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11 off-the-beaten-track holiday destinations in Scotland

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 2018, 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?

1. If you love unspoilt, dramatic scenery, try the Sutherland and Caithness area

Sango Bay near Durness, Sutherland

Sango Bay near Durness, Sutherland

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 remotest 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 Sutherland.

2. If you love quaint coastal towns, try Berwickshire

Thirlestane Castle, Lauder, Scottish Borders

Thirlestane Castle, Lauder, Scottish Borders

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

A83 road skirts along the base of Ben Arthur, also known as ‘The Cobbler’

A83 road skirts along the base of Ben Arthur, also known as ‘The Cobbler’

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

White water rafting, Perthshire

White water rafting, 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

Dinghy sailing, SportsScotland National Centre, Cumbrae

Dinghy sailing, SportsScotland National Centre, Cumbrae

The Isle of Cumbrae, also known as Great Cumbrae, is only a 10 minute ferry ride from Largs, 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

Bothwell Castle, South Lanarkshire

Bothwell Castle, South 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

Glen Clova, Angus

Glen Clova, Angus

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

Cliffs at Braewick, Shetland

Cliffs at Braewick, Shetland

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

Caerlaverock Castle near Dumfries

Caerlaverock Castle near Dumfries

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

Horse riding at Seacliff Beach, East Lothian

Horse riding at Seacliff Beach, 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

Kinnaird Head lighthouse, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire

Kinnaird Head lighthouse, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire

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 Banffshire.

Want to share your favourite holiday destination in Scotland? Leave your suggestions in the comments below or share your experience in the iKnow Community.


  • Jim Rockchuck Johnstone

    Try the Moray Firth Area for great scenery, beaches and activities

    • Great suggestion, Jim! -Aldona

    • Kathy Fraser

      And amazing 🐬 dolphins!!

  • Andy Walters

    Just a correction. There are no Munros on the Cowal Peninsula

    • Oops! Thanks for letting us know, Andy! We’ll fix it asap 🙂 -Aldona

  • Christine Riddell

    Scotland is a fantastic country for a holiday,we have everything here (except a guarantee of sunny weather). Come and give us a try , I’m sure you will love it here .

    • Couldn’t say it better myself, Christine! -Aldona

  • Andy Walters

    So, you deleted my inconvenient comment about the Cowal Peninsula not actually having any Munros. Why not just adjust the headline of number 3 to read ‘towering Corbetts’ or ‘towering mountains’?

    • Hi Andy. We have an approval process for all guest comments. Comments will not be approved automatically, and must be manually approved by a site moderator to appear on the page, regardless of the nature of the comment. -Aldona

  • Hi Holiday Highlands. Shetland’s scenery is surprisingly varied for such a small area and truly spectacular, indeed. -Aldona

  • Sutherland and Caithness area looks really nice. I`m just curious now where do i want to go – Scotland or Endgland next summer

    • Hi there. Thanks for your comment. Ahem… Not to be trying to sway you to pick Scotland, but Scotland really is the most beautiful coutnry in the world (did it sound too biased?) 😉 You could be road-tripping through breathtaking scenery, sampling whiskies at their source on distillery tours, admiring castles, and that’s just to name a few cool things that await you in Scotland. I hope I made your choice a little bit harder now 😉 You can find more ideas and inspirations on our website: -Aldona

  • Matt Martin

    We’re visiting from the U.S. in July for our 20th wedding anniversary. We’re arriving via ferry at Cairnryan and flying out of Glasgow a week later. We know we want to visit Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Is there anything along that route that we absolutely should not miss?

    • ClaireS

      A trip into Stirling is worth a visit, the Kelpies in Falkirk they are a new fantastic steel structure and easily accessible as is the falkirk wheel and all en route to Edinburgh via M9. Aberdeen is a huge trek north, would recommend jumping the train from stirling – means you may manage to explore more wouldn’t miss Glasgow out nor a trip along Loch Lomond Shores.

      • Great shout, Claire! 🙂 Definitely wouldn’t miss Loch Lomond, and the Falkirk area has got so much to offer, including a trip down the Forth & Clyde and Union canals among other wonderful places. Thank you! -Aldona

    • David Walker

      Edinburgh to Aberdeen via East Neuk of Fife, Craill, St Andrews, Dundee and then Coupar Angus to Braemar and Deeside would cover a wide variety of interesting spots and pretty scenery.

    • Hi Matt. Apologies for not responding to your comment earlier – it must have totally slipped my attention. I think that David and Claire have done a fab job giving you suggestions of places worth visiting on your way to Aberdeen – all really lovely places! Have a look at our 7 days in the east of Scotland itinerary for more ideas Hoe this helps 🙂 -Aldona

  • Andy Wallace

    Why aren’t the Markinch Games shown on the visit Scotland web site. One of the first Highland Games in the year on 3rd June. A grand day out?.

  • gavin sharp

    Why not try kinlochbervie.rugged and remote also great beaches.and the locals are friendly and forgot to say ,eat at the schoolhouse.great food and great staff.

    • Thanks for the suggestions, Gavin! We will be sure to feature it next time – sounds blissful! 🙂 -Aldona

  • Colin Shepherd

    I can recommend Portmahomack and the Tarbat peninsula. I visited this area for the first time last month. It’s a beautiful area, with a rich Pictish heritage, a great wee museum, attractive villages and some marvellous coastal scenery and beaches. Quiet and unspoiIt, I plan to go back again soon.

    • We love the sound of it, Colin! Watch this space as we might be featuring the area very soon! 🙂 -Aldona

  • Christine Matthews

    Visited from Australia and drove the NC500. Everywhere was spectacular but our visit to Orkney was a highlight. Will definitely be back one day for longer. Scotland is very underrated as a holiday destination. And the people were so friendly and helpful x

  • Kathryn Hine

    There is so much to take in and feel my ancestors trials and tribulations. I hopefully can make a return trip next year and bring one of my sisters with me. She needs to see and fill the land and history of our grandparents home.

  • Erick

    Why are all the photos with blue sky and fantastic sunshine? Hahaha It makes it attractive indeed, but is not always like that sadly : ( at least not in the west coast. Nevertheless, Scotland is the best of the best!

  • Kateřina Bínová

    Me and my friend are planning a three week trip through Scottish Highlands in May, just booked accommodation throughout the whole journey and seeing these breathtaking pictures just made more anxious to come. So much beauty and so little time! And I thought a three week holiday would be enough, lol.

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