Scotland is so much more than Edinburgh and Glasgow. If you want to experience the complete country, you need to venture out of the city limits and into the natural and rural wonders.
Here are three journeys to unimaginable corners of this vast and unique land. Choose one, two or all three. Regardless, there will be memories to cherish afterwards.
Drive The North Coast 500
Touted as Scotland’s answer to Route 66, this new 804-kilometre touring loop has already been named one of the world’s top coastal drives.
Starting and ending in the city of Inverness, it loops around the far north of Scotland, delivering an intriguing mix of spectacular scenery, history and local culture.
Highlights include the distinctive Suilvenm mountain, the fairytale French chateau-style Dunrobin Castle and the stunning deserted beaches of Achmelvich and Dornoch.
Make sure you stop to admire the Old Man of Stoer, a 60-metre-high sandstone sea stack, and visit Smoo Cave, a towering limestone sea cave.
En route you’ll experience Scotland’s legendary hospitality in the many pubs, inns and restaurants that line the route.
Sample fresh seafood at the Kishorn Seafood Bar in Wester Ross or stop in for a wee dram and some traditional music at the Ceilidh Place in Ullapool.
More Scotland holiday inspiration
Visit Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park
Scotland’s Galloway Forest Park was declared the UK’s first Dark Sky Park in 2009, due to its exceptionally low levels of light pollution. On a clear night more than 7,000 stars and planets are visible with the naked eye, including the Milky Way.
Scattered throughout the park are public viewing areas with interpretative boards that explain this spectacular nightly show.
But for an even more immersive experience, book a tour at the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, a publicly accessible educational observatory that occupies a commanding hilltop site on the edge of the park.
During a typical session, you’ll enjoy an introductory presentation from the observatory’s resident astronomer, a guided tour of the complex and a chance to use its two high-powered telescopes.
If you’re lucky you’ll get to admire Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest neighbour that’s still a staggering 2.5 million light years away.
Tackle The John Muir Way
Opened in 2014, this 215-kilometre trail celebrates the life and work of Scottish conservationist John Muir, who was instrumental in founding America’s national park system.
Starting in Muir’s birth town of Dunbar, the trail heads west, following quiet roads, disused railway lines and canal towpaths until it arrives in Helensburgh on the west coast.
Don’t worry if you don’t have time to do the whole thing – the route has been divided into 10 easily accessible sections, which can be tackled by foot or by bike.
Highlights include Loch Lomond, Britain’s largest inland stretch of water; the 63-kilometre-long Roman-built Antonine Wall and the ruins of Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots.
You’ll find plenty of sustenance, from a delicious afternoon tea at 17th-century Hopetoun House, Scotland’s finest stately home, to a whiskey tasting and tour at Glengoyne Distillery.