Why Scotland is top for staycations in 2021

Navigating local restrictions is proving to be a headache for planning holidays. But anyone considering a staycation for 2021, can look forward to open spaces and guaranteed social distancing in Scotland.

The white beaches of the west coast and islands are world-beating, making staycations an attractive options for beach lovers.

The country is geared up for Covid-era travel, with natural attractions lending themselves to a new desire for freedom and wilderness. Even cities have ramped up their pandemic game, with businesses adhering to government safety standards given a stamp of approval. The ‘We’re Good To Go’ logo has been designed to offer travellers greater peace of mind.

As travel slowly rebuilds, escapes close to home will have great appeal. Here are a few reasons why Scotland might be your first port of call.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Urban escapes can still be safe

Scotland has landscapes in each tier that it's possible for locals to explore and as 2021 progresses, venturing further afield will be on the agenda.

City breaks will undoubtedly look different in 2021, but sticking to restrictions doesn’t mean you need to miss out on all the fun. Edinburgh hotel The Balmoral (roccofortehotels.com) has launched a series of in-room dining experiences called The Curfew Club, available to diners after 10pm. Wrap up in a robe and settle down for a movie night of romantic comedies, thrillers, action movies or family favourites accompanied by a cinematic menu. Sip on one of the hotels’ Cocktail Creations delivered to the room with glassware, garnish and cocktail of your choice, neat or on the rocks, or join a virtual whisky tasting with the hotel’s Scotch ambassador. With 500 whiskies available in the hotel, selected from distillers ranging across the Highlands, Lowlands, Islands, Islay and Speyside, the collection has everything from big hitters to rare, limited editions and is one of the biggest in the capital. The virtual tasting shares stories, tasting notes and a love-in with “the water of life”.

Al fresco dining can be an all-weather activity

Outdoor dining has become a safe solution for guaranteeing social distancing and maximum space. To accommodate unpredictable Scottish weather, many hotels have introduced heated pods and domes. Meldrum House (meldrumhouse.com) in Aberdeenshire, a 13th-century manor house sitting in 240 acres offers an Under The Stars experience in their transparent domes, providing a clear view to the night sky. A night of private dining in the domes kicks off with Hendrick’s Lunar gin with tonic on arrival followed by a bespoke dining menu served in a dome. Dinner is followed by tea or coffee and a French 75 cocktail before guests head to the hotel’s Whisky Club in the 800-year old Cave Bar for a Starry Sky Old Fashioned. Fonab Castle (fonabcastlehotel.com) in Perthshire have also gone for a scenic approach, by dotting pods strategically around the estate, which looks over Loch Faskally. The Tummel Valley location comes into its own here and the pods have views over the loch and grounds of the castle estate. Each of the pods has adjustable heating, mood lighting, a personal music system, service button and a dedicated host to look after guests. Take your household bubble or when restrictions lift, expand your circle as pods can take up to 12 for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner parties for up to six guests.

Wild swimming can be a daily pursuit

Whisky will always be in plentiful supply, and 2021 should see changes to restrictions on bars and restaurants.

The absence of foreign holidays hasn’t stopped people jumping into rivers or the sea; in fact it’s made them embrace cold water dips even more enthusiastically. Scotland is fringed by white sand beaches, easily mistaken for the tropics – even if temperatures tell a different story; some inland lochs and streams are safe enough for a paddle. For beginners, guided wild swimming adventures can be a great option: local operators include Soak Up Skye (toursbylocals.com) on the Isle of Skye, SwimWild (swimwilduk.com) in the Highlands and Immerse Hebrides (immersehebrides.com) in the Outer Hebrides. Among the activities on offer are the SwimWild Highland Gathering, currently planned for 28-31 May 2021, with accommodation and glamping options, for a weekend of wild swimming in the beautiful Cairngorms National Park based in the grounds of Inshriach House (PH22 1QP) a couple of miles south of Aviemore, on the banks of the River Spey. And if swimming isn’t an option for everyone, non-swimming partners/friends/dogs are also welcome to come and soak up the views.

It’s a good place to give back to nature

The pandemic has pulled the importance of nature into sharp focus, giving us more time to concentrate and appreciate the beauty of wild and undeveloped places. Anyone actively seeking to make a positive contribution to the environment can participate in a range of volunteering opportunities available in Scotland. Trees For Life (treesforlife.org.uk). with the help of volunteers have planted nearly two million trees in their bid to revitalise wild forest in the Highlands, benefitting wildlife and people. Their popular Conservation Weeks, allowing participants to help preserve the ancient Caledonian Forest, are currently on hold, but consult the website for updates on emerging opportunities as 2021 progresses. Getting out into with forests isn’t off the agenda however, as their Dundreggan flagship conservation estate is still open to visitors and a walk in the woods is a chance to get out and enjoy the benefits of nature. Trees for Life will also plant trees in the Scottish Highlands on your behalf alongside other native trees with the aim of transforming open hillsides into healthy young woodland, in time helping to restore the Caledonian Forest and support red squirrel, black grouse, capercaillie, pine marten and golden eagle populations. Pre-covid working holidays with The National Trust for Scotland (nts.org.uk) offered the chance to live and work in some of the most remote places in Scotland, while making a real difference to the country’s natural heritage and with more than 40 of the Trust’s centres already reopened, including Glencoe visitor centre, Culloden visitor centre, Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, the Hill House, Culzean Country Park, Threave Garden, Brodie Castle’s garden and grounds, Arduaine Garden and Crathes Castle’s garden and estate, keep an eye out for opportunities in 2021.

Countryside places such as St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve, Ben Lomond and Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve are also open and offer acres of safe space in which to kick back and top up the Vitamin D levels.

The Balmoral Hotel clock tower beyond the National Galleries of Scotland in Princes Street, Edinburgh. The Rocco Forte hotel is offering guests in-room Curfew Club activities to add to a capital experience.

There’s always time for a tipple

Early in the pandemic, many distilleries switched to making sanitisers, many of which can be found in hotels and restaurants across Scotland. Find out how Scotland’s first carbon neutral gin and vodka are made by visiting the new The Arbikie Distillery Experience (arbikie.com/visit) in Angus, which opens in 2021. At the top end of the country, there’s a chance to savour the UK’s most northerly dram at 8 Doors Distillery in John O’Groats. The whisky on offer was inspired by the legend of Jan de Groot.

A walk in the woods such as Blacktop Wood, Aberdeenshire, is a great option for a day out or 2021 holiday activity.
Visit Faskally Loch in Perthshire, the man-made reservoir in Perth and Kinross, built in between 1947 and 1950 and surrounded by steeply wooded hills.