Off-Beat Scotland Travel Guide: 10 Brilliantly Unexpected (and Boozy) Things to Do

Off-Beat Scotland Travel Guide: 10 Brilliantly Unexpected (and Boozy) Things to Do

All the best things to do off the links... and beyond the guide book.

By Karen Gardiner

If you you're a keen golfer, you might be dreaming of visiting the "home of golf" for the 2018 Open. While you're in Scotland, make the most of a magical trip with our suggestions for some off course — and off beat — things to do (and yes, to drink).

1. Bask on a Beach to Rival Those of the Caribbean

The Isle of Harris may not boast the climate of the Carribean — but it certainly has the white sand beaches. Spend a day on the pristine sands and gorgeous (but chilly) turquoise-hued waters of Luskentyre Beach and you might just be tempted to cancel that trip planned to Bermuda. (Well, maybe).

2. Touch Down on a Beach

Scotland's lovely beaches are not just for soaking up the sun. The wide shallow bay of Traigh Mhor on the Isle of Barra is home to the only beach runway used for scheduled flights. Loganair, which flies from Glasgow, times its two daily scheduled flights according to tide times and the plane's spectacular, though slightly unnerving, landing is a bucket-list experience.

3. Take the World's Shortest Scheduled Flight

Bucket list-fulfilling aviation experiences abound in Scotland. In Orkney you can take the world's shortest scheduled flight between the islands of Westray and Papa Westray. Also operated by Loganair, the flight, on a 10-seater light aircraft, is typically less than two minutes long — although the record stands at 53 seconds.

4. See Standing Stones Older than Stonehenge

England's Stonehenge has more name recognition but Scotland is home to Britain's earliest stone circles. Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis and the Standing Stones of Stenness on Orkney's Mainland were both built around 5,000 years ago. While visiting the UNESCO-listed Heart of Neolithic Orkney, you can also see the 5,000-year-old village of Skara Brae, the chambered cairn of Maeshowe and the (slightly younger) stone circle Ring of Brodgar.

5. Eat at a Michelin-Starred Restaurant

If you thought Scottish cuisine was all haggis and deep-fried candy bars, think again. The country's land and long coastline offers up an abundance of excellent produce, which you can enjoy while dining at one of its 13 Michelin-Starred restaurants. In the little fishing village of Anstruther, the tiny restaurant The Cellar serves rarified Scottish cuisine, sourcing everything locally, while Martin Wishart brings French cooking to Edinburgh.

6. Follow the Country's Dedicated Gin Trail

If you've already done the whisky distilleries, try a tipple of Scotland's other spirit: gin. Over the past few years new gin distilleries have been quickly popping up across Scotland, from Shetland in the north to North Berwick in the south. Accordingly gin-focused bars soon emerged in their wake — with more than 300 bottles, Edinburgh's 56 North has one of the biggest gin hauls in the world. Now you can hit up all the best distilleries and a few bars by following Scotland's designated gin trail.

7. Drink a Pint at Mainland Britain's Most Remote Pub

In Scotland, you really have to earn some of your drinks — like at the Old Forge pub on the remote Knoydart peninsula. The only way to get here is by a small boat from Mallaig or by hiking 18 miles across mountainous terrain. If you make the trek, reward yourself with a local brew at The Old Forge, mainland Britain's most remote pub.

8. Bag a Munro

Spend some time in the Highlands and you'll soon hear talk of "Munro bagging." The odd term refers to climbing mountains of more than 3,000 feet and the challenge among keen climbers is to "bag" (ascend) them all. There are 88 Munros in total — the highest of which is Britain's tallest mountain Ben Nevis (4,411 feet) — so it may take a while. But when you're done, you can move on to bagging the 2,010 "Marilyns" (mountains over 492 feet).

9. See a Graffiti-Covered Castle

Scotland's street art game is strong — check out the mural trail in Glasgow and Nuart Aberdeen — but there's just one graffiti-covered castle. Kelburn Castle in North Ayrshire was redecorated by a group of Brazilian street artists in 2007 and, although its owners have be pressured to remove the graffiti, it remains for the time being. The best time to visit is the end of June when it hosts the music and art festival, Kelburn Garden Party.

10. Dance to Country Music in Glasgow

Hometown of Simple Minds, Primal Scream, Chvrches, and Belle and Sebastian, Glasgow bears the distinction of being a UNESCO-designated City of Music. It was the city's rock and pop scene — and its many live music venues — that earned Glasgow its status but the city also holds surprising interest for country music-loving visitors (or just homesick Americans). Check out live country music on Fridays and Saturdays at the Grand Ole Opry club. If you stop by on a weekday, you can join the line dancing and jive lessons.

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