Are you planning your trip to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games this summer? Here are just a few suggestions of places to see and things to do on a short break, all of which are within easy reach of Games venues in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Carnoustie.
To plan your trip further, visit the VisitScotland website for more inspiration.
Explore Loch Lomond
Within striking distance of Glasgow city centre, the vast expanse of Loch Lomond and its surrounding peaks have long been immortalised in song and poetry. Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is a favourite spot for outdoor pursuits, such as watersports on its tranquil loch, hiking, walking and wildlife spotting. Be sure to stop off at one of the charming towns and villages nestled along the lochside.
Seafood in Argyll
Langoustines, mussels and oysters – the staple of Scotland’s stocked natural larder – are best enjoyed at source. Landed fresh every day, the seafood brought ashore on Loch Fyne, in Argyll, is deservedly celebrated. You can also visit smokehouses to sample smoked salmon, craft breweries, or try one of the region's best seafood restaurants along the Seafood Trail.
This fortress city has been at the fore of many crucial moments in Scottish history. This year marks the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, and you can learn all about the battle and medieval warfare at a new state-of-the-art visitor centre just outside the city. Dominating the skyline is Stirling Castle, a former official residence of the Scottish kings and once home to the tragic Mary Queen of Scots. You and your family can wander around the Great Hall and royal apartments where you'll meet real members of her court.
Exported around the world, Scotland’s national drink is feted by many and enjoyed by many more. While you’re here, peek behind closed doors to see where and how single malt whisky is made on a distillery tour. There are two within a short distance of Glasgow city centre. Just 9 miles away is the lowland whisky producer Auchentoshan, and Glengoyne Distillery is13 miles away in the scenic foothills of the Trossachs.
Miles of stunning coastline are just a short drive or train ride from Glasgow. Helensburgh, a pretty Victorian spa resort, is the setting for Hill House, one of Glaswegian designer Charlie Rennie Mackintosh’s finest creations. Further south, Largs is a picturesque town on the Ayrshire coast best known for its excellent art deco ice cream parlour, Nardinis. From here, you can sail to the Isle of Cumbrae, one of Scotland's most accessible islands and an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, to try your hand at windsurfing, sailing and more.
In search of Robert Burns
Scotland’s most famous son, poet and National Bard Robert Burns hailed from a small cottage in Alloway, Ayrshire, which is now a museum. To get more of an idea of his life and times, visit some of his old haunts in Dumfries, including The Globe Inn, Burns' habitual watering hole, and his final home where he wrote many of his most famous poems. Dumfries & Galloway is also abundant in wildlife, and you can spot many species of bird, including red kites, at reserves across the region.
The cobbled streets and closes of the Old Town and the striking Georgian architecture of the New Town (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites) make Edinburgh one of the most enchanting cities in the world. A time capsule of Scotland's history, the iconic Edinburgh Castle or the interactive National Museum of Scotland (which is free to enter) are sure to be big hits with all the family. Edinburgh is also home to no less than five Michelin-starred restaurants, the most outside of London. August sees the world's largest festival arrive in town. The Edinburgh International Festival always has an exciting packed programme of art, theatre, dance, music, comedy and more, with many shows free to watch. Edinburgh is also the home to the Royal Commonwealth Pool, which will host the Games’ Diving competition this summer.
Uncover the Scottish Borders and Perthshire
The jewels in Scotland's crown, both regions are lusciously green and offer some of the best opportunities to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. The Scottish Borders, the centre of Scotland's textile industries which supplies fashion houses around the world, boasts the country's most idyllic fishing spots along the River Tweed. Perthshire, known as 'Big Tree Country', has some of the most invigorating terrain for long walks and for spotting birds of prey.
Charming Dundee and Fife
Known as the City of Discovery, Dundee is a hub for Scottish culture and boasts connections to great scientific discoveries. Climb aboard explorer Shackleton's vessel – RRS Discovery – which transported him to Antarctica. Alternatively, facing Dundee across the River Tay is Fife, the Home of Golf. St Andrews, an historic seaside and university town, is perhaps better known for the Old Course. Although you have to be drawn from a ballot to play, there are dozens of other world-class golf courses in the region to tee off on.
The Granite City
A major harbour and the largest city in the north of Scotland, Aberdeen is less than an hour and a half’s drive from the Barry Buddon Shooting Centre in Carnoustie. The surrounding region is known as ‘Castle Country’, with over 300 castles and ruins dotting the countryside. There is a dedicated trail to 17 of them, including the Queen’s Highland residence, Balmoral.
The Highlands and islands of Scotland are more difficult to visit in just a few hours, however they are certainly worth taking some extra days to explore. In the Highlands, some of the most jaw-dropping landscape scenery you are ever likely to see awaits you, some of which has graced the silver screen, such as Glen Coe and the Isle of Skye. You could choose to fly or catch a ferry to the Outer Hebrides where you can sea kayak in azure waters that rival the Caribbean, and experience the islands’ unique Gaelic culture. The rolling plains of Orkney and the dramatic craggy wilderness of Shetland are havens for many species of wildlife, and are the perfect places to enjoy some peace and tranquillity.