Where better to find some UK staycation inspiration than amongst the dramatic landscape of Scotland? The country’s breath-taking scenery and vibrant culture makes it a top choice for UK staycationers. Read on to see our top tips, view our staycation map and feel a little inspired this Summer!
Before we start, here’s a gentle reminder that you should only follow the travel advice below if current government guidelines permit.
Why choose a Staycation in Scotland?
A unique landscape
You don’t need to be Geography nerd to know that Scotland looks and feels very different to the rest of the UK.
Other than a few areas such as the Lake District, most of the UK is made up of lowland terrain, whereas the amazing landscape of Scotland is much more varied. Scotland also boasts the majority of the UK’s mountain ranges as well as its highest peak, Ben Nevis.
If you’ve ever driven through Scotland, you’ll know that the scenery seems to change as soon as you drive a few miles north of Glasgow. This is where the Highland Boundary Fault line divides Scotland into its lowlands and highlands.
Once you get to the highlands, you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different part of the world. Huge, majestic mountains disappear into dramatic skies and immense lochs brush up to picturesque banks. With its own unique culture, history, identity and landscape, it’s a fascinating area that is well worth exploring!
It’s perfect for road trips
A road trip to a country outside of the UK can often feel like a logistical nightmare. If you went to France for example, you’d need to take with you: an up-to-date passport, a green card, a high visibility vest and much more. That’s not to mention the mental strain of having to reprogram your brain for driving on a different side of the road!
All this stress is fortunately taken out of the equation if you plan to staycation in the Scotland. And as we said, its as far as you’ll need to go to experience something completely different!
It helps that there’s also some fantastic road trip routes within the country, such as the North Coast 500 that we talked about here.
Another bonus is that, by staying within the UK you can take advantage of temporary car insurance. This means that you don’t even need to own your own car to enjoy the natural treasures of Scotland, you can just borrow one from a family member or mate! Jaunt offers temporary car insurance for as little as £0.39 an hour*.
You can go wild camping!
One of the best things about choosing Scotland for a staycation is that you’re allowed to camp almost anywhere! That’s right, you can unleash your inner adventurer and find some truly unique accommodation.
Why’s this such a big deal? It’s generally illegal to camp without the permission of the landowner in most of the country (England, Wales and Northern Island). This means that you mostly have to keep to specifically designated campsites, but in Scotland, this isn’t necessarily the case.
You can technically pitch your tent anywhere, as long as you’re following the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Key parts of the code include the “leave no trace” mantra; ensuring that you take away your litter, don’t cause any pollution, and remove any remnants from your tent pitch. There are also specific restrictions relating to loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park at certain times of the year. Before you set off, it’s worth reading up on the code even if you already consider yourself a seasoned camper!
With that in mind, you can allow your adventurous imagination to run wild. All of our picks below are also top choices for some spectacular wild camping.
Read on to hear about some of our favorite places to have a staycation in Scotland.
Often named the most beautiful beach in the whole country, Sandwood Bay in Sutherland offers up a one-mile strip of picturesque sand. Situated on the far north coast of the Scottish mainland, its remote location means the area remains clean, natural and unspoilt. In fact, there’s no direct road access meaning you’ll need to park about 4-miles away and hike in. A true adventure!
The bay has a fascinating history too. Some believe that the name derives from the Viking word for sand water “Sandvatn”, as longboats were dragged across the beach into the nearby loch. Though the area is now mostly uninhabited, it is believed that a now extinct Pictish population used to live there, and remains of their settlement are still visible today.
Fast forward to modern history and you’ll be able to see the evidence of a more recent development. During the Second World War, an RAF pilot crash-landed his plane on the beach after an Engine failure. Whilst the pilot escaped unscathed, his Spitfire remained in the sand, as the waters slowly eroded it into the sea. Whilst the aircraft itself is long gone, the original engine remains intact and can occasionally be seen depending on the weather and the tide.
Oh, and if that’s not enough, the bay consistently recommended as a top choice for wild camping. Just remember to follow the code and leave no trace!
Probably one of the most spectacular glens in Scotland, Nevis sits below it’s mountainous brother, Ben. The valley completely immerses you in the unique geography of the highlands. From its floor, it’s possible to see all the different rocks that form the landscape as well as where huge ice-age glaciers used to sit.
But this isn’t the only thing to do in and around the Glen!
If you fancy more of a challenge you can of course climb the neighbouring Ben Nevis. Despite being the highest mountain in the UK, it is relatively easy to climb. For example, England’s tallest mountain, Scafell Pike, is over 300 metres lower yet has a much more fearsome reputation. On Scafell you’ll have to scramble over tough terrain to get to the top whereas Ben Nevis has multiple convenient paths all leading to the peak. So, if it’s a minimal effort boast you’re after, Ben Nevis is the one!
The Jacobite Steam Train
If you’re after more chilled experience, you can rely on the power of the railway to take you around the sights and sounds of the highlands.
Sometimes called the best railway journey in the world, the Jacobite Steam Train is the perfect way to explore the dramatic landscape of northern Scotland. It starts near Ben Nevis and winds it way across the highlands to Scotland’s deepest loch, Loch Nevis. At one point, it passes over the world famous Glenfinnian Viaduct, offering spectacular views. Whether you’re simply there to glimpse the steam train crossing the iconic bridge, or looking out from a carriage window, the experience is awe-inspiring.
Recognise the viaduct? That’s right, it’s where the Hogwarts Express was filmed for the Harry Potter movies. In fact, some of the train’s carriages that were originally in the film are still in use today.
Whether you’re taking high road or the low road, the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond are so irresistible that they inspired one of Scotland’s best-known folk songs. “Loch” is the Scottish gaelic or Scots word for lake or sea inlet and Loch Lomond is the largest and most iconic of them all, with a shoreline spanning a massive 153km! In fact, it is the largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain.
One of the best ways to explore the Loch is to take a walk around the Milennium Forest Path. The enchanting route will take you through the Atlantic Oak Woodlands that surround the waters.
But that’s not all! Since the loch is set within the expansive Trossachs National Park, the area boasts a range of things to do and see that are bound to keep you entertained. One idea is to explore the habitats of some of the country’s most fascinating wildlife. From majestic golden eagles to wily otters, the national park has it all.
Yet another great idea for when we come out of lochdown. (sorry)
Let us know your Scotland Staycation stories by tagging #takeajaunt on Instagram!
If you want to read up on more of our Staycation top tips, click through to our comprehensive guide.
*On average 30% of customers aged between 40-64 paid £0.39 per hour for a Jaunt Car Policy (From October 1st 2020 – 31st January 2021)