Where to Stay in Scotland

It’s remarkable how often we got asked where did we stay in Scotland, since getting back. But I get the reason. Scotland while not huge, offers many amazing sights but driving on the roads there takes time. You either have to keep moving around or find a place that will keep you close to as many as possible. That can be tricky. But here’s what we did.

scotland

When we stayed in Scotland the first time, we didn’t have to worry about where to stay. Our base was the town of Dundee, where my brother was working at the time. Wanting to see more of the country we also headed to the West Coast. We spent two incredible days at the Rua Reidh Lighthouse near Gairloch.

Our wish of sleeping in a lighthouse finally came true. We first planned on spending one night here. Then we saw this beauty and we had to prolong our visit. Can you blame us!

Rua Reidh Lighthouse

where to stay – two problems

When we were planning our second trip to Scotland, we were bringing our girls along and the problem where to stay arose. We didn’t want to drive around and sleep someplace new every night. It was our Summer vacation and we wanted it to be relaxing too.

Once I started searching for places to stay we faced two problems:

  • How to find affordable accommodation? In the height of the Summer season, that was a difficult endeavor. Especially since we had a tight budget due to the trip to Japan, less then 2 months before. We weren’t prepared to spend a lot for accommodation for 7 days.

Despite realizing that sites like AirBnB generally give a discount if you book one place for the whole week, self catering accommodation was expensive.

  • How to find  a place that was close to major sights?  Places like Inverness, loch Ness, Edinburgh, loch Lomond, Isle of Skye, Glencoe… It takes one look at the map of Scotland to realize such a place is almost impossible to find.

And then there were many small wishes: desire to be by the sea and stare at the waves hitting the rugged shore, a longing to be in the middle of nowhere, a chance for us to unwind, quiet, peaceful,…

cottage at the end of scotland

All these wishes – mostly mine to be honest – had me spending hours on AirBnB and Booking, Expedia, Interhome… until I stumbled upon HomeAway. There I found the perfect cottage.

It was love at first sight, actually. And it was affordable, remote, with the view of the Ocean, the beach within the walking distance, quiet and peaceful – no wi-fi.

But we only hesitated when we checked the location on Google maps.

It took us a few zoom outs to realize where the place was: the very edge of mainland, closer to the Orkney islands than to Edinburgh, miles away from anything we ever heard of Scotland. The cottage was in a small village on the North Coast of Scotland.

The question was: it has it all true, but it’s in the middle of nowhere. What do we do up there? It takes almost three hours just to get from there to Inverness. We can forget visiting Isle of Skye, Glencoe, loch Lomond…

Stay in Scotland
a true wilderness

Yet after my investigation using the indispensable Visit Scotland site we realized that Caithness and North Coast Sutherland is an area of unspoilt, dramatic scenery offering plenty of things to keep us busy for the whole week. We didn’t need to drive for hours.

When we did go to Inverness, because the kids had to get a chance to try and spot Nessie at Loch Ness, we found the crowds of tourists irksome. We longed to get back to our solitary wilderness.

The only problem with the cottage was that we only booked it for a week. When we absolutely needed it for the rest of our lives.

our favorite parts of caithness and north coast sutherland

These remote and unspoilt parts are brimming with wildlife, historical and cultural sights and natural beauties. The North Coast 500, Scotland’s answer to Route 66 is a step in the right direction and attracts many. Too bad plenty of them pass by too fast. Literally. If you plan to venture up so far North, here’s what we liked the most:

  • Heading on a tour to spot puffins.
  • Traipsing around and playing on many white sand beaches.
  • Standing at the most northerly point in mainland Britain – Dunnet Head.
  • Visiting the Castle and Gardens of Mey – where Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother lived.
  • Stopping at the Smoo Cave.
  • Letting our imagination run wild at the ruins of  Castle Sinclair Girnigoe.
  • Being in awe at the impressive Stacks of Duncansby.
  • Having copious amounts of tea and cake at the tea room Cups in Thurso.
  • Eating fish and chips at the beach.
  • Stay in our cottage and reading while the rain criss crossed our windows.

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