Just because temperatures are dropping, that doesn’t mean your romance should be anything other than hot. Keep your love alive by booking your next romantic getaway to one of the world’s most enchanting destinations: Scotland.
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Not only does Scotland offer some of the most breathtaking natural wonders, rich history and world-class culture, it’s also an accepting and welcoming destination for LGBTQ travelers. (Last fall, Scotland become the first country in the world to embed teaching LGBTQ history in school curriculum.)
While popular destinations like Glasgow and Edinburgh are vibrant cultural centers, for couples looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, Scotland is perfectly suited for a rustic, romantic vacation.
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Plan a trip like no other with these highlights of Scotland’s splendor.
Scotland is comprised of the northern third of the island of Great Britain, as well as 790 islands. Nature lovers flock to the Highlands and island regions where no selfie could properly capture all of the beauty of the landscape.
Scottish islands are divided into four groups: the Inner Hebrides (featuring Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa and the untamed Isle of Jura, where wild deer outnumber the human population 25:1); the Outer Hebrides (including the crystal clear waters off the Isle of Barra); Orkney (brimming with ancient civilization sites) and Shetland, where Viking history and Scottish culture combine.
Hopping between islands is a breeze. Travelers can choose to venture between destinations via ferry or inter-island flights.
Of course, some of the most famous natural features of Scotland are its dazzling lochs. Most people are familiar with the large Loch Ness — allegedly home to the titular monster hiding in its depths — but Scotland has more than 30,000 lochs and smaller lochans. Loch Awe, with the ruins of Kilchurn Castle on its north-eastern edge, is a popular, picturesque spot. Loch Lomond, the largest freshwater loch, is a good choice for sailing, canoeing and swimming. And if you want something a bit more off the beaten tourist path, try Loch Rusky, a choice location for fisherman and photographers.
Although Scotland doesn’t boast the sort of year-round tropical climates one typically associates with beach destinations, Scotland’s unique landscape (including more than 10,000 km of coastline) offers brilliant beaches and unforgettable vistas all year-round.
In fact, Visit Scotland has declared 2020 the Year of Coasts and Waters, highlighting the beauty and bounty of Scotland’s lochs, canals and beaches.
Fans of white sand should schedule time to visit Nairn Beach. You’ll find it on the coast across the Moray Firth from the Black Isle. You can learn about local marine life at the nature reserve at Kingsteps. Moray Firth boasts one of the United Kingdom’s largest pods of dolphins, however, the beach at Portmahomack, on the Dornoch Firth, is also a great spot for cetacean spotters. Scotland is home to one-quarter of the world’s whale and dolphin species. This summer, the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin trust will launch a network of 25 whale-watching and whale heritage sites called the Hebridean Whale Trail, celebrating Scotland’s marine wildlife.
Scotland’s landscape make it an ideal place to visit with the nature lover in your life, but there are also several unique lodging options to immerse yourself even more deeply in Scotland’s majesty.
Depending on your “rustic” comfort level, Scotland offers a wide array of accommodations that go far beyond the typical hotel or bed and breakfast. It’s an ideal location to indulge in the recent “glamping” trend, offering a range of cabins, barns, eco pods, yurts, tipis and wigwams from rugged to luxurious.
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You could stay among the treetops at the Brockloch Treehouse, featuring a relaxing soaking tub with a skylight for stargazing (and mercifully no TV or WiFi). Stay lochen-side among the wildflowers in a gorgeous French-style trailer at the Roulotte Retreat. These gorgeous, quirky dwellings are the perfect getaway for two, some including a Japanese-style, wooden eco hot tub.
Enjoy the best of past and present with a stay at the Brochs of Coigach. Nestled into the hillside, these Iron Age-inspired holiday houses are stocked with modern amenities, including underfloor heating, sauna and super comfortable mattresses.
No matter where you stay with your bae, there are lots of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Hiking enthusiasts are already likely planning some “Munro Bagging” — climbing Scottish mountains more than 3,000 ft. They’re named after the man who surveyed and cataloged the mountains, Sir Hugh T Munro, and people strive to complete all 282 peaks. (Some folks elect to “bag” Corbetts, mountains between 2,500 and 3,000 ft.)
For a more leisurely, romantic adventure, couples can get enchanted by Scotland’s castles. Aberdeenshire is known as Scotland’s Castle Country with more castles per acre than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. Scotland’s Castle Trail in Aberdeenshire will lead you on a six-day exploration of 19 castles.
Fans of last year’s film Mary Queen of Scots starring Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan can visit one of the castles she once called home. Stirling Castle is a monument of Renaissance architecture. While visiting Stirling, pay homage to a national hero at the National Wallace Monument, or enjoy sweeping views of Stirling from a hill path on Dumyat.
No matter how you spend your time, you’re sure to work up an appetite. You don’t have to venture to the heart of the urban areas for fine food.
The United Kingdom’s most remote restaurant, Corrour Station House, is only reachable by train or 10 mile walk. The restaurant is open from late March through the end of October, and its menu features venison, seasonal vegetables and locally-brewed beers. The ample coastline means great seafood, like the locally-focused Whitehouse Restaurant in Lochaline (described by Michelin as “unfussy and flavorsome”).
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Your sweet tooth won’t be disappointed, either. Gay-owned and operated sweetshop Cocoa Mountain is a luxury chocolatier in the village of Durness. Run by Paul Maden and his partner James Findlay, the shop has made fans of Prince Charles and Yoko Ono with its delectable collection of innovative truffles, including flavors like chilli and lemongrass.
While chocolate may be a known aphrodisiac, there are few things more romantic than sitting with your loved one under the stars. Scotland has low levels of light pollution, making it optimal for stargazers. Prime star-spotting locations include the remote corners fo Glen Nevis and the star observatory at Culloden.