Scotland Off The Beaten Path
Looking for a place in Scotland to visit where you won't find all the tourists or are not listed front and center in most tourist guides? Below is our collection of these hidden gems that Bubbly Tourist would highly recommend seeing. So, if you happen to be in these areas then definitely check them out. Even if it's not on your planned itinerary, there are some sights listed here that may change your mind about not going.
Glen Grant Distillery Garden - Serenity Now
Where: Speyside Whisky Country (village of Rothes)
These 22 acre gardens are absolutely stunning and meticulously maintained. They are accessed through the visitor center and are free. They offer a serene respite from the whisky tours throughout this area and provide things to do for people of all ages. There is a lily pond, meadow with benches, and a gorge walk along the river. The view above is from the river gorge walk on property. It's very tranquil and has a small water fall. It's a one way path that takes you to a remote corner of the gardens where you can also see the private safe where Major James Grant used to stash away his prized whiskies and bring his guests to for a dram or two.
In love with the rhododendrons? Continue walking along the garden paths to see the incredible color display of rhododendrons. The picture above displays this stunning eye candy.
The Northwest Highlands - Alone with Nature
Where: Northwest Highlands north of the town of Ullapool in Polglass
In this part of the country - no matter where you are - you are definitely off the beaten path. And it is stunning everywhere! The lochs, the sea, the mountains, the pastures. It's all remote but still very accessible off the A835 towards Achiltibuie. The photo above was taken from our room at the Summer Isles Hotel (highly recommended) in Polglass. From the hotel it was a 5 minute walk to reach the Achlochan Coastal Path which is a 45 minute easy walk around the peninsula with more remote views of the Summer Isles and also a 2000 year old ruined broch.
Along the northwest coast where you find views of the Summer Isles, it is indeed remote country. And it's beautiful landscape. Although you'll pass another car every few minutes or so, it's like you've got the countryside to yourself. This photo was taken from the hills just north of Altandhu.
When you find yourself parched from your travels, do yourself a favor and checkout this pub in Altandhu called Am Fuaran which means "the well" and refers to the well at the bottom of the driveway. Bubbly Tourist found it on google and would highly recommend. We had beers overlooking the isles as shown in the photo above and then went in to this lovely pub for fresh lobster and shrimp for dinner. The building itself dates back to the 1800's and the walls are adorned with old photographs and memorabilia which adds to its homeliness.
When you're driving to and from locations please do yourself a favor and stop along the road to absorb the serene beauty and take in some fresh air. Listen to the wind blow and pretend you're already here in the video above taken at Loch Osgaig.
Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve - 200 foot waterfall
Where: Braemore, Scotland (between Ullapool and Inverness)
Between the Northwest Highlands and Speyside Whisky country, the Bubbly Tourist stumbled across this spectacular sight. A random search while driving to Inverness got us to this unlikely spot. You'd never know it even exists and could drive literally right past it. However, it is definitely worth the visit if you're willing to suffer the height of the suspension bridge over 200 feet above the river Droma.
At the car park there's a new Nature Centre that opened in 2023 with a takeaway cafe, restrooms and electric car charging. The walk to the gorge from the car park can be a little steep but short. We saw folks with canes and young children here.
This gorge, created by glacial meltwater, shows how magnificent nature can be given pressure and time (Shawshank Redemption anyone?). The suspension bridge offers the best views of the Falls of Measach and of the gorge. If you cross the bridge and continue down a short trail on the other side of the gorge, you'll find another view of the gorge back towards the suspension bridge from a viewing platform.
The Closes of Edinburgh - A new world just off the Royal Mile
Where: 80 lanes off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh
Yes, the Royal Mile is touristy, BUT between the Edinburgh Castle and Hollyrood Palace are at least 80 "closes" that allow you an escape from the massive foot traffic on the Royal Mile. Please take the time to explore these 'closes', 'wynds' and 'courts' which are the narrow lanes that jut off the Royal Mile. Each is unique in their own way. What looks like an entrance to an overlooked alleyway can be a gateway into a special vista, museum, pub or courtyard of everyday life.
In the photo above at The Advocate's Close, you'll see a view of the Sir Walter Scott monument in the distance. By the way, if you need a nice break for a whisky, beer, wine and/or or dinner, there's a nice restaurant called the Devil's Advocate just down the steps a little ways. The Bubbly Tourist had dinner there on a patio overlooking the steps of this close and can recommend. If you just need your thirst quenched, there's a bar at the restaurant's entrance where you can belly up to one of the tables or bar for a refreshment.
Explore the closes and see what you'll discover...
Care for a malt whisky, real ale or lunch in a basement pub? You'll find this independently owned gem right off James Court entered off the Royal Mile at Milne Court Close. During the winter, it has a fireplace to keep you cosy. It has outdoor seating as well if you prefer the fresh air.
The Glenlivet Packhorse Bridge - a step back in time
Where: Speyside Whisky Country (Glenlivet)
As we were on our way out of Speyside, The Bubbly Tourist stumbled across this tucked away set of old bridges. It's one of the moments that you're glad you backed up the car and took the time to visit it. There are three bridges but only two that have survived. Apparently the third bridge was wiped away during the great "Muckle Spate" of 1829. It truly is a serene spot that offers a nice opportunity to picnic or just take in the abundance of natural flowers.
The Balnuaran Clava Cairns - 4000 year old houses of the dead
Where: Near Culloden Battlefield just east of Inverness
Just around the corner from the Culloden Battlefield, you'll find the less touristy clava cairns. So if you prefer less crowds and are interested in these three 4000 year old cairns, then this is your place. What's most interesting about these cairns are their orientation towards the mid-winter sun right through the opening to the very back. No one quite understands why these were built and why the orientation.
The Douneside House - Spectacular gardens benefitting a good cause
Where: In Tarland only 30 minutes from Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire
Looking for a place to stay after visiting the Cairngorms National Park or Balmoral Castle? It's also a good launch location for visiting the Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven. What is truly spectacular and way under-hyped about this chateau are its gardens. The natural beauty of this 7200 acre estate is quite impressive. Not only do you have these beautiful flowers along the stream but you have quite expansive views of the surrounding mountains. The Douneside House estate, rated Best of the Best by the way on TripAdvisor, offers you a relaxing time away from the crowds where you can soak in nature around the grounds while you stroll the gardens or play croquet. The dinner and tea service is excellent as well. Highly recommended.
The estate is now run by the MacRobert Trust in memory of Lady MacRobert who lost her sons during the Second World War and then turned the house into military housing after the war. All surplus profits generated at Douneside are either re-invested into the Estate or donated to charitable causes.
Stockbridge - Edinburgh's elegant village away from the tourists
Where: 20 minutes on foot from Edinburgh city center
What we loved about Stockbridge is the sudden departure from all the tourists that are definitely centered in the Old Town and New Town areas of Edinburgh. It's a lovely village of terraced Georgian and Victorian terraced homes where you can saunter along the Water of Leith as it winds its way through town to the Royal Botanic Garden.
The other fun thing about this part of Edinburgh are the abundance of restaurants, drinking establishments and cafes. After exploring town, The Bubbly Tourist chose to grab some bubbly at Whiskers prior to having dinner at Skua restaurant as pictured in the photo above. The food was absolutely delicious and was amazing value. We would highly recommend. Following dinner, we literally crossed the street for a nightcap of whisky at The Last Word. This cozy, low-lit bar is dotted with vintage items and has quite the selection of single malt whiskies and a knowledgeable staff that can help guide your choices. Again, highly recommended.