What I have always suspected has now been finally proven: Scotland has just been voted the most beautiful country in the world (by Rough Guides that is, not just by me). I have always believed myself tremendously lucky to be given the chance to study in the gorgeous city of Edinburgh which looks like it just came out of a Harry Potter movie, but obviously Scotland has much more to offer than just this beautiful old and friendly city.
Although I still only scratched the surface of exploring Scotland in the three years I have lived here, I have had the chance to visit some stunning places in the highlands, and I thought I’d share with you my favourite bothies and glamping spots to make your overnight stays even better.
I think in Scotland (as also in Iceland) it is essential to stay close to nature. But since my enthusiasm for camping was slightly dampened when I had an earwig invasion in my tent as a child, I have been getting back to camping incrementally by ‘glamping’, short for ‘glamour’ and ‘camping’, and staying in cozy bothies. A ‘bothy’ usually is a hut to use free of charge and seek shelter, and they are very common in Scotland, but nowadays it often also refers to small cabins and cottages (sadly not free of charge). Most of the places I’m presenting here won’t have Wi-fi, some don’t have any phone signal at all, and some don’t have electricity. However, it’s nice to reconnect with peace and quiet, and feeling free from the constant pressure to be available and online. Here are my favourites in Scotland (in no particular order, they are all perfect in their own way!):
This place was one of my most recent visits, and as with all the others, I regretted not staying there for longer. The renovated caravan is tucked away in a green and flourishing private garden paradise in Forres (a town near Inverness) and benefits from an outdoor shower, an indoor fireplace (my favourite feature of any place ever), a composting toilet, cooking facilities and a BBQ pit. I absolutely loved how cozy this place was, and the top bed in the caravan made me feel like a princess. Most of the light was supplied by fairy lights and candles, which added to the nice atmosphere.
Sadly, the incessant rain of Scotland made me stay inside the caravan most of the time and I didn’t get to sit in the garden or lie in the hammock posted outside, but hopefully I’ll get to go back and do all these things.
Sit next to the fire and try some of the delicious Yogi Tea the hosts, Steve and Caroline, supply.
Don’t be afraid to use the outdoor shower. You fill it with hot water and it’s just like a normal shower, just closer to nature 🙂
Places nearby (or maybe a bit further away) to explore:
• Forres, the town the caravan is located in, is one of the oldest cities in Scotland.
• Inverness and multiple castles are nearby.
• For the ambitious, you can venture all the way up to the northern coast of Scotland and visit white sandy beaches that look like the Caribbean sea. It is quite a long drive, though.
I stayed in this Boho Yurt in April this year, as the first night of a road trip with the final destination of the Isle of Skye. We were blessed with good weather (albeit not too warm, as it was obviously April in Scotland), so when we arrived we were greeted by sunshine and this colourful, peaceful Yurt in the owner’s farm garden. The decoration inside was so beautiful and the icing on the cake was the dog, Maisie, who I quickly took into my heart. Maisie is one of the happiest dogs I know, jumping around the garden, waiting for us in front of the Yurt to greet us in the morning, and ‘protecting’ us from the cats that were also on-site (I guess she didn’t want to share).
With the overnight stay came a magnificent breakfast, and we opted for a three-course vegetarian dinner as well the night before. The food was delicious, and I’ve never seen a table so full at breakfast – from fresh fruit to cake to homemade jam. I found out that we could also book private yoga lessons in the garden shed. I was sad when I had to leave, since I loved the place so much and the hosts and Maisie were the best, but I just have to hope to find the time to return.
Get the dinner if possible. It’s delicious!
Places to explore nearby:
We only drove through this area and didn’t have much time to explore the surroundings, but the the town of St. Andrews is only a 50 minute drive away and is definitely worth a visit; if only for some delicious ice cream by Janetta’s on the beach.
Also Pitlochry is not too far, a cute little town on the edge of the Cairngorms national park and lots of beautiful hills nearby.
My stay at Skye Eco Bells was arguably the most adventurous out of the ones I am presenting in this post. Skye Eco Bells located in the west of the Isle of Skye, and there is no phone signal, electricity, or Wi-fi. In the beginning, it is quite hard to really disconnect with everything, but I think this is an important lesson in today’s time when we’re constantly on our phones. This place also has a composting toilet, a greenhouse (semi-)outdoor shower, a herb garden for cooking.When visiting this place, I also visited Skye for the first time – and I was not disappointed. This place was a little eco heaven away from all the ‘touristy’ places on Skye (although these are still very remote!), yet near enough to the places you want to see. The campsite is maintained by Nadia and Scott, and guarded by their cute (blind and slightly clumsy but lovely) dog Finn and roughly 20 free-range chicken to wake you in the morning. It’s hard to decide what was the best about Skye Eco Bells, because I loved all the features so much. We stayed in the Bell Tent, and it is there that I learned that nothing will keep you warmer at night than a hot water bottle – Nadia and Scott supplied us with these and thick duvets, which were a life-saver in the cold Scottish April nights. We spent a lot of time trying to pet chicken, in the hut next to the fire and playing Monopoly. I will definitely plan on returning, potentially in a warmer month than April, though…
Make use of the books and games provided to entertain the evenings, and obviously build a fire in the hub cabin.
Places to explore:
I assume, I don’t have to say much here – it’s the Isle of Skye, after all.
• Visit the North of Skye – the old Man of Storr, the Quiraing and Kilt Rock.
• Take a stroll in the capital of Skye, Portree.
• Visit Neist Point Light House
• In summer, there are also plenty of routes for hiking all around the Isle.
This cabin was the first for me to visit here in Scotland, and it inspired a lust for more. It is hidden away in a valley near Balquhidder and only served by a single-file gravel road, rendering the drive there adventurous and making you happy that you got the £0 excess insurance on the rental car. The other option to get there from Balquhidder is that Les, the owner of the cabin, will pick you up in her rowing boat on the other side of the lake.
The cabin itself is, as she describes it, a real-life Hobbit House. It features 2 double beds and a single bed, and has a nice lounge area new to the fireplace, electricity but no phone signal or Wi-Fi. The stairs are made from driftwood, and the whole place has a very relaxed athmosphere. You are surrounded by sheep and by a beautiful beach at the Loch, and will enjoy hikes up the mountain (without a path, which is what we did), and tea in front of the fire place.
Beware of any food left out on the counters, the mice will get to it (they nibbled on our bananas which were still in peels!).
Places to explore nearby:
• The cabin itself is already in a great location which much around to explore, in particular for hiking.
• The cabin is located at the edge of Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, so it could be worth a visit – but it might be a bit of a drive (again, on the gravel road)!
And finally, another recent addition to my travel diary. We stayed there for one night, and the caravan was also very cozy! This place was not easy to find – close by the main road connecting Thurso with Inverness, but still somehow remote from everything. Inside the caravan, there was again a log burner (great plus!), which we used to heat up the caravan. This was probably not necessary in August, and we woke up during the night because there were approximately 30ºC in the caravan, but I liked falling asleep to the sound of the crackling logs.
The kitchen and bathrooms were in a separate shed, and the owners had DIY-d a lovely seating area out of wood overlooking the surroundings with an outdoor fireplace. Obviously, we also made a fire there and sat out there until it was pitch black, gazing at the stars (absolutely no light pollution, the sky was amazing!).
Bring some midget repellant. I didn’t and I was eaten alive.