Scotland

Stunning lochs, magnificent beaches and world-class cities… Scotland has it all

Scotland’s home to six UNESCO World Heritage sites, including The Forth Bridge and the now unoccupied island of St Kilda (the most remote part of the British Isles that’s famous for its puffins). But one of the most visited of these UNESCO beauties is New Lanark Mills, an 18th century cotton spinning mill village that sits astride the River Clyde an hour south of Glasgow.

The attraction is already a hit with families and groups, but in a new move that will please anyone destined for a Scottish road trip, it’s offering an alternative to the usual motorway services. Its ‘meal stops’ can be taken in the Mill One restaurant at the four-star New Lanark Mill Hotel or the Mill Café. “Meal stop offers a convenient way for groups to come and have lunch or afternoon tea, and see a little of what makes New Lanark Mills World Heritage Site such a special place,” says Lynne Cooper. “We’re only 20 minutes from the main M74 motorway, going north or south, which makes us as a rather special alternative to the usual services!” Call 01555 667220 to find out more or see newlanark.org

Hailed as one of the great houses of Scotland, Mellerstain House and Gardens is happy to open its door to groups outside of its official opening times for a guided tour of this historic gem (email enquiries@mellerstain.com for details). Set in the Scottish Borders, this fantastic mansion house is possibly the only remaining complete building designed by neoclassical architect Robert Adam, see mellerstain.com

And of course the country has its fair share of castles, too. From Argyll’s Inveraray Castle, which was designed and built in the 18th century as a grand home (inveraray-castle.com) to Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, expect history to be revisited in stunning style.

The latter is the home of Hugh MacCleod, the 30th Chief of the MacCleod Clan who lives with his family in what is Scotland’s longest continuously inhabited castle. Newly revamped for visitors, this is a gem of a castle in a beautiful location with a first class garden, fascinating exhibits and good food at the MacCleod Tables Café, see dunvegancastle.com

UNESCO World Heritage sites and country piles aside, Scotland’s fabulous landscape also has an important role in producing one of the country’s most famous exports, Scotch whisky – and a new introduction at Edinburgh’s Scotch Whisky Experience explains all.

The revamped Sense of Scotland tour takes visitors on a 180° bird’s eye tour of Scotland’s five whisky-making regions. You’ll see Scotland’s landscape come to life in this experience, which demonstrates how the landscape and geography of the country contributes towards the flavour of different Scotch whiskies, see scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk

All at sea

St Hilda Sea Adventures is a family-run Scottish cruise company that’s been entertaining families and groups for the past decade on its fleet of small ships, offering cruising and wildlife holidays on the beautiful west coast of Scotland.

Setting sail around the islands, sea lochs and mountains of the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the company’s voyages were voted in the top 10 bestsmall ship cruises in the world by The Guardian newspaper last year.

With two charter boats, St Hilda and Seahorse II, out of Dunstaffnage marina, three miles north of Oban – the gateway to the Hebridean islands – the company has recently expanded both its fleet and the watery adventures it offers. New this year are the Caledonian canal cruise and the Scottish castles cruise, while next year sees the launch of the ‘Skye, Shiant and the Summer Isles’ cruise, as well as ‘The Magical Outer Hebrides and Shiant Isles’.

For more on the cruises on offer see https://grouptraveloffers.com/product/st-hilda-sea-adventures/ 

Edinburgh’s finest

Of course, no mention of Scotland is complete without a mention of its world famous capital, which is rich in castles and palaces – both traditional and moored. The Royal Yacht Britannia, hailed by VisitScotland as the country’s best visitor attraction, was the holiday home of Her Majesty The Queen for 40 years,

and is now berthed in the city. Groups and families are welcomed on board with five main decks to wander around, State Apartments to explore and the Royal Deck Tea Room to enjoy. Find out more at royalyachtbritannia.co.uk

Continuing Edinburgh’s royal theme is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official city residence, see royalcollection.org.uk/visit/palace-of-holyroodhouse

While under the Royal Mile lies the award-winning The Real Mary King’s Close, a warren of streets frozen in time (see realmarykingsclose.com), and The National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street (see nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-scotland).

If you have a small group of 16 or less, Rabbie’s offers set tours from Glasgow or Edinburgh and personalised trips can also be arranged, see rabbies.com