If you’re staying a little closer to home next year but still want a real taste of the wild, there’s nowhere better to travel to than Scotland – think remote mountain peaks, tiny islands, epic coastal road trips and a dram or two of whisky to wash it all down with. Stay a little further from the beaten track with these seven unique Scottish sleeps, from wild campsites to lofty castles.
Seven unique sleeps in Scotland
Go wild camping
Scotland offers avid campers a unique opportunity – the chance to legally camp in the wild. Wild camping isn’t permitted in most of Britain, but you you can camp on unenclosed land in Scotland if you follow the access rights established by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 (and note that Loch Lomond is one exception, as the area is subject to its own bylaws). It’s an amazing (and totally free) way to sleep out on empty beaches, rugged moorland or in the shadow of snow-capped mountains. Where you pitch your tent is up to you, but Sandwood Bay’s white sand beach makes for an iconic camp, as does the Knoydart Peninsula, often referred to as ‘Britain’s last wilderness’. Read my full guide to wild camping before you go.
Kip in a campervan
Why stay in just one place when you could fall asleep in a different Scottish landscape each night? Cool Camping list eight modern campervans located across Scotland, sleeping 2-4. Some can be picked up in Edinburgh, which makes it easy hit the road once you arrive by plane or train, and one is ready and waiting on Orkney. Take on the ultimate road trip along the North Coast 500 route or catch a car ferry over to the Hebrides – both have plenty of lovely campsites where you can park up for the night.
Cost: Vans vary – around £110 per night for two people.
Stay in a castle
If you want to push the boat out once we’re allowed to holiday in groups (NYE 2021, I’m looking at you), play lord or lady of the manor in your very own Scottish castle. Oliver’s Travels offer entire castles and forts you and your gang can have all to yourselves for a week – my favourites are the very grand Ayrshire Castle, which was once a prison and now comes complete with four-poster beds, and the Fortalice, which has an enormous great hall to hang out in.
Cost: Ayrshire Castle from £30 per person per night, sleeps 14, and The Fortalice from £42 per person per night, sleeps 16.
Sleep in a bothy
Want the experience of wild camping but with the comfort of four walls? It doesn’t get much cosier than a night holed up in a Scottish bothy. A bothy, for the uninitiated, is a refuge hut or shelter usually found in the mountains and free to sleep in. They can be pretty basic inside, but some have wood stoves and sleeping platforms – and all are of them are located in incredible wild landscapes, often reachable only on foot. This map will help you find Scotland’s bothies so you can plan hikes to reach them.
Climb aboard a sleeper train
Desperate to swap the busy city for wild open spaces? Hop aboard the Caledonian Sleeper train and you can nod off in Euston station and wake up in Inverness, with the Highlands right on your doorstep. The Sleeper is a little adventure in itself and is also a great way to head north for just a long weekend without having to resort to flying.
Cost: From £125 for a single berth
Stay on an organic farm
Here be Vikings. Lovers of ancient history and wild landscapes alike should spend at least a few nights on the windswept Orkney archipelago. Home to Neolithic remains and a long history of Viking rule, the Orkney islands are now a great place to walk, swim and wild camp. If you want to stay somewhere more cosy, Wheems Organic Farm on South Ronaldsay is a delight – this small eco farm offering all kinds of quirky accommodation, from bell tents and yurts to a tiny bothy-style cottage. There’s also a campsite with space for campervans, and all offer incredible views of the island.
Stay there: Camping from £11 per tent per night, yurt from £50 and cottage from £60 per night.
Snuggle up a snow hole
Are you really a hardened outdoorwoman or man if you haven’t dug and then slept in your own mini snow igloo? The bravest and the maddest wild sleepers should look no further than Scotland, where outdoor adventure companies offer mountaineering weekend courses that often include a night on the wild side – in DIY snow shelters you’ll dig yourself, then sleep in wrapped up in a sleeping bag. The courses are a great way to get to grips with the mountains, as you’ll also learn basic winter skills such as how to use crampons and ice axes.
Stay there: Weekend mountaineering courses cost from around £250 per person.