Columbus wouldn’t be Columbus if he’d stuck to taking the same journey again and again, right?
If you’re planning a holiday in Scotland in 2020, take the road less travelled and discover Scotland off the beaten track — beyond the iconic cities and landscapes. You’ll be rewarded with picturesque villages, glorious natural scenery, outstanding historic buildings, art-filled galleries, excellent local restaurants and more.
We’ve put together this list of 11 wonderful, alternative holiday destinations in Scotland that are worth exploring now — before they catch up to their siblings. Ready to add them to your bucket list?
In light of COVID-19, everyone’s health and safety is the most important thing.
Accommodation in Scotland has now reopened, as of Wednesday 15 July. Please check with attractions and businesses directly to confirm individual opening dates. Stay safe and look out for the We’re Good to Go scheme logo as you travel around Scotland.
Find out more about the current Covid-19 restrictions and future phases.
1. If you love unspoilt, dramatic scenery, try the Sutherland and Caithness area
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Bens, glens and seascapes, unsurpassed by anything of their kind in the Highlands, the dramatic landscapes of the far north of Scotland are some of the most remote and least populated, yet most beautiful, parts of Scotland. From sensational scenery to wonderful wildlife and rich heritage, your holiday in this corner of Scotland will be nothing short of spectacular! Discover Caithness and Sutherland.
2. If you love quaint coastal towns, try Berwickshire
Nestled to the east of the Tweed Valley Forest Park in the Scottish Borders, Berwickshire is perfectly situated for a relaxing break and it’s just over an hour away from Edinburgh. It takes in quaint towns and villages, such as Eyemouth and St Abbs, and offers great outdoor activities including diving, stunning country houses, magnificent birdlife and beautiful sandy beaches sheltered by high cliffs. Sounds like a recipe for great holiday!
3. If you love sparkling lochs and towering mountains, try the Cowal Peninsula
Flanked by Loch Long and Loch Fyne, the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll is a land of beautiful contrasting scenery. Lying at the western gateway to Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, the area is only a little over an hour by car from Glasgow and offers a tantalising taste of the Highlands. Outdoor enthusiasts, food lovers and wildlife buffs will be in heaven here. Discover Cowal.
4. If you love magnificent views and watersports, try Highland Perthshire
Commonly referred to as the gateway to the Highlands, northern Perthshire is located in the heart of Scotland. For walkers, there are plenty of Munros and hills to walk, while anglers can enjoy superb river and loch fishing. Discover an area where you can enjoy watersports, romantic castles, gardens, great music festivals and events. Discover Highland Perthshire.
5. If you love a small island with a lot of action, try Cumbrae
The Isle of Cumbrae, also known as Great Cumbrae, is only a 10 minute ferry ride from Largs on the Mainland, making this one of Scotland’s most accessible islands. The unspoilt coastline is a popular destination for watersports enthusiasts, cyclists, walkers and nature lovers alike. Discover Cumbrae.
6. If you love beautiful scenery and outdoor pursuits, try Lanarkshire
With Glasgow to the west and Edinburgh to the east, Lanarkshire is an ideal place to base yourself when exploring Scotland’s top attractions. You won’t actually need to leave this charming part of central Scotland unless you want to though. Lanarkshire offers a wealth of things to see and do. A round of golf? Tick! Fascinating historic buildings? Tick! And not one but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites! Ready to pack your bags? Discover Lanarkshire.
7. If you love peaceful walking in beautiful scenery, try the Angus countryside and glens
The countryside of Angus stretches out from the city of Dundee, right around the east coast and inland, to the lush valleys and soft peaks of the Angus Glens, which consist of five glens with 10 Munros. Explore miles and miles of twisting small roads and paths, perfect for walking, cycling and just enjoying the great outdoors. Amongst these beautiful green fields are several towns and smaller villages, all well worth exploring to discover the relaxed pace of life and friendly locals. Discover Angus.
8. If you love island hopping, try the Shetland islands
There’s more to Shetland than just the Mainland. The archipelago is made up of more than 100 islands. Each one boasts its own stunning scenery, unique heritage and special character. Whichever island you visit, there is a wealth of archaeological and historic sites to uncover alongside a diverse array of flora and fauna, some of which are distinct to the isles. Discover Shetland.
9. If you love rolling hills and sandy beaches, try Dumfriesshire
The hilly area of Dumfriesshire offers a rich mixture of landscapes that change dramatically from rolling farmland, tranquil lochs and woodland to rocky coastline and sandy coves. Situated along the shore of the Solway Firth, the area is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, but has no shortage of sites of historic and cultural interest. Ready? Set? Holiday! Discover Dumfries & Galloway.
10. If you love pretty seaside villages and fantastic beaches, try East Lothian
With over 40 miles of stunning coastline, golden beaches, award-winning attractions, excellent food and some of the world’s finest links golf courses, East Lothian’s picturesque countryside and charming coastline make it a fantastic place to enjoy a range of outdoor activities. Caught your interest? Discover East Lothian.
11. If you love rugged cliffs and plentiful wildlife, try Banffshire
Miles of rugged cliffs, beautiful sandy bays and fine examples of Georgian architecture await you in Banffshire. This wonderful corner of north east Scotland is full of natural beauty and great stories. Get your suitcase out now! Discover Aberdeenshire and the Banffshire coast.
Dreaming of future travel? Check out our 11 places in Scotland you must visit in 2021.
Want to share your favourite holiday destination in Scotland? Leave your suggestions in the comments below or share your experience with us in the iKnow Community, or on our social channels using #OnlyinScotland.