My 6 Favorite Unique Places to Visit in Scotland
I’ve lived in UK my whole life so you might think it would be pretty hard to find somewhere unique after all these years. But the UK has so many quirky and unusual places to visit that I’m constantly discovering more. My grandmother’s family was originally from Scotland, so as soon as I had the chance I started traveling to explore this other vast country. Uniqueness can take many different forms and I love that you can take a turn in Scotland and find something so unexpected that it truly surprises you. Here are my favorite unique places to visit in Scotland.
1. Haymarket, Edinburgh
Haymarket might not be the first part of town that most people would think of visiting, it’s a bit outside of the center and the main attractions, but it has a certain charm that makes it one of my favorite places. . Haymarket looks like a community separate from the rest of the city. It has a long row of shops, its own train station, restaurants and pubs, and even its own cathedral. You might miss St Mary’s Cathedral if you didn’t know it was there. As you walk down the main street of bustling shops and cafes, the cathedral rises behind the rooftops on a side street. It is worth looking, if only to see the incredible stained glass window by Eduardo Paolozzi.
Where to stay
Dunstane House is an incredible Victorian villa, built in 1851 as a private residence, and now a luxury boutique hotel. This intimate hotel still has the feel of a family home, but has all the luxuries of a five star hotel. The owners also bought Hampton House across the road, only later to discover that the previous owner of this house was the sister of the owner of Dunstane House. The street seems millions of miles from the city, but it’s just around the corner from Haymarket station.
2. Eilean Shona
The private island that inspired JM Barrie’s ‘Never Land’, Eilean Shona allows guests to escape to nature while enjoying both cozy comfort and a touch of luxury in its nine vacation cabins. luxury. Only a short boat ride from the mainland, on the calm waters of Loch Moidart, the 3 mile long island boasts 2,000 acres of pristine moorland, rolling hills and forests crisscrossed with tempting trails. Here, guests can walk for hours without seeing another soul and disconnect from the outside world and step back in time to a slower, smoother pace of life. Smartphones, tablets and televisions are replaced by a stunning natural environment, and the old village hall is full of ping-pong tables, board games and books. If you want something a little more active, the Shona coastline is great for wild swimming, sea kayaking, paddle boarding, and generally having fun on the boats. All properties are within walking distance of Shoe Bay, the secluded silver sand beach of Eilean Shona which is lapped by aquamarine sea. It was here, during the summer vacation of the 1920s, that author and playwright JM Barrie drew inspiration from the magical surroundings, enchanted moss-covered woods, wild hills and white sandy beaches, to create Neverland in Peter Pan.
Eilean Shona is also a wildlife watcher’s dream, and there is usually more animal life than human on the island. It has its own “Big Five”, with seals, sea eagles, sea otters, red squirrels and pine martens that are commonly seen. In summer, as the island’s waters warm up, it is also possible to spot dolphins, minke whales and even basking sharks. The island was once owned by a ship captain who brought back rare trees and plants from his travels, and even today Eilean Shona has one of the most diverse pine plantations in Europe.
On the way to Dornoch you cross the water several times and it quickly becomes clear that water forms a large part of the landscape here. Dornoch is a seaside town, and the beach here is windswept and unspoiled, but what makes this place truly unique is the collection of landscapes that come together in one place. A stone’s throw from the sand dunes of the beach, the golf course rumbles. You can cross designated paths, as long as you listen to the call of the “fore”, which means a golf ball might cut your way! If you love to play golf, you won’t find a nicer place for it. A 2 minute walk away is the town, where you can buy handmade chocolates and whiskey, and see the old castle, which is now a hotel. And then there are the forest walks that wind around town and bring you back to the beach.
Where to stay
Links House at Royal Dornoch offers accommodation to meet a variety of needs, from hotel rooms to a stunning suite with its own balcony. Golfers love this location because it’s right next to the golf course, but it’s also the perfect place to celebrate a wedding or anniversary, or for a quiet weekend for two. The food is amazing – definitely try the tasting menu with the flight of wines.
4. Brucefield Estate
Brucefield Estate in Forestmill, Clackmannanshire, dates back 700 years to when it was part of the Barony of Schenbothy. The estate originally belonged to the Stewarts of Rosyth. The Brucefield Estate is now owned by Victoria Bruce-Winkler, a biologist who returned home to manage the estate in 2012. The family has ancestors dating back to Robert the Bruce. The estate covers 420 hectares of semi-old birch, oak and Scots pine woods, pastures and arable land, dotted with dry stone dike walls. The 10-Year Wildlife Plan monitors and manages the estate’s diverse habitats, which include abundant wildlife including bats, barn owls and tawny owls, pine martens, red squirrels, rare wildflowers, butterflies and plant species. The estate is located off the A907, 40 minutes drive from Glasgow and 50 minutes from Edinburgh. The estate is a 30-minute bike ride from Alloa Station along the almost traffic-free Inner Forth Road.
This incredibly unique area is sort of a work in progress. Future plans include launching eco-boxes on the estate and workshops for residents and non-residents such as ancestry, woodturning, garden design and badger watching.
The city of Dundee has many attractions and in some ways it is an underrated and less visited Scottish city, but there is one thing in particular that makes it unique: I can’t think of any other Scottish city with the genre of street art Dundee has. You must be a certain age to remember the cartoon characters Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx, but take a stroll through Dundee city center and you will be able to see them as large as life in their sculpted form. Caught halfway through the streets, Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx replay part of the comic book they once inhabited. There is also now a sculpture of a polar bear chasing a man down the street, taken from a real life event that happened in Dundee in 1878, when a polar bear actually escaped from a traveling show and made his attempt for freedom.
6. Red kites of Argaty
Argaty Red Kites is located on the Argaty Estate, a working farm owned by the Bowser family since 1916. The farm is located on the Braes of Doune in Stirlingshire, an area traditionally known as the “Gateway to the Highlands” . This is where the civilized Scottish Lowlands end and the Wild Highlands begin. This region of central Scotland is where the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage have reintroduced the red kite, and the Argaty Estate is home to many of these exciting birds and an abundance of rare red squirrels. In partnership with the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage, Argaty Red Kites have provided the only red kite feeding station in central Scotland for the past 20 years, making it totally unique. This allows guests to enjoy these exciting birds and their spectacular flight in comfort but without risking disturbing a still fragile population.
Owners Tom and Sarah Bowser have just renovated the new Argaty Cottage to offer guests the opportunity to stay on the estate, explore further and enjoy a relaxing break in beautiful scenery. Tom and Sarah are the fifth generation of family members to live on the estate and manage the conservation project. The chalet can comfortably accommodate six people, but is comfortable enough for a two-person getaway. From free Wi-Fi to a wood-burning stove and a beautiful garden, Argaty Cottage offers all the amenities needed for a perfect country break. During their stay, guests can take advantage of discounted rates for kite, red squirrel, and ATV buggy tours from Argaty. In spring and summer, you can also enjoy dragonfly walks, pond soaking sessions, and tailor-made wildlife tours.
Find out more about our coverage in Scotland: