You might think you know what to expect in the Highlands, but what about the Lowlands? Historically speaking, the Lowlands are defined as the region south of the Highland Boundary Fault, but this blog will focus on the lovely chunk of Scotland which lies to the outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow – spreading from the Lothians and Scottish Borders to the south east, Inverclyde and Ayrshire & Arran to the west, and Dumfries & Galloway to the south west.
The majority of Scotland is now under a temporary lockdown, though some island communities are under level 3 restrictions. Please follow any current restrictions – you might need to save these ideas to try later on a future trip.
Find out what level each area is under and read more about the 5-level Covid-19 restrictions to plan and book ahead when considering a future trip. You can search for businesses that are open, and Good to Go, where they have a Covid-19 risk assessment.
Here is what you can discover on a short break in the Lowlands:
1. An adventure break in East Lothian
A gem of the south easterly coastline is East Lothian, an area as equally well known amongst golfers as it is with surfers. Or, if you just like pretty beaches, seafood and quirky shops and galleries, it’s a lovely place to spend a short break.
- Head to Dunbar for an action-packed day on the water with a morning surf lesson at Belhaven Bay with Coast to Coast Surf School or a cable wakeboarding session at Foxlake Adventures. The café at Foxlake is a great wee spot for lunch or you could grab a breakfast roll or a hot chocolate at the Belhaven Store in between activities.
- The endless sandy beach at North Berwick is another wonderful seaside spot. Everyone can enjoy a coastal adventure with beach wheelchairs available for collection at the harbour, with large rubber wheels which can move easily over the sand.
- For golfers, this stretch of coastline is lined with unique courses from North Berwick to Gullane and Craigielaw. Play a round or two before relaxing in a cosy country inn, try the Ducks Inn in Aberlady or the Bonnie Badger in Gullane which is Tom Kitchin’s gastropub with hotel rooms and a beautiful garden.
Where to stay: Find places to stay in East Lothian from self-catering cottages to lodges with hot tubs.
How to get there: It takes under an hour to drive from Edinburgh to Dunbar, or catch the train from Edinburgh Waverley to North Berwick (33 minutes).
2. Explore the peaceful Berwickshire coast
If you keep going along the east coast, you’ll pass through the lovely Berwickshire area, lined with charming towns and villages which make for a refreshing escape from the city.
- Gorgeous St Abbs is loved far and wide for its crystal-clear waters, quaint seaside village vibes and bustling fishing harbour, where you can spend hours relaxing and exploring. It’s also super hero Thor’s town in the Avengers: Endgame film – it makes a scene-stealing appearance as New Asgard. There’s also a lighthouse, nature reserve and a circular walk to enjoy where you can see all kinds of resident wildlife. Don’t forget to stop at Ebbcarrs Café to try their delicious cullen skink.
- The waters at St Abbs are so clear, it’s a haven for scuba diving and snorkelling if you want to explore beneath the surface.
- Eyemouth, just four miles away, is another charming fishing village to explore which dates back to the 13th century. Follow the third stage of the Berwickshire Coastal Path from St Abbs to Eyemouth to truly embrace the beauty of this coastline, with clifftop paths and beaches to wander through.
Where to stay: Go to Visit Berwickshire Coast to find lots of lovely options from beach huts to waterfront lodges.
How to get there: The Berwickshire coast is just over an hour’s drive from Edinburgh.
3. Discover literary connections in Dumfries & Ayrshire
The lowland landscape has inspired creativity for generations, from the poetry of Robert Burns to the house that inspired JM Barrie to create the legend of Peter Pan.
- Just outside Dumfries, explore the beautiful Georgian house, Moat Brae, where JM Barrie would play pirates with his friends in the 1870s and conjure up Peter Pan’s adventures in a place he called his ‘enchanted land’. The grounds are designed with real imagination, making it a magical place to escape the every day.
- Continue your literary exploration of the area in the town of Dumfries to see where Scotland’s National Bard, Robert Burns, spent the final years of his life. Check out the Robert Burns Centre and Robert Burns House.
- In Upper Nithsdale, don’t miss the Festival of Folklore at the end of September with storytelling, walks, tours and art exploring the myths and legends of this area, in dramatic locations including Crawick Multiverse.
- Over in Ayrshire, the Burns journey can continue as you delve into Burns’ earlier days in the beautiful countryside. In the village of Mauchline, head to the Burns House Museum, and in Alloway, see the cottage where he was born which is part of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, and the Auld Kirk and Brig o’ Doon which were immortalised in the poem Tam o’ Shanter.
- You might be inspired to do a spot of creative writing yourself, and where better than this peaceful part of Scotland to get the creative juices flowing? Or if you prefer to read, Wigtown is a designated ‘Book Town’ where you can while away the hours inside several second-hand book shops.
How to get there: The drive from Edinburgh or Glasgow to Dumfries will take 1.5 – 2 hours. Ayr is under an hour’s drive away from Glasgow and about 2 hours from Edinburgh.
4. Forest experiences in South Scotland
South Scotland encompasses the glorious regions of Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders – these areas are certainly not short of walks, adventure activities and wildlife to keep you entertained on a short break.
- An amazing way to see the beautiful rolling countryside of the Scottish Borders is by climbing a tree with Wild Tree Adventures, who offer experiences in tree climbing and abseiling from their base near the town of Melrose.
- This part of Scotland is truly a mountain biker’s paradise, with purpose-built trails and routes to enjoy in several scenic woodlands. Fly downhill at the 7stanes mountain biking centres across South Scotland including the forests of Ae, Dalbeattie, Kirroughtree, Mabie, Glentress, Glentrool, Newcastleton and Innnerleithen.
- Take a beautiful drive through the Galloway Forest Park, stopping to say hello to the resident wildlife. There are adorable goats at the Wild Goat Park and you can witness 60 red deer from the viewing hide at the Red Deer Range.
- In the winter months, this forest is known for stargazing and is one of the darkest places in Europe. Learn more about the constellations at the Dark Sky Observatory in Dalmellington.
- Walk or cycle along the Red Kite Trail and keep an eye out for majestic red kites swooping above your head as you circle around the peaceful waters of Loch Ken.
How to get there: Loch Ken in Dumfries & Galloway is approximately 2.5 hours from Edinburgh and 2 hours from Glasgow by car. Glentress in the Scottish Borders is about an hour’s drive away from Edinburgh.
5. Seafaring fun in Inverclyde and Ayrshire & Arran
So we’ve covered the east coast, but what about the west?
- Why not discover Inverclyde, an area to the west of Glasgow? Start with a trip to the fascinating Newark Castle, a well-preserved castle overlooking the Clyde, with some chilling tales from notorious past residents.
- A little further along the coast, embrace the joys of outdoor swimming at the Gourock Outdoor Pool. In the summer months, glide through the salt water pool which is heated to 29ºC or choose an evening session and enjoy a starlight swim. Next stop, Cloch Lighthouse. Admire and photograph this unique landmark, which featured in the Gerard Butler film The Vanishing (2018).
- The Ayrshire coast is another beautiful part of Scotland’s coastline to explore. Wander a section of the 100-mile long Ayrshire Coastal Path to see views of Arran, Cumbrae and Bute.
- A spot of sailing awaits at Largs with yachting experiences aplenty at Largs Yacht Haven.
- Hop on the ferry to the Isle of Arran from Ardrossan. On the isle, visit Brodick Castle‘s new visitor centre and explore the recently opened Lagg Distillery to try a dram of the new single malt.
- At Irvine, discover the region’s history at the Scottish Maritime Museum and stroll along the lovely beach to see the large stone dragon – this magnificent statue guards the beach from Viking invasions.
How to get there: The drive from Glasgow to Gourock takes about 1 hour. Or, catch the train from Glasgow to Ayr (50 mins) or Ardrossan (40 mins). The ferry to the Isle of Arran from Ardrossan takes 1 hour 24 mins.
Next time, why not discover an incredible getaway in the Highlands?
*All travel times are approximate and taken from Google Maps.