Edinburgh Castle


City breaks with country escapes

Spend a few days enjoying the attractions and atmosphere of one of Scotland's seven cities before heading out to an enchanting countryside destination for a country holiday in the fresh air. With good transport links and relatively short distances to travel, in Scotland it's easy to combine a city stay with some time in the beautiful countryside.

We've suggested three stunning country breaks that are easily accessible from each city, two that are closer by and one further afield, all with transport suggestions, travel times and links to accommodation.

Three reasons to visit Aberdeen:

  1. The architecture - admire silver-hued buildings and monuments, all made of shimmering local granite, including Marischal College and His Majesty's Theatre.
  2. The history - with a past that stretches back 8,000 years there's plenty to uncover in Aberdeen. Discover the area's proud maritime history at the Scottish Maritime Museum.
  3. The dolphins - Aberdeen harbour is one of the best places in Scotland to see dolphins. You can even take a boat tour to see them playing in the water up-close.

Don't miss: Old Aberdeen, Union Square Shopping Centre, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums, Gordon Highlanders Museum.

Plan your trip:

Countryside breaks from Aberdeen

1. Ballater

Cairngorms National Park heather treesCairngorms National Park

Travel from Aberdeen: by car (1 hr 15 minutes) or by bus (2 hrs 20 minutes). Why not check out the Deeside Tourist Route to uncover some hidden gems?

Why visit? Part of beautiful Royal Deeside, where the British Royal Family holiday in Scotland, Ballater sits at the edge of the Cairngorms National Park, perfect for walks in the forests, mountains and wildlife.

2. Banff

Banff harbourBanff Harbour, Banff © Banffshire Coast Tourism Partnership / Lyn MacDonald

Travel from Aberdeen: by car (1 hr 15 minutes) or by bus (2 hrs).

Why visit? Keep your eyes peeled for more dolphins as you explore the beaches and coastal paths of the sparkling Moray Firth coastline. Make sure to pop into magnificent Duff House.

3. Orkney

Skara BraeSkara Brae, Orkney

Travel from Aberdeen: by ferry (6 hrs) or plane (1 hr). You can also drive to Gills Bay (5 hrs 15 minutes) and take the ferry.

Why visit? Travel back in time thousands of years in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site (please note the Maeshowe cairn is currently closed, but visitor centre is open) and capture island life in cosy pubs, galleries and shops.

Three reasons to visit Dundee:

  1. The culture - with plenty of galleries and arts venues to visit, and the V&A Dundee, the city is quickly evolving into a cultural hotspot.
  2. The climate - thanks to its location on the east coast beside the River Tay, Dundee is one of the sunniest cities in Scotland and is on a par with Paris, Rome and Lisbon when it comes to average rainfall per year.
  3. The history - explore the city's jute milling history at Scotland's Jute Museum @ Verdant Works or find out what it was like to captain an Antarctic mission aboard the RRS Discovery.

Don't miss: The McManus: Dundee's Art Gallery & Museum, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Mills Observatory and HM Frigate Unicorn.

Plan your trip:

Countryside breaks from Dundee

1. St Andrews

St Andrews Cathedral blue skySt Andrews Cathedral, St Andrews

Travel from Dundee: by car (30 minutes) or by bus (30 minutes). Why not drive via the Fife Coastal Route to uncover some hidden gems?

Why visit? The charming town centre has cobbled streets filled with lovely shops and cafés, plus its famous cathedral, castle and golf courses. It's also a great base for exploring the beautiful Fife countryside, with its quaint fishing villages, beaches and coastal walks.

2. Montrose and Angus

Auchmithie beachAuchmithie beach, Auchmithie

Travel from Dundee: by car (50 minutes), by bus (1 hr 15 minutes) or by train (40 minutes). Why not drive via the Angus Coastal Route to uncover some hidden gems?

Why visit? Sit quietly by the Montrose Basin, watching for birdlife, head up into the Angus Glens for a day of walking amongst waterfalls and wildlife and explore the beautiful beaches of the Angus coastline.

3. Elgin and Moray Speyside

Elgin CathedralElgin Cathedral, Elgin

Travel from Dundee: by car (2 hrs 50 minutes to Elgin) or train (3 hrs 5 minutes to Elgin). Why not drive via the Angus Coastal Route to Aberdeen to uncover some hidden gems before heading on to Elgin?

Why visit? Enjoy the activities, whisky and castles of Moray Speyside, home to Scotland's Malt Whisky Trail. Please remember to check with the distilleries directly to confirm opening times.

Three reasons to visit Edinburgh:

  1. The history - not many cities compare to Edinburgh when it comes to history. From the cobbled closes of the Old Town to the striking neoclassical architecture of the New Town, Edinburgh's streets are steeped in stories.
  2. The food - home to four Michelin-star restaurants as well as a whole host of other great eateries, from multicultural fine dining to hearty pub meals, Edinburgh packs a serious culinary punch.
  3. The festivals - there's a reason Edinburgh is known as the world's leading festival city. As well as the world famous Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the city is home to 10 other major annual festivals.

Don't miss: The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage Site, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle, Scottish National Gallery.

Plan your trip:

Countryside breaks from Edinburgh

1. Peebles

Peebles Old Parish Church River TweedPeebles Old Parish Church

Travel from Edinburgh: by car (55 minutes) or by bus (1 hr 10 minutes).

Why visit? Peebles is nestled in the lush Scottish Borders, where you can enjoy rambling walks through rolling scenery, plus cycling and fishing.

2. Dumfries

Caerlaverock Castle exteriorCaerlaverock Castle

Travel from Edinburgh: by car (2 hrs 5 minutes) or by train via Carlisle (3 hrs) or by train to Lockerbie, followed by a bus or taxi from Lockerbie to Dumfries (1 hr 45 minutes).

Why visit? Dumfries is located in the heart of Dumfries & Galloway, a thriving region boasting plenty of attractions, including the Galloway Forest Park, Burns House Museum and Annandale Distillery.

3. Shetland

Gonfirth on ShetlandGonfirth, Shetland

Travel from Edinburgh: by plane (1 hr 25 minutes).

Why visit? Enjoy panoramic island views in Shetland, an internationally renowned Geopark, and delve into the strong Norse and Viking heritage.

Three reasons to visit Glasgow:

  1. The shopping - if you fancy a day's retail therapy on your holiday, Glasgow is the city for you. Browse floor upon floor of fashion, homewares and more, or head to the city's independent boutiques and vintage shops to pick up unique items.
  2. The night life - Glasgow's night life is legendary. Tuck into a delicious meal before heading to the pub for a few drinks in cheery surroundings, or book tickets to a gig or theatre performance.
  3. The galleries and museums - from displays of transport through the ages at the Riverside Museum to the Roman artefacts and Charles Rennie Mackintosh designs showcased at The Hunterian, there's lots of unique objects to uncover in Glasgow.

Don't miss: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow Botanic Gardens, House for an Art Lover, The Lighthouse (reopening times TBC) and the newly reopened Burrell Collection in Pollock Park.

Plan your trip:

Countryside breaks from Glasgow

1. Ayr

Greenan CastleGreenan Castle near Ayr

Travel from Glasgow: by car (50 minutes), by bus (1 hr) or by train (50 minutes).

Why visit? Spend a few days by the seaside and breathe in the fresh air. Further into Ayrshire there are beautiful rolling landscapes to explore as well as attractions connected to the life of poet Robert Burns - you can still visit the very cottage he was born in!

2. Glencoe

Three Sisters GlencoeThe Three Sisters, Glencoe

Travel from Glasgow: by car (2 hrs 10 minutes) or by bus (2 hrs 50 minutes).

Why visit? Glen Coe is one of the most celebrated landscapes in Scotland, and even featured in the James Bond movie Skyfall. Part of the Lochaber Geopark, the deep glen was carved out by glaciers centuries ago. The route from Glasgow also passes stunning Loch Lomond - well worth a stop off too!

3. Isle of Islay

Lagavulin Distillery purple flowersLagavulin Distillery, Isle of Islay

Travel from Glasgow: by plane (45 minutes) or by car to Kennacraig (2 hrs 35 minutes) then by ferry to Islay. You can also travel by bus to Kennacraig (3 hrs 30 minutes).

Why visit? Taste some of Islay's famously peaty whisky on the island where it was made and enjoy coastal walks and island rambles. The Isle of Jura is just a 5 minute ferry trip across the water, where you might spot majestic wild deer.

Three reasons to visit Inverness:

  1. The military history - visit nearby Culloden Battlefield, where Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite army was massacred by government soldiers in 1746, before exploring Fort George, the military stronghold built by King George II following the rebellion.
  2. Quirky things to do - follow the River Ness walk, which crosses the river by hopping over three of the River Ness Islands, and browse a treasure trove of second hand books at Leakey's Bookshop.
  3. The loch - located just outside the city, Loch Ness boasts towering mountains on both sides and a depth of 227 m. Nothing quite prepares you for your first glimpse of this vast expanse of water. Could there be a monster hiding in its depths?

Don't miss: Clava Cairns, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, Inverness Botanic Garden.

Plan your trip:

Countryside breaks from Inverness

1. Thurso and the NC500

Ard Neakie on Loch Eriboll, between Durness & TongueArd Neakie on Loch Eriboll, between Durness and Tongue

Travel from Inverness: by car (2 hrs 25 minutes), by bus (3 hrs) or by train (3 hrs 50 minutes). Why not drive via the North Coast 500 or the Moray Firth Route to uncover some hidden gems?

Why visit? Head to the very top of mainland Britain for refreshing coastal walks and sweeping sea views out across the sea to Orkney. Thurso is a key town on the North Coast 500, the famous driving route around the stunning landscapes of the north Highlands.

2. Fort William

Ben NevisBen Nevis, Fort William © Kenny Lam

Travel from Inverness: by car (1 hr 45 minutes) or by bus (2 hrs).

Why visit? Under the shadow of Ben Nevis, the UK's highest mountain, Fort William is located in the Outdoor Capital of the UK and offers plenty of breathtaking scenery to explore. Visit Glen Coe, learn more about the Lochaber Geopark and stroll along the Caledonian Canal.

3. Outer Hebrides

Calanais Standing Stones grey/blue skyThe Calanais Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis

Travel from Inverness: by plane to Benbecula (1 hr 45 minutes) or Stornoway (45 minutes). By car to Uig on Skye (3 hrs) then ferry to Tarbert, or by car to Ullapool (1 hr 20 minutes) then by ferry to Stornoway. You can also travel by bus to Ullapool (1 hr 20 minutes).

Why visit? Stroll along the stunning beaches of the Outer Hebrides, an enchanting island chain off Scotland's west coast. Absorb the friendly island culture, explore historic attractions and enjoy delicious food and drink.

Three reasons to visit Perth:

  1. The culture - book tickets for a performance at Perth Concert Hall, which boasts an excellent programme of concerts, gigs and dance performances, and browse the artworks and fascinating exhibits at Perth Museum and Art Gallery or the Fergusson Gallery.
  2. The crowning place of Scottish kings - located just outside Perth, explore the opulent rooms of Scone Palace and learn more about the place where Scottish kings were crowned in days gone by, including the real Macbeth and Robert the Bruce.
  3. The military history - visit the ancestral home of the illustrious Black Watch Regiment, the Black Watch Castle & Museum, and find out more about the regiment's history, from its formation in 1725 to recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Don't miss: Perth Racecourse, Fair Maid's House, Branklyn Garden, Huntingtower Castle.

Plan your trip:

Countryside breaks from Perth

1. Aberfeldy


The town of Aberfeldy, Perthshire © VisitScotland / Airborne Lens

Travel from Perth: by car (55 minutes) or by bus (1 hr 35 minutes).

Why visit? This is a charmingly picturesque town in Highland Perthshire, offering activities ranging from rambling walks to river rafting. Make sure to pop into Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery to learn how single malt and blended whisky is produced.

2. Kingussie

Uath LochanUath Lochan near Kingussie

Travel from Perth: by car (1 hr 35 minutes), by train (1 hr 20 minutes) or by bus (1 hr 50 minutes).

Why visit? Explore the epic scenery of the Cairngorms National Park using this pretty Highland town as a base. There's plenty of walking on offer, from rambling flat routes to awe-inspiring hill climbs, as well as golf and fishing.

3. Kyle of Lochalsh

Eilean Donan Castle Loch Duich coupleEilean Donan Castle, Dornie

Travel from Perth: by car (3 hrs 35 minutes) or by train/bus (5 hrs via Inverness). Browse our Kyle Line itinerary to discover more things to do along this train route.

Why visit? Set on a stunning spot on the west coast of Scotland, Kyle of Lochalsh offers stunning views over to the Isle of Skye, as well as easy access to the island via the Skye Bridge. Make sure you pop into stunning Eilean Donan Castle, which is located on its own island.

Three reasons to visit Stirling:

  1. The history - the former capital of Scotland has more than a few stories to tell. Lots of decisive moments in Scotland's history have taken place here or nearby, including the Battle of Stirling Bridge and the Battle of Bannockburn.
  2. The night life - Stirling is a vibrant city with lots of great restaurants to enjoy a tasty meal in. You'll find plenty of bars and pubs to relax and enjoy a drink in too, many hosting regular pub quizzes and live music nights.
  3. The culture - with the Macrobert Arts Centre (located on the University of Stirling campus), the Tolbooth and The Albert Halls all offering theatre productions, gigs, concerts, film screenings and more, you'll find lots of entertainment during your city break.

Don't miss: Stirling Castle, The National Wallace Monument, Victorian Stirling Arcade, Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum.

Plan your trip:

Countryside breaks from Stirling

1. Callander

Bracklinn Falls and Callander CragsBracklinn Falls and Callander Crags near Callander

Travel from Stirling: by car (30 minutes) or by bus (45 minutes).

Why visit? Located in the beautiful Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, Callander is a fantastic base for enjoying outdoor activities, including walks out to Bracklinn Falls and the River Keltie as well as cycling from Callander to Strathyre along the traffic-free cycle track.

2. Aviemore

Loch Morlich snowLoch Morlich near Aviemore

Travel from Stirling: by car (2 hrs 20 minutes) or by train (2 hrs 10 minutes). Why not drive via the Perthshire Tourist Route to uncover some hidden gems?

Why visit? A key base for exploring the majestic Cairngorms National Park, Aviemore is surrounded by beautiful scenery that is just waiting to be explored. Other attractions in town include the shop at Cairngorm Brewery (please note tours and tastings are currently unavailable) well as the Strathspey Railway steam train from Aviemore Station.

3. Oban

McCaig's Tower person dogsMcCaig's Tower, Oban

Travel from Oban: by car (2 hrs 15 minutes) or by train (3 hrs 45 minutes via Glasgow) or by bus (4 hrs 20 minutes via Glasgow). Why not drive via the Argyll Coastal Route to uncover some hidden gems?

Why visit? This picturesque seaside town is known as the Gateway to the Isles and offers regular sailings to the beautiful islands of Mull and Kerrera. From Oban there are plenty of beaches, gardens, forests and castles to explore too.