Last week I wrote about the importance of being a tourist in your own country, and, well, I should really take my own advice with that, huh?
With that in mind, here are five of my favourite things to see in Scotland: or in this part of it, at least. For this list, I’ve stuck mostly to the central and east coast areas, purely because those are the places I visit most often. Please don’t take that as an indication that there’s nothing to see in the rest of the country, though: in fact, in keeping with my ‘make every day feel like a vacation’ post, I’m going to make it my goal to see as many places in Scotland as I can and report back. Deal?
For now, though, here are five of my favourite things to see in Scotland…
01. Seacliff Beach, East Lothian
A lot of people visit the pretty coastal town of North Berwick (and with good reason, too: in fact, I love it so much I’m determined to make it my future home…), but not so many venture further along the coast to Seacliff: probably because it’s one of those hidden gems that most people don’t even know about. To be fair, Seacliff is pretty hidden: you get to it via a narrow dirt track, which cars can just get along without falling over a cliff edge, and it feels a bit like you shouldn’t actually be there. It’s worth the trip, though, because when you emerge from the woods onto the golden sand of the almost-deserted beach, you’ll feel like you’re the first person to ever stumble across it, and you’ll want to stay there forever. Or until it gets too cold, anyway. And it WILL.
Seacliff is home to one of the country’s smallest harbours, and also has some of the best views you’ll get of the ruined Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock. Love it.
02. Jupiter Artland, Wilkieston, West Lothian
Jupiter Artland is an art gallery with a difference: the difference being that most of it is outdoors, and it’s … well, it’s an experience, basically. A good one, though. And also a kinda creepy one at times: you walk through the woods, past sculptures of scary little girls and mysterious dark pits, and eventually come out into the beautiful sculpted hills in the image above. There’s much, much more to it than that, though: I wrote a post about our visit a couple of years ago, but the exhibits change regularly, so you never know what you might find. The park does close during the winter, unfortunately, so make sure it’s open before heading out there!
03. Cramond Island, near Edinburgh
Cramond Island is an uninhabited island near Edinburgh, which is reached by a causeway during low tide. (Yes, you will get trapped there if you don’t pay attention to the tides. No, it hasn’t happened to me yet, but there’s still time…) Walking across the sea bed feels pretty eerie on its own, but the island, when you reach it, is right out of The Famous Five, basically. It’s small enough to walk around fairly easily, and pretty enough to make you want to take a million photos and post them all to Instagram, even although you know it’ll start to annoy people. There’s not much to see on the island itself, other than what remains of some WW2 fortifications, but it’s worth the walk for the views alone – and you never know, you might get to have a ripping, Enid Blyton-style adventure. Especially if you’re still there when the tide starts to come in.
Once you’re off the island, the village of Cramond itself is a cute little place (and another contender for the position of Amber’s Future Home, actually), with some nice little restaurants and cafes: oh, and there’s normally an ice cream van down by the beach, too…
04. Dean Village, Edinburgh
Despite living near Edinburgh my entire life, and actually living IN Edinburgh for a few years, I actually only discovered Dean Village last year, much to my shame. Although the name suggests a remote location, it’s right in the heart of the city, and is a World Heritage Site – a fact that won’t surprise you in the slightest when you walk down the hill, and realise you’ve just taken a step back in time. Now, if you’ve been to Edinburgh, you’ll know that there are many areas of the city which feel like that, but Dean Village is quite unique, with its Elizabethan-style buildings and narrow, cobbled streets. It really feels like being on the set of a movie or something, and it’s really quite strange when you look up and see the modern buildings of the New Town rising up behind it. It’s well worth a visit, and you can read my post on it here.
05. New Lanark World Heritage Site, Lanarkshire
New Lanark is basically a mill town, but it’s also a social experiment, and a fascinating example of 18th century social planning. The village was built by mill owner and philanthropist David Dale, to house the mill workers and their families, and although the conditions these people lived and worked in seem horrific by our modern standards, it was actually way ahead of its time, and living there would’ve been considered a pretty sweet deal to working-class Scots of the age.
The buildings have all been preserved as part of the World Heritage Site, and many of them are open to the public, with tours and exhibits showing you what life was like. It’s a bleakly beautiful setting, right on the Falls of Clyde, and no matter how bad your week has been, I promise you’ll leave there feeling nothing but gratitude that you’re not a mill worker in 18th century Scotland…