THOUGH we’re a small country, it’s impossible to run out of great places to visit in Scotland.

The sheer wealth and breadth of the scenery, history and culture means you should never run out of travel inspiration, especially when there are new attractions being added all the time.

So, if your new year’s resolution for 2019 is to see more of Scotland, why not try some of the destinations and trips below. Part two follows next week.

Mary Queen of Scots tour

With less than three weeks to go until the big-budget biopic of Scotland’s most famous monarch gets its cinematic release with Sorcha Ronan is in the title role, now is the perfect time to explore some of the places that featured so prominently in Mary’s dramatic life story. Linlithgow and Holyrood palaces are must-see stops on the royal trail, of course, as is Loch Leven Castle near Kinross, where the young Queen was imprisoned, then later escaped. But there are plenty of lesser known gems on the Mary tour, too, such as Falkland Palace, her hunting lodge in Fife, the evocative island priory at Inchmahome, Dundrennan Abbey and Dunbar Castle.

Burns Cottage

On January 25 we will celebrate the 260th birthday of our national bard with haggis, whisky, poetry and dancing in Burns Night celebrations across the country and around the world. But if you’re looking to get to know Robert Burns a bit more intimately, pay a visit to the cottage ( in Alloway, Ayrshire, where he lived as a child, side by side with farm animals.

This humble abode provides a wonderful insight into the early experiences that shaped the young Rabbie and fired his imagination. Highlights include the tiny box bed where Burns slept with his three siblings and the spooky re-enactment of Tam O’ Shanter in the kitchen. Afterwards, pop into the nearby Poet’s Corner café for a cuppa – the snowballs are a revelation.

Up Helly Aa, Shetland, 29 January

If it’s a fiery end to the January gloom you’re after, Up Helly Aa, the UK’s biggest fire festival (, is the place to be. Spectacular in every way, the big event is the torch-lit parade through Lerwick featuring hundreds of locals dressed as Vikings which ends with galley ship being set ablaze. After that, pretty much everyone parties till dawn. If you need a hangover brunch on the morning after the night before, head to the chilled out café at the excellent Mareel arts centre (

Hebridean Whale Trail

Scotland is home to a quarter of the world’s whale and dolphin species and there are surely few more beautiful places to glimpse them in the stunning waters off the west coast. Devised by the Mull-based Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust Set and set to launch this summer, this innovative project brings together 25 great whale -watching sites up and down the west coast, helping visitors make the most of the magnificent mammals - as well as the other marine life and birds - through linking to tourist businesses and highlighting the fascinating relationship between whales and humans. See for more details.

Visit the Orkney Distillery

Fans of Orkney Gin will already be well aware of the Kirkwall distillery ( that produces this flavoursome craft spirit. Opened last summer, complete with a visitors’ centre and café, it adds yet another good reason – if any were needed - to visit historic Kirkwall and the beautiful Orcadian archipelago it serves as capital. If you’re looking for bucket-list moments while you’re up there, visit the preserved Neolithic village of Skara Brae, see the Old Man of Hoy rise out of the sea and take the world shortest commercial flight, from Westray to Papa Westray.

Hebridean Whisky Trail

Speaking of distilleries, whisky aficionados from across the world are already catching on to this stunning route through the Hebrides, launched last summer to help visitors enjoy the best of Scotland’s national drink. Weaving its way through Skye (Talisker and Torabhaig), across to the Isle of Rasaay and back, then over the Minch to Harris (where the distillery also makes the renowned gin), this trail offers a unique perspective on the spirit of the isles, the water of life and the people and communities that distil it. Is there a more beautiful alcohol-themed trail anywhere in the world? Surely not. See for more details.

Stay at the Doghouse

Staying with the booze theme, craft beer pioneers BrewDog are building the UK’s first craft beer hotel at the company’s headquarters in Aberdeenshire, following the successful launch of the prototype Doghouse in Ohio. Due for opening in the first part of the year, each of the 26 rooms in the Ellon hotel will feature beer taps, not to mention another essential - beer fridges in the showers. Offering an immersive experience, all the rooms overlook the brewery, allowing guests to watch as the beer magic happens.

Solheim Cup, 9 -15 September, Gleneagles

It’s not every year that one of the most prestigious events in the global sporting calendar lands on your doorstep, and that’s exactly what the Solheim Cup, the biggest tournament in women’s golf, represents. Taking place at Gleneagles over a week in September, five years after the Ryder Cup was held - and won by Europe - at the same venue, the women’s Euro team will be hoping to replicate the winning ways of their male counterparts. More than 100,000 spectators are expected to watch some of the best players in the world compete for team, country and continent at one of the most beautiful gold courses in the world.

If you need a break from the action on the course, head to Auchterarder, where you’ll find a rich array of independent shops and cafes, as highlighted in our recent guide. Delvino, in the High Street, is renowned for its delicious smoked bacon ciabattas and great coffee.

Drive the South Coast 300

Though it doesn’t yet have the recognition factor of its big cousin, the North Coast 500, this epic road trip also takes you through some of Scotland’s most stunning landscapes.

You’ll experience it all on this quiet circular route – hills, lochs, forests and glens – as well as soaking up the life and history of this part of the country in the varied villages and towns. Highlights include a drive though the Mennock Pass in the Lowther Hills, stopping off at Wanlockhead, Scotland’s highest village at 467m.

Onwards to the beautiful Solway coast, through historic Kirkcudbright, then out to the remote Mull of Galloway, Scotland’s most southerly point, which offers fine views south to the Lakeland Fells and the Isle of Man.

The Machars Peninsula is steeped in the history of St Ninian, while a stop-off in Portpatrick is a must to experience the town’s lively harbourside pubs and restaurants.