Autumn is often the time when thoughts turn to travel plans for the coming year. To inspire you in planning you next trip, we’ve teamed up with VisitScotland, Scotland’s national tourism organisation, to bring you our top ten reasons to visit Scotland in 2023!
1) Explore Scotland’s UNESCO Trail
In a world first, Scotland has launched the first ever UNESCO digital trail. What makes Scotland’s UNESCO digital trail so unique is that the 13 designated sites featured, from Dumfries and Galloway in the south to Shetland in the north, feature such a variety of different experiences. These range from Cities of Literature, Music and Design, to World Heritage Sites of architectural and historic significance, and even geoparks and biospheres with fascinating geological and natural stories to tell. For more information see www.visitscotland.com/unesco-trail
2) Get a taste of farming life
A trend which has really taken off in the last few years is agritourism. More and more people are becoming aware of food provenance, and are looking to find out more about sustainable farming methods on a farm, croft or estate when they come to Scotland. Go Rural is a close-knit network of quality agritourism businesses throughout the Scottish countryside offering visitors high quality farm produce, accommodation and memorable experiences. They are passionate about producing the highest quality food and drink, caring for the environment, and protecting Scotland’s landscapes for everyone to enjoy responsibly. From luxury lodges and cosy cottages to camping and glamping, you’re sure to find your ideal farm experience. See www.goruralscotland.com
3) Relax on a wellness break
Given the fast pace of modern life, more and more of us are looking for ways to relax, de-stress, and reconnect with nature. The tranquillity of the Scottish countryside is so conducive to this type of break and there are a variety of options right across the country. You might choose to commune with the natural world by staying in a rural cottage in a peaceful glen, take to the waters on a sailing experience and spot wildlife as you go, or enjoy the soothing experience which an island holiday offers. You might want to undertake a mindfulness course or yoga retreat amid stunning countryside. Whichever you choose you’ll find it in Scotland. More information on these and many other wellness options at www.visitscotland. com/holidays-breaks/wellness
4) Discover the freedom of cycling
Scotland is made for cycling, offering 32,000 square miles of cycling adventures. Whether you’re a complete beginner, want to challenge yourself, or simply take it slow and enjoy some family time, there’s a cycling experience in Scotland that’s perfect for you. There are several long-distance routes through awe-inspiring scenery, purpose built world-class mountain biking trails at over 25 centres across the country, and lots of safe, traffic-free cycling networks and routes for fun, family days out, plus lots of options for bike hire and guided cycling tours. See www.visitscotland.com/cycling
If spectator sports are more your thing, the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships, the biggest cycling event ever staged, will bring the world’s greatest riders together in Glasgow and across Scotland from 3 to 13 August: www.cyclingworldchamps.com
5) Connect with your Scottish ancestry
For anyone with Scottish connections, there’s nothing like actually being in Scotland – walking in the footsteps of your ancestors in landscapes they would have known well, and maybe even touching the walls of your clan or family castle which has seen centuries of history. If you have Scottish clan or family surnames in your family tree, you can visit the regions and places in Scotland most strongly associated with those names. For those wishing to explore their family genealogy, there is no better place to start than ScotlandsPeople in Edinburgh which holds a collection of records acknowledged to be among the best in the world (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk). The Scottish Council on Archives, located in the same building, can provide fascinating insights into the wider social aspects of Scotland’s history (www.scottisharchives.org.uk). To find out more about how you can enjoy the unique and special experience of exploring your ancestry in Scotland, go to www.visitscotland.com/ancestry
6) Stay somewhere unusual
From holidaying in an apartment topped with a gigantic pineapple to enjoying a stay in a Hebridean cottage built to the design of a prehistoric island dwelling that looks like a set from a Tolkien novel, Scotland’s fantastic range of visitor accommodation offers so many experiences. You can stay in a castle, a lighthouse, a boat, a yurt, a church, a glamping pod, a tree house, a log cabin – all in midst of breath-taking countryside. You’ll find an abundance of suggestions at https://www.visitscotland.com/ accommodation/unusual-places-to-stay/
If you have a special occasion anniversary or event coming up, you might want to consider celebrating it Scotland by treating yourself to a touch of luxury. There are plenty of ideas to inspire you at www.visitscotland.com/luxury
7) Uncover the story of tartan
Although most closely associated with Scotland, tartan is known throughout the globe. It has a rich history, has inspired unity as well as rebellion, and while strongly linked with tradition, it has also made its mark on the contemporary world, even touching the pinnacle of high fashion. A fascinating, not-to-be missed exhibition entitled Tartan will take place at the V&A Dundee, Scotland’s design museum, from 1 April 2023 to January 2024. Bringing together a unique collection of objects and media, the exhibition will tell the story of the impact of tartan right up to the present day.
8) Discover Scotland’s Royal connections
Following the sad news of the loss of Her Majesty The Queen in September, there has been a renewed focus on her famous love for Scotland, and the Scottish locations associated with the British Royal Family. Balmoral Castle at the heart of Royal Deeside is normally open to the public between April and July each year, though it is said His Majesty King Charles may be considering extending this. There are also a number of holiday cottages on the estate (www.balmoralcastle.com).
In Edinburgh, the Royal residence is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, lying at the foot of the historic Royal Mile where visitors can explore the rooms which once belonged to Mary Queen of Scots (www.rct.uk/visit/palace-of-holyroodhouse). Other Royal places to visit include the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh (www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk), Glamis Castle in Angus (www.glamis-castle.co.uk), the enchanting childhood home of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, her beloved holiday home at the Castle of Mey on the North coast of the Scottish Highlands (www.castleofmey.org.uk) and Dumfries House in Ayrshire which is now a visitor attraction and event venue (www.dumfries-house.org.uk).
9) Visit Scotland’s most fascinating churches
While Scotland has experienced times of religious turbulence, there’s no doubt that our many churches offer havens of peace and contemplation.
Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh has a rich history, from the Convenanters who fought for Scotland’s religious freedom to the story of the famous Greyfriars Bobby, plus a programme of world-class classical music performances (www.greyfriarskirk. com). Iona Abbey, located on the tiny island of the same name is a place of pilgrimage for many. Originally founded by St Columba in 563 AD, it is a magical place with a special atmosphere. See www.historicenvironment.scot or the Iona Community (www.iona.org.uk). Although no longer used as a church, the Italian Chapel in Orkney, built by Italian prisoners of war during WWII from two Nissan huts, is one of the islands’ best loved attractions. www.orkney.com
The Pilgrim Way is a 64-mile route across the Kingdom of Fife to St Andrews which for 400 years was one of the main pilgrimage destinations in Medieval Europe.
The Lammermuir Festival takes place in East Lothian each September. This cultural gem offers stunning music and choral performances in a variety of equally stunning locations, including the county’s many churches. www.lammermuirfestival.co.uk
10) Experience Scotland’s newest city
Dunfermline is now officially Scotland’s newest city, having been granted city status in June. It actually boasts a rich and ancient history – no surprise, since it was once the capital of Scotland!
The impressive 12th century Dunfermline Abbey and Palace is effectively a Royal mausoleum, since it is the final resting place of Robert the Bruce and the burial site of 11 other Scottish kings and queens. The Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum is located in the humble cottage which was once the home of the world-famous philanthropist and tells the story of his life and legacy, and as you might expect, Dunfermline also has a Carnegie Library & Galleries! The city’s Pittencrieff Park, gifted to the local people by Carnegie himself offers an abundance of colour throughout the year with its Japanese, Rock and Kitchen Gardens, and glasshouses containing exotic plants from across the world.
For more information on Dunfermline see: www.visitscotland.com/info/towns-villages/dunfermline
For more inspiration on planning your 2023 visit, go to: www.visitscotland.com
Main photo: Blairmore farm, Crieff, luxery farm stay holidays. Photo: VisitScotland/Luigi Di Pasquale.