Your guide to the 12 most romantic places in Scotland for Valentines Day
There can surely be no better place in Europe, and maybe even the world, for romantic getaways than Scotland. I’ll admit I’m probably biased as I met my better half here, but I honestly believe that for a perfect romantic holiday, Scotland can’t be beaten.
Sure, you’ve got Paris in the spring and Venice in the summer (if you want to get stuck in the middle of sweating, heaving crowds) for certain romantic trips, but what if you want to get away from the pressures of everyday life and escape to the countryside with your loved one in peace and quiet? You probably already know where I’m going with this but in my opinion if you’re looking for the ultimate lovers getaway it has to be Scotland each and every time.
Nowhere else I’ve travelled in the world has such vast, open countryside that’s so tourist free, such eye-poppingly dramatic scenery, such interesting people, and such diverse landscapes as Scotland.
But it’s not just the great outdoors that has put this country at the top of so many tourist’s dream-holiday lists. It’s the culture, the food, the entertainment, and the friendly welcome you’ll get wherever you end up going, and it’s the fact that these things are made a million times better by sharing them with someone you love.
If you haven’t been to visit us yet you might be asking yourself what’s so great about a country where it supposedly rains all the time and it’s always cold? And that’s a fair question to ask. But bear with me and I’ll tell you why I think Scotland should be your destination for a romantic holiday, and why the weather really isn’t as bad as you might have been led to believe.
Why is Scotland such a romantic place?
Scotland is a land of extremes. On the one hand we’ve got some of the most vibrant cities in Europe where trendy bars and clubs mingle alongside Michelin-starred restaurants, and on the other we’ve got the most peaceful and tranquil wilderness you’re ever likely to find, where it’s possible to go for a full days walk and not see one single other person. Of course, there are other countries that offer similar experiences, and maybe there’s the odd country that’s just as beautiful*, but truth be told I’ve yet to find one that’s able to offer the full package in the way that Scotland does.
Do you want mountains? You’ve got it, with the jaw-dropping Nevis and Cairngorm ranges in the Highlands and the equally stunning Trotternish range in Skye, to name just three. Do you want interesting cities full of history? Well there’s no problem offering you that either, with Edinburgh and Glasgow just an hour drive from each other.
But what’s that, you also want attractions like Europe’s best rivers, beaches, forests, and islands, all within an easy drive of Scotland’s mountains and cities? Well let me tell you, you’ve come to the right place, because you can easily experience all these attractions and more in a single day, just so long as you’ve got the right guide to tell you where to go and how to get there (which is where this article comes in…).
For me, being able to hike along a gorgeous off-the-beaten-track coastal trail or mountainside in the morning and then wander around an exciting and fun-filled city in the afternoon is what makes Scotland such a romantic place. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to do and somewhere to go that you both enjoy, so there’s no need for bickering about which attractions to visit because it’s easy to do several in the space of one day.
The number one destination for most visiting couples are the country’s natural attractions, and to be honest, they’re pretty damn awesome. Dramatic, but beautiful, mountains rise majestically over windswept moors, ancient woodlands sit alongside crystal-clear lochs, and fairytale castles stand watch over rugged shorelines. Elsewhere, golden beaches sweep alongside pretty coves and harbours, and dense forests sing with a cacophony of wildlife. Scotland’s great outdoors really is the perfect place to take your loved one on holiday.
But if you’d rather visit our cities than our wilderness we’ve got a myriad of treats waiting for you. Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh has a fantastic array of fine dining experiences that are perfectly catered to couples wanting to indulge in some of the UK’s top-rated cuisine. Take The Kitchen for example, the Michelin-starred eatery that’s been wowing diners for over nine years. The fusion of Scottish and French cuisine at this restaurant rivals any in the UK in my opinion, and if you’re really looking to impress someone take my advice and make a booking there your top priority.
Alternatively, you can forget about food and head over to Glasgow to visit The Theatre Royal, the longest-running theatre in Scotland and the home of Scottish opera and ballet. This theatre has played host to some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry and today offers extravagant shows that are perfect for an impromptu date night, especially if you complete the night with a short taxi ride to The Corinthian Club for cocktails.
But whatever you decide to do, one thing’s for certain – you’re going to have an absolutely fantastic time.
*On second thoughts, maybe there isn’t another country that’s as nice as Scotland. After all, the readers of the world-famous Rough Guides website have already voted it the number 1 most beautiful country in the world.
What will the weather be like in Scotland for valentines day?
Unfortunately, the weather is one thing we can’t control in Scotland and in some ways it can make or break your romantic holiday, but if you plan ahead with a little bit of foresight even the worst downpours needn’t make too much of a dent in your holiday fun.
There’s an old Scottish proverb that goes ‘today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky’, and that pretty much sums up the Scottish attitude to the weather. It might be miserable right now, but come tomorrow it could change into something that’s a whole lot more pleasurable.
While you’re unlikely to get sunny skies every day the weather should be decent enough that you’ll be able to get your hiking boots on to explore the countryside on most days, and despite what you might have heard Scotland has a reasonably temperate climate, even in winter. It’s true that January and February are the coldest months of the year but even so you’ll find average daytime temperatures frequently sit in the 5 to 7 degree centigrade range – much warmer than many other countries on the same latitude.
Generally, you can expect cool and crisp weather in February with the occasional downpour, and some days will likely be grey and overcast. That’s not to say every day will be like that though and you’ll often find there’s a beautifully cloud-free sky overhead which really makes the wintry landscapes come alive, especially in the Highlands where you’ll find a good covering of mountain snow throughout February.
With regards to snow, it really depends on which part of the country you’re visiting for the amount you’ll see, but if you’re intending to get active on the white stuff you can be reasonably assured you’ll get a good amount of it in the Nevis and Cairngorm ranges, and especially at the Glencoe and Glenshee ski centres (my personal recommendations for quality skiing in Scotland).
If you’re the type of couple that likes to get active then rest assured you’ll get lots of opportunities to get your skis (or snowboard) on at Valentines thanks to snow falling for around 100 days of the year in the Highlands, although once you leave the mountainous areas the average number of snowfall days drops to around 20. Even so, sports-loving couples should definitely put a trip to one of Scotland’s ski resorts on their agendas if they’re visiting in February, if only to see the spectacle of the mountains in winter.
One often-forgotten aspect of Scottish winters is that the nights are dark and long and frequently cloud-free thanks to the near-zero temperatures – perfect for seeing the amazing constellations of stars in our designated dark sky areas (places where there’s no light pollution). Once you leave the cities behind and head into the wilds you’ll see some truly spectacular lights playing out in the night sky. Who needs to be stuck indoors when you can cosy up with your other half under a blanket of stars?
Scotland has some of the largest expanses of dark sky in Europe and is home to the UK’s only designated dark sky area, located in Galloway Forest Park. Here, thanks to very few houses and no industry, the sky can be viewed in all its glory without interference from man-made distractions. Surely it’s the ultimate romantic experience?
If I’ve piqued your interest to go for a moonlit stroll it would be a good idea to find out what the weather’s going to do beforehand. While no-one can completely accurately predict the weather, Britain’s weather services are pretty damn good, so if you check one of the online weather guides you’ll get a good idea of what you’ll be stepping into before you walk out the front door.
I’ve included a handy weather page on this website which details the current weather in the main tourist hotspots and if you scroll a bit further down to the map you can select a more in-depth weather forecast from the Open Weather Map service. Check it out – it’s a useful tool that might help you avoid getting a soaking.
City or country?
The decision you make about whether you’ll be visiting Scotland’s cities or countryside during February will ultimately depend on what type of romantic break you want to have. Do you want to hit the slopes at the Cairngorm, Nevis, or Glencoe mountain ranges, or would you rather explore the history of Edinburgh, Perth, Inverness, and Glasgow? Do you fancy getting out and about in Scotland’s wonderful wintry landscapes or would you prefer to cosy up next to a pub fireplace with a good single malt in hand?
If you’re intending to visit Scotland to appreciate its culture and history then I’d suggest you stick to the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow for the duration of your stay. Both have a huge number of attractions to visit and are within easy reach of each other by train or car in around an hour, and you could easily spend a week in either city and barely scratch the surface of what they have to offer.
If you want to explore the winter-wonderland of Scotland’s wilderness areas instead you’ll find you’re spoilt for choice with places like Glencoe, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, the Isle of Skye and the Cairngorm National Park ideally suited for romantic walks, but there are many more places worth visiting that are off the standard tourist routes.
In all, Scotland has 45 National Nature Reserves which feature heavenly swathes of land full of beautiful flora and fauna to discover, as well as three UNESCO Global Geoparks which contain fascinating examples of prehistoric landscapes. The geoparks – Lochaber, North-West Highlands, and Shetland – cover 10% of the country’s entire land mass and are full of the ancient remains of long-extinct volcanoes and ancient lava flows, and there are some excellent designated walking trails running through them.
Basically, if you come to Scotland you won’t be disappointed if you’re a couple that likes to give their hiking boots a good workout.
The list of the 12 most romantic places in Scotland for Valentines day
So now we’re onto the list of the most romantic places in Scotland you can visit when you come here for Valentine’s day. I’ve tried to include a variety of adventures including city, wilderness and unusual experiences so I hope you’ll find something that will delight both yourself and your other half.
If romance to you means the thrill of buzzing nightlife and boutique shopping then you’ll find something to suit in the list below, but if you’d rather fall head over heels in love with mountains, glens, and shimmering lochs then you’re also catered for with the other attractions I’ve included.
And best of all, unlike some other countries where you’ll be hassled by tour operators to spend a bucketload of cash, in Scotland it’s possible to just pack a tent into a car and drive to its most remote regions for free (apart from fuel costs of course). The old saying ‘the best things in life are free’ totally applies to this amazing country.
A map of the top romantic places in Scotland to visit for Valentines day
The best locations for a marriage proposal
Will you, or won’t you? The strongest relationships begin with a simple question, and it’s one that been asked countless times on Scotland’s beaches, castle terraces, mountain tops and loch shores, with thousands of nervous partners bending down on one knee across the land every year. And why wouldn’t they? Nothing says romance more than the breathtaking backdrop of an isolated beach, a majestic castle or a dramatic mountain, and luckily for would-be husbands and wives, Scotland has them in spades.
I’ve whittled down the list of what I believe are the perfect destinations to encourage your future spouse to say yes to these three attractions below, each of which offers a perfect backdrop to pop the question. Read on for more info, and good luck!
Scarista beach – Isle of Harris
The Isle of Harris sits firmly in the list of my top three favourite Scottish islands, mainly because it’s so absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. As one half of Lewis and Harris – the largest island in the Outer Hebrides – Harris is known for being much more than just the southern, more mountainous part of the island, and there are an enormous variety of attractions that make it worthy of a visit
Although Harris is quite a bit smaller than Lewis I feel it’s got a bit more charm about it, perhaps due to the fact that it’s got some of the most spectacular beaches in Britain, and rugged mountain regions that make you feel like you’ve just stepped onto some strange kind of lunar landscape. The only other place I’ve seen in Scotland that resembles Harris’ wild landscapes is Rannoch Moor in the Highlands, one of the last great remaining wildernesses in Europe, and if you’ve driven through it you’ll know how other-worldly it is.
Much of the east coast of Harris has been carved into a series of wide, sweeping bays by ancient glaciers from prehistoric ice ages and it’s fascinating to visit if you’ve got any kind of interest in pre-history. Some of these rocks have been dated to over 3000 million years old, making them some of the oldest geological formations on the planet. Incredible!
But it’s not the geology that attracts lovers from all over the world (unless they’re both geologists perhaps?…), no, it’s the stunning golden-sand beaches that seemingly stretch for miles in front of vast plains of machir (a type of grassland) and the peaceful seaside bays that offer quiet seclusion that seems so difficult to find nowadays. The machir, in particular, is absolutely glorious in summer because it blooms in a riot of colour with a sea of tiny flowers, but unfortunately you’re going to miss out on that particular sight in February.
What you won’t miss though is the sublime sight of the enormous expanse of Scarista beach sweeping away into the distance with the most striking azure-blue sea you’ll find anywhere in Britain. It’s an absolutely magical place, quiet, ethereal, colourful in ways that are hard to describe and impossibly pretty. Seriously, if you’re going to ask your partner to spend the rest of their lives with you, you might as well ask the question somewhere they’ll never forget. For me, that place is Scarista beach.
The wild landscape of Glenfinnan will be immediately familiar to fans of Harry Potter as this is the location where the famous Hogwarts Express made its magical journey across the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and lucky tourists can frequently see The Jacobite steam train thundering through on its journey north to Mallaig. While many tourists come to see the viaduct, many more come to visit the Glenfinnan Monument that sits on the shores of Loch Shiel.
The monument was built to commemorate the start of the Jacobite uprising of 1745 when Prince Charles Edward Stuart raised his father’s standard at Glenfinnan in front of an army of Highland warriors, but sadly the uprising came to an abrupt end when the Jacobites were massacred by English Redcoats at the Battle of Culloden just a year later. The 18-metre tall monument was built in 1815 as a reminder of the Highlander losses on that day and the lone kilted Highlander at the top stands as a poignant reminder of the failed rebellion.
Loch Shiel is the perfect background to the monument with a setting that has to be one of the prettiest in Scotland. Wooded hillsides rise up on either side of the freshwater loch with white summits glistening in winter, while in summer the surrounding picture-perfect Highland peaks are ablaze with flowers.
An abundance of bird species can be seen throughout the year including white-tailed sea eagles – Britain’s largest bird – and sparrowhawks, kestrels, and ospreys, all on the hunt for the small birds and fish that live in the loch, while below the surface you’ll find salmon and sea-trout. This place really is a nature-lovers paradise and thankfully it’s been designated as a National Scenic Area to protect and preserve it.
As one of the most picturesque places in Scotland the view of Loch Shiel with the nearby monument and viaduct makes it a perfect setting for getting down on bended knee, but even if you’re just passing through it’s still a fantastic place to visit.
Holyrood Park – Edinburgh
Situated about a mile to the East of Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty that offers tourists and locals alike a haven of tranquillity amongst the noise of Scotland’s capital city. Although the park is situated deep inside Edinburgh’s centre it has a vast array of natural wonders to explore over its 650-acre wilderness.
If you walk through Holyrood park you’ll discover that it’s just like a miniature version of Scotland’s countryside in one compact area. Wild and open meadows, peaceful lochs, mountain-like ridges, and swathes of gorse take visitors on a cross-country journey all within a few minutes walk of the city centre. In fact, on a quiet day when there are few tourists around it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of a city and you can almost imagine that you’re way up in the Highlands instead.
The parkland is open every day although it’s not always possible to drive through it, so your best bet is to walk to it from the direction of Holyrood Palace. In summer you’ll find the park full of people having picnics and going for strolls but in February it’s much quieter so you’ll get a bit more peace, especially if you go mid-week. The trails that run through the park are generally well maintained but if you want to know which direction to go take a look at my Holyrood Park walking map.
The park is impressive in every direction but the best bit to explore is Arthur’s Seat. Like the rock on which Edinburgh Castle was built, Arthur’s Seat was formed by an extinct volcano that erupted around 340 million years ago, and over many millions of years the effects of weather erosion and glacier movements have formed the rocky outcrops that we see today.
If you’re feeling adventurous you can climb up the 800-foot incline to Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in the whole of Edinburgh, to take in breath-taking views in a full 360-degree panorama. Although it’s a little windy up there the backdrop of the setting sun against the flickering lights of the city provides an amazing view, and one that in my opinion is the most romantic in Edinburgh. Perfect for marriage proposals.
The best places to take a honeymoon
The number of people taking their honeymoon in Scotland has exploded in recent years which might be surprising to those not in the know, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. For those of us who live here, a beach holiday in a far-away land might sound like a dream holiday, but once you factor in the wallet-busting cost of flights and hotels that golden beach starts to lose some of its appeal.
And while some people might prefer to luxuriate in a fine city hotel overseas, others might question why they’re choosing to give up two or three days of their holiday in travel time. Both of these problems can be solved by staying in the UK and taking a honeymoon in Scotland (in fact, a recent YouGov poll determined that 26% of Brits now take their holiday in Scotland instead of going overseas).
For foreign visitors not used to Scottish life, coming here to celebrate their marriage has to be the ultimate exotic location. It’s most likely the reason why Scotland entertains over three million international visitors each year, with Chinese tourist numbers increasing by 40% in the last year alone. The recommendations below highlight some of the places where you too can have a truly memorable honeymoon.
It’s a well-known fact that Edinburgh regularly tops the list of destinations for culture-seekers looking to explore the best art galleries, museums, and festivals in Europe. As well as hosting 12 major cultural events each year (including The Fringe, the world’s biggest arts festival), Edinburgh was the first ever city to be granted the title of UNESCO city of literature, and it’s one of the few cities on the planet to have its centre elevated to UNESCO world heritage status.
But you might be asking what’s so special about this small collection of medieval and Georgian buildings nestled on the south-east edge of Scotland?
The answer lies in the fact that so much history has been packed into one of the nicest regions of a country that has already been voted the most beautiful on earth. Have you ever wanted to spend a morning roaming around buildings that are hundreds of years old, then explore one of the biggest castles in Europe before finishing off the day with a wander around an extinct volcano? In most cities having any one of these activities would be impressive, but Edinburgh is home to all these attractions and more in a beautifully compact area.
In the city centre you’ll find award-winning restaurants nestled between some of the friendliest pubs and bars you’ll ever come across, and loads of live music and shows that can be enjoyed alongside a dram of spectacularly good whisky. There are romantic walks for couples to enjoy – both through the winding streets and the numerous beautiful parks – along with museums, art galleries, and a world-leading zoo.
It’s a shame that the majority of tourists only spend a day or two in the city because they’re missing out on a huge number of attractions, and while a weekend might be enough time to visit Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, many visitors miss equally good attractions like The National Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery. With so many things to see and places to visit you could easily spend a week in Edinburgh, which is why I think it should most definitely be on everyone’s list of honeymoon destinations.
The Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye on Scotland’s west coast has become one of the most-visited places in Scotland in recent years, and with good reason. This wild and enigmatic island is the setting for some of Scotland’s most beautiful locations, with mountains, lochs, and sea all beckoning romantic couples from across the globe.
There are a huge number of attractions to visit on the island which will easily entertain you for a week or more, which makes the Isle of Skye a great place to go on a honeymoon.
One of the highest-rated attractions on Skye is an area known as The Quiraing. The Quiraing is a stunning area on the northernmost summit of Trotternish which was formed thousands of years ago by a series of monumental landslips. As the mass of rocks broke away from the Meall na Suiramach mountain they left behind a series of peaks, rocky outcrops, and hidden plateaus that now form one of the most picturesque wilderness areas in Scotland.
Another famous natural wonder is the Fairy Pools, and if you go to the Isle of Skye then you must visit the beautifully crystal-clear pools of water that lie at the foot of the Black Cuillin hills. These pools have become something of a mecca for nature-lovers and tourists from all over the world come to walk along the path that follows the River Brittle as it runs off from the imposing hills surrounding the pools.
The Fairy Pools are situated along a stretch of river that slopes down at quite an angle away from the Black Cuillins, and at each pool there’s a waterfall plummeting into it. Because the water is so clear the surrounding rocks shine with the deepest blue/green colour you’ve ever seen (at least when the sun shines), and it really does look enticing. You might even be tempted to jump into the pools for a swim, although you’ll have to be brave as the temperature in February will be really, really cold.
Another recommended attraction on Skye is The Old Man of Storr, an iconic landmark high up on a hill that has one of the best views on the entire island. Located in Trotternish, around 6 miles north of the main town of Portree, The Storr is the remnant of an ancient landslide which resulted in a dramatic cliff-face backdrop with the ‘Old Man’ sitting in a prominent position looking out across the landscape of Loch Leathan and the Isle of Raasay.
Even if you come to Skye for just one day you’ll make the trip worthwhile by experiencing the incredible views from this mighty outcrop.
The Isle of Lewis and Harris
The west coast islands of the Hebrides are a great place to begin an adventure together if you’re the type of couple that loves dramatic landscapes, historic attractions and an ever-changing mix of terrains.
This island (Lewis and Harris are actually part of the same land mass) is full of beautiful stretches of pristine beach, peaceful meadows, moon-like plateaus and rugged coastline, and yet it’s also blissfully quiet and relatively tourist-free when it’s off-season, making a trip here an unforgettable experience.
Lewis is the largest island of the Outer Hebrides and offers the perfect opportunity to experience life on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, with a rich cultural history to discover and enough wonders that it’s easy to fill a honeymoon with memories.
Take the Callanish Stones. This ring of monoliths is one of the most complete stone circles in Europe and it has to be one of the most atmospheric places in Scotland, especially if you visit the site in winter to watch the rising sun break over the windswept landscape at dawn. Amazingly, these stones have stood at Callanish for over 5000 years and are made of some of the oldest rocks in Britain that were formed during the earliest days of planet earth. You can begin to see why history is such an important part of the Lewis and Harris culture.
Although the Outer Hebrides are famed for their seclusion there are plenty of modern amenities available throughout the island, most notably at the village of Stornoway on the east coast of Lewis. Here at the pretty harbour you’ll find coffee shops and cafes as well as shops selling one of the island’s most famous products – Harris Tweed.
This strong and versatile material has been made the same traditional way for centuries and is now used in clothes the world over, so if you’re looking for a memento of your honeymoon that’ll last for years, a gift made from Harris Tweed could be just the thing.
Harris sits to the south of the Lewis border and is as well-regarded for its beaches as it is for its wool-crafting expertise. The award-winning Luskentyre and Scarista beaches both offer breathtaking views from white sands that seem to stretch for miles across the Northton Peninsula and you’ll often see otters and eagles roaming around the rolling dunes and thick grassland, so if you’re a nature lover you’re guaranteed to fall in love with this magnificent Scottish island.
Top spots for a couples weekend
While international visitors from the other side of the globe won’t be able to enjoy Scotland for a short stay, British locals and our friends across the North Sea can easily take a romantic city break to Scotland thanks to the increasing number of flights that come directly into our major cities. These flights are getting cheaper too, with budget airlines charging less for a return fare from central Europe to Edinburgh or Glasgow than many train operators charge to get to the same cities from London.
So we all know that a great weekend getaway is just a short flight away, but where should you go? There’s a vast number of attractions and places I could recommend here, but I’ve listed my top three which are not only easy to get to but offer unparalleled opportunities for sightseeing and fun experiences. I hope you enjoy visiting them as much as I have.
Aside from Edinburgh, Glasgow frequently features as one of the top destinations for couples taking a short break to Scotland. And it’s not difficult to see why. Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland both in size and population, with around 600,000 people living in this cosmopolitan urban sprawl situated on the banks of the River Clyde.
Once famous for its shipbuilding industry, the city is now more famous for its bustling shopping areas and world-class theatres, museums and galleries. Second only to Edinburgh for the amount of green space per acre in Britain, Glasgow also boats some of the finest parklands of any UK city, and a wide range of traditional and modern music events can usually be found playing somewhere in this busy metropolis.
Glasgow is a truly ancient place and medieval buildings and architecture can still be seen in many districts like the Trongate and Saltmarket, while some of the city’s best gothic architecture and sculptures can be seen up close and personal at the 37-acre Victorian Necropolis (an enormous graveyard).
Nearby you’ll find the 18th century Merchant City which was once an important trading place for the shipping of goods to the Americas and the Caribbean, and the River Clyde which plays host to a number of museums celebrating Glasgow’s rich cultural heritage, including the Riverside Museum and the sailing ship Glenlee.
You’ll find some of the finest museums in Scotland in the city centre including Kelvingrove Museum which is often regarded as one of the best in the country, and Glasgow’s proud heritage is celebrated in the wonderful People’s Palace. The Gallery of Modern Art is the main gallery of contemporary art and is one of the most-visited attractions in the city, while the peaceful oasis of plant-life in the Botanic Gardens is the perfect antidote to the hectic buzz of the expansive shopping districts.
If you’re the type of couple that enjoys the arts then make sure you visit the House for an Art Lover which is based on a 1901 design by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Situated on land in Bellahouston Park in central Glasgow, this building has become a focal point for displaying art exhibitions by some of Scotland’s leading talents.
I think it’s pretty obvious that Glasgow has to be one of the UK’s premier tourist destinations, and if you’re trying to decide on somewhere to visit with a loved one it really should be at the top of your list of choices.
The Isle of Arran
The Isle of Arran lies to the west of Glasgow in the Firth of Clyde which makes it one of the easiest west coast islands to get to, and yet it’s large enough that you can journey out to its extremities and really feel like you’re completely isolated from the rest of civilisation.
Arran is one of the larger Scottish islands at 167 square miles and is often referred to as ‘Scotland in miniature’, thanks to the diverse range of hills, mountains, lochs, forests, and beaches that you’ll find there. It’s easy to lose yourself in the sheltered bays, lush forests and dramatic mountain peaks of Arran, and there’s enough going on in the towns and villages dotted about that you won’t get bored if you decide to spend a weekend there.
Getting to Arran is easy thanks to the ferries operated by CalMac that sail out of Tarbert, Claonaig, Ardrossan and Campbeltown, with the Claonaig ferry crossing taking a mere 30 minutes. However, most visitors coming in from the Scottish mainland will most likely choose to take the crossing from Ardrossan, which sails into Arran’s main town of Brodick in around an hour.
While Brodick is a nice enough coastal town with plenty of bars, restaurants, shops, and beaches, your best bet for really experiencing this island is to get your hiking boots on and head out onto one of the many trails that criss-cross the landscape, with the ever-popular Goatfell range being at the top of most hiker’s lists.
In fact, hiking couples are particularly spoilt for choice on Arran and there’s a wide selection of trails to choose from thanks to the lowland moors and mountain peaks that run across the isle. The largest of the peaks is Goatfell, an 874-metre mountain that’s managed by the National Trust for Scotland which offers superb walks for any nature-lover that fancies a challenge, but to be honest the views from practically anywhere on Arran are nothing short of stunning.
If you’re a couple that enjoys mountain biking, golf and walking then you’re in for a treat thanks to the pristine golf courses and numerous cycling and walking trails that the island has become famous for.
Adventure-sports enthusiasts are well catered for with outdoor activities including gorge walking, rock climbing, sea kayaking and canyoneering, while photographers can get their shutter fingers going with the ever-changing coastlines and awe-inspiring mountain ranges. Arran is an island that really has got a little bit of everything.
Inveraray – Loch Fyne
Loch Fyne is situated on the Cowal Peninsula on Scotland’s south-west coast where it has earned a reputation for being a bit of a hidden gem. The loch is renowned for its seafood and hand-caught oysters and offers picturesque views from many of the eateries that serve up fresh seafood from its waters. There’s a lot to like about this loch even before you visit the nearby Inveraray Castle, so if you fancy a weekend break away from Scotland’s cities try this picturesque part of the country instead.
The shores of the longest sea loch in Scotland have served as the ancestral home to the Duke of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell, since the 18th-century. It’s here that Inveraray Castle, possibly the prettiest castle in Scotland, has been a focal point of the area since the very first foundation stone was laid in 1746. This castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Argyll with visitors flocking to see its famous conical roofs, impressive weapons collection and beautifully manicured 16-acre gardens.
Walking around the stately rooms you get a real sense of the history that surrounds the castle, and some of the rooms have to be seen to be believed. Highlights include the Armoury Hall which has the highest ceiling of any building in Scotland at an incredible 21 metres and the State Dining Room with its collection of elaborate paintings.
A short distance away from the castle are conifer woodlands which offer very peaceful walks where you’ll also find the remains of limestone kilns that were last used over a hundred years ago. The tracks leading out from here go all the way up to the 248-metre summit of Dun na Cuaiche, the hill which can be seen for miles around.
The views from the top are stunning, and with the castle clearly visible below and the town of Inveraray and Loch Fyne just behind it you have a photo opportunity you won’t soon forget.
Heading back down to the shoreline of Loch Fyne will place you at the edge of the traditional county town of Inveraray which is a great place to use as a base to access the national parks, mountains, and nearby islands, and there are enough restaurants and bars along the small harbour that you won’t ever struggle to find a good place to eat.
Speaking of which, while you’re in this part of Argyll make sure you order a plate of Loch Fyne oysters, which are a local delicacy. The Loch Fyne Oyster Bar and Deli just up the road at Clachan offers some of the best seafood in Scotland and even sells salmon and oysters to take back home with you. Delicious!
Unique Valentines Day experiences
Romantic breaks don’t have to be the same old boring excursions that have been done a thousand times already, and if you put a little thought into it you’ll soon realise there’s a near infinite amount of different activities you can get involved with to spice up your travels.
I’ve skipped some of the more outlandish activities like skydiving (great fun, but not exactly everyone’s cup of tea), and instead stuck to the kinds of experiences that most couples will enjoy, whatever their background.
For the ultimate show of affection I’d recommend including these experiences with some of the others previously mentioned (I did the cocktail course followed by a meal in Edinburgh recently and it was fab), but of course, you’re free to mix and match as you please.
Take a trip on the Harry Potter train
The 84-mile rail journey across the Scottish Highlands from Fort William to Mallaig has been described as one of the great railway journeys of the world, and with good reason.
This scenic route has become a favourite with tourists from far and wide thanks to the beautiful landscapes that whoosh past the steam locomotive, where sight-seers can expect to see every facet of the Scottish countryside from mountains, lochs, forests, and rivers to coastline.
It’s fair to say that passengers on this special journey will get to experience sights that rival anywhere else in Europe, and possibly the world. There’s Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in Britain), Loch Morar (the deepest freshwater loch), and Loch Nevis (the deepest seawater loch in Europe), to name just a few. Suffice to say you won’t get bored looking out the window!
Fans of the Harry Potter movies might recognise the Jacobite from some of the scenes where Harry travels on the Hogwarts Express, and they will definitely recognise the scene where the train puffs its way across the Glenfinnan viaduct, but there’s much more to this journey than Harry Potter.
Starting at Fort William you board the train and make your way to your seat in one of the stylish old carriages where the view out the window gives you a glimpse of the mighty Ben Nevis overshadowing the peaceful Highland town.
If you’re a train buff you can take a look inside the engine as it’s prepared for departure, or you can simply sit back and relax and take in the scenery outside. Just make sure you take the time for frequent looks out the window because once you’re on the move you’ll get the opportunity to enjoy some of the best views in Scotland.
Probably the most impressive part of the journey is the crossing of the 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct which sweeps around the spectacular shores of Loch Shiel, where the Glenfinnan monument can be seen with its memorial to the Highlanders lost during the Jacobite uprising of 1745.
The train also stops at nearby Glenfinnan station where you can stretch your legs and explore the West Highland Railway Museum, before continuing the journey to the coastal town of Mallaig.
There’s nothing quite like sitting in one of these carriages sipping a glass of wine and watching the natural splendour of Scotland’s countryside go by. It’s a real highlight for a romantic holiday.
Go on a cocktail making masterclass
Would you consider yourself to be a gin giant or a vodka veteran? A whisky wizard or a tequila titan? Either way, if you’re after an experience that’s great fun (and you both like a drink) how about attending one of the many cocktail masterclasses regularly held in Glasgow and Edinburgh’s bars?
These fun events see cocktail making maestros conjure up a range of drinks with interactive demonstrations that not only take you through the origins of each cocktail but also shows you how to create them for yourselves.
Although many of these classes are attended by groups there are just as many that are comprised of couples and it’s not difficult to see why the experience has exploded in popularity in recent year. They’re a great way to meet new people and you’ll come away having learnt a new skill, and of course, there’s alcohol involved so you’re bound to have a good giggle during the demonstrations.
Edinburgh has a vibrant scene of cocktail bars that are scattered throughout the city in every corner and it’s easy to find a wide selection of bars that offer these courses, with two of the most popular being Tigerlilly and LeMonde on George Street. You’ll also find excellent sessions held at The Angels Share on Hope Street and The Voodoo Rooms on West Register Street, but wherever you decide to go I guarantee you’ll have a great time.
Moving onto Glasgow you’ll find an equally impressive collection of cocktail making experiences across the city, but for some of the best ones try Revolucion de Cuba on Renfield Street or October in Princes Square. Also coming highly recommended are Hummingbird in Bath Street and Barca just off Buchanan Street.
And best of all, once you’ve finished learning how to create delicious cocktails you can head out into the city’s bars and clubs to sample a few more – purely for research purposes of course…
Spend the night in a castle
If you’re looking for a sumptuous experience to enjoy with your loved one that you won’t soon forget, how about spending the night in one of Scotland’s many castles?
There are too many castle’s that allow overnight stays to include in one article, but one that I can personally say is absolutely first class is Auchen Castle near Moffat in Dumfriesshire. This former home of the Kirkpatrick family is believed to have been built in 1220 AD, although it’s been extensively extended over the years and is today used mainly for weddings and informal gatherings.
Auchen Castle is a bit of a fairytale place and it’s easy to see why so many people choose to hold their wedding celebrations there, what with its eclectic collection of spires and turrets and its 25 luxurious rooms, but I think it’s the grounds that give the place an extra-special feeling.
The castle is nestled inside 34 acres of private gardens and woodland which even has a lochan (a small loch) inside and it’s just the perfect setting for escaping from the pressures of everyday life.
If you want to leave the castle and get some fresh air then you can do more than just roam around the grounds (although they’re really impressive) as there are falconry and archery experiences held on the site, and if you fancy visiting some of the other attractions in the area you can take a drive to the nearby Garden of Cosmic Speculation and Eskrigg Nature Reserve, both of which feature peaceful surroundings to relax in.
Alternatively, if you’ve come to Auchen Castle to have a wedding but want to experience even more history than the castle has to offer, you’ll find that it’s actually not far from the famous Gretna Green Blacksmiths Shop which has served young lovers eloping from England since the mid-18th-century.
Well, I hope these suggestions have given you some ideas for things to do and places to visit in Scotland for a truly memorable romantic getaway, and I sincerely hope they inspire you to come and visit Scotland in the very near future, whether you come here for Valentine’s day or not.
There are so many worthwhile attractions in Scotland that it’s simply not possible to include them all in one article but if you check through the rest of the website you might discover even more places that you want to visit. If you’ve got any questions about any featured attraction on the website please send me a message using the contact form and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading!
Craig Smith is your guide to the best attractions in Scotland. He loves exploring the Scottish wilds and is happiest when he’s knee-deep in a muddy bog in the middle of nowhere.