The Best Places to Visit in Scotland That Aren't Edinburgh
Already been to the capital? Step off the beaten track and into an unexplored world with Plum’s guide to the best places to visit in Scotland.
Here at Plum Guide, we have a special place in our hearts for Scotland. This corner of the UK is as beautiful as it is varied, with rugged coastal cliffs, quiet lochs, and cities filled with cobbled streets and culture. But this blessing can also be a curse for the indecisive – with so many options, where do you go? Luckily for you, you’ve got us to guide you. These are the best places to visit in Scotland (and the best places to stay) to soak up traditional culture and cinematic landscapes, without a single Nessie Spotting bus in sight.
For a bit of everything, visit Glasgow
Can’t choose between a city break or a retreat into the hills? It may seem odd that we’re recommending Glasgow as the solution to this problem, but hear us out. It’s the cultural hub of the country, home to galleries galore (check out the Lighthouse for a calendar full of innovative art and design exhibitions), a host of fantastic museums (the Kelvingrove is a particular favourite) and even the Scottish National Opera if your tastes run to the dramatic. With a more local and independent vibe than the capital (but close enough to do a day trip – we’ve put together a handy one-day itinerary to Edinburgh for exactly this purpose), Glasgow is a great place to stay to experience a slice of authentic Scottish life. But venture less than an hour out of the city centre and you’ll find yourself surrounded by the remote, wild landscape that Scotland is famous for. We’d recommend heading to the Trossachs National Park, where you can hike up Ben Lomond for incredible views or brave the (admittedly quite chilly) waters of Loch Lomond for a swim. If you’d like to stay overnight to achieve the coveted status of being the first up the mountain in the morning, this charming Plum cottage on the very fringe of the park is a welcome – and much more luxurious – alternative to camping.
For culture and history, visit Dundee
When people think of taking a city break in Scotland, they’re most likely to picture a celebratory weekend in the capital (and let’s be honest, Edinburgh is a brilliant backdrop for an important event – just check out our ideas for birthday celebrations in Edinburgh if you don't believe us). But after years of being overlooked, we think Dundee is finally getting the attention it’s due. In 2018, it became home to the first iteration of the V&A Museum outside of London, just one of the schemes designed to draw tourists to the city. Not that Dundee is turning its back on its history -- other places of interest include the Verdant Works, which explore the jute industry which once dominated trade here, the RSS Discovery which transported explorers Scott and Shackleton to Antarctica, and the McManus Museum which pays homage to the Beano and Dandy comics which were created in the city. (Keep an eye out as you explore the city centre; you might just spot statues of beloved characters like Desperate Dan or Minnie the Minx). Finish a trip to Dundee with a meal in Castlehill, where the focus is firmly on Scottish produce -- expect foraged fungi and freshly caught fish on the menu here, with a modern twist put on traditional dishes. Dundee may have been unfairly overlooked up until now, but we’re of the opinion that it’s one of the best places to visit in Scotland for a taste of city life.
For a true escape, visit the Isle of Skye
City breaks are all well and good, but nothing compares to an island getaway for a real sense of respite and relaxation. We’ll admit that Scotland might not be the most obvious choice for this kind of break – you’re unlikely to be sipping cocktails from a coconut shell on these windswept beaches – but who wants to go for the obvious choice anyway? Not us. Which is why one of our favourite places to visit in Scotland is the rugged Isle of Skye. As the largest of Scotland’s islands, it’s got all the secluded serenity you could wish for, as well as ancient castles, unique basalt structures such as the Quiraing and the Old Man of Storr, and a sense of magic that’ll enchant even the most dour of sceptics. The island isn’t totally remote, though; amidst the wild landscape you’ll discover boutiques selling local handicrafts, restaurants serving up the freshest salmon you’ll ever taste, and cosy pubs to stop for a drink around the fire after a day exploring.
For jaw-dropping scenery, visit the Highlands
If you're looking for outdoorsy things to do in Scotland, look no further. Immortalised in Braveheart and Bond films alike, there’s no place on earth that really compares to the dramatic, fog-draped landscape of the Highlands. Which is why the windswept heather, rugged hills, and mysterious lochs are one of our top places to visit in Scotland. Many people make the mistake of trying to “do” the Highlands in a single day trip from the capital but if you ask us, there’s only one way to explore this remote place, and that’s with a road trip. So load up the car, dig out the maps, and prepare to spend a week on the North Coast 500. It’s known as Scotland’s version of Route 66, and though you might not get the brilliant Californian weather, you’ll definitely see some impressive scenery and a fair few Highland cows, which we think is a fair tradeoff. Finish your journey with a stay in one of Plum’s favourite Highland homes – after all that driving, we think you deserve a bit of luxury.
Looking to explore further in bonny Scotland? There are plenty of Plum homes dotted around the country, all vetted by our discerning critics, so follow up your Highlands trip with a visit to the Lowlands or stay on the banks of one of the country’s famous lochs, safe in the knowledge that you’ll spend your stay in style and comfort.