Thinking about a weekend break to Scotland this autumn/winter? Here are some ideas for where you could visit…
Why you need a weekend break to Scotland
2020 is the year of staycation! For a lot of us travelling abroad just isn’t an option this year, and so many of us are now thinking about where to holiday at home. This is where the weekend break to Scotland comes in! I’m not gonna lie, I actually got into staycations and exploring more of Scotland before everything hit the fan this year. Why? Well, we got a dog last year and it’s meant that I’ve actually wanted to explore closer to home. Going abroad and owning a pet do not go together very easily, and so it’s much easier to look for something that our little labrador pup Casper can come along to too!
For me, the perfect staycation involves nice food, cosy accommodation, and a choice of things to do. That could be sipping on a smoky cocktail in a secret bar, going for a muddy dog walk in the midst of the countryside or exploring the cobbled streets of the Old Town in Edinburgh. Whatever your idea of a perfect staycation, I’m sure you’ll find something to suit you here!
So let’s go – here are 7 places I think would make the perfect weekend break to Scotland!
I don’t think I need to convince anyone that Edinburgh is an excellent choice for a weekend break to Scotland. It really has it all, and in winter it comes alive even more than ever. There’s the cobbled streets and narrow alleyways of the Royal Mile, the castle, the gorgeous rainbow-coloured buildings on Victoria Street leading up from the Grassmarket… everywhere you turn oozes history and charm by the sack load. If you’re feeling fancy then why not head to The Ivy just off St Andrews Square for a late lunch? Or explore some of the indie shops on Cockburn Street. Just make sure you pronounce it Co-burn Street so as not to confuse the locals. If you’re brave, go underground and explore the vaults or Mary Kings Close. Woo-ooo-oo!
However, there’s so much more to Edinburgh than Princes Street, the Grassmarket and the Royal Mile – as beautiful as they are. Why not catch a movie at old-fashioned cinema The Cameo at Tollcross, take a stroll through The Medows or head down to Stockbridge for boutique shopping? Edinburgh is gorgeous all year around, of course, but in winter it’s all lit up and twinkly. If you don’t go and enjoy the Christmas markets you’re missing out! You can read more about the Edinburgh Christmas market here!
What to do in Edinburgh: Climb Arthur’s Seat for some stunning views of the city
The market town of Crieff is located in the central belt of Scotland. That means is that it’s pretty accessible for people who want to experience Scotland, but without having to drive all the way into the depth of the Highlands. For me, coming from Dundee, we didn’t even have to drive north! There are plenty of things to do in Crieff, such as the Famous Grouse Experience distillery tour, beautiful scenery to explore, and charming shops to wander round in town, but it’s also a perfect place to just really get away from it all. I would love to give you a really in-depth guide of everything that we did in Crieff but this trip wasn’t that. Truth be told, I just wanted to chill out rather than feel like we were running to a timetable.
In all honesty, my time in Crieff was pretty chill. We just had a really cosy couple of days going on lovely dog walks and curling up next to the log burner in what was a really lovely Airbnb. The cottage itself was warm and cosy, it came with heated flooring and a fridge stocked with local farm produce. It was also surrounded by fields – one even had some friendly horses in it. For me, it was just what the doctor ordered. I would definitely love to go back another time and see more of Crieff another time!
Where to stay in Crieff: We stayed at Georgina’s luxurious country cottage near Crieff
Read my blog post on my cosy winter break in Crieff here:
I live in Dundee and so I may be a little biased, but I think it’s often overlooked – despite having a lot of offer. It’s a pocket-sized city which sits right on the banks of the River Tay. That means you can enjoy the buzz of city life while also knowing that you’re not far away from some gorgeous walks and scenery – it really is all there on your doorstep! In terms of things to do in Dundee, there’s a LOT to choose from. I’d suggest the V&A Dundee design museum, climbing the Law, exploring the underground vaults and enjoying a cocktail at Dundee’s secret bar. If you can get your tongue around the local dialect you even stop off for a ‘peh’ from the 24-hour bakery. That’s a pie by the way, pronounced the Dundee way.
And that’s just for starters! You can also stretch your legs with a leisurely walk along the river, get a selfie with the Desperate Dan statue or enjoy a delicious brunch at one of the many restaurants in town. If you want to explore a little further afield then there’s the lovely seaside town of Broughty Ferry, beautiful beach walks at Tentsmuir, or you could even visit St Andrews and enjoy a round of golf. All in all, Dundee makes a pretty strong weekend break to Scotland.
Where to stay in Dundee: Staybridge Suites Dundee
Where to eat in Dundee: Local Mexican restaurant Mas gets my vote
Want to find out more? Read my complete guide to Dundee here!
Fancy more of a glamping vibe? Then you might be interested in visiting Loch Tay Highland Lodges by the village of Killin in the Highlands. There’s a choice of accommodation to suit all needs on this site, including glamping domes, wigwams, lodges and cabins. As an over 30s person, I decided that having to wander down to a toilet block in the middle of the night was not really my idea of fun, and so we went for a cosy cabin with a wood burner and its own toilet. No midnight walks! You even get your own BBQ – and you can even book a hot tub if you fancy it. It’s a great place to go for families or if you have a pet and the loch is simply stunning.
So what is there to do around Killin then? Well, one thing I would say is that if you go during the off season, like we did, then a lot of the water sports and activities on the loch won’t be happening. Just bear that in mind. Beyond that though, there are gorgeous walks around and a lot of really lovely restaurants that are welcoming and warm. If you want to sample some traditional Scottish food then this is definitely the place to do it!
Where to stay in Killin: Loch Tay Highland Lodges
Where to eat in Killin: The Lochearnhead Hotel nearby does amazing food!
As far as Scottish islands go, Mull is one of the most accessible. There might not be a bridge to it like there is with the isle of Skye, but it’s only a 45-minute ferry ride away from the mainland. So it’s a nice way of sampling the ferry without having the full overnight experience like you do going to Shetland – which I’ll talk about below. Mull is known for its cute rainbow-coloured houses in the town of Tobermory, which have graced many a postcard and also formed the location for the children’s TV show, Balamory.
However, there’s a lot more to Mull than that though. Take a tour of the distillery, walk along the waterfront, and then grab a cosy corner in friendly local The MishNish for a few hours and enjoy great pub grub, drinks and mingling with the locals. We had a great night there when we visited and the locals even sang happy birthday to me and my sister. It was very random but very funny! I also have to give a shout out for the lovely host of our airbnb who also baked me a birthday cake. How lovely is that?!
Where to stay in Mull: Teacher’s Apartment, Salen
Where to eat in Mull: The MishNish
Want to get the full scoop on what to do in Mull? Read my comprehensive guide to Mull right here:
Disclaimer – Shetland is not a weekend break. You have to go for longer than that really as it’s pretty tricky to get to – if you take the ferry that is. I wanted to include this in my list of Scottish staycations, however, as I’ve visited Shetland a couple of times. My boyfriend is from there originally and his parents still live there. However, it really is remote and getting there and involves getting an overnight boat which takes around 12 hours. None of this hopping on a ferry for an hour! Once you’re there, it’s so worth it. For one, the scenery is absolutely stunning. It’s also pretty exposed to the elements [read: very cold and windy] so definitely pack appropriately.
There are so many beautiful beaches in Shetland, and so I’d recommend wandering along Bana Minn beach and then looking for the puffins at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse. If you fancy a bit more bustle, take a stroll through Lerwick and be charmed by the independent shops and friendly locals. There are also plenty of pubs to stop in if you need to warm up. The ferry over to Shetland might be a bit rocky at times, but it’s definitely worth the wait.
If you’re looking for a list of all the action-packed things to do in Pitlochry then I’m afraid this is not it. Very sorry! I remember looking at the guest book of the Airbnb we were staying in and everyone else had done so much whereas for us… well, let’s just say it was a little bit more leisurely. That’s not to say we did nothing at all. There are some beautiful walks and scenery here, as well as a whole lot of Scottish history to soak up.
We walked along the Linn of Tummel trail which is absolutely stunning. The mist was coming off the river in the morning and it was just beautiful. Once you walk along the trail you’ll come across Soldier’s Leap, which is the famous spot a redcoat soldier is said to have leapt 5 metres across the River Garry while being chased by Jacobite clansmen. There’s also a stunning railway viaduct and further on the wooded gorge, the Pass of Killiecrankie.
Back at the cottage, we spent the rest of the time just chilling out. The Airbnb, known as Keeper’s Cottage, was a delight. It came with complimentary scones and jam and a mini bottle of raspberry flavoured gin – amazing! You could also order from a menu of delicious home-cooked meals to be delivered to the door. Unreal! Along with the wood burner and roll-top bath to enjoy, there really were a lot of reasons just to cosy up and stay in – which is exactly what we did in the evenings!