Scotland: The perfect winter getaway

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

It's St Andrew's Day, a reminder that Scotland is now at its atmospheric best. Here's how to enjoy the majestic scenery – and stay warm at the same time

What's the attraction?

Scotland's winter season kicks off today, St Andrew's Day, with Christmas markets, boughs of holly and decorative tartan sashes. And when (or if) the snow arrives, ski- and snowboard-laden visitors will be heading for the pistes, including the Cairngorm, Glencoe and Nevis Range areas.

Despite the long nights and chilly days, now is a great time to visit Scotland's mountains, lochs, glens – and cities. Winter is when the country's crisp, frost-dusted landscapes are especially atmospheric. However, to make the most of a break at this time of year, preparation is key – not least finding somewhere cosy to stay.

 

City and sea

Only half an hour from Edinburgh by train, North Berwick is ideal to combine bracing coastal walks with urban indulgence. This small seaside town is home to the Scottish Seabird Centre (01620 890202; seabird.org). In January, the world's largest single-rock gannet colony returns to neighbouring Bass Rock. In the meantime, hunker down in the sleek glass, stone and wood holiday cottage at 8 Victoria Road (01620 890284; gonetothebeach.co.uk), complete with log burner and just 100 metres from the shore. Winter rental starts at £690 per week for up to seven guests. The website edinburghsparkles.com lists festive events taking place in the capital.

 

Budget charm

One place in the country's far north that's easy on the wallet is The Schoolhouse, a B&B in Dornie, near the Isle of Skye. Its three bedrooms cost from £70 per night, including provisions for breakfast. To keep costs down you can also cook your own dinner in a communal kitchen (01599 555482; highlands-info.co.uk/dornie).

Glencoe Mountain's new micro-lodges (01855 851226; glencoemountain.co.uk; microlodge.co.uk) have beds, heating and electricity (you take your own sleeping bag and have access to a separate toilet and shower block) and are due to launch in January. Rates start from £40 per night.

 

Splendid isolation

If you want to switch off from the world without giving up on life's luxuries, there are few more out-of-the-way – or better-equipped – boltholes than Shore Croft and Hill Croft. The first Scottish properties on sustainable self-catering specialist Under The Thatch's books, this pair of five-star cottages is perched beside Loch Eriboll, way up in the wilds of Sutherland. With solar power, wind turbines, sheep-wool insulation and wood-burning stoves, staying here is impressively low-impact. Luxuries include bespoke beds and solar-heated freestanding baths. Weekly rental starts at £1,280 in December (0844 500 5101; underthethatch.co.uk).

 

Best of both worlds

A new member of the Relais & Chateaux association is the Isle of Eriska Hotel, Spa & Island (01631 720371; www.eriska-hotel.co.uk), 12 miles north of Oban. It's an atmospheric winter hideaway with cosy bedrooms, fireside sofas, and a new self-catering annexe, Arnott's House, which sleeps up to six in three bedrooms. After a walk around the island – or visit to the hotel's spa – warm up in a hot tub overlooking Ben Cruachan, before cooking dinner in a state-of-the-art kitchen. If you're feeling flush you could treat yourself to dinner at the hotel's 3AA-rosette restaurant. Weekly rental from £1,000.

 

A foodie favourite

Sometimes it's worth travelling a long way for a good meal. Such is the case with Boath House (01667 454896; boath-house.com) in Nairn, Inverness-shire. A lesson in country-house charm, this Georgian manor manages to be both grand and homely. With crackling open fires, restful bedrooms and 20 acres of frost-dusted garden to explore, it could only be more festive if Santa rolled up in a sleigh. For many guests, a stay here is also about the food. Michelin-starred chef Charlie Lockley makes the most of the region's organic, seasonal ingredients with dishes such as local roe deer with chard, potato and shallots. Double rooms start at £345, half board.

 

Highlands romance

Stylishly renovated earlier this year, Ardoch Bothy sleeps just two. From its spectacular setting at Achintraid, on the shore of Loch Kishorn, the cottage looks out over Skye and the Applecross hills. It's just the place if you're hoping for romantic seclusion.

For a memorable meal out, the homely Applecross Inn is a half-hour drive away, or there's the stately Torridon Hotel, just 45 minutes away. Alternatively, stay put and order in a gourmet ready-meal from one of two local chefs. Rates at Ardoch start at £275 for three nights, or £400 per week (01520 733213; oppositeskye.co.uk).

 

Be king (or queen) of a Scottish castle

If winter has you dreaming of turrets, moats and crenellated rooflines, then Scotland is the place to indulge your fortified fantasies. Not only is it home to some of the grandest castles in the UK, but many accommodate paying guests. At the 13th-century Dalhousie Castle (01875 820153; dalhousiecastle.co.uk) outside Edinburgh, you can unwind in the hotel's spa before checking into one of 29 tartan-swagged bedrooms. Doubles start at £125, B&B. Or 20 miles away on the other side of the capital is Fenton Tower (01620 890089; fentontower.co.uk), a fortified 16th-century tower that has been restored and sleeps up to 12. Doubles start at £360, B&B.

Don't have that kind of cash to splash? Liberton Tower is an atmospheric 15th-century alternative on the outskirts of Edinburgh (0845 090 0194; vivat-trust.org). It sleeps four on a self-catering basis, from £406 for two nights in January.

For a castle holiday further afield, The Laird's Wing at Brodie Castle (0844 493 2108; nts.org.uk) in Moray sleeps 14 and is the next best thing to a personal invitation to Balmoral. Rental starts at £850 for four nights.

Finally, for true castle fantasists, there's the Old Courtroom bedroom at Dornoch Castle Hotel (01862 810216; dornochcastlehotel.com), a 45-minute drive north of Inverness. Rates for this room start at £197.

 

Who said that?

"Beloved Scotland of the winter and the hills! 'Tis little that thou'lt get from them, but they will make thee hard and brave!" – Neil Munro

"I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give." – Thomas Jefferson

"In winter I get up at night, and dress by yellow candlelight." – Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Insider information

"Following the 'luxury villa on your own atoll' trend, a Scottish version has recently appeared.... Blue Reef Cottages (01859 550370; stay-hebrides.com) in South Harris were the first, and perhaps the model for Beach Bay Cottage (0845 2680801; beachbaycottage.co.uk). The Blue Cabin by the Sea (07999755823; bluecabinbythesea.co.uk)... is another special spot."

Pete Irvine is the author of 'Scotland The Best'; the latest edition will be published on 8 December (£15.99, Collins).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us