by Travel desk, The Independent, March 22, 2017
Spring has officially sprung this week, which means that holidays close to home without weather warnings are becoming a distinct possibility. To mark the change of season, we asked Peter Irvine, author of new book Scotland the Best 100 Places, to pick the unknown spots that'll make a trip up north different from the usual lochs and Highlands routes.
The road trip motel: Mhor 84
Formerly a run-down roadside hotel, Mhor 84 has been transformed into a trendy motel, part of the ever stylish Mhor group (that also includes the well-known boutique hotel Monachyle Mhor). In fact, it was renovated so well that it’s now a destination in itself. Proudly advertising itself as a motel, this is as far from the mom and pop joints of Route 66 as you can get, and it’s the perfect stopover for Scotland’s dramatic west coast.
The gallery: Jupiter Artland
Based just outside Edinburgh, Jupiter Artland is a serene, psychedelic outdoor gallery that showcases some of the best in contemporary art and design. There’s work from the likes of Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Marc Quinn, as well as tours, trails, and a programme of talks and events that run throughout the year.
The beach: Scarista
South Harris is home to some of Scotland’s most breath-taking and pristine beaches. Situated on the island’s Atlantic coast, Scarista beach is one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the Outer Hebrides. Relax, enjoy the views and stay for the spectacular sunsets.
The club: Barrowlands
Regarded by many people as one of the best (if not the best) music venues in the UK, Glasgow’s Barrowlands is a live music institution. Steeped in rock ‘n’ roll history, the former ballroom re-opened as a live music venue in 1983, since when thousands of bands that have passed through its doors. Its legendary reputation is perhaps due to the unique combination of orchestral acoustics, a sprung dance floor and the reliably rowdy Glasgow audiences.
The pool: Gourock
Outdoor pools in Scotland: as unlikely as it seems, they do exist, and they’re popular, too. Gourock Pool opened in 1909 and is still going strong – although maybe that’s because it’s heated. Open May to September, the pool offers midnight swimming sessions every Wednesday for those preferring a swim under the stars to Glasgow’s club scene.
The festival: Hebcelt
HebCelt is a world-renowned celebration of Celtic music, attracting music lovers from all over the world. The festival has taken place every year on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides since its inception in 1996. Set in the grounds of Lewis Castle, HebCelt takes over the whole town, bringing a carnival-styleatmosphere to the island. It’s the perfect place to soak up the best in Gaelic and world music against the backdrop of some of Scotland’s most spectacular shoreline.
The holiday cottages: Blackhouse Village
Another top hit on Lewis, The Blackhouse Village is unlike any other ‘holiday village’: a collection of squat, thatched cottages offering a truly authentic Scottish getaway. While basic, they make for deceptively cosy and rather romantic retreats – with the crashing Atlantic on your doorstep you’ll feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Walk: Knoydart
Looking for the ultimate opportunity to get away from it all? Knoydart – a peninsula over the Sound of Sleat – is often called Britain’s last true wilderness. No roads lead to Knoydart – instead, you’ll need to make the seventeen-mile hike from Kinloch Hourn. But it’s well worth it – once there, the views, atmosphere and sheer isolation are unrivalled.
The tea break: Inshriach Potting Shed
For a little slice of calm in Scotland’s wilder territories, Inshriach Nursery, which opened in 1938, has transformed an old potting shed into a tearoom offering many a tasty treat. But it’s not as twee as it sounds; outside, you’re looking at a mesmerizing and ever-changing commotion of birds and red squirrels in the surrounding woodlands. RSPB members have voted it one of the best places to see wild birds in the UK.
The secret garden: The Garden of Cosmic Speculation
In the grounds of an unsuspecting Georgian farmhouse north of Dumfries, lies an astonishing, extra-terrestrial garden of bridges, landforms and sculptures, created by American architectural theorist and landscape artist Charles Jencks. These beautifully crafted, ground-breaking gardens were created in 1988 as a tribute to Jencks’ wife Maggie and are open to the public a mere one day a year through the Scottish Garden Scheme.