Lonely Planet Unveils the UK’s Top Unmissable Experiences!

On Tuesday 13 August, Lonely Planet unveiled their first ultimate Ultimate UK Travelist, revealing the top 500 unmissable attractions across Britain, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands.

Compiling the most exciting, unique and memorable experiences, the list reveals all that is great about Britain – with the world-renowned Edinburgh Festival topping the list!

With icons like the British Museum in London, Stonehenge in south-west England, and the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland all featuring in the Top 10 Experiences, the country’s icons are well and truly represented. But the list is also jam-packed with lesser-known but no less impressive highlights – from hobnobbing with royalty in Glamis Castle’s rose-tinted turrets to wild swimming in Durdle Door.

Compiled from the Lonely Planet roundup, we’ve selected 21 of the most unusual, surprising and unforgettable activities, sights and landmarks – for a truly unmissable British experience.

Yorkshire Dales Adventure, Yorkshire (number 18)

Coming in at number 18 on the Lonely Planet list, the Yorkshire Dales are a fairy-tale landscape of heather moorland and rolling green valleys. Home to some of Britain’s finest karst limestone scenery, the Dales also offer some of the country’s best hiking and cycling routes. And with hidden highlights including Forbidden Corner - a labyrinthine walled garden, and Hardraw Force - England’s highest unbroken waterfall, to explore, it’s the ideal spot for travellers looking to discover the lesser-known side of Yorkshire.

Wild Swimming at Durdle Door, Dorset (number 29)

Located in the turquoise waters of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, the ancient Durdle Door archway is one of Britain’s most unforgettable destinations for wild swimming. Soak up the sunshine on the pristine golden sands before taking the plunge and swimming beneath the monumental limestone archway, which was carved by the waves over centuries. Ranking at number 29, Durdle Door is an experience that testifies to the power of nature and the forces that shaped one of Britain’s most spectacular coastlines.

Hike the South West Coast Path, South-West England (number 37)

Combining the highlights of the Devon, Cornish, Somerset and Dorset coastlines, the South West Coast Path is 628 miles of staggering British beauty. Requiring around six weeks to complete in full, the path takes in sunlit beaches, picturesque fishing villages and major highlights including Tintagel Castle, the birthplace of King Arthur. With terrain ranging from easy to challenging, there’s something for every walking enthusiast looking to explore the delights of the south west.

Wild camping on Dartmoor, Devon (number 56)

Wild ponies, mist-covered moors and crystal-clear rivers await on a wild camping trip to Dartmoor. Get back to nature and sleep under the stars on a camping experience that reveals the rugged beauty of one of England’s largest open moorlands, all while discovering its staggering history at landmarks including Spinster’s Rock, which dates back to 4,000BC.

Island hop Scotland’s Western Seaboard, Scotland (number 58)

From exploring the only island country park in Britain to sipping the rich peaty whisky produced by Bowmore, the oldest distillery in Scotland, island hopping across the western seaboard reveals Scotland’s traditions and landscapes in all their glory. Discover Duart Castle, home of the Clan Maclean, and Iona Abbey, the ancient burial site of Scottish Kings, and spot magnificent red deer on the island of Jura. From wildlife to whisky, Scotland’s western islands have it all.

Deer Spotting Safari, Exmoor (number 61)

Get up-close-and-personal with Britain’s native wildlife on a deer spotting safari in Exmoor National Park. A former royal forest, the park is home to around 3,000 red deer – the largest wild land animals in England! Spot knobbly-kneed calves in spring and summer or see majestic stags battle it out in the search for a mate under a canopy of autumn leaves. With Exmoor ponies and a staggering array of flora and fauna to discover, it’s no surprise this experience ranks at an impressive number 61 on the list.

Coast to Coast Path, Northern England (number 76)

One of Britain’s most popular routes for walkers, the Coast to Coast Path comes in at number 76. Designed by renowned author and fellwanderer Alfred Wainwright, the path encompasses 190 miles of northern England’s most impressive landscapes. Covering three of our finest National Parks - the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors – and roaming across terrain that ranges from flower strewn dales to mountainous peaks, the path is perfect for cyclists and walkers looking to discover Britain in all its diverse glory.

Banksy Trail, Bristol (number 85)

Follow the trail of Banksy, one of Britain’s best known street artists in his birthplace, Bristol! One of the country’s lesser-known urban delights, the city is awash with quirky culture, cool boutiques and an eclectic dining scene, in addition to a wide array of impressive street art. With a range of street arts tours on offer, visitors will discover the impact that Banksy has had on pop culture and the art scene, and can even try their hand at creating their own graffiti.

Dungeness Train, Kent (number 110)

Jump aboard the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway steam train and step back in time on a journey to Dungeness. Best known for the historic battle of 1652, Dungeness is now classified as Britain’s only desert. Home to a fascinating array of plant, bird and sea life, this Site of Special Scientific Interest is well worth discovering. See the traditional cottages of local fishermen and find out more about their lives, before climbing the historic lighthouse for incredible views of the English Channel towards France.

Victorian Tunnel Tour, Newcastle (number 167)

Step back in time on a tour of Newcastle’s secret Victoria Tunnel. Originally constructed in 1842 to transport coal below the city streets, the tunnel was used as an air raid shelter during World War II and is rich in history. Experience an air raid re-enactment and walk beneath the city’s major landmarks, including Hadrian’s Wall, before hearing tales of the resident ghost and the city’s Victorian past.

Spot Puffins and Seals on Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland (number 194)

Wildlife lovers and photography enthusiasts should make a beeline for the rugged cliffs of Rathlin Island. Managed in part by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the island is particularly appealing during the birds’ nesting season. Head to the West Light Viewpoint to spot baby puffins and their parents cavorting through the undergrowth in spring and summer, see native species including kittiwakes and guillemots, and make sure to look out for basking seals, porpoises and even dolphins!

Channel Your Inner Braveheart at Stirling Castle, Scotland (number 217)

Trace the footsteps of Scottish hero William Wallace and discover his true history on a visit to Stirling Castle, the setting of the 1995 epic Braveheart. Scale the 246 steps to the William Wallace Monument and enjoy staggering views of the surrounding countryside. Explore the Royal Palace, the Great Hall and Queen Anne Gardens, hear tales of legendary combats including the Battle of Bannockburn, and learn the story of King Robert the Bruce – a Scottish National Hero.

Ride Some of Wales’ Wildest Waves Along Hell’s Mouth Beach, Wales (number 232)

Surfing enthusiasts can ride some of Britain’s best waves at Hell’s Mouth Beach in Gwynedd. Home to the Wakeboard Festival in July, the beach offers four miles of sandy shores, perfect azure water and even the chance to spot harbour porpoises and bottlenose dolphins. With a current that’s gentle enough for swimmers looking to relax in the waves, but strong enough to guarantee some perfect waves, the beach is one of the area’s best kept secrets for lovers of water sports.

Branch Out at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, South Wales (number 261)

Featuring the world’s largest single-span glasshouse, a national nature reserve, and a variety of beautiful and innovative themed gardens, the National Botanic Garden of Wales has something for every green-fingered enthusiast. Discover the medicinal secrets of local herbs at the Apothecary’s Garden, meet native species at the British Bird of Prey Centre, or enjoy an ever-changing range of flora-themed events throughout the year.

World Conker Champs, Northamptonshire (number 317)

We Brits love a quirky festival, and at number 317 the World Conker Championships fits the bill perfectly! Played using the seeds of horse chestnut trees, the championship sees competitors smash their way to victory in the picturesque Northamptonshire village of Southwick. Hosted by the Ashton Conker Club, the competition has taken place since 1965 and involves players using a conker, threaded with a piece of string, to break their opponent’s conker. Competitors take it in turns to strike their opponent’s piece, with the winner owning the conker that does not break.

Whizz Through the Zip World Slate Caverns in Blaneu Ffestiniog, Wales (number 327)

Zip World, near the historic mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, offer guests the chance to climb through a unique underground course in a disused slate mine or zip down Europe’s largest zip wire! Surrounded by stunning Welsh scenery, it’s an unbeatable place to bounce and slide through a huge underground adventure, for an action-packed experience to remember.

Margate Shell Grotto, Margate (number 339)

An ancient temple, a pagan place of worship, or even the residence of a cult – nearly 200 years after it was discovered, the debate still rages as to the origins of the Margate Shell Grotto! Nicknamed Shellhenge and decorated with an incredible 4.6 million shells, the grotto is a unique work of art that has to be seen to be believed. Join the debate and wander along 70ft of chalk tunnels to discover the 2,000sq foot mosaic, which features oysters, ancient gods and even the tree of life among its swirling, intricate patterns.

Learn to Cook at River Cottage, Devon (number 392)

Founded by British celebrity chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the chance to cook at the renowned River Cottage comes in as a foodie favourite at number 392. With a wide range of courses including gluten-free Christmas cooking, easy cheese making and meat curing and smoking, visitors will have the chance to discover the secrets of the acclaimed TV series, savour local produce and learn how to create truly scrumptious British recipes.

Star Spot on Lundy Island, South-West England (number 452)

A designated Dark Sky Discovery Site, Lundy Island has no street lighting or electricity after midnight, making it a stargazing spot that’s out of this world! At night, budding astronomers can expect to spot the Milky Way, distant galaxies and meteor showers, while its incredibly diverse flora and fauna, including basking sharks, dolphins and puffins, make it a nature lover’s paradise.

Hobnob with Royalty in Glamis Castle’s Rose-Tinted Turrets, Scotland (number 468)

One of the lesser-known royal residences, this fairy-tale castle inspired Shakespeare’s Macbeth and was the childhood home to HRH The Queen Mother. Visitors can explore the birthplace of HRH Princess Margaret, discover the sprawling gardens and admire the rose-tinted turrets. Alternatively, take a guided tour and learn the secrets of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, who have resided here since 1372.

Learn to Churn at Wensleydale Creamery, Yorkshire (number 496)

The British love affair with all things cheese-related is long established. Now, visitors can get in on the act and learn to churn beautifully British cheese at Wensleydale Creamery, one of Yorkshire’s best known producers. With cheese and butter-making demonstrations held throughout the day, plus cookery demonstrations of popular local dishes including Wensleydale Chicken and Yorkshire Rarebit, the creamery is a tasty experience for food fans on a trip to Britain.

Dive into Scotland's Coasts and Waters

Scotland’s varied coastline and inland waters in both urban and rural settings provide a wealth of exciting leisure and adventure opportunities all year round. In 2020, the country’s coasts and waters will be celebrated with a year-long programme of events that showcase the amazing array of aquatic things to see and do across Scotland.

Special events for 2020

A set of exciting events will put Scotland’s Coasts and Waters in the spotlight throughout 2020, including regular gems such as Crail Food Festival and the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy, as well as an expanded Clydebuilt Festival and The Fife Regatta. The Edinburgh International Film Festival will also run a special set of screenings called Scotland’s Shores, showcasing the nation’s spectacular coastal charms in addition to a special outdoor coastal experience.

Aberdeen’s position as a place to spot dolphins will be celebrated by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds at DolphinFest 2020, while National Theatre of Scotland is developing a production called Ferry Tales to celebrate Scotland’s waters and the journeys made across them. Scotland’s Boat Show and Kip Marina will also showcase ‘River of Light’, a special event featuring numerous illuminated boats in October 2020.

The country’s lochs, rivers and canals have helped to shape the nation’s history and the provide visitors with a wealth of experiences from boat trips and adventure sports to wildlife watching and diving with large marine creatures. In addition to the many events planned to celebrate the year of Scotland’s Coasts and Waters, visitors can navigate around Scotland’s many isles and waterways, dive in to the country’s maritime heritage and embrace its waterways as part of a range of seasonal activities to be enjoyed at different points throughout the year.

The Loch Ness 360 Trail

Connecting the Great Glen Way with the South Loch Ness Trail, the Loch Ness 360° Trail is a new long-distance walking and cycling route around the striking Loch Ness landscape. Covering a distance of circa 80 miles, it will take walkers around six days to complete the trail, although the route can be split up into sections for more manageable experiences. Taking in the city of Inverness, as well as Drumnadrochit, Invermoriston, Fort Augustus, Foyers and Dores, there are numerous spectacular sights and stopping points along the way. For those wanting to discover more about the history of the loch and the surrounding highlands, guided tours and bike hire are available. Look out for the splendour of Urquhart Castle and the Telford Bridge on-route, alongside the Falls of Foyers, where the water cascades 165ft down over the clifftop.

Water sports

With its unique mix of calm lochs, crashing waves and fast moving rapids in addition to more than 6,000 miles of coastline, Scotland’s waters are well-suited to an array of different water sports. Outdoor activity centres across the country offer everything from gentle introductory lessons to the toughest challenges, meaning there is something to suit all ages and abilities.

Diving and snorkelling

Scotland’s Coasts and Waters are home to wonderfully diverse marine life and numerous ship wrecks that are incredibly popular with divers. Nestled in the heart of the Orkney Islands, Scapa Flow is one of the largest sheltered anchorages in the world and is a graveyard of sunken ships. Explore the Sound of Mull with Lochaline or dive into the history of the Firth of Clyde on a Wreckspedition Dive Charter. Whether visitors are looking for day trips or even on-board accommodation on specialist dive boats, Scotland has a range of options to suit. The Puffin Dive Centre in Oban provides opportunities for beginners to discover the delights of scuba diving, while selected parts of the coasts of Berwickshire and the North West Highlands are designated snorkel trails, where visitors can catch a glimpse of everything from sea squirts and anemones to dolphins and whales.

Kayaking and canoeing

As a paradise for paddlers, both the inland and sea waters of Scotland are packed full of opportunities to try out kayaking and canoeing. The River Tay has conditions to suit both beginners and advanced kayakers, with both tandem and single craft available from Outdoors Explore. Alternatively, visitors can get to grips with a paddle on Britain’s largest body of fresh water at Loch Lomond, ably supported by Wild By Nature. Scotland’s eclectic coastline boasts an abundance of caves, cliffs, tunnels and secluded beaches to explore as part of a sea kayak adventure too. A range of day trips and multi-day expeditions allow visitors to uncover new sights, paddle alongside local wildlife and take in the region’s spectacular geography. The Orkney Sea Kayaking Association can help visitors to discover Orkney’s famous Old Man of Hoy while the Scottish Sea Kayaking Trail is a challenging 500km voyage around the most scenic parts of the Highlands and Isles.

White water rafting

The rivers of Scotland offer some of Britain’s most thrilling natural white water rafting experiences which can be enjoyed all year round by both first time rafters and adrenaline junkies. Calmer waters in the summer months are ideal for beginners, while challenging Grade 4 or 5 rafting follows the snow melts in early spring or periods of heavy rainfall. The River Findhorn in the Cairngorms National Park offers exceptional thrills and beautiful scenery, as the river drops 500ft over 18 miles. As one of Scotland’s last wild rivers, weather conditions often regulate which sections of the river can be used! The fast-flowing rapids of the River Tay are popular with thrill-seekers, while scheduled dam releases on the River Garry near Fort William provide highly graded waters from April to October.

Canyoning and coasteering

Whether leaping from rock ledges into natural pools or exploring shorelines without a boat, Scotland’s Coast and Waters offer plenty of exhilarating canyoning, gorge-walking and coasteering experiences. The country’s glens, forests and rivers provide a natural playground for an adventure trip that can be enjoyed by all the family. With support from qualified instructors and high-quality kit, it’s an opportunity to see the coastline from a new perspective.

St Ninian’s Isle on Shetland

Venture across a spectacular natural sand pathway to discover St Ninian’s Isle. The vast tombolo – a bar of sand and shingle – is the largest active feature of this type in Britain, and it provides a walking route to discover the historic remains of St Ninian’s Chapel, once the home of a Pictish treasure hoard that is now housed in museums across Scotland. Glance out over the rocky islets of Coar Holm and Inns Holm and see nature in all its glory.

Dolphin spotting - Banffshire Coast and Moray Firth

Known as the ‘Dolphin Coast’, the Banffshire Coast and Moray coast are renowned as being waters where visitors can see bottlenose dolphins in their natural environment. The colony of dolphins in the Moray Forth is the most northerly on earth and are among the biggest too, averaging nearly 4 metres in length. Chanonry Point near Fortrose and the imposing military fortification at Fort George are popular spots to spy on the dolphins from land, while chartered boat trips and wildlife cruises can take visitors on a memorable ride closer to the action.

Swim with basking sharks

Visitors can swim with the second largest fish on the planet during the summer months, as basking sharks are regularly spotted in waters off the west coast of Scotland. The huge species, growing up to 10 metres long, are placid, toothless creatures, meaning it’s possible to swim with them and a wide variety of other wildlife including dolphins and seals. Tours run from April to October, coinciding with the migration of the sharks to Scottish waters, and swimming, kayaking and snorkelling around the creatures is incredibly popular. Hotspots include around the coast of Oban, the Firth of Clyde and near the Isles of Coll, Canna and Tiree.

Isle of Jura

Explore the wild Isle of Jura, home to an award-winning distillery, incredible mountains, a swirling whirlpool and a thriving population of around 6000 wild deer. Tours of the Jura Distillery reveal how the island’s natural elements have influenced the production process while the Corryvreckan Whirlpool is among the largest permanent whirlpools on earth. Boat trips to the surrounding waters run regularly, allowing visitors to hear the incredible roar of the water.

Dip in the Firth of Forth

An annual custom since 1986, hundreds of people dive into the waters of the Firth of Forth in South Queensferry as part of Loony Dook. Often wearing fancy dress and all in the name of charity, the tradition to mark Hogmanay is viewed as a fresh way to start the new year. The name is an amalgamation of ‘Loony’ – short for lunatic – and ‘Dook’, a Scottish term for ‘dip’ or ‘bathe’. Visitors are welcome to take part in the custom or to cheer on the Dookers as they make their way down to the beach.

Surf the Atlantic

Scotland’s west coast features stunning scenery, rich cultural heritage and incredible surfing conditions as a result of strong prevailing south westerly winds. Thurso, on the northerly tip of the Scottish mainland, is renowned for its waves, while the Isle of Tiree provides abundant surfing conditions and is home to the Tiree Wave Classic in October, one of Britain’s premier windsurfing competitions.

Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa

Created some 60 million years ago by the same lava flows that were responsible for the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, Fingal’s Cave is home to an incredible set of volcanic basalt columns. Found on the uninhabited island of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides, the 69-metre-high cave has astonishing acoustics and can be viewed from cruise vessels in the summer months. The island is dominated by seabirds including guillemots, razorbills, gannets and great skuas, while puffins use it as a breeding site between May and August.

Up Helly Aa

Celebrated on the last Tuesday of January every year, Up Helly Aa involves a set of marches that culminates in a torch-lit procession and the burning of a galley. Held in the bustling seaport of Lerwick on the picturesque Shetland Isles, the celebration of the region’s Viking heritage is a superb spectacle as the fire festival lights up the night sky.

Edinburgh in film - discover Edinburgh as seen on the silver screen

The 73rd instalment of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) arrives in the Scottish capital in June, bringing with it a wealth of new cinematic ideas and film premieres. Showcasing the very best in international cinema, the EIFF takes place on 19-30 June and is renowned around the world for discovering and championing British talent and for encouraging changes in global filmmaking.

With a dynamic programme of experimental cinema, documentaries, shorts and feature films, the festival is a celebration of the cinematic world and allows audiences to engage with film in new and exciting ways in venues across the city. British directors including Danny Boyle, Bill Forsyth and Stephen Frears have all premiered their work at the EIFF in the past.

Venues

The EIFF screenings and galas take place at five main locations in the centre of Edinburgh, with a distinct focus on inclusivity and accessibility.

Filmhouse: A three-screen independent cinema, serving as the festival’s official home and as the central box office, at 88 Lothian Road, EH3 9BZ.

The Festival Theatre: A performing arts venue with a contemporary glass-fronted foyer and large art-deco auditorium for the main galas at 13-29 Nicolson Street, EH8 9FT.

ODEON: With the capability of showing both 2D and 3D screenings, ODEON is a state-of-the-art cinema at 122 Lothian Road, EH3 9BG.

Traverse Theatre: Scotland’s foremost new writing theatre. Established in 1963, it features two custom-build and versatile theatre spaces at 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED.

VUE: A 12-screen venue with three digital 3D screens and more than 2,100 seats at the Omni Leisure Building, Greenside Place, EH1 3AU.

The EIFF main events

The EIFF programme includes a varied mix of screenings, as well as several high-profile events and galas, as detailed below.

Toy Story 4 – Pre-festival screening

The next instalment of Disney Pixar’s incredibly popular Toy Story franchise is set for a special pre-festival screening at the Festival Theatre. Tom Hanks will once again voice Woody in Josh Cooley’s animated tale Toy Story 4, with the screening scheduled five days before the film is released to UK cinemas on 21 June. The festival has a long standing partnership with Disney Pixar and has hosted gala screenings of the award-winning WALL-E, Toy Story 3 and Inside Out in past years.

When and where? Festival Theatre Main Hall, 16 June 2019 at 3pm

Film Fest in the City with Edinburgh Live

Free open-air cinema returns to St Andrew Square Garden for the eighth time in 2019, with three days of screenings of new and old releases just days before the festival gets underway. EIFF, in partnership with Essential Edinburgh, will screen the Oscar-winning Bohemian Rhapsody, The Greatest Showman and Mary Poppins Returns, as well as Mamma Mia! and sequel Mamma Mia 2 as part of Film Fest in the City with Edinburgh Live. In addition, there will be screenings of Groundhog Day, The Iron Giant, Xanadu, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse and When Harry Met Sally, while an array of pop-up bars will provide refreshments.

When and where? St Andrew Square Garden, 14-16 June

Opening Night Gala: Boyz in the Wood

The European premiere of the social satire Boyz in the Wood will kick-start EIFF 2019. Described as an “anarchic cocktail of generational politics, hip-hop loving farmers, and hallucinogenic rabbit droppings”, music video director Ninian Doff’s first foray into feature film follows four city boys as they try to escape a mysterious huntsman deep in the Scottish Highlands. Just don’t expect the Highlands’ police force to provide any meaningful assistance.

When and where? Festival Theatre, 19 June at 8.45pm

The Family Gala: UglyDolls

Animated musical adventure and global plush-toy phenomenon UglyDolls will premiere at the Family Gala of this year’s festival, giving festival goers a unique opportunity to walk the red carpet. Featuring the acting and singing voices of Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Blake Shelton, Janelle Monae and Pitbull, director Kelly Asbury’s animated tale confronts notions of beauty in a fun and unusual way.

When and where? Festival Theatre, 23 June at 2pm

The People’s Gala: Balance, Not Symmetry

The Jamie Adams drama Balance, Not Symmetry will provide a cinematic tribute to music, art and Scotland at the People’s Gala. Made in close conjunction with Scottish band Biffy Clyro, who assisted with both the storyline and the score, and starring Laura Harrier (of Spider-man: Homecoming fame), the inspirational and moving film is set for its debut during EIFF.

When and where? Festival Theatre, 23 June at 8.30pm

Closing Night Gala: Mrs Lowry and Son

The world premiere of Adrian Noble’s intimate biopic of renowned painter L.S. Lowry, Mrs Lowry and Son will bring the curtain down on EIFF 2019. Timothy Spall stars as the iconic British artist, who found fame for his depictions of industrial life in north-west England. Vanessa Redgrave provides support as Lowry’s mother Elizabeth, with whom the artist lived until her death. The film focuses on the relationship between the pair and on Lowry’s quest for recognition of his work, and Vertigo will release it to UK audiences this summer.

When and where? Festival Theatre, 30 June at 5.15pm

Ticket Information

The full programme of events for the 73rd edition of EIFF is released on 29 May 2019, with tickets going on sale to EIFF Friends and Filmhouse Members at 12pm the same day.

Tickets go on public sale at 10am on 31 May 2019.

How to celebrate Scottish Whisky month in May

Produced in Scotland for centuries, whisky is widely celebrated as the country’s national drink. It’s distinct and varied flavours are heavily influenced by the regions in which it is made, a fact that is celebrated as part of national whisky month in May.

Named uisge beatha in Gaelic, which translates to ‘water of life’, whisky is produced at more than 120 distilleries across Scotland, with each producing unique and stimulating tastes. These distilleries are divided up into 5 main whisky producing regions – Speyside, Islay, Campbeltown, Highland and Lowland – and a visit to any one of these represents a memorable way of celebrating Scottish whisky month in style. Alternatively, there are numerous whisky-themed events and festivals that can tickle the taste buds.

The Distilleries

The source of water or even the presence of peat in a region has a huge influence on the taste of the whisky produced. Each of the 5 whisky producing regions has numerous distilleries to explore – and to sample a dram – while also taking in the spectacular highlights of Scotland’s countryside.

  1. Speyside

Home to 50 distilleries – the most of any of the 5 regions – Speyside is renowned for its fine malt whiskies. As the driest and warmest part of Scotland, located between the Highlands in the west, the farmlands of Aberdeenshire to the east and the beauty of the Cairngorms National Park to the north. Conditions are perfect for growing barley, while the mountain water helps to produce some of the best-loved malt whiskies in existence. To celebrate Scottish Whisky month, don’t miss the world famous Malt Whisky Trail which includes 7 working distilleries, Britain’s only cooperage – the Speyside Cooperage – and the Dallas Dhu historic distillery.

  1. Islay

A small island in the Inner Hebrides, just off Scotland’s west coast, Islay has 9 distilleries that produce delightful single malt Scotch whisky. It’s also home to one of the country’s oldest distilleries, as Bowmore can trace its roots back to 1779. As the island is covered in peat, it is harvested and used in the distilling process to create whiskies with characteristic peaty, oily and smoky flavours.

  1. Lowland

Expect lighter and floral tones of whisky in the Lowland region that reflect the rolling countryside landscapes of southern Scotland. The most accessible of the whisky regions given its travel routes to both Edinburgh and Glasgow, it is also home to a number of newer distilleries, with the development of more in the pipeline.

  1. Campbeltown

Campbeltown might be Scotland’s smallest whisky producing region, but such is the quality of the single malts created at its 3 distilleries that it is considered a region in its own right. Aided by the region’s coastal location – the spectacular and remote Kintyre Peninsula in west Argyll – the Springbank, Glengyle and Glen Scotia distilleries all produce distinct flavours that have garnered a worldwide following.

  1. Highlands

Covering a vast expanse of Scotland, the Highlands whisky region houses 47 distilleries, the oldest and most famous of which is Glenturret – home to the Famous Grouse Experience. Anticipate a diverse range of flavours across this region that reflect the rugged coastlines, changing landscapes, mountainous regions and variable weather conditions

May whisky festivals

On top of a visit to a distillery during Scottish whisky month, why not visit one of the many whisky festivals that take place throughout May? World Whisky Day is also on 18 May, and there’ll be an abundance of whisky-themed events taking place at Scotland’s many distilleries, as well as in bars and restaurants.

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival

Discover the rich history of whisky in Speyside during the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, packed full of behind-the-scenes distillery tours, sensory experiences, whisky-themed walks, music events and an array of arts and crafts. Embark on a whisky tour by train or 4x4, enjoy delightful food and whisky pairings, and explore many of the region’s most iconic distilleries.

When? 1-6 May

Stirling Whisky Festival

Welcoming distillers from all over Scotland to the Stirling Highland Hotel, the Stirling Whisky Festival returns for its 8th year in 2019. Whisky masterclasses come with certain tickets, enabling visitors to try drams of special and rare malts. An exclusive tasting evening at the Stirling Distillery on Friday 10 May will see the Scotch Malt Whisky Society showcase 6 of their unique single malts, with a different food plate for each to provide the perfect accompaniment.

When? 10-12 May

Highland Whisky Festival

Taste some incredible malt whisky from across the Highland region, as the Highland Whisky Festival showcases 8 of the best distilleries from along the North Coast 500 route. As well as exclusive tastings and tours, a range of events will also take place at the Balblair, Glenmorangie, Old Pulteney, Clynelish, The Dalmore, Wolfburn, Tomatin and The Singleton of Glen Ord distilleries.

When? 10-17 May

Edinburgh Whisky Stramash

Hosting numerous whisky experiences in the historic Surgeon’s Hall on Edinburgh’s Nicholson Street, the Edinburgh Whisky Stramash looks to showcase whisky from across Scotland and the rest of the world. Expect quirky tasting sessions and circa 200 whiskies from around the globe!

When? 18-19 May

Feis Ile, The Islay Festival of Music and Malt

Discover the island of Islay’s peaty flavours and take in its unique culture as part of Feis Ile, The Islay Festival of Music and Malt. With a programme packed with Gaelic and traditional music, ceilidhs and events relating to golf, history and natural heritage, among others, the festival is a chance to visit the island’s distilleries while uncovering its distinctive character.

When? 24 May – 1 June

Best eco-lodges to stay at to celebrate World Earth Day

World Earth Day (22 April) is celebrated by more than one billion people around the globe, with an emphasis on tackling climate change, ending plastic pollution and protecting endangered species. Embracing nature is a fundamental part of the world’s largest environmental movement, and Britain has no shortage of incredible eco-friendly locations where the occasion can be marked in style.

Tom’s Eco Lodge, Isle of Wight

Experience UK glamping all year round at Tom’s Eco Lodge on the Isle of Wight, a set of delightful Wood Cabins, Eco Pods and Modulogs that all aim to have the least environmental impact possible. Relax in a spa hot tub on the outside decking of one of the Wood Cabins at Tapnell Farm, or get cosy in one of the specially-built Modulogs – peaceful pods with all the must-have essentials. For a romantic couple’s getaway, try the open-plan Eco Pods, delivering stunning views of the west of the island, or pick a Safari Tent, complete with a rustic kitchen and log burning range cookers, for the ultimate glamping experience.

Asheston Eco Barns, Pembrokeshire

Bursting with character, Asheston Eco Barns in the heart of Pembrokeshire retain many of the original features from their time as stone farm buildings. Alongside underfloor heating and swish bathrooms, expect exposed stonework and buildings packed with the latest renewable technologies, providing luxurious living but without the environmental hit. Visitors receive a welcome hamper on arrival, packed with seasonal produce from across the region.

Rosehill Lodges, Cornwall

With their grass roofs and bubbling hot tubs, Rosehill Lodges deliver a luxury eco experience from a picturesque spot on north Cornwall’s coastline. Porthtowan’s surf-friendly Blue Flag beach is just minutes away, Newquay, St Ives, Land’s End and Falmouth are all easily reachable by car, and there are miles of coastal paths to explore in both directions. Each lodge has been hand-built in the region using environmentally-friendly materials, as part of an award-winning and sustainable approach to tourism.

Waterhouse, Scotland

Unwind at the Waterhouse retreat in south west Scotland, a set of 3 self-catering luxury lodges set in 1.5 acres of beautiful gardens. A short distance from the fishing port of Kirkcudbright, the picturesque setting is perfect for exploring what the region has to offer. Alongside the Waterhouse Lodge, complete with an outdoor hot tub, is The Boathouse, which provides additional sleeping berths if required. Alternatively, Westwater Lodge includes a spacious sun room and a log burner, making it ideal for winter or summer.

Wheatland Farm, Devon

A peaceful haven of 21 acres with 5 places to stay, Wheatland Farm can house up to 26 guests at a time. The wooden holiday lodges run on 100% renewable energy, powered by solar panels and an on-site wind turbine, while the Balebarn eco lodge uses straw bales from the surrounding fields – which explains why the site has scooped Visit England’s top award for sustainable tourism twice.

Bryn Elltyd Eco Guest House, Snowdonia

Nestled at the base of the Moelwyn mountains in a curve of the spectacular Ffestiniog Steam Railway, the Bryn Elltyd Eco Guest House is powered solely by renewable energy. Explore the magical landscapes of Snowdonia and north Wales from the quaint guesthouse, which is perfectly located for adventure activities including Zip World Bounce Below and Zip World Titan, as well as the Llechwedd Slate Caverns and Go Below at Cwmorthin Slate Mine.

Wrostler’s Barn, Cumbria

Hidden away in secluded woodlands near Coniston Water, on the lake’s eastern side, is Wrostler’s Barn, a 3-level converted structure that sleeps up to 12 people. Serving as a back-to-basics rental, the site has no electricity and two compost toilets situated outside. As a rare surviving example of the Lakeland practice of using intersecting slates – known locally as ‘wrostler’ – the off-grid location is surrounded by farmland, protected wildlife areas and a Site of Special Scientific Interest woodland.

Crai Valley Eco Lodges, Brecon Beacons

Found on a busy working farm in the heart of the Brecon Beacons, the Crai Valley Eco Lodges provide spacious accommodation, panoramic views, and ample opportunities for stargazing. Gaze upon the Milky Way from the Dark Sky Discovery Site at Glwydcaenewydd Farm and take in the spectacular views of Llyn-yr-Fan Lake from the large French windows of the lodges.

Cotna Eco Retreat, Cornwall

From eco glamping to boutique style yurts, the Cotna Eco Retreat provides a wonderful insight into organic and sustainable living. Surrounded by picturesque Cornish countryside and a short distance from Gorran Haven; The Lost Gardens of Heligan and the fishing village of Mevagissey are also not far away. The 3 Yurts – Gilliflower, Tregonna King and Fern Pippin – sit in orchards surrounded by Cornish stone walls and ancient woodland, and are named after the 3 apple varieties growing nearby.

48 hours in… Glasgow

Scotland's largest city, Glasgow is renowned for its vibrant arts, music and culture scene, rich architectural heritage and a wealth of friendly locals .

The city has the greatest concentration of creative industries in Britain outside London. Its architectural assets include the Victorian splendour of Glasgow City Chambers, the neo-classical surroundings of the Gallery of Modern Art, and the ultra-modern spikes of Zaha Hadid's Riverside Transport Museum. And with more than 1,500 shops, this fashionable city is recognised as Britain's second largest retail centre.

UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow stages an average of 130 music events in the city every week. It's also considered a place to discover new talent: bands hailing from, or starting their careers here include famous names like Franz Ferdinand, the Fratellis, Belle & Sebastian, Snow Patrol, Travis, Texas and Paolo Nutini.

TIME TO CHECK IN:

The four-star Grand Central Hotel has been open since 1879; this Queen Anne style landmark has 230 rooms and suites, and former guests include politicians and Hollywood stars.

Situated on the Banks of the River Clyde next to The SSE Hydro, the Radisson Red Hotel opened its doors in 2018 and is home to 174 studio rooms. The OUIBar + KTCHEN and rooftop RED Sky Bar, with its craft beers and classy cocktails, mean your food and drink needs are well covered too.

Scotland’s largest bedroomed hotel with 374 rooms, Motel One Glasgow provides a stylish budget option with an interior that takes inspiration from its location next to Glasgow Central Station. The hotel’s signature One Lounge – a breakfast café, bar and living area rolled into one – is themed around the golden age of train travel in Scotland. 

Alternatively, the new Ibis Styles Glasgow Centre West is another that mixes affordability with style across its 137 rooms. The hotel recognises Glasgow’s influence on the global music scene, so keep an eye out for the names of iconic bands and venues that are splashed across the décor.

DAY ONE:

11.00 Take in the Gallery of Modern Art

Discover an incredible collection of contemporary art right in the centre of Glasgow at the Gallery of Modern Art. Thought-provoking displays and temporary exhibitions pack the gallery, and building tours take place at weekends that can introduce the history of the building and the exhibitions within it. 

12:15 Follow in the footsteps of great pioneers

The historic campus of the University of Glasgow is another edifying tourist attraction. Take a self-guided tour of Britain's fourth oldest university, and follow in the footsteps of renowned visionaries such as the pioneer of television John Logie Baird. Not to be missed are the Cloisters - these impressive archways have featured in several films, including OutlanderOutlaw King and Cloud Atlas.

13:30 Enjoy lunch along a cobbled backstreet

A cobbled backstreet close to the university, Ashton Lane is a treasure trove of bohemian bars and restaurants. With its rustic chic interior and a beer garden for al fresco drinking and dining, Belgian-style bar and restaurant Brel is a popular choice. Or try renowned Glasgow bar and eatery the Ubiquitous Chip.

14:30 Experience Glasgow's bohemian side

The neighbourhood that includes the University of Glasgow and Ashton Lane is known as Glasgow's West End. This bohemian quarter of ornate sandstone tenements and cobbled streets is well worth exploring. A fantastic range of vintage and design stores, cafés, bars and specialist delicatessens can be found here. It's also home to the picturesque Botanic Gardens and Kelvingrove Park, as well as Charles Rennie Mackintosh's distinctive and stylish Mackintosh House.

15:30 Explore Scottish and world history

Also located within Glasgow's West End is Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Built in 1901, this grand red sandstone building displays one of Europe's greatest and most eclectic art collections, and is one of Scotland's most popular free-to-enter visitor attractions. Highlights include Salvador Dali's iconic painting Christ Of St John Of The Cross, plus Scottish history and archaeology, dinosaurs, Ancient Egypt, arms and armour, and Dutch Old Masters. Several stunning exhibitions run throughout the year, while visitors can take the Natural History Trail to explore Scotland’s natural world.

19:30 Dine in a cool up-and-coming quarter

Once an industrial area frequented by dockworkers, Finnieston is now a neighbourhood with a cool new vibe. Anchored by The SSE Hydro arena, initially built for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and now a renowned live entertainment venue, the area has witnessed a change in fortune. Known as the city's foodie quarter, a stretch of Argyle Street is now lined with bars and eclectic restaurants, with top picks including industrial eatery The Gannet, tapas-style Indian food at Mother India's Café, or fish and shellfish at Crabshakk

21:30 Sip a cocktail or a dram of whisky

After-dinner options along Argyle Street range from cocktails at Kelvingrove Café to a dram of Scottish whisky and traditional live music at The Ben Nevis.

DAY TWO:

9:30 Visit a champion transport museum

Voted 2013 European Museum of the Year, the spiky Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum is Scotland's museum of transport. Its collection includes a historic Tall Ship, an icon of Glasgow's shipbuilding heritage now moored at Riverside, while inside the vast free-flowing gallery space are trams, trolley buses, vintage cars, bicycles and motorbikes - each object telling a unique story. Discover the story of Glasgow’s telegram messengers throughout 2019 and keep an eye out for numerous one and two-day specialist exhibitions that are held across the year.

11:00 Take a Scottish brunch break

Enjoy a delicious Scottish brunch at Cup, Glasgow's award-winning tea rooms. The tiled Victorian interior of Cup Tea Lounge is truly stunning. There's also Cup Tea Room in Glasgow's West End, and the Cup Tea Garden in stylish Merchant City. Cup's big breakfast includes Scottish cured bacon, sausages and homemade beans. Other choices include Eggs Benedict, Florentine, Royal or Stornoway - the latter two coming with either Scottish smoked salmon or Stornoway Black Pudding. Cup is also a great choice for afternoon tea.

12:00 Shop till you drop in Britain's second largest retail centre

With more than 1,500 shops, Glasgow is recognised as Britain's second largest retail centre, providing one of the best shopping experiences outside London. Glasgow's Style Mile is the city's central shopping district, with all the big high street brands. Tucked away behind the city centre is the Merchant City, one of Glasgow's oldest quarters and an area of huge architectural interest. Dating back to the 1750s, it was home to the warehouses of wealthy merchants. Those old warehouses have since become quirky designer boutiques, bars, restaurants and stylish loft apartments.

14:30 Head out of the city to a grand old country house

In easy reach of Glasgow city centre, Pollok House is a grand country property built in 1752. Now part of the National Trust for Scotland, its lavish family rooms are packed full of period furniture and fine art, while downstairs are vast servants' quarters. Afterwards, hire a bike to explore the surrounding Pollok Country Park - look out for the Highland Cattle and Clydesdale Horses.

19:30 Taste a crisp apple ale and hearty Scottish fare

Britain's first experiential craft brewery, Drygate produce a range of ales and IPAs, and is home to 26 rotating taps and a carefully curated bottle selection. Their Glasgow brewhouse is also home to Drygate's Craft Beer Bar & Kitchen serving seasonal Scottish produce, burgers and charcuterie-grazing boards.

22:00 Listen out for the next big thing in the City of Music

Glasgow is designated UNESCO City of Music thanks to its thriving music scene and multitude of live music venues. King Tut's Wah Wah Hut is consistently named Britain's best small live music venue, or there's the legendary Barrowland Ballroom in the east end of Glasgow, plus Saint Luke's, an exciting music and arts venue in a restored former parish church.

HOW TO GET HERE:

Glasgow is in Scotland, five hours by train north of London, one hour from Edinburgh. Glasgow International Airport is just shy of 9-miles from Glasgow city centre with a bus connection taking 15 minutes.