Staycation Ideas – Stunning Scotland
Like families across the UK this summer, we decided to holiday on our own shores, so I researched staycation ideas. We live in Edinburgh and exploring parts of stunning Scotland we don’t know was high on our agenda. So, when friends offered us their family house in Bettyhill, Sutherland, we leapt at the idea. This village on the very North coast of the UK, with beautiful beaches in all directions was calling us. After five months together in our apartment which had also become a school, office and gym, the idea that we were about to be set free felt euphoric.
August 2020 – A Different Summer
Running Dickins, as I have for 22 years, means that in August I’m normally chained to my desk, managing changeovers, sets of keys and solving problems. But this is 2020 and the Edinburgh Festival is cancelled, so I was free. I’ve got to admit, it felt very exciting, especially as it’s the first time I’ve been able to take a summer holiday with my children.
So we dug out wetsuits, midge repellent, binoculars and colouring pencils and packed the car. When we fly on holiday we can fit all our stuff into one 15kg bag, but for some reason, we could hardly stuff everything we packed into the car as you can see! We headed for the Queensferry Crossing and signs to the North. It felt like such an adventure…….
We love a stop off at the House of Bruar, north of Blair Atholl on the A9, to stretch our legs, use their wonderful loos, indulge in some retail therapy and their delicious food. Their fish and chips are our favourite.
North of Inverness passing places become a regular feature on the roads. The sense of excitement you feel when someone pulls over for you to pass by is rather wonderful! Those single track roads and passing places force you to slow down and maybe that was a metaphor for what we all needed out of this staycation.
From Lairg, the landscape is pretty bleak in parts but there are famous salmon rivers to drive by – the Helmsdale, Naver and Borgie. But emerging from that landscape onto the coastal road, A836, made world famous since it was coined the North Coast 500, and catching your first glimpse of a beach feels so exciting. Stunning Scotland was all around for our eyes to feast on.
Staycation Ideas in Stunning Scotland – the beaches!
Our friend’s home overlooks Farr Bay Beach in Bettyhill and what a special spot it is. It was immediately clear that social distancing wasn’t something we were going to need to worry about as the beach was deserted, apart from a Dad and his children body boarding. ‘This is the kind of place we’ll know people.’ I said to Simon and almost on cue the body boarding Dad walked up the beach and I did indeed know him – I just never knew their Bettyhill connection. Scotland can be a small world!
In Farr Bay, the waves are good. We were body boarding/surfing novices but there were pretty much always surfers in the water. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen my boys so filled with joy and excitement as they were after their first body boarding session. And there was a joy for me being able to watch them from the beach in glorious sunshine with a bag packed with a flask of tomato soup, ham sandwiches and a slice of cake – all of which have never tasted so good. I swam in my costume several times too. It felt absolutely wonderful.
We really were treated to amazing weather most days and some spectacular sunsets too. So far North the landscape and skies feel so huge. The sight of a wonderful sunset over a beautiful Scottish beach is special.
The drive from Bettyhill to Durness along the North Coast 500
Lots of people had told us their loved the area around Durness, so we headed there for a day trip. The landscape really is so beautiful and the changing light endlessly fascinating.
My husband and boys can get frustrated with my endless stops to take photos, but on this journey, no one minded and there was often someone else nearby who has stopped to take a photo too. This being part of the North Coast 500, flash cars regularly drove past keeping everyone happy!
The North Coast 500 has been the most incredible marketing success story. It’s frequently described as the best drive in the world. For some people, it’s all about the drive and they do it with just one overnight stop, but for us that misses all the joy there is to be gained by dawdling. Having the time to spontaneously stop the car in search of an adventure is what it’s all about for us.
Durness – beautiful beaches and a zip wire
If you’re looking for staycation ideas in stunning Scotland, Durness is a great place to base yourself. The first thing we saw on approaching Durness was the Golden Eagle Zip Wire, so that was a must. The wind was blowing a phenomenal gale, but they were operating none the less. You zip wire over this stunning beach with its white sand and turquoise water. Luckily there aren’t any photos of me doing it, well none that I’m posting here anyway! I had my second extraordinary coincidence of the holiday there. Walking up towards me in the queue for the zip wire was one of my oldest friends from university and his family who were touring Scotland in a VW campervan. I had no idea they were in Scotland.
So, we hung out with these friends for the day, visiting Smoo Cave which we all found very enjoyable.
As well as having an epic Molkky battle on beautiful Balnakeil beach – there’s a famous links golf course there too which would be a brilliant place to play, especially if you’re up for the challenge of playing in significant wind!
On the way home, we pulled in so I could go and find this stunning spot above Sango Sands. It’s by a brilliant looking campsite – a great place to base yourself in Durness for a few days. Stunning Scotland at its best here at Sango Sands.
One of the wonderful things about this staycation was speaking to nearly everyone you meet. The lady in the Bettyhill laundrette/cafe told us that her favourite beach was Talmine, just beyond Tongue as there was lots of white quartz stone which get washed up from a nearby island. We absolutely loved it too! We went twice in our last few days. The first time it was 24 degrees and I had a really long swim in the sea, alongside a lovely teacher Melanie, who was spending her summer exploring and wild camping in the UK.
The weather was more ‘Scottish’ when we returned the next day and my 10 year old son decided he wanted to jump off the pier. I felt sick just standing on the top taking photos!
But my brave son did indeed jump off the pier and got such an adrenaline rush that he did it a few more times too! Later they watched a pod of dolphins swimming across the bay.
We packed our bags with heavy hearts. We had all absolutely loved our Scottish staycation. This corner of Scotland is so beautiful and unspoilt with so few people around. We made the most of our days, filling them with simple pleasures and we were travelling home relaxed and with suntans! Our boys loved their freedom. Walking up to the local store by themselves to buy a bar of chocolate was wonderful for them. We made friends, new discoveries and will definitely be back.
Staycation ideas – stunning Edinburgh!
Whilst we headed to the far North for our staycation holiday this August, Edinburgh is the most fantastic city for a staycation too. Even if you’re planning on spending a few days here on your way up North. We look after many homes where you’ll feel right at home and can give yourselves a treat too. I can’t think of another city in the UK that offers as much interest for a staycation as Edinburgh does. It’s phenomenally beautiful and with 51% of the city being green space, there’s so much opportunity to enjoy being outside. It doesn’t feel urban or densely populated so there’s space here. The sense of history here oozes from every stone and cobble.
If food is your thing, then we have a rich choice of world class award winning restaurants and independent food shops. Our museums are also world class. From here, there are so many wonderful places to visit that can be reached in an hour, including more wonderful beaches, golf courses, the beautiful Scottish Borders, Glasgow and Stirling.
Here at Dickins, we’d love to help you find the perfect home for your Edinburgh staycation, so please search our properties and get in touch.
I hope my blog has helped you with your staycation ideas and that you’re inspired to try stunning Scotland too. You won’t regret it if you do!