What To Do On A Staycation in Scotland – Top 10 suggestions

If you are used to  jetting off to the sunshine for you summer holidays, then you might not know what there is to do on a staycation in Scotland. The answer is, there’s a hell of a lot more than you may think!

Since 2008 we’ve been entertaining visitors from around the world with the best activities Scotland has to offer. Based on our experience from the last 12 years and some actual science……… well, OK my personal opinion, but this is the internet so that’s as good as science right?

Here’s our top 10 suggestions for what to do on a staycation in Scotland.

whisky tasting staycation

Whisky Tasting

Scotland has over 130 malt and grain whisky distilleries, making it the largest concentration of whisky production in the world. A large proportion of Scotland’s distilleries run tours which include tastings and you could easily spend several weeks touring the various distilleries.

If you have less time, and / or just fancy a whisky tasting as an addition to a trip, then you can easily just stop off at a distillery for a couple of hours. If you are feeling indulgent, why not have a private tasting run by a whisky expert in your your hotel / self-catering house.

Overall Score – 5.8 / 10

Social distancing – 3 /10 – Not the best for social distancing although not impossible if one is sensible.

Health – 4 / 10 – We all know that whisky makes you feel great….. at the time. Everything in moderation is the key, including moderation.

Cost – 6 / 10 – A full tasting can be a wee bit pricey, but not too bad if shared between a larger group.

Scottishness – 10/ 10 – It’s whisky, is there anything in the world (except haggis) more Scottish?

Excitement – 6 / 10 – Always exciting to try new and beautiful whiskies. Just don’t get over excited on the quantity!

a calmac ferry staycation

Island Hopping

There are over 900 Scottish islands which makes island hopping a fabulous way to spend a staycation in Scotland.  Grab yourself an island hopping “Hopscotch” ticket from CalMac Ferries and away you go!

From the hills of Harris to the incredible white sand beaches of North Uist, the Scottish Islands are breath talking.

Pro tip – No island hopping photo album is complete without at least 1 picture of a CalMac Ferry 

Overall Score – 6.4 / 10

Social distancing – 6/10 – The islands are very small so there are no huge crowds to worry about. Ferries can often be small hence it not scoring higher. Be considerate of locals who, although very welcoming, prefer not to have their islands too overcrowded.

Health – 5 / 10 – A lot of time on ferries is perhaps not the healthiest in terms of amounts of exercise and the temptation for lots of snacking while taking in the view.  Great for fresh sea air though!

Cost – 6 / 8 – Tickets can be quite expensive. Be sure to book in advance

Scottishness – 8 / 10 – Nothing more Scottish than a CalMac ferry trip to a Hebridean Island

Excitement – 7 / 10 – There’s always a sense of excitement getting on a ferry. The boat ride also makes the islands feel very exotic and far away (even if they aren’t that far really!)

Road Tripping

Scotland’s road tripping scene has really taken off recently, especially with the success of the North Coast 500

The NC500 is actually only 1 of countless stunning road trips you can do through our stunning country, but it’s one we particularly recommend as it can be combined with fishing (see the video on the left).

With scenery so good James Bond had to visit (Glencoe in Skyfall), a road trip through the Scottish Highlands scores pretty highly in our top 10 of what to do on a staycation in Scotland.

Overall Score 7 / 10

Social distancing – 9 / 10 – Self contained, in a car so scores well on this measure.

Health – 5 / 10 – Not the best for health, a lot of sitting down and there’s always the road snacks to consider.

Cost – 6 / 8 – You can do this on a budget or as a luxury tour, hence a middling score on this.

Scottishness – 8 / 10 – The scenery is extremely Scottish (being in Scotland).

Excitement – 7 / 10 – Some of the roads are pretty adrenaline-inducing and it’s always a thrill to see what beautiful scenery is just around the corner.

Loch Fishing

Scotland is the home of fishing, and we’ve included “loch fishing” at this point in our top 10 (as opposed to fishing in rivers) as, due to the boat-based element of it, it has different pros and cons to river-based fishing.

Spending the day on a boat in the middle of a stunning Highland Loch is one of the most magical things to do in Scotland. The scenery, the peace, the water lapping around the boat and of course, the tantalising prospect of landing a fish, all combine to give loch fishing a well-deserved spot in our count down of what to do on a staycation in Scotland.

Overall Score 7.4 / 10

Social distancing – 8 / 10 – Isolated in a boat surrounded by water. The only reason it doesn’t get 10 /10 is that there’s normally 2 – 3 to a boat and space is limited. Not an issue if you are all in the same group of course.

Health – 6 / 10 – No exercise as such but if definitely scores points due to the amount of fresh air.

Cost – 8 / 10 – Very cost effective, probably the most reasonably priced form of fishing.

Scottishness – 8 / 10 – Fishing on a Scottish loch, for Scottish fish, from a Scottish boat in the Scottish Highlands. Pretty Scottish we reckon.

Excitement – 7 / 10 – Quite high on the excitement scale for a pastime that is relaxing by definition. The relaxation time is definitely offset by the excitement of catching a fish in our opinion.


There’s no better way to really get into nature than literally getting into nature. Swim, scramble and jump into rivers, waterfalls and secret secluded pools.

This is actually a fairly new activity for us but it’s had universally excellent feedback. We’ve partnered with some incredible local guides who will take you to swim in stunning locations that very few people ever get to see.

Overall Score 7.4 / 10

Social distancing – 6 /10 – Outside in nature, so social distancing from other people is easy. Harder to distance from your guide without putting yourself in danger, hence a middling score.

Health – 9 / 10 – Very healthy, great and very unique exercise.

Cost – 9 / 10 – Very reasonably priced so long as you are in a group (4 people and above).

Scottishness – 4 / 10 – Not exactly a traditional Scottish past time….. but it happens in Scotland so still gets some points.

Excitement – 9 / 10 – Very high score on this, properly adrenaline-pumping in parts.

Walking / Hiking

This is my personal favourite. All you need is a guide book, some good walking boots and a backpack filled with sandwiches, and you have the makings of a stunning day.

Hiking is available for all levels, from quick jaunts with a guide book to full week long hikes led by expert guides.

Whenever we go on holiday in Scotland this is how at least half of our week is spent come rain or shine. The photos on the left are from our 2021 holiday to North Uist, stunning place.

We can suggest all sorts of wild and wonderful ideas for what to do on a staycation in Scotland, but sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best!

Overall Score 8 / 10

Social distancing – 10 /10 – The best walk is a walk where there are no other people for miles around.

Health – 10 / 10 – One of the very best ways of burning calories without destroying your joints.

Cost – 10 / 10 – Free. Unless you prefer having a guide.

Scottishness – 5 / 10 – A fairly universal activity, but Scotland is one of the best places in the world to do it.

Excitement – 5 / 10 – Excitement isn’t really the aim of the game here. Relaxation while also getting exercise and seeing Scotland’s beautiful scenery are the main attractions.


No list of what to do on a staycation in Scotland would would be complete without mentioning golf. Scotland is well known as the home of golf and we have over 500 golf courses.

From famous links courses to the hidden gems, Scotland’s variety of courses means that there’s a course to suit all abilities and preferences. More details here

Overall Score 8.2 / 10

Social distancing – 10 / 10 Golf is almost the perfect past time for social distancing as evidenced by the fact that golf clubs were one of the first things to re-open after lock down 1.

Health – 8 / 10 – Good solid moderate exercise in the outdoors.

Cost – 6 / 10 – Golf covers a very wide price bracket so you can really tailor your golf to your budget.

Scottishness – Invented on the coasts of Fife, East Lothian and Ayrshire over 600 years ago, golf is as Scottish as…… well ….. golf!

Excitement – 7 / 10 – We are going for a moderately high score as the excitement level depends on your opposition and the competitiveness of your game

salmon fishing on the dee

Salmon Fishing 

Salmon fishing in Scotland is a truly unique and special experience. Scotland has some of the best rivers for catching Atlantic salmon in the world and the scenery is second to none.

We always recommend fishing with a guide as it can be difficult to catch anything without one, especially if you don’t know the river. The salmon season depends on which river you are on, but the 1st day on the 1st river to open (the Annan) is the 25th February and the last day of the season is the 30th November on the River Nith and the River Tweed. More details here.

Overall Score 8.6 / 10

Social distancing – 10 / 10 – Standing in the middle of a river in waders surrounded by water. Perfect for social distancing.

Health – 9 / 10 – Standing all day up to your waist in water is a good core work out. There’s also the fresh air that adds to the health benefits. Falls just short of a 10 / 10 as it doesn’t really raise the heart rate.

Cost – 7 / 10 – Just like golf, there’s a very broad spectrum of prices across Scotland’s rivers and dependent on the time of year, hence a middling to good score.

Scottishness – 10 / 10 One of, if not the most iconic Scottish activity there is.

Excitement – 7 / 10 – Just like loch fishing, it’s an overall relaxing pastime punctuated with bursts of very high excitement when there’s a bite!

red stag hunt tour of Scotland

Red deer stag stalking

And thus we come to the penultimate suggestion on our list of what to do on a Scottish staycation, red deer stag stalking.

The red deer stag, the monarch of the glen. Stalking a red deer stag is on the bucket list of every international sporting traveller, and with good reason.  The scenery, the thrill of the hunt, the estate stalker in his tweeds, the highland pony taking the deer off the hill, a red deer stag stalk is an experience that will stay with you forever.

Stalking has been a part of Scottish life for millennia and is an essential activity to maintain the health of the deer population and the biodiversity of the Highlands. We do not offer trophy hunting, all stags shot are on the cull list of the estate and have been selected for culling in order to improve the overall health of the deer population. More details here.

Overall Score 8.8 / 10

Social distancing – 10 / 10 – Open hill, 1 on 1 with the stalker, not another soul for miles around. Perfect.

Health – 10 / 10 – Red deer stag stalking, is not for the faint hearted. Expect to be walking uphill from 09:00- 17:00 with a good dose of crawling and crouching. A good level of fitness definitely required.

Cost – 5 / 10 – Stalking is quite expensive

Scottishness – 10 / 10 – As traditionally Scottish as it gets.

Excitement – 9 / 10 – One of the most exciting ways to spend a day in Scotland. Stalking skill, good aim, and a steady hand required.

Photo stalking

This is a new addition to our top 10 suggestions for what to do on a Scottish Staycation.

Traditionally, the way to see a red deer stag or a fallow buck up close was to go stalking with an estate stalker and a rifle, but we realise this is not for everyone. With a photo stalk you swap your rifle for your camera!

Using traditional stalking techniques, the estate stalker will get your near enough wild red deer stags and fallow buck, in their natural habitat, to get photos that very few people (apart from professional wildlife photographers) will ever be able to rival. Absolute Instagram gold!

Overall Score 9.2 / 10

Social distancing – 10 / 10 – Open hill, 1 on 1 with the stalker, not another soul for miles around. Perfect.

Health – 10 / 10 – Photo stalking, like red deer stag stalking, is not for the faint hearted. Expect to be walking uphill from 09:00- 17:00 with a good dose of crawling and crouching. A good level of fitness definitely required.

Cost – 8 / 10 – Excellent value compared to live stalking, about 1 / 3 of the price for almost the same level of excitement.

Scottishness – 10 / 10 – Deer stalking is very traditionally Scottish, the only difference is you are using a camera rather than a rifle.

Excitement – 9 / 10 – Tracking down wild red stags and fallow bucks in search of the perfect photo opportunity. All the thrill of the hunt without actually making a kill.

If you’d like some more information, or if you’d like some extra suggestions for what to do on a staycation in Scotland, please do not hesitate to get in touch on info@river-green.com