Best Beach

Scotland is blessed with so many to choose from! There's Sanna in Ardnamurchan, Calgary in Mull, Luskentyre in Harris, Sandwood Bay, just north of Kinlochbervie, Gullane and Tantallon.


I worked for a while in Kirkwall in Orkney and I could sometimes manage to eat my lunchtime sandwiches on Scapa beach. But, to be honest, the best beach is the one I can get to most easily, whether that’s Portobello in Edinburgh or the Drum Sands, west of Cramond.

Best Building

Carnegie Library in Dunfermline. Growing up there it seemed normal to me that a city’s library should be the grandest building in town. It had these heavy doors of brass and wood that opened from the street onto a corridor of marble, where stairs to the Reference section and children’s library were worn down by a century of Fifers’ soles. It had a special smell.


I had many happy hours in there, and was happy to graduate early to the adult section that opened up a near infinity of books – a real wonder-palace of knowledge and stories.

Best Street

The street that runs the length of Stromness, in Orkney, with its ups and downs and many bends. It goes by many names: John, Victoria, Graham Place, Dundas, Alfred, South End . . . until finally it peters out in Ness Road and reaches the point where the ferry turns into the harbour.

I was a GP in Stromness some years ago and whenever I walk the street I meet old friends – it seems less of a thoroughfare than a social occasion. A few years ago I worked as a nature warden on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth and its tiny terrace of lighthouse keeper cottages is known as Fluke Street – that’s another favourite. It's a street with more gulls, terns and puffins than people!

Best Childhood Memory

Thanks to my parents I had a very happy childhood, and I'm fortunate enough to have almost too many to choose from. But growing in independence and being able to travel would be high up on the list: perhaps the first time camping out on the hills with the Scouts, or the first time I cycled, with a pal, from Dunfermline up to Glen Lyon and back, carrying all our gear with us. Scotland was opening up to me, with all of its beautiful landscapes, and this gave me a travel bug that has never left.

The Best Place for Alone Time

The hammock in my garden – behind the “do not disturb” sign.

Best Walk

The Fife Coastal Path is very special. Over the years I’ve done almost all of it as short stretches, but have no rush to complete it – just enjoying each part for its own merits. I think my favourite is to start in Crail and walk around to St Andrews.


There’s a glorious open feeling to watching the sea horizon widen out towards Denmark and Norway, and no traffic to speak of. From St Andrews you can carry on (after a bag of fish and chips on the harbour wall to restore your energies) to Leuchars and into Tentsmuir Forest. It’s a treat to experience all the contrasts between town and country, seashore and forest.

Best Scottish Delicacy

I’d go with whisky, but given that we’re currently into the raspberry season I’ll go instead with cranachan.

Best Shop

Stromness Books and Prints in Orkney is a tiny wee shop, barely more than a few square feet, but I have never been in without finding three or four books I didn’t know I needed in my life. The bookseller Sheena Winter is a wizard at knowing exactly what to stock. For second-hand books I can lose hours in Leakey’s of Inverness. It’s a converted church that still holds a sense of hushed cathedral silence. But instead of pews and pulpits there are shelves and shelves of books about everything you can think of.

Best View

The panorama you can see from the top of any of the Ochil Hills has always seemed extraordinary – the summits of Kingseat or Ben Cleuch or Dumyat. The whole of the isthmus of Scotland is laid out before you, from North Berwick Law in the east to the Fintry Hills and Ben Lomond in the west.


From the top of Ben Cleuch I once made out Goat Fell on Arran – just. And beneath your feet there’s a chessboard of fields and forests stretching from Clackmannanshire into Fife, with the Forth flowing towards Queensferry, and its glorious bridges. Can’t beat it!

Gavin Francis is the author of Island Dreams , Mapping an Obsession and Intensive Care: A GP, a Community & COVID-19. He will be at Glenkinchie Big Top at Fringe By The Sea at 1pm on Sunday, August 15.