two of my favourite Glasgow restaurants  are the Kama Sutra and Rogano.

Rogano, Glasgow

Where to Stay in Glasgow

If you can find a good deal at a hotel, as I did with my £20.12 room at the Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside, in January 2011, then you’ll have even more spending money for your Glasgow short break.

More Tips for Things to Do in Glasgow

You can also read more ideas on things to do in Glasgow collated from Europe a la Carte readers’ tips.

Click here for the lowest prices on Glasgow hotels

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Review of Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

I managed to bag a room at Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside for a stay on Saturday 8 January 2011, for only £20.12. Rooms at this price were only available for one day (20 December 2010) on the Holiday Inn site, to publicise that they are one of the sponsors of the 2012 Olympics in London.

Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

The hotel is a perfect location for a Glasgow short break. The hotel doesn’t have its own car park but I saw a car park close to the hotel which advertised all day stays for £5. We managed to find free on-street parking close to George Square (chargeable hours are Monday to Saturday 8am-6pm). It takes around ten minutes to walk to the hotel from either Queen St or Central rail stations. The hotel is a two minute walk from the St Enoch Shopping Centre and Argyle Street. The hotel is by the River Clyde, and Glasgow Green park (home to the People’s Palace) is just along the river.

Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

Doulton Fountain in Glasgow Green

Although the hotel is by the riverside, only the two rooms at the end of the corridor on each floor have full river views. It may be worth checking in early to try to get one of these rooms?

We were allocated room 523 on the top floor. Our room was at the front of the hotel facing the street, so there was some traffic noise, made more audible by the fact our window was missing one of its catches, so wouldn’t close properly.  I have to admit that I always find it noisy in city centres, as it’s very quiet where we live.  I did hear a bit of door banging and some loud voices during the night, but nothing too bad. The room was fairly comfortable but the bed had an inclination to roll together in the middle.

There was free wifi in the lobby which had a reasonable signal, although it struggled to upload a short video to Flickr.

Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

Lobby at Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

Continental breakfast was OK but the fruit juice tasted a bit watery and one of the hot drinks machines was low on supplies, so my hot chocolate appeared as watery hot milk. However the croissant and fruity cereal were good.

Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

Continental Breakfast Buffet at Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside

Overall, I’d recommend the hotel as a good budget option for a Glasgow short break, with reasonable rooms, free wifi in the lobby and breakfast included, as I’ve noticed more and more hotels with room only offers. 

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There are plenty of opportunities close at hand to sample three of the reasons to visit Glasgow, restaurants, music and food. You can also read our tips on things to do in Glasgow.

You should also check out room prices at the Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside on the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

 

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25 Unusual & Fun Things to Do in Scotland

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.

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

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. 

Things to Do in Scotland

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

Smoo  Cave

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

Inverewe Gardens

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

Biblical Garden, Elgin

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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.

Things to Do in Scotland

Pitfour Observatory

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Central Scotland

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

Discovery Point, Dundee

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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.

Things to Do in Scotland

Robert Burns Sculpture at the Birks of Aberfeldy

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Explore Two Follies at the Hermitage, Dunkeld, Perthshire

The Hermitage was created as a landscape garden for the local Duke, complete with two follies, Ossian’s Hall overlooking the Falls of Braan and Ossian’s Cave.

Things to Do in Scotland

Falls of Braan and Ossian’s Hall at the Hermitage, Dunkeld

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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

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Go Back in Time at Culross, Fife

Step back to into the 17th century in Culross, with its palace and abbey.

Things to Do in Scotland

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

Alloa Tower

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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.

Things to Do in Scotland

The Valley Cemetery, Stirling

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Be Spoiled for choice by Glasgow Restaurants

I reckon that Glasgow has the best selection of restaurants you’ll find in Scotland. Two of my favourites are the Kama Sutra and Rogano.

Things to Do in Scotland

Rogano Restaurant Glasgow

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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.

Things to Do in Scotland

Water of Leith Walkway Edinburgh

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Follow the Prestonpans Murals Trail, East Lothian

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

The Concorde Experience at the National Museum of Flight

South of Scotland

Learn About One of the Fathers of Conservation in Dunbar, East Lothian.

Discover the life story of the conservationist John Muir at his birthplace in Dunbar. You could then walk along the beautiful red cliffs. It’s easy to get to Dunbar by rail from Edinburgh.

Things to Do in Scotland

Display at John Muir’s Birthplace, Dunbar

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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.

Things to Do in Scotland

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

Hawick Museum in Wilton Park

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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.

Things to Do in Scotland

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.

Things to Do in Scotland

Threave Castle Garden

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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

 

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More Tips for the UK

We’ve articles on 25 Things to Do in England and 25 Fun Things to Do in the UK.

Click here for the lowest prices on Scottish hotels