If you asked me where the top places were to stay in Scotland, that’s a pretty tough question. We’ve actually never been disappointed by any place we’ve chosen so far, but I have spent hours reading reviews. I always suggest booking based off the accommodation itself: incase you spend a large portion of your time indoors due to the weather. No matter where you go in Scotland, the scenery will be beautiful and there will be things to see. Best that you enjoy your time indoors as much as out.
All photos are copyrighted and taken by myself, Emily Sandifer, unless otherwise noted. If you share, please use proper credit.
I talked in a previous blog about us renting a car from Auto Europe: https://www.autoeurope.com.
Highly recommend! We typically rent the least expensive car with the full coverage insurance. And then, when we pick up, we talk with the rental company directly about what upgrades they have available. Typically you can get an automatic small SUV for about $15-$25/day extra, depending on the time of year (2022 has seen higher prices, it used to be $10-$15/day extra). We’ve always gotten amazing service with Europcar (again, originally rented through Auto Europe). Here’s the original post if you want to hear more about it: So you wanna peace-out for a month…
Flights: We’ve used Aer Lingus, British Airways, Wowair (before it went Bankrupt) and Norwegian to fly from LAX to Edinburgh. Our favorite has been Aer Lingus, best quality although a bit more pricey. You still can’t beat the seating arrangement and baggage allowances of Aer Lingus. We now get miles through our Aer Lingus credit card, and those miles are useable on Aer Lingus and partners (British Airways, etc). When Aer Lingus stopped their LAX route during the worst part of the pandemic, we switched to American Airlines/British Airways. And I have to say, we’ve had wretched experiences with them. So happy Aer Lingus is back!
I’m going to write in detail on quite a few of these things, but to begin with here’s a map of roughly where we’ve been (I had to do some sloppy overlaying, so forgive the ghosty areas):
MUST: FOYERS LODGE: Luxury Bed & Breakfast Hotel Accommodation in Loch Ness, near Inverness. FOYERS LODGE WEBSITE Book directly via their website.
Wow. Five stays and we will definitely be back again and again. Anna and Phillip, the lodge owners, have renovated the lodge largely on their own. The care and passion shows. As I told them in person, they’ve done an amazing job of keeping the traditional beloved cosy vibe of a Scotland lodge that us tourists want and love, but updating it to be chic and new at the same time.
Our first trip, we were in Room #2 with the most comfortable slipper tub, huge bed, and unparalleled views of Loch Ness. Second trip, we stayed in Room #1 with a romantic forest view and Room #5, with golden floors with views out to the loch (like Room #2). Third trip was Jan 2020 and we stayed in Room #7, tucked away with loch and forest views. Since then, we’ve stayed in their stand alone one-bedroom apartment and room
The common rooms are where we love to spend most of our time, though, in-between rain showers and outdoor activities. We love the sitting room, with the scent of an old world library with beautiful tartan chairs and victorian sofas. The most recent love affair has been with their new art deco inspired drawing room, where I’d be quite happy sipping several local gin cocktails and whisky all night.
Breakfast each morning, sometimes with the other guests if the timing works out, is a highlight as well. If you’re gluten or diary intolerant, let them know. Anna is extremely accommodating.
While most of the tourists tend to flock to the west side of Loch Ness, the real magic is truly on the quieter east side of the loch. You can still go storm the Urquhart Castle a short drive away, or keep your eyes peeled for Nessy from your suite window. And, it’s still very easy to access Inverness whether for necessities or dinner reservations, or venture south toward Fort Augustus and Fort William (or a day drive to Glencoe or Glen Affric, even).
Foyers Lodge is a hidden gem in many aspects, overlooking Loch Ness and being close by to the Falls of Foyers, a main attraction of the area. In January, Falls of Foyers was gushing and gorgeous, nestled amongst the moss covered forest that surround the falls.
If you’re looking for a luxury hotel overlooking Loch Ness, you’d be foolish to stay anywhere else. So impressed with this lodge that oozes Scottish charm and sensibilities. Just go.
Tigh Na Mara, Isle of Harris:
Detached Croft House right on the water not far from Tarbert, where the ferry from Uig, Skye, comes in. A wonderful week on Harris. Drove to every corner we could and also had a day to lounge at the house and sunbathe. Incredible, incredible. So worth it.
Tigh Beg Cottage, near Oban:
This cottage is in probably the most idyllic spot imaginable. It’s secluded on a single track unpaved little farm road, you walk down the hill from where you park your car to reach it, and yet you’re 20 minutes from Oban, which is a beautiful little coastal city with plenty of shopping and restaurants.
This also makes it extremely popular, so you have to plan ahead.
Fun fact: The 1969 movie “Ring of Bright Water” was filmed here, so you can see the cottage in its original glory before renovations. If you like cute cuddly little otters, you can watch the movie while you stay there.
We booked through booking.com, but you can also book directly through West Coast Cottages. https://west-coast-cottages.co.uk/our-holiday-cottages/2/tigh-beg-croft-self-catering-holiday-cottage
We didn’t want to do anything else but hang around the cottage and the coastline, which is straight out the door. The interior is more inviting than the photos on the site lead you to think (we’re fans of the more traditional cottage interiors instead of modern renovations), so we were pleasantly surprised. It has three bedrooms. We’d definitely go back.
Every morning we woke up to deer on the lawn. Mull is never short of wildlife. It feels pretty secluded. There’s a cabin next door, but it appears it’s not rented out much, and was empty when we were there. We did meet one of the women from the neighboring farms one morning when she came down the hill looking for a little lost cat. Otherwise, didn’t see another soul the entire week we were there at the cabin.
Inniemore is located at the south end of Mull, so don’t expect restaurants and markets to be at your fingertips. You’ll need to drive at least 30-40 mins for that, unless you can catch Pennyghael stores while they’re open (which we didn’t, so we can’t give you advice on that). We went to Craignure (where the ferry to and from Oban is), Salen (the best Spar), and Tobermory (beautiful colorful town, great restaurants and shops, furthest away about 1hr 20 mins). We also attempted the ferry to Iona in Fionnaphort, but due to high winds, the ferry was cancelled for the weekend. Next time!
It’s a single track road with limited passing spots to Inniemore, but we rarely saw other vehicles. Maybe 2-3 times the entire week. It’s a scenic route, and the last stretch through the trees (with a red phonebox and a waterfall looking over Inniemore Lodge) is stunning.
Laid Bothy, Clashnessie, Lochinver, West Coast https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/21693273 Clashnessie was a last minute addition to our fifth trip when our friends in Talmine were in the middle of moving, so we couldn’t go see them. It’s remote and perfect. Busy single track road from Lochinver to Clashnessie, so mind the curves and be prepared to reverse to the nearest passing spot. Follow the rules and you’ll do fine. It’s absolutely worth the stunning drive, one of my favorites that I still wish I’d had more time to take better photos of (instead of from the passenger seat of the car).
Walk down to the coastline from the bothy past the ruin. Check out Clashnessie Falls and Old Man of Stoer. Wear your wellies!
Achmelvich View Self-Catering Apartment, Achmelvich Beach, Lochinver, West Coast https://www.booking.com/hotel/gb/102-apartment.html Achmelvich and the surrounding area of Lochinver and Clachtoll is some of my favorite scenery in all of Scotland. Willie and Dorothy are some of our favorite hosts as well. We took a walk with Willie and his dogs and he showed us the surrounding historic areas of the countryside (ask him about the Vikings).
*The listing is now for their “wee Selkie cabin” but you can contact them about the 102 Achmelvich apartment as well, which is where we stayed.
The views are worth everything. It’s a quick walk down to the beach, and if you keep going north, you’ll wind up at the beach below:
Kilmartin Castle: Recently went under a massive renovation, so these photos aren’t current. Check out their new look:
We only stayed one night, but Ballater and the area (home to Balmoral Castle and the estate) is extraordinary. We went for Queen Victoria’s pyramid cairn to her beloved Prince Albert and the walk through the Balmoral forest will give you the chills (at least it did us when we went before sunset).
We booked one of the economy rooms at Deeside. The room wasn’t anything to write home about, but the hotel was beautiful. We loved the downstairs lounge and hung out there more than we did our room.
From our first trip to Scotland: the hosts both work part time at Urquhart Castle, which is a short walk from the B&B. Loch Ness is unreal and has a beautiful energy to it. We also walked to the village (maybe 20-30 min walk – past meadows, sheep, etc…. the best full moon we ever saw). Magical. Food is A+ at the B&B.
This is a humble little simple bothy. Not luxury — and thank God. One of the most authentic and peaceful places we stayed at. This was my boyfriend’s favorite place. Right by the shore, the host lives down the track and has cats, dogs, etc. We walked the shoreline to the local pub at Stein. Depending on how rustic you want, it is pretty authentic for a Scottish bothy. Check out the Fairy Pools and Old Man of Storr while you’re here. Skye is definitely iconic and film-worthy for a reason.
This was one of my favorite airbnbs. It’s unreal when you reach the cottage — the views and settings are surreal. The cottage itself definitely is like your grandparents’ cottage. The description is accurate as far as older furniture, etc, but we didn’t mind one bit. Cozy. Spacious. Raasay is more off the beaten track than Skye. You’ll take the ferry over. We spent 4 days here perfectly content with just exploring Raasay. This is where we drove up to Arnish and then walked to the causeway where you can walk over to Eilean Fladday. Look up Calum’s road as well and Brochel Castle. I liked this island because you really are away from it all, but a short drive to the local store (single lane roads most everywhere on Skye, Raasay, and the countrysides throughout Scotland. There are passing places, so be on the look out for oncoming traffic. Everyone makes do).
Glencoe area: a must see, especially if you’re a Harry Potter fan or a James Bond fan (Skyfall).
The Skyfall road in the Bond films is the road to Glen Etive.
Hosts are friendly and make you feel right at home. The backyard is gorgeous, and it’s right in Glencoe village. Comfortable stay, great breakfast.
Tons of beautiful scenery all over the Highlands.
Glasgow: Come back for accommodation recommendations.
*While in the Glasgow area: check out Devil’s Pulpit (also called Finnich Glen on the map), Stirling Castle/William Wallace monument, and the surrounding area.
Devil’s Pulpit is my favorite place in the world, and if you’re a fan of Outlander, you might have seen it there. I’ve only been in the fall, but it’s absolutely out of a fairytale. Go during the week and be mindful if it’s raining. I have a post just about Devil’s Pulpit here:
Duone Castle is also near Stirling (Outlander and Monty Python and the Holy Grail both filmed here. Great self-guided tour).
MUST! Carradale: a little sea village with absolutely beautiful rugged shorelines overlooking Isle of Arran. Beautiful wooded areas nearby with huge rock formations. We stayed in The Green Room cottage for a week and I wish it was my home.
The Green Room: (you can find it through airbnb, but I booked direct with the owner – as of 2020, no longer available)
Self-catered, hosts live across the lawn and are super sweet.
The Glen Bar & Restaurant: Some of the best food you’ll ever have.
This area is rich in things to see. Skipness has a great castle (and an amazing local store that has the best salmon pate you’ll ever eat), Campbeltown to the south, ending in the famous Mull of Kintyre, but we looked at the Kiel Caves and cemetery instead at Southend.
The ferry to Isle of Arran is just north of Carradale. Also check out the viking town of Tarbert.
Saddell is along the way to Campbeltown and is completely magical with its little Abbey and hidden gateway.
I mean…. what an extraordinary place. It was rainy the whole time we were there and still was one of my favorite places. The airbnb is a bed and breakfast called The Winterton and the hosts have cooking and hosting down to perfection! You can pay extra to have dinners made there (better than restaurant food!) and breakfast is always free in the mornings. Absolutely beautiful place overlooking Kilmartin Glen. We went not really knowing anything about the area, and found out it’s one of the most saturated places in Scotland for historic and pre-historic monuments. King Arthur legends, Knights Templar, standing stones, castles, etc.
another beautiful cottage right on the water. It rained a lot while we were there, but the cottage feels like a beloved stay at your grandparents (aka a house that has been loved by generations). The views from all windows are picture perfect (which is great when it’s raining outside, you can still take photos!).
Torridon is up there with Glencoe on dramatic landscapes. We fell in love with nearby Lower Diabaig, and again proving that the best places in Scotland are mostly by way of what some would say are treacherous single track roads.
Gairloch, West Coast
The Old Schoolhouse Bed and Breakfast: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/24957404
Another one night stay that should have been longer. The Old Schoolhouse Bed and Breakfast was a recommendation by our friends who live in Big Sand. We instantly loved Emma, and we were the only guests staying the night we were there, so we had the entire B&B wing to ourselves.
Having the bathroom across the hall wasn’t an issue (and it’s exclusive to the suite we were in). The room was huge, breakfast was brought up right to our room, and it was from start to finish a really wonderful, relaxing experience.
Parking is just a short walk at the town parking lot next door. Convenient and safe. No issues.
About 30 mins north of Gairloch near Poolewe. We loved being able to walk down to the beach and also the sunroom. Stunning location. The upstairs bedroom has beautiful light and views, and there’s two other bedrooms as well. So much space. Great living room and kitchen, too.
Allison is a woman I’d love to chat with more. She’s extremely accommodating, to waiting for us to check in, to making us breakfast and chatting with us before we left. I wish we had a longer stay. The ensuite isn’t a private entrance, but it feels like. It’s in a separate area of the house, and the upstairs shower/bathroom area is super cosy with great views.
Dumfries and Galloway:
We stayed at an isolated and peaceful cottage in Dumfriesshire, with a quirky name:
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/13185536 – Dean Village. Stunning, stunning, stunning views of Dean Village and Water of Leith. The balcony is worth booking the flat alone, but it also has plenty of room (2 bedrooms, 2 baths) as well as a terrace off the kitchen. It also has a small parking spot, but unless you have a mini, just plan on parking on the street.
Grassmarket Castle View Flat – Stayed here for Hogmanay 2019/2020 and it was a joy to ring the New Year in here. Central to all things you’d want to see, great view.
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/22304622 – A one bedroom with large dressing room, two bathrooms, a wonderful dining area, and a great balcony also looking over the Water of Leith. I loved this flat! Great parking spot, large enough for any vehicle, and very available host.
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/19496314 – We only got to stay one night in this airbnb, but the tub is absolutely amazing (you can soak with an open window and watch the birdies outside). *May not currently be available.
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/26826612 – We stayed 5 nights here during Fringe fest 2018 and it was perfect for what we needed. It was cozy and a great walk to and from all the venues, as well as to Arthur’s seat. The bed is up a ladder, so you must be agile.
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/19613760 – Simple and practical, in the quaint and quiet Cramond Village. This is about 16 mins from the airport, so a great option if you want a place to rest your head before flying out early the next morning. Free and easy parking right on the waterfront at the flat.
I could go on and on about this city. Every square inch is old, beautiful, and overflowing with history.
Check out Walker Slater on Victoria Street for beautiful tweed and wool jackets (a pretty penny, but worth the splurge). For men: ask for Simon at the Walker Slater men’s location.
The Witchery was a great little splurge for us (amazing restaurant near the castle — reservations recommended)
The Milkman: great coffee and breakfast pastries
Monteith’s – Royal Mile, beautiful hidden entrance with great food
Barnet’s Shoes — I bought the nicest pair of shoes I own from this place, but the store isn’t intimidating.
The Thistle Street Bar – beautiful atmosphere, relaxed
We also took a few of the underground tours – Mary King’s Close, Gilmerton Cove, and Mercat tours has several exploring the underground vaults.
When you buy from the shoppes: check the tag that it’s been made in Scotland if that matters to you. Some of it says “designed in Scotland” but not actually made there. Anything Harris Tweed is top-notch.
AND always ask for a VAT receipt so you can get a refund on taxes on your purchases (especially if you buy expensive clothes or whatnot!)
If you tell me where you think you’ll be going …. I can give you further recommendations. Or, always ask the locals or your airbnb hosts.
Other areas: Stonehaven has a beautiful castle ruin called Dunnottar Castle.
We stayed in Aberdeen just for two nights, but Dunnottar was the main reason we were on the east part of Scotland. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5346389 – pictures don’t do it justice. A really lovely apartment, actually, and great price!
Inveraray, Highlands — beautiful little village. The Inveraray Castle has beautiful grounds/gardens (Downton Abbey films here).
Loch Awe: We rented a boat for 2 hours and island hopped. One island has a castle ruin on it (and we were the only ones on the island). Another island has a beautiful graveyard under huge trees (oddly gorgeous). And, Kilchurn Castle is accessible by boat or drive. Conan Kirk is also on the shore of Loch Awe.
Jacobite Train aka Hogwarts Express – the Harry Potter train!!
I'm an actress, filmmaker, photographer, and traveler based in Los Angeles, California.
My real love is my home in the mountains north of LA, though, with my partner TJ and our two cat-kids Jack and Davey.
I started this blog as a way to document my trips and a better way to share with friends and family instead of just posting random photos all over social media.
Technically I'm a lady of Lochaber and Glencoe, after purchasing a tiny piece of land in Scotland. It won't be going on my driver's license anytime soon, but it's stuck online.
Hope you enjoy and feel free to ask me questions about any of the places I've been. View all posts by ladyemilytravels