For the Love of Scotland

From coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wilderness, Scotland’s has a wealth of treasures in every corner. Safeguarding many of them is the largest membership organisation in the country, the National Trust for Scotland. The independent conservation charity is supported by its 370,000 members and is almost entirely funded by fees, visits and donations. It not only safeguards the nation’s built and natural heritage but uncovers new chapters in Scotland’s story. Since 1931, the National Trust for Scotland has been fuelled by a love of Scotland and in the coming weeks in The Herald we will pinpoint just a few of its locations which are perfect for a day trip, a longer break or a summer tour, starting today with a look at some of the must-see properties.

Brodick Castle & Country Park

A short island hop to Arran leads to Brodick and a vast baronial estate containing woodlands, waterfalls and trails. The grounds and woodlands have an abundance of wildlife, while Goatfell, Arran’s highest peak, looms over it. If you are there with the wee ones the grounds also contain the Isle Be Wild adventure playpark, somewhere you can let them run wild. The castle itself is arguably the highlight of any visit and has just reopened with a new interpretation of the house, its history and treasures. The present building was built in 1844 but this site, overlooking the Firth of Clyde, has been a strategic base for centuries with Oliver Cromwell positioning a battery here. These stories are told through the castle’s interactive visitor experience. While there are many things to do for a weekend on Arran, Brodick alone is worth the ferry fare.

Crathes Castle, Garden and Estate

A few hours’ drive from Glasgow, Crathes is a key stop on a north-east castle trail with Fraser, Craigievar and Drum all nearby. Home to the Burnetts for 350 years, after the land was gifted to the family by King Robert the Bruce in 1323, Crathes and its maze of turrets and towers is stunning. So too are the walled gardens, divided into eight very different sections and divided with hedgerows planted in 1702. The castle estate was once part of the Royal Forest of Drum and a network of signposted paths crisscross the surrounding woods. Keep an eye open for red squirrels, woodpeckers and herons.

Culzean Castle and Country Park

It’s often said that Culzean alone is worth the price of a National Trust for Scotland membership. It will take you several trips to even scratch the surface of a location which contains 40 buildings and various secret follies. The clifftop castle is a sight to behold and you can understand why US President, Dwight D Eisenhower, loved staying in the rooms, now named in his honour. More importantly, where else on the west coast of Scotland will you find a giant adventure playpark, containing a ship and its own castle? And if you are there during the summer, you can go online to book tours of the spooky and historic sea caves which lie beneath the castle.


Once a stretch of barren land in Wester Ross, Inverewe was transformed into a Highland paradise by Osgood Mackenzie and his daughter, Mairi Sawyer. They collected and nurtured an extraordinary collection of plants and flowers which, aided by the warm Gulf Stream, flourished. Gardeners travel from all over the UK to see their rare collection of plants and flowers while Inverewe hosts a range of events throughout the year, from flower festivals to open air theatre shows. The garden is a marvel – one unique to Scotland. However, nature can often bring the biggest treats and Inverewe is prime territory for spotting Scotland’s ‘big six’ – the red squirrel, red deer, otter, seal, golden eagle and sea eagle.

The Hill House

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s domestic masterpiece, with interiors designed in collaboration with his wife Margaret Macdonald, Hill House is literally under wraps and in the midst of a £4.5m conservation project. The world’s largest chainmail structure is shielding the property from the rain and allowing it to dry out to stop it dissolving like a sugar cube. The restoration offers a completely different perspective of the building and you can now access never-before-seen areas via a network of walkways. With work ongoing, this is also a chance to see conservation in action. And, you can still get inside and see Scotland’s most stylish family home.

Glencoe National Nature Reserve

Nothing prepares you for that first moment entering Glencoe as the hills and mountains rise on either side of you. The experience is breath-taking. You can see why it has featured in movies from Harry Potter to Skyfall – with a dash of Braveheart and Rob Roy in between. Shaped by ice age glaciers, the glen was home to ancient Celtic warriors and is the site of a tragedy which defines it to this day. The newly opened visitor centre and café tells the story of the 1692 massacre, where 38 men, women and children from the MacDonald clan were slaughtered by government troops under the orders of the Secretary of State. More than that, the centre tells the story of Glencoe through the millennia and the people and wildlife who have called it home.

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Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

Sitting at the very heart of Bard territory, this museum contains an unrivalled collection of more than 5000 Burns artefacts, including handwritten manuscripts. It’s a perfect launch point to other Burns sites in the area. From here you can visit the little cottage, where Burns was born and spent his formative years, the monument, Poet’s Path and Brig o’ Doon – where Tam O’Shanter made his escape and his poor Maggie lost her tail. And, if you can muster up the courage, you can visit Alloway Auld Kirk in the evening, "where ghaists and houlets nightly cry."

Newhailes House and Gardens

A country house standing in 80 acres of parkland just outside of Musselburgh, Newhailes is not your average stately home. Here you can see the inner workings of the 18th century villa, from gilded rooms to the abandoned servant’s kitchen and eerie tunnel which links it to the house. At the moment you are more likely to bump into moth-busters rather than paranormal investigators with the National Trust for Scotland currently freezing out the hungry insects. Newhailes is also home to Weehailes adventure playpark. Its towers and walls look straight out of the pages of a fairy tale.

Pollok House

One of Glasgow’s gems. Carefully preserved by the National Trust for Scotland, Pollok is also the Trust’s ‘spiritual home’ and it was here, in the cedar-panelled smoking room, that plans for a national conservation charity were first discussed. You can spend long summer days in the gardens, far removed from the bustle of the city. Inside, the house contains an extraordinary collection of Spanish art. The building and grounds are surrounded by the sprawling Pollok Country Park. Just make sure you say hello on your way in to its most famous residents, the ever-popular family of Highland Coos.

Aside from being an unforgettable day out, by visiting National Trust for Scotland sites or joining as a member you are protecting and preserving Scotland’s heritage. Funds are invested in the properties and exhibitions. The conservation charity’s archaeology team also carry out digs and investigations all year round, which continually challenge our understanding of the sites and their history and uncover forgotten stories. Its properties include eight national nature reserves, 38 gardens and landscapes, 46 Munros, 400 islands and inlets, 26 castles and great houses and thousands or precious artefacts. The National Trust for Scotland is in the midst of a five-year £57million programme improving visitor experience and preserving the heritage in their care. The programme is aimed at increasing donations, growing membership to over 490,000 and increasing annual visitor numbers to more than five million. For more information see