Going Deeper, Going Local
While there are those who undertake itineraries that take in an entire country, most dispense with that necessarily more shallow approach because there is a certain something about getting to know an area more intimately. That there's less dashing around makes the whole experience more relaxing, an added bonus. Of course, the more extensive approach is followed often by those who may only get to pay one visit to a place but it's always worth returning to get under the skin of a location. You just so much more by doing just that.
Those who come on that one visit of a lifetime have to cut down on where they can go so the most famous places get seen. The scale of the world renowned Highlands even means picking and choosing and can take up a week with just skimming through them. Then, there's Edinburgh with its not unfounded reputation for architecture and festivals. Undoubtedly, that's not even a full sample of what Scotland has to offer and that may explain how I am drawn back to the place again and again. Well, revisiting locations that have delighted me before might have something to do with it too...
While it feels like the world and his wife have congregated in the best known parts, there are plenty of others that guarantee some respite from whatever tweeness can erupt in tourist honeypots. My first example is the wild and empty Southern Uplands. Unless open hill country with rounded hills is your thing, you may not go there but there are unlimited scenic rewards for anyone who does. The overshadowed Scottish Borders also are worth frequenting and I have found it easy to escape the hordes while exploring them. They are but two suggestions with the Cowal Peninsula and the Western Isles doing sterling duty on the escapist role too and there's more than those again.
So, there's plenty of Scotland there for all so there's no excuse for all piling into the likes of Lochaber and Skye at once. In fact, it can feel that there is a quiet space for anyone and they aren't to find either. Just set off on foot into any piece of countryside that isn't known all over the world (much isn't) and your reverie will be undisturbed. To locate those spots without foreknowledge needs a little local inside information and that's why I collected together what you'll find below. Hopefully, they'll help you to find an oasis of your own.
A Few Areas Collected Together
Some websites are localist though they cover a few areas at once or form part of a network that covers more than one locality. That makes them difficult to file under one region or another. For that reason, I have collected them under their own heading so do have a look here before looking into one single region or another. After all, you may be surprised what you find here.
Not only has Scotland got a national tourist board in VisitScotland but there are regional ones too. Though the parent organisation's branding is never far away, they may offer a local perspective that makes a trip more worthwhile.
Until the last decade, Scotland was the only nation on mainland Britain that did not have its own national parks. A generally healthy attitude to looking after wild land led some towards antipathy to the suggestion but recent developments seem to belie that perception.
The controversy surrounding the Beauly-Denny electricity power line is one example and Donald Trump's golfing development in Aberdeenshire is another. Both show that the fight for wild land conservation is far from over as decisions made by the SNP Scottish Government have illustrated very well.
If anything, it looks as if those national parks need to be more robust than they currently are. for one thing, the world is changing around them as the fuss about informal camping along the banks of Loch Lomond has proven. That is testing Scotland's enlightened land access legislation, something that depends on enlightened users if it is to work. Maybe greater awareness, understanding and a willingness to engage with those is part of the solution
If the people of Harris ever get their national park, I wonder what questions that might produce. Saying that, it would be a very good thing if it afforded greater protection for the intoxicating mix of coastal and hill country scenery. As with the other parks, it needs that bit of willingness to make things work smoothly to make the enterprise a success and not to have it challenged from every direction. After all, national parks need to protect stirring visitor destinations and help folk to find their feet in a way that doesn't jeopardise the enjoyment of others, either in the present or into the future.
This is a network of visitor information sites that fall under the heading of West of Scotland in a loose sense. Much of what you find here is dedicated to Ayrshire though it looks as if those sites need someone to keep them up to date since the content dates from 2009. The same comment unfortunately also applies to that for the Isle of Skye though the Ullapool one (which is how I found these) has received attention this year. While I can understand how much work is involved in keeping something like this up to date, things do look better if they are seen to get regular attention. Nevertheless, there should be some useful information in them for anyone needing to learn more about these places. There also is an Edinburgh Castle site in the same mould and with this year's date in there too. Let's hope that keeps getting the attention that it needs while the others get updates too.
Scotland has more than its offshore islands and some support small populations. Some used to do so but the communities became non-viable and they now are deserted. St. Kilda is but one example of these while Eigg hangs onto its inhabitants, a situation no doubt helped by regular ferry series. Both fall within the sway of this website and first impressions are good but I'd like to linger longer to get a fuller picture of what's on offer.
Scotland's Central Belt plays host to two major cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The latter became my home for a few years and it's a very attractive spot with a good smattering of festivals that pretty much make the place a visitor magnet. Glasgow is the larger of the two and possesses a more industrial edge that has left with rougher areas that do not help its reputation, particularly when they became the subject of dramas on televisions on in a cinema. That's not to say that Glasgow is all unattractive even if it has a grittier that comes first to the minds of some; amazingly, Edinburgh's equivalents seem not to drown out the rest of its appeal. Beyond those tow contrasting conurbations, there are other parts to savour too and I only have made a start in building up a compendium of spots on the web the celebrate those overlooked parts. Life continues to be a work in progress.
There was a time when this introduction to Edinburgh was hosted by one of the city's universities (Heriot-Watt, I believe) but it now seems to have become an independent entity. It also would appear that the content is drawn from a now out of print guidebook to the city that still resides on one of my bookshelves. Having a welcome message from a Lord Provost whose time in office ended in 2003, after a stint that had lasted since 1990, does date things but there some things in the city that haven't changed so it remains worthy of a look.
If you wanted Edinburgher's views of what their city has to offer visitors and locals alike, then this regularly updated website is a good place to start. Between attractions, eateries and entertainment, there's a lot in here so I reckon that it's a as good a place to look as any.
It may lie in the shadow of nearby Edinburgh it also sounds a place to escape from a bustling city too. There are plenty of places for enjoying a quite stroll, it seems, as well as historic houses and castles too. After all, Linlithgow Palace can be found here and that's an impressive ruin.
Borders & Galloway
While I lived in Edinburgh, I never got the notion of exploring the Scottish Borders and I now find that staggering when I consider how much the area has to offer the visitor. It was only after moving south of the border with England that I got to seeing some of what is on offer and I only have scratched the surface after more than a few excursions. Its being overlooked in favour of better known areas is one of its best attractions; it means that it's not hard to find a quiet spot away from hustle and bustle.
Peebles has been subject to my attentions at times over the years so the sight of a website dedicated to promoting its attractions does not surprise me.
This is a community website for the the Scottish terminus for the Pennine Way rather than an out and out visitor resource. Nevertheless, that's not to say that knowing a little more about a place isn't worthwhile.
This is more visitor oriented than the previous entry in the list and it certainly sells the place. Not having visited the town myself before, it might be an idea to make good use of the visitor information on offer while planning a trip.
Scotland's most souterly point can be seen from the Isle of Man on clear days and is further south than a few notable spots in the north of England. Here is a website celebrating the place. The lighthouse isn't the only thing to sea around there either and a good walks should keep some of us busy.
Western Highlands & Islands
This is one of my favourite haunts when I manage to get away for a few days and I need to say a few words about how I define the area for this collection of visitor websites. In the south, I start in Argyll before continuing up through Lochaber and to get Lochalsh to Ross and Cromarty in the north west of Scotland. Along the way, islands along Scotland's western seaboard and even the area around Loch Lomond and the Trossachs would be included too. What you find find below may feature a taste of what is a wide swathe of countryside but I would be surprised if these are all the websites that are out there promoting their little corner of what is a stirring part of the world.
This website is the work of the Oban & Lorn Tourism Association and the area certainly is worth exploring. Oban itself is a good point from which to start exploring the nearby islands and I have been known to use it to explore hill country to found to be the east of there too. It's an attractive spot that has drawn me time and again and the website hopefully let's you in on why that may be the case.
These are sister sites and they feature useful information for planning a visit to Fort William and Lochaber. Places to stay and enjoy are all part of the mix and a Ben Nevis webcam is on offer too. Fort William Online is primarily a visitor site while Lochaber.com takes things further and is a more general business search resource. Both are worth a visit.
Apart from one stopover at Eilean Donan Castle quite a few years back, I always seem to pass through these parts while en route to Skye. That does no justice to the delights of the area and the website does its bit to draw the visitor. Keeping it in mind is one thing but doing something about the oversight is far, far better.
The island of Skye should need little introduction to anyone who knows anything about Scotland. Even so, the locals felt that everything was getting overly centralised so they decided to do some promotion for themselves and this website is the result. As you'd hope, it has all of the usual ingredients for coaxing a visitor to come and savour the delights of the place. In fact, there's a lot here to take in so the website is worthy of spending a little time there, just like the part of Scotland that it's trying to sell.
This looks a very nice part of Skye through which I have only ever passed on all of my travels around the island. The slide show on the website does its very best to show the most alluring sights that abound around the area and it's enough to starting me thinking about stationing myself here for a few days is in order for a quiet retreat from the stresses and strains of everyday life. That sounds very appealing and this website should provide me with all the information that I need for planning exactly that. It really helps that all the usual details such as places to stay and things to see are featured on this part of the web.
Here's another part of Skye promoting its wares on the web, the northeastern corner this time. There's a photo gallery with pictures taken during the winter, an interesting choice to make. All the usual visitor needs are informed with some ideas for walks included too. A nice touch is that much of it is done like a slide show and it works very well in introducing you to it all too.
It's a fabulously wild, empty and ancient part of the world but it's also one where I have yet to visit. Those reasons should be enough for me to be paying a visit sometime so these are places on the web that I should be consulting beforehand along with any books that already have fallen into my possession. Who knows what could come of my brainwave.
This is an island that I have only ever viewed from other vantage points; Morar, Skye and the ferry from Lochboisdale to Oban are some that come to mind. In fact, I have been known to play with the idea of visiting this along with the other members of what are known as the Small Isles (Rum, Muck and Canna are others). Should I ever managed to turn that daydream into reality, this website should come in handy. After all, it provides all the information that any visitor should need. They seem to have it best working with Internet Explorer though and that is something they could do with changing with the software choices that many are making. It may look a little rough in Firefox but it doesn't stop you finding out more about what appears a fascinating spot.
It look coincident features in two magazines, Scotland Outdoors and Scottish Islands Explorer, to remind me of this alluring part of Scotland. So far, I only have probed its northern reaches near Glenfinnan and glimpsed it on a ferry ride between Lochboisdale and Oban. The intoxicating mix of rugged countryside and proximity to sea send heavenly thoughts to my mind and this website could have a part to play should I get to deepening my explorations of the area with all of the information that is needed for such a venture. Visions of island views of the likes of Mull, Eigg and Rum only add to the sense of enticement.
My own encounter would have been a distant glimpse from a CalMac ferry returning me from South Uist to Oban a few years. Even then, that sight would have been a fuzzy one since the island largely is flat and the day on which I was doing my scouting wasn't the sort that I imagined. Blue skies and sunshine had been my hope but grey skies and dampness were all that I got.
To the minds of some, this website does the island a disservice in highlighted how little is has to offer the visitor. Accommodation is in short supply, for instance, so planning ahead is of the essence unless you fancy camping. However, the lack of any semblance of being a leisure resort is no bad thing since the island plays host to a vibrant machair and the lack of height doesn't diminish the possibility of their being any meaning visitas to savour as the gallery of computer wallpapers should attest.
During the time that I have been exploring Scotland's Highlands and Islands, most of my attention has drifted to the west. However, that's never to say that eastern reaches have remained beyond my footfall with visits to Highland Perthshire, the Cairngorms and even Loch Ness featuring on excursions from time to time. Much remains unexplored but that can be good in its own way too.
This is home to a circular long distance hiking trail called the Cateran Trail. That may be enough to draw the likes of me but there's more to the area around Blairgowrie than that with Glamis Castle being another attraction of the a part of the world that doesn't seem short of them.
Though best known for its flat-topped mountains, you'll find images on this website that show another side of this part of Scotland too. As you'd expect of a visitor website, it contains all the usual information needed for planning a trip there. The site is that of a local business group and came to my attention via Twitter, something of a trend these days.
When last in Pitlochry, I was tempted by the idea of visiting these parts though time and a lack of public transported options stymied any such ambitions. It took a weekend based in Aberdeen for a first visit to happen. Though it was showery and none too warm around Braemar, it was no disappointment so I hope to return. Hopefully, this website should give you a sense as to why I feel that way.
This website is the result of efforts by a local not for profit organisation that sounds much like an association of tourism businesses to me, not that that's a bad thing at all. While Loch Ness is best known for its mythical monster, there is more to the area than that and this is the place where horizons can be expanded. Things to see and do (it was a new walking trail along the southern banks of the loch that brought the site's existence to my attention) as well as places to stay are part of the offer as you'd expect. There's a blog too with a very tasty highland scene in a posting when I last took a look.
Orkney & Shetland
Geographically, the only reason for bundling together the Orkney and Shetland islands is that they lie off the northeastern corner of Scotland. Of the two the Orkney archipelago is by far the nearer with only a ferry ride of around an hour in duration needed to make the crossing of the Pentland Firth. In contrast, getting to Shetland needs a long and expensive overnight ferry journey from Aberdeen or a scheduled flight. In fact, it has been said that Kirkwall is nearer to Norway than it is to Scotland. That makes it sound isolated though that is a lure for the longer distance traveller and makes it sound that little more exotic too though that ins't a word that many would associate with the weather of the north Atlantic.
So far, these have escaped my footfall but there's plenty of coastal walking and a good scattering of antiquities to keep the wanderer busy. With regards to visitor information, there was a time when the Orkney Islands Council had a Heritage Website but that is no more and there only remains this survivor. Fittingly, it is packed full of content letting you in on the islands' heritage.
There might have been a time when a website like this would have been part of the Visit Scotland network but whatever Shetland had before seems to have become part of the main national website so something more distinct is in order. So, we have this instead and it's maintained by a small team from the Shetland Amenity Trust too. That means a sense of independence as well as a local focus. Apart from that, the website does exactly what you'd want it to do when planning a trip to a seemingly unique and far flung spot like Shetland.