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Where to Go in Scotland for a Weekend

Scotland occupies the northernmost third of Great Britain and has over 900 offshore islands as well as a huge expanse of mainland.

As Scotland covers so much open space, visitors will find a diverse landscape, with 95% of this land being rural. Alongside the countryside, it also has many towns, cities and villages to explore, all of which offer plenty of culture and history.

If you are planning to visit Scotland and only have a weekend to do so, keep reading as we have put together a list of the best places to go in the country for a short break. 

The Isle of Skye

What to Do

If you want to uncover mediaeval castles, rugged landscapes and picturesque villages, you must go to the Isle of Skye. Here you will find lots to do and plenty to see, all of which can be accomplished in just one weekend! 

The main town on Skye is Portree, full of colourful houses, plenty of shopping and an array of great restaurants. You can wander through the quaint streets or sit by the harbour and watch the fishing boats as they lazily bob in the water. 

Skye’s main attraction is the Fairy Pools. You will find a trail leading you to multiple pools with waterfalls cascading into them. The walk is around a mile from the car park, with mountain peaks towering along the way. Many people like to swim in the clear waters or relax in the enchanting countryside.

Kilt Rock is on the Trotternish Peninsula and is somewhere definitely worth visiting on the Isle of Skye. The dramatic sea cliff juts into the water with the Mealt waterfall cascading down its side from an impressive height of 51 metres. A visit to Kilt Rock will take your breath away due to its raw natural beauty alongside its stunning surrounding coastline. 

A trip to the Skye Museum of Island Life is a great way to spend your time on the island. The museum allows you to step back in time to see what life was like in an old Highland Village. Visit the preserved towns of thatched cottages, one of which dates back to the 19th century and uncover all the history that lies on this beautiful island. 

How to Get There

The Isle of Skye is connected to Scotland’s northwest coast by the Skye Bridge and Mallaig Armadale Ferry. You can either drive to Skye and cross the bridge or catch the ferry to the island. Skye also has good bus links and a train that runs to Kyle of Lochalsh, which terminates at the Skye Bridge. 

Glencoe

What to Do

Glencoe is a quaint village situated in western Scotland. Here you will find dramatic mountainous scenery everywhere and continuous countryside surrounding the area.

The village of Glencoe is renowned for its waterfalls and multiple trails that take you up numerous peaks. It also has a fascinating history, including being the place where the Glencoe Massacre occurred in 1692. 

Visiting the Glencoe Folk Museum is a great way to spend your time in this village. The museum tells the story of the massacre and allows visitors to gain a broader insight into the village’s history. 

There are also several 18th-century thatched cottages which are a great way to teach the kids about what life was like for those who lived here many years ago. 

If you enjoy outdoor pursuits, Glencoe won’t let you down. A trip to Glencoe Mountain is a great way to experience skiing in winter and mountain biking or hiking in the summer. The mountain is a prevalent attraction for locals and tourists alike, as the activities and scenery here are spectacular. 

Many visitors choose to Hike up the Pap of Glencoe when in the area. The 7km trek takes around 5-6 hours and is a great way to explore the unique cone-shaped peak that towers over the village. You will also find an incredible birdseye view from the summit, consisting of mighty mountains and Glencoe that sits below. 

How to Get There

Being a frequent tourist spot means Glencoe is relatively easy to reach. You can travel to the village by car or hop on the regular bus service that passes through the town on its way to Fort William or the Isle of Skye. 

Edinburgh

What to Do

Edinburgh is a mediaeval city and the capital of Scotland. There are many things to do here and plenty of sights to see, including the stunning architecture and gardens scattered throughout. 

A visit to Edinburgh Castle is a highlight for many visitors as it allows guests to explore the castle’s long history and royal residence. It stands on castle rock and is one of the oldest fortified places in Europe. When wandering through the court, check out the incredible views over Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside. 

When deciding to spend a weekend in Edinburgh, you can quickly fill your time with plenty to do night and day. The city has a vibrant nightlife alongside an array of shops encompassed by the countryside that sits on the outskirts of Edinburgh. 

If you aim to see much of Edinburgh in a short period, a double-decker bus tour is a great way to do this. The open-top buses allow you to take in the best sights around the city, providing a quicker alternative than seeing Edinburgh on foot. 

How to Get There

Being Scotland’s capital city means that there are many different transport options to Edinburgh. You can get the train from most major cities in the UK straight to the centre. There are also plenty of good bus links that run from the towns surrounding Edinburgh and a tram from Edinburgh airport that will take you to the city centre. 

Stirling

What to Do

Stirling is a city in central Scotland commonly referred to as ‘The Gateway to the Highlands’. It is a popular tourist destination in the country, mainly for Stirling Castle, which sits on a volcanic rock and dates back to the Middle Ages.

Another great attraction to visit in Stirling is the Wallace Monument. The large stone structure overlooks the city and provides incredible views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the tower.

If you seek serenity when visiting Stirling, a trip to Alva Glen will do just the trick! The beautiful hidden glen has a romantic aura around it and is surrounded by rolling hills and lush greenery, a great way to explore the countryside on the city’s outskirts. 

How to Get There

There are three direct train services to Stirling; one that runs from Glasgow and the other two from Edinburgh. In addition, many visitors travel to Stirling by coach or bus, as there are regular links to the city from several other Scottish towns. 

Stirling is also very easy to access by car due to its link to Scotland’s motorway and trunk road network. You can get here via the M9/A9 to Edinburgh, Perth and Inverness and the M80 to Glasgow. 

Loch Lomond

What to Do 

Loch Lomond is a large lake in southern Scotland and a popular tourist destination for many. It is a great place to immerse yourself in the outdoors, with the surrounding highlands home to many deer through the woodland. 

A weekend trip to Loch Lomond will allow you to relax and unwind away from the hustle and bustle of busy Scottish towns and cities. Hike around Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, where you will find multiple trails. Some routes offer more challenging hill climbs, with others allowing for a gentle stroll around the water. 

When visiting Loch Lomond, there are plenty of great ways to spend your day. One of the best activities is a boat trip on the lake. You can ride on a speedboat or hop aboard a boat tour which will take you to the highlights around the loch. 

How to Get There

One of the easiest ways to get to Loch Lomond is by train to Balloch, approximately 10 miles away, where you can then get the bus from here to the loch, taking around 30 minutes. Alternatively, there are trains to Tarbet, 8.4 miles from Loch Lomond, with good bus connections that take approximately 29 minutes. 

As Loch Lomond is much quieter than some of the towns and cities in Scotland, it is also relatively easy to navigate around the area by car.  

Inverness and Loch Ness

What to Do

Inverness is a city situated on Scotland’s northeast coast and is the largest in the Scottish Highlands, with many tourists heading here for the North Coast 500 route. 

Loch Ness is only 8 miles from Inverness and is a large lake. It is most famous for its myth of the Loch Ness Monster, which is said to live within its waters. 

Stroll through the indoor Victorian Market in Inverness; a great way to see all the local produce, such as food, clothing, and arts and crafts. Alternatively, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is in the centre if you seek to learn more about the city’s history, where you will find information about the Highlands, the city’s past, and a beautiful selection of art. 

In contrast to the vibrant city of Inverness, Loch Ness offers utter tranquillity around the sizeable freshwater loch. Surrounded by trees and greenery, the loch extends for approximately 23 miles past Inverness and is the largest lake in Scotland for its water volume.  

How to Get There

Inverness Airport is a 20-minute car journey from the city centre. There are also buses from the airport that take approximately 40 minutes. The city’s popularity means there is also a train station in Inverness city centre with good links to other towns. 

As Inverness is famous among drivers who plan to travel along the NC 500, the city can become very busy with traffic over the summer, so we recommend using public transport instead of driving here if possible. 

Fort William

What to Do

Fort William is a town in the western Scottish Highlands and is best known as ‘The Gateway to Ben Nevis’, the UK’s highest peak. Its array of shops, bars, restaurants and cafes in the town centre, alongside the peaks encompassing the area, allows for the best of both the wild outdoors and a bustling Scottish town. 

When visiting Fort William for a weekend, a significant challenge is to hike Ben Nevis. The trek takes around 7-8 hours with an elevation gain of 1,345 metres, so it’s not one for the faint-hearted! 

If you prefer to stay on the lower ground, a trip to Lochaber Geopark in Fort William is a great way to experience the fantastic scenery and geological heritage. Here you will find mountains, lochs, rivers, coasts and cliffs to explore. 

Another popular attraction in Fort William is the Jacobite Steam Train. The 84-mile train trip is a great way to enjoy your weekend. There are many sites to spot along the way, such as Ben Nevis, Loch Morar, River Morar, Loch Nevis and much more.  

How to Get There

A train runs to Fort William daily along the London North Eastern Railway. The town also has good bus links with neighbouring places, making it an accessible area to visit for a weekend break. 

Summary 

Scotland has many beautiful places, with varying landscapes and offerings for visitors. One of the best things about the country is that you can decide what kind of trip you have, as its vast terrains allow for many different adventures. So whether you spend a weekend here or a bit longer, you will find plenty to see. If you are planning a trip to Scotland and require accommodation, Independent Cottages have a range of stunning rental properties throughout the country. Browse our collection here, or get in touch with the team for more information.

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