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Staycations in Scotland: Why touring our beautiful country makes for the perfect summer getaway

A view of Dornoch Beach
Dornoch Beach

When my wife said “We don’t need a foreign holiday – a staycation will be just as good” I had to admit to a little scepticism. What about the weather… and the midges?

But with all the beauty and culture on our doorstep, this year seemed as good a year as any to put the Scottish staycation to the test.

We decided to start with probably the most famous Scottish holiday destination of all – Edinburgh. The city is steeped in history, with its 12th Century castle, the cobblestoned Royal Mile, and Arthur’s Seat.

If you prefer to take in the historical monuments with a glass of cold beer in hand, and perhaps an artisan pizza to nibble on, it’s hard to beat the roof terrace of Cold Town House on the city’s Grassmarket. Cold Town is a new brewery serving up its signature beers.

If you’re looking for the ultimate in elegance, Prestonfield House ticks all the boxes. A stone’s throw from the city centre, it’s set within 20 acres of grounds, and feels like a remote country estate. Bedrooms are sumptuous, with enormous, cushion-topped beds fit for royalty.

High tea is served on crisp, white linen-topped tables on the immaculate lawn, among strolling peacocks. But for the ultimate in glamorous dining, try the restaurant Rhubarb, which serves elegant dishes using local produce, including its own estate-grown rhubarb.

A Prestonfield House bedroom © David Cheskin
A Prestonfield House bedroom

From Edinburgh, a short drive up the east coast will take you to Fife. Here, quaint fishing villages and sandy beaches have a laid-back, upmarket feel, and it’s worth spending some time in Elie and Crail. But St Andrews is the jewel in the crown, with its university – famously where royal couple William and Kate met – and medieval cathedral.

St Andrews is the Home of Golf, and keen players flock to the Fairmont St Andrews – a luxurious cliff-top hotel and golf course on the outskirts of the town. There are two fantastic courses at the Fairmont, as well as a clubhouse and pro shop.

But with an excellent spa, and stunning views, there’s something for everyone at the Fairmont. A four-mile coastal walk from the hotel takes you through rugged coastline to St Andrews harbour, and in the evenings the St Andrews Bar and Grill serves steaks, lobster and champagne, with its floor to ceiling windows allowing panoramic sunset views.

Picnic with champagne at Fairmont St Andrews © Grant Anderson
Picnic with champers at Fairmont St Andrews

No Scottish staycation is complete without the North Coast 500 – voted one of the world’s best coastal routes. The route follows the coast around the northern Scottish mainland and through Inverness, covering six regions – Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross, the Black Isle and Inverness-shire.

Along the route you’ll take in castles, ancient monuments, with each region exuding its own particular charm.

On the east coast, Dornoch is a must-visit, with its expansive, sandy beach, quaint town centre and cathedral.

If you’ve always wanted to stay in a real Scottish castle, the historic Dornoch Castle Hotel in the heart of the town is a must. Select one of the Deluxe rooms for a unique castle experience. Situated in the oldest part of the building, these rooms feature four-poster beds, spa baths and sumptuous decor.

The hotel also has a large beer garden, cosy restaurant, and a welcoming and award-winning bar, where you can sink into a comfy sofa by the open fire, and select from over four hundred types of whisky – including drams from Dornoch’s own distillery.

Dornoch Castle Hotel
Dornoch Castle Hotel

The west coast is peppered with dramatic vistas and rustic charm, with a wealth of towns and villages to visit.

A particular gem is Gairloch, with its excellent sandy beach and sweeping vistas. There are several ancient monuments to visit in the area, including an iron age fort or dun at Gairloch golf club.

For a warm Highland welcome, stop off at the Old Inn. With comfortable rooms, lush gardens and an excellent restaurant, the Old Inn combines highland charm with modern style.

Ross’s wife Rebecca tries the lobster at The Old Inn

The menu features local seafood, and classic favourites made with care. Order the Squat Pot – a kilo of locally-caught squat lobsters served with homemade crusty bread.

Our whirlwind tour of Scotland was more than a match for a holiday abroad, with friendly service, reams of history, luxury hotels and excellent food – not to mention the whisky!


Factfile

An overnight stay with breakfast at Prestonfield House Hotel starts at £295. Afternoon tea is £35 or £45 including glass of Champagne.


P.S. Golf has been played in St Andrews since the early 15th Century. But King James II banned golf in 1457 as he thought the sport’s popularity distracted men from archery practice.