The Best Things to Do In Scotland
From the capital city to craggy cliffs, these are the best things to do in Scotland.
There’s no end of things to do in Scotland, whether you’ve got a few days or a fortnight to spend there. Here at Plum Guide, we not only source the very best homes for a holiday to remember, but we’ll also throw in some ideas for what to do once you arrive. Wherever you choose to stay in Scotland, we have a few must-dos to put on your itinerary. Here's our pick of the best things to do in Scotland.
Explore the bright lights of Edinburgh
We’d be remiss to suggest you pay a visit to Scotland without at least stopping by the capital – a long weekend is just enough time to take in the highlights if you follow our carefully curated three day itinerary to Edinburgh. But no matter how long you have to spend here, you can’t go wrong; this is a city for art lovers, gourmands, history buffs, and even outdoorsy types. A couple of can’t-miss attractions include the food market in Stockbridge, one of Edinburgh’s most charming neighbourhoods (there's more great Edinburgh neighbourhoods to stay in where that came from), where you’ll be tempted by a host of local products and delicacies. Then there's the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, where the permanent collection of photography and paintings is often joined by world-class exhibitions; and finally, the extinct volcano of Arthur’s Seat, which towers over the city and is worth the climb for the views alone. Make the most of your time here by staying in the centre of the New Town, where you’ll have everything on your doorstep – we think this modern home in the heart of this ancient city would be just perfect for your trip.
Take a distillery tour
Care for a dram? Whisky has been brewed in these parts for at least 500 years, and it’s as intrinsically Scottish as kilts, tartan and haggis. Its importance can be surmised from the fact that it’s called “water of life” in the original Gaelic. (Note also the spelling: in Scotland it is always whisky. If you want a whiskey, head left until you hit Ireland). There are over 100 distilleries around the country, so no matter where you’re staying, going to see where the magic’s made is one of the best things to do in Scotland. Famous names like Macallan, Talisker, and Laphroaig draw in thousands of visitors a year, all eager to explore the history and science of whisky-making – and of course, try some for themselves.
Bag (one of) the Munros
When Sir Hugh Munro published a list of Scottish hills in the 19th century, he had no idea that hundreds of years later, people would still be following his guide to some of Scotland’s most impressive peaks. Munros are classified as mountains over 3000 feet, and although some of poor Hugh’s original choices have been knocked off the list for being just short of requirements, there’s still a respectable 282 scattered around the country. Climbing them all is known as “Munro bagging” and although that’s a little ambitious for us (we’re home experts, not professional climbers) there are a couple that are simple enough for beginners in search of a great view. Ben Lomond is the easiest (and therefore most popular) Munro; pick a cloudless day to climb for spectacular views over the loch and surrounding national park. Unfortunately, Plum can’t promise you good weather; we can, however, guarantee you’ll return a roaring fire if you choose to stay at this cosy home that’s practically at the foot of the mountain.
Take a trip to the islands
Island-hopping needn't be limited to Greece or the Bahamas. Scotland’s rugged coastline has a number of tiny isles that make for an ideal getaway, and visiting them is one of the top things to do in Scotland. With the larger groups of islands served by regular ferries (and even a bridge from the mainland, in the case of the Isle of Skye) it’s relatively easy to take in two or three different places in one short holiday. But if you have to choose just one route, we recommend exploring the archipelagos of Orkney and the Shetlands. It’s home to the sea stack known as the Old Man of Hoy – it’s considered one of the most challenging climbs in the UK, so personally we’ll be admiring it from a distance while enjoying a walk on the far less dangerous sandy beaches. Shetland is notable not only for the wild ponies roaming the hills, but also because it’s the best place in the UK to see the Northern Lights; on clear skies between October and March, it’s not uncommon to see the aurora dancing in the sky.