Top ten things to do in Scotland holiday cottages

Top ten things to do in Scotland

Jemima Kirkwood 22 December 2020

Sometimes it can be overwhelming when planning a holiday, especially to a country like Scotland where there is a wealth of things to do at your fingertips. We thought we would make it easier for you if we came up with some ideas, which will hopefully inspire you when planning your next trip. Here are our top ten things to do in Scotland…

Visit a Scottish city and make memories of a lifetime

Whilst many of our self-catering cottages are rural, we do have some based in and around some amazing cities in Scotland. Take Edinburgh for example: the capital city; a place of history and magic. Spend a day or two walking the cobbled streets admiring the amazing architecture, take in the cityscape from the heights of Edinburgh Castle and enjoy romantic strolls and meals out with the sound of bagpipes in the distance. You can read all about it in our guide to Edinburgh. 

The shopping here is great, but if retail therapy is more your scene, head to Glasgow where there are endless shopping centres and luxury boutiques to discover. Glasgow’s trendy West End awaits with quirky eateries, second-hand shops, and pretty parks to relax in. View our Glasgow cottages for somewhere to stay within easy reach of the city centre.

For a smaller city experience, head to Inverness in the Scottish Highlands where you will find an atmospheric town centre lined with Scottish pubs and shops with the pretty River Ness running through. The Eden Court Theatre has lots of cultural performances showing throughout the year, as well as cinema showings too. It is the gateway to the northern Highlands so day trips can be had exploring the Black Isle or parts of the NC500 famous driving route. 


There is so much fun to be had when visiting Scottish cities, and the friendly locals will always know how to show you a good time!

Take a Harry Potter tour and discover Scottish settings

Scotland is not only where J.K. Rowling first began writing the famous Harry Potter series, but it is also home to countless Harry Potter filming locations, many of which are in the Highlands! If you are a true fan, and the type that likes to visit film locations, here are some Harry Potter filming locations that should be on the list…

The Elephant House Café

This was J.K. Rowling's favourite place to get creative and is where the world of witches and wizards was first imagined. Now one of the most popular hot spots in Edinburgh, it is always buzzing with tourists enjoying hot coffee and good food. Best to book beforehand, as it can get busy!  

Glenfinnan Viaduct

This is a high Victorian railway bridge standing 31 meters off the ground and reaching 131 metres long. It is mostly referred to as ‘the Harry Potter Bridge’ and you will recognise it as the route the Hogwarts Express takes in the films. You can experience the bridge yourself by going on the Jacobite Steam Train. Hop on at Ben Nevis near Fort William and enjoy an 84-mile round trip of amazing Highland views. Keep an eye out for Harry and Ron in the flying car! 

Find out more about the area in our guide to Fort William.

Steall Falls, Glen Nevis

Here you will find the second-highest waterfall in Britain, Steall Fall, and this is seen in the background of Quidditch matches. But perhaps the most memorable scene it features in is when Harry battles with the Horntail dragon in the Goblet of Fire.

Glen Coe, Highland

Glen Coe is a place of beauty and dramatic landscape and it was featured throughout the Prisoner of Azkaban film, and is probably most memorable in a scene where Hermione Granger punches Malfoy in the face!

Make sure you put these Harry Potter locations on the map; they make for fun days out in Scotland! If you are a keen set-jetter and need some more inspiration, check out our guide to Scottish movie locations.  

Hunt down Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster 

There are so many myths and legends when it comes to Scotland, but none greater than Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. Loch Ness lies to the south of Inverness and is Scotland’s longest loch, measuring 23 miles long. The legend of the Loch Ness Monster stretches as far back as the 6th century when a monk saw a man dragged below the surface by an unknown water beast. In 1933, Aldie Mackay spotted a large whale-like creature in the loch – whilst others suggest that the creature is like a plesiosaurus – a Jurassic creature with long neck and flippers.

Locals and visitors to the area have documented sightings, but the creature is yet to be discovered! Some people believe, many do not, but we will leave that up to you! Read all about our mystical monster in our guide to the Loch Ness monster.

Loch Ness itself if a lovely place to take the family or visit for romantic strolls with the one you love. You can take a boat tour down the loch which gives you a historical insight into the loch and Urquhart Castle. Read more in our guide to Loch Ness.

Get remote and escape to the Scottish Islands 

The Scottish islands are a place of scenic beauty and peace and quiet. Even when the islands are busy with tourists, there are always corners to escape to and find that much-needed headspace. There is nothing like the island atmosphere, which is only enhanced by the local spirit in the small communities that inhabit them. The isles of Shetland and Orkney, off the most northerly part of Scotland, are small but charming. Over to the north west, you find Harris and Lewis – joined at the hip but very different. Here you will find rugged rocky land and the most beautiful sandy beaches. 

The Isle of Skye lies further down the west coast and is home to the famous Cuillin mountain range. Others to explore are the Isle of Mull, and Isle of Arran which is described as Scotland in miniature. The Scottish islands host an array of activities and things to do, covering everything from island tours and water sports to whisky tasting and adventure for the kids. Get them on the bucket list today!


Head to Aberdeenshire and take a castle tour 

As well as stunning coastlines, rolling hills, and towering mountains, Aberdeenshire is the place to go if you are looking to visit some Scottish castles. There are more castles per acre here than any other part of the UK, with more than 260 found in the region. The castle trail in Aberdeenshire is a popular route for those interested in the history of Scotland and its castles. It takes in 19 of the most famous fortresses and fairy-tale castles in the UK.

Here are some of the highlights:

    Balmoral Castle – the residence of the British royal family. Location: Ballater.

    Braemar Castle – A 17th-century Gothic Revival castle set in the Cairngorms National Park. Location: Braemar.

    Craigievar Castle – A characterful pink castle set in the Grampian mountains, which is said to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle. Location: Craigievar.

    Dunnottar Castle – A castle perched atop a headland with sheer cliffs dropping into the North Sea on all sides; one of Scotland’s most iconic castles. Location: Stonehaven.

You will not regret taking on this castle tour and you will be blown away by the sheer beauty of all the classic castles. But remember, not all of them are still standing so take a read of our guide to the ruined castles of Aberdeenshire for more inspiration. 

Sample the Scottish food 

Food and drink are a big part of any holiday, where you have the perfect excuse to not have to cook. Whilst self-catering makes cooking on holiday fun, it is nice to have the occasional treat of eating out, if not every mealtime! If money wasn’t an issue, I am sure that’s what we would all opt for! 

Grab some grub in a Scottish pub. Scottish pubs are very frequent throughout the whole of the country and they are a lovely place to come and chill at the end of adventurous days. You will usually find great pub grub like fish and chips and homemade pies, local ale and beer and, if you are lucky, an open fire!

In a rush? Visit a local take away! Fish and chips, Chinese, Indian, pizza and deep-fried Mars bars – everything is available from the takeaways in Scotland. Make sure you get fish and chips when staying near the west coast as all the fish is locally caught and tastes better than anywhere else in the country.

Haggis, neeps, and tatties. The haggis is a Scottish delicacy that probably attracts more questions than any other Scottish thing! It is the national dish of Scotland and is made of the liver, heart and lungs of a sheep mixed with oatmeal, onions and other spices. It is all packed into a sheep’s stomach and then boiled. Keep an eye out for haggis bonbons on the menu – they are delicious!

Sample the Scottish seafood. The seafood in Scotland is delicious and, with a vast range of fish to try, you will never get bored of what’s on offer. Some highlight establishments are The Seafood Shack in Ullapool, Skipness Seafood Cabin in Tarbert and The Kishorn Seafood Bar in Kishorn. 

Scotland has a wealth of local whiskies, beer and gin too which should all be sampled if you get the chance. For some more inspiration, check out our guide to the distilleries on the Isle of Skye, one of Scotland’s most magical islands. 


Attend a Scottish Highland Games

Scotland is famous for its Highland games and they are a deep-rooted tradition for many local communities. Usually taking place between May and September, they get people together to watch Highland sport and to enjoy food, crafts, and Highland entertainment.

Sports on show include:

  • The caber toss
  • Hammer throw
  • Stone put
  • Tug o’war

You will also be able to enjoy the pipe band procession, the Highland dancing, clan tents, crafts sections, Celtic arts and local food. Modern Highland games events are not just sporting contests but celebrations of all things Scottish and local to the area, which is why many love to experience them when visiting the area. 

Climb some Scottish Munros

People from all over the world are drawn to Scotland for its hills and Munros. Some of Scotland’s 282 Munros are situated in the country's most famous mountain ranges whilst others are less well-known; climbing these peaks is a great way for experienced walkers as well as enthusiasts to explore some fine scenery. The views from the top will stay with you forever. 

Munro bagging is a sport which real enthusiasts undertake, and they put aside time to conquer Munro after Munro, which is a huge achievement when you consider the height of them (over 3000 ft). The highest Munro is Ben Nevis which stands at 4,411 ft and can be found near Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. This is described as the outdoor capital of Scotland, so make sure you stay close by in a self-catering cottage and make the most of the area. 

Visit the National Parks and get into the wilderness

There are two National Parks in Scotland and both are equally outstanding. In the North Highlands, you have the Cairngorms National Park which encompasses Speyside and parts of Moray and Aberdeenshire. It has its own mountain range and two ski centres – The Cairngorm Ski Resort and The Lecht. Aviemore is where you will find ski hire centres, mountain bike hire, kayak lessons and horse riding – there is so much on offer. 

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is set right on the border of the Highlands and it is the ideal area for exploration and adventure. It was Scotland’s first National Park, and the area consists of 21 Munros, 22 lochs and over 50 designated Special Nature Conservation Sites. You can enjoy everything from boat tours and water sports to hill climbing and retail therapy.

Explore coastal villages and get close to the sea

Around the entire coast of Scotland, there are hundreds of coastal villages that make for perfect holidays in Scotland. Being next to the coast is a priority for many when booking a holiday because loads of us like to be beside the sea, with a sandy beach being an added bonus. 

Coastal villages in Scotland are lovely places to potter around and spend time in. Quite often they have independent shops selling souvenirs and gifts, as well as local pubs for good food and local grocers selling fresh local produce. If you go off season, you often have the village all to yourself. Pick up an ice cream on your travels, or sample the local fish and chips.

We hope you have enjoyed our guide on the top ten things to do in Scotland. It only highlights a handful of things that can be done when on holiday here. There are so many fun things to do including everything from water sports to pottery classes. As well as activities and places to visit, the nature and wildlife that surrounds you is second to none and, paired with the beautiful wild environment, you really are presented with a natural haven! 

Stay in a self-catering cottage in Scotland

What better way to enjoy all of this than staying in a self-catering cottage in which you can return to after days out exploring? We have a wide range of holiday homes to suit all sorts of groups, families and couples so why not browse the collection today and plan your next break to Scotland?

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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