Whether you’re an international student or a local student who wants to explore, this article provides the best places to visit in Scotland over spring break. In 2017, Scotland was voted the most beautiful country in the world; as St Andrews students, we can absolutely see why. However, there are lots more places to explore throughout Scotland, each more beautiful and unique than the last. From my own experiences, this is a list of some of the best places in Scotland I have visited thus far.
If you fancy travelling a little north, but not too far from St Andrews, the Cairngorms is a perfect destination. Only 2-3 hours away, you can be in the heart of the Cairngorms in no time. The Cairngorms is a National Park, made up of beautiful mountains, lochs, forests, and pretty settlements.
What can you do in the Cairngorms?
The Cairngorms are an outdoor lover’s paradise; skiing, walking, mountaineering, mountain biking, the works. If you’re lucky, there could still be enough snow during spring break to take to the slopes on Cairngorm mountain. The chairlift will take you to a lovely café, with extraordinary panoramic views of the Cairngorms. Additionally, there are many walking paths and mountains to explore, including some of the highest mountains in Scotland such as Ben Macdui (you might even come across the ‘Big Grey Man’ of Ben Macdui which is said to haunt the summit…). Mountain biking is another popular sport in the Cairngorm area, with many surrounding pedestrian and bike paths to choose from and local bike rental shops are easy to find.
One highlight of the Cairngorms is their reindeer population. You can be taken on a guided tour to get up close and personal with the reindeer and see them roaming the mountain sides.
Accommodation in the Cairngorms varies ranging from B&Bs, lodges, hostels, camping and wigwams. Therefore, it’s the perfect destination for either those who want a little more luxury, or those who want to go for a more rustic approach and camp in the beautiful surroundings.
If you’d like to travel further afield to the islands, I could not recommend Islay enough. Think of beautiful white beaches, clear blue water, and whisky to finish off your day.
What can you do in Islay?
Islay has some of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland without a doubt. Even better, they’re usually very quiet and you might even find that you have the entire beach to yourself. A stones throw away from Portnahaven, you will find Currie Sands; an idyllic small beach, perfect for picnics. One of my personal favourite beaches is Lossit Bay. However, to get there requires a walk through fields so watch your step and be mindful of the bull if it’s there! Once you arrive though, the views are absolutely stunning!
Islay is more commonly known for its rich selection of whiskies. With eight distilleries, and another just opening, you truly are spoilt for choice. Touring through the distilleries is also fascinating- even for those who aren’t big whisky fans.
Islay has many different ports and villages, with a varying range of accommodation types. Additionally, with Scotland’s 100% freedom to roam, camping is another viable option.
If you want to get into the real rugged Highlands, then Sutherland is the place to be. Located on the North West coast of Scotland the landscape is extremely remote and beautiful to visit.
What can you do in Sutherland?
There are numerous mountains in Sutherland, so this is a perfect location for hillwalkers and those Munro or Corbett bagging. Quinag is an undulating series of peaks, and one of my favourite mountains in the area. To complete all of its peaks requires setting aside a full day, but I can assure you the views of mountains on one side, and inlets of water on the other, are absolutely spectacular. Be aware however, there is a small ridge to cross so if you’re not a fan of heights this may not be your ideal climb!
For the foodies amongst you, Kylesku hotel is the perfect place (especially for seafood lovers)! Imagine sitting by a window, dining on the most delicious mussels, and looking out to the sea loch where they were fished from, that very same day… that is reality at Kylesku. The hotel itself has the friendliest staff and is a wonderful stay if you fancy a little more luxury than camping!