Do you want to come to Scotland? Magic! I can’t wait to show you the incredible places to stay in awe-inspiring locations within Scotland!
When I stay away from home, I do not like to stay in a ‘corporate’ style room. I like the feeling of being part of the place and to take time to interact and engage with the people I meet on my travels. And Scottish people are the people you want to meet, their stories to hear. Because it is these moments of connection that you experience and the friendships you form that truly make travel memorable.
When I choose somewhere to stay, I am not interested in whether reception or room service answers my call in three rings or if there is a business centre. What matters to me is that my breakfast is sourced from the local farm and the eggs are from chickens who freely explore nearby hills.
It matters to me that I meet the host or proprietor who cooks the dinner from ingredients sustainably sourced from local producers.
When I stay away from home, I want to know that my choice will affect the local community; its economy, sustainability and its future.
What’s better than sitting by a cosy fireplace with a wee dram of Drambuie (Scottish sweet whisky) and a book?
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Table of Contents
How to Choose Accommodation in Scotland?
I think the key factor when deciding on accommodation is to determine the reason for your visit to Scotland. Is it a short city break? Long stay in the countryside? Road trip or hiking in the mountains? Is there a special occasion to celebrate?
Whatever type of trip you are planning, there is something for everyone’s style and budget. But I agree that when you visit Scotland for the first time, these choices can overwhelm you, especially when you do not know where to go.
As soon as you figure out your plans following my guide to planning your trip, it’s time to determine what you really want from your holiday accommodation Scotland.
A bit of luxury and pampering in a 4 or 5* hotel? Do you value your privacy? Romantic stay with your partner in a charming castle?
Do you have a car and parking will be needed? Are you bringing a pet? Or do you need a family-friendly hotel? Or perhaps you’re travelling with your mum who has difficulty walking and needs an accessible room?
How far in advance should you book your accommodation?
I think booking accommodation in Scotland is the most overlooked task in planning a trip. People who come to Scotland often underestimate how busy we are and how limited we are with accommodation choices. Especially on islands and in remote places in the Highlands, it is sometimes not possible to stay in 4 or 5* hotels just because there are not many available or in some places, none at all.
So, priority number one is to secure your accommodation as soon as possible. As I mentioned previously, during major events like the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh (August) and Hogmanay (New Year), prices get very high, and availability is very limited.
I have been working for years in a destination management company and we always advise that to get the best value, you must book your accommodation at least six months in advance.
Outside of peak season there are rarely problems with finding accommodation unless there is an event happening nearby, like Up Helly Aa in Lerwick (Shetlands) or Hogmanay in Edinburgh.
How do you book accommodation in Scotland?
The most two popular booking platforms are Booking.com and VRBO.
Make sure you are familiar with booking procedures and you do do mistakes when booking a hotel room.
However, in Scotland there are many properties you will not find on those sites. Some castles or manor houses only take bookings through their websites. In the Highlands or Hebrides, many B&Bs do not even have a website and you can only make a booking over the phone or email.
In some places like Islay, accommodation is much more expensive than other remote parts of Scotland. This is because of the whisky the island is famous for. Also, on many occasions your booking will be non-refundable, for example, if the ferry to Islay is cancelled you do not get a refund. So, travel insurance is kind of obligatory!
On the Isle of Skye or in the Fort William area, the minimum stay is at least 2 nights, and often 3 nights. And again, booking in advance is highly recommended unless you want to sleep in your car as often happens with disorganised travellers!
Where do you want to stay?
Before you book your holiday accommodation in Scotland you need to know where you’re going, right? So, you should have at least some idea of your itinerary. For example, if you’re planning a road trip and will be staying at different places throughout your trip, you’ll want to craft your itinerary first.
When choosing your accommodation, support the Scottish economy by choosing small local establishments instead of international chains. For me, it means supporting the local community and engaging with local people. Chain hotels, although they might have amenities you are looking for, are more anonymous and impersonal in my opinion.
It’s quite important to write down what you are looking for when choosing accommodation;
- How much do you want to spend?
- An idea of the location you want to be in
- Accommodation type or character (castle, manor house, pub or perhaps a cottage)
- Uniqueness (a treehouse?)
- Amenities (like a pool or spa)
- Grading (2*, 3*, 4* or 5*)
- Do you need breakfast?
- Other recommendations?
If your trip is to a city or if you plan on using one central base to go out and explore from, you’ll want to book your holiday accommodation Scotland next to make sure you have a wide range of places to choose from.
A Quality Assurance scheme has been developed by Visit Scotland to grade Scottish establishments with the aim of giving visitors clear information about what kind of service they can expect when visiting Scotland.
The holiday accommodation in Scotland is graded from 1* basic accommodation to 5* luxury. So, be careful because in some countries first-class means the best and you don’t want to be disappointed. The same grading system also applies to visitor attractions, venues, experiences or places to eat. Remember, the accommodation you choose is a key part of your holiday experience. Choose it wisely!
B&Bs, Guest Houses and Farmhouses
Rural retreat, coastal stay or romantic B&B? There is so much to think about and choose from holiday accommodation in Scotland. B&Bs in Scotland are usually small establishments, with 3 to 5 rooms at most. Staying with the host in their own family home means you will receive a very personal, warm Scottish welcome. A B&B stay is a perfect accommodation choice for someone who values comfort and a safe environment. If you want to feel like at home and be hosted by locals, then a B&B is an excellent choice.
I would not recommend staying in a B&B if you have small children and many B&Bs, unfortunately, do not accommodate children because of insurance restrictions. Some B&Bs have rooms ensuite, but many rooms have shared facilities. This means your bathroom is outside of your room and could be shared with someone else.
These rooms are usually cheaper but if you are not comfortable sharing the bathroom with someone else then re-consider your choice. Rooms with private facilities mean your bathroom is outside of your room, but it will be yours exclusively for the duration of your stay.
If you are not happy to walk to the bathroom across the corridor, check with the host on the availability of ensuite rooms. Lastly, please note that many B&B owners do not let you stay in your room during the day.
Guest Houses are similar to B&Bs but are bigger properties with at least four bedrooms for guests.
Farmhouses are usually located in remote places and could be in the form of B&B accommodation (breakfast included), but often offer self-catering options. Farmhouses are usually working farms so there may be animals present.
Premium, luxury or boutique? Pet or family-friendly? Centrally located or an escape to the country? Some are local landmarks like the iconic Balmoral Hotel, Victorian-inspired townhouses (Dunstane Houses) or sleeping in a huge four-poster bed made from an old church pulpit (the Witchery by the Castle). Others are glorious retreats set in miles of nature with no telephone signal or Wi-Fi.
Luxury Hotels in Scotland offer wonderful locations, warm hospitality, great food and impeccable service. Among luxury hotels are world-class golf venues, castles, and city centre properties. If you are looking for tradition, romance and authenticity this may be your best choice
Scottish Castle Hotels and Manor Houses
Fancy sleeping in a wooden carved four-poster bed? Staying in a Scottish Castle Hotel is truly a one-of-a-kind holiday. We have fairy-tale castles with open log fires, bedrooms with tall ceilings and wooden beamed roofs, places of quiet beauty with woodlands, lawns and breath-taking gardens. Castles with medieval ambience but with modern facilities. Some castle hotels are famous for their paranormal activity; perfect if you are looking for an adrenaline rush!
Scottish Castles or Stately Homes for exclusive use
If you’d like to throw the ultimate party, wedding or corporate event, Scottish castles or stately homes for exclusive use are a great choice. Often family-owned and managed, they offer the very best in Scottish hospitality and a truly memorable and bespoke experience. Usually, such venues provide catering and organise activities.
Budget-Friendly Accommodation (Hostel, Backpackers, Group Accommodation, Activity accommodation, Bunkhouse)
If you are travelling solo, on a budget or with a group of friends and do not want to break the bank, then lively hostels, bunkhouses or backpackers are your best options. Price often depends on criteria such as location, facilities, time of year and age.
Self-Catering - Serviced Apartments and Cottages
Superb and spectacular houses or traditional stone cottages with some best views – Scottish cottages offer a variety of holiday accommodation. Serviced apartments are usually within cities while cottages are in more unique areas. All across Scotland, there are properties to suit all pockets and tastes. Ideal for families, dog lovers or longer stays.
Notes: check T&Cs as most of these require a non-refundable deposit, have a longer cancellation policy and have a minimum stay requirement. Changeover is usually the same day each week, e.g., Saturday.
Camping, Glamping and Caravan Sites
Countryside, coastal, woodland or surrounded by hills? Planning your camping holidays can be overwhelming. Whether it’s a tent, motorhome, campervan or glamping, here in Scotland you will find a range of campsites with excellent facilities. Stargazing, beautiful castle camping spots or ‘wild’ camping are the most popular.
Wild camping is permitted all across Scotland which means you are allowed to camp on most unenclosed land, although it’s always worth checking with the landowner if you’re unsure. What better way to get close to the best stargazing spots?
Please note, it is strongly advised that campers make every effort to take care of their surrounding environment and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Be prepared for all weathers. Campsites are usually open from March to October, but Scotland’s weather can still be unpredictable in the summer months.
Unique or quirky accommodation
Ranging from lighthouses, fishing boats and hobbit hideaways to treehouses or bus stops, Scots come up with some incredible ways of offering luxury holiday accommodation experiences in jaw-dropping holiday lets. These are usually located somewhere remote without access to email or social media or even TV. Instead, you’ll have instant access to the wilderness to gaze at stars, swim in the wild, to hike or bag a Munro.
Like other self-catering accommodation, T&Cs are stricter than those of hotels or B&Bs. Very unique properties might be popular and booking can be required as much in advance as a year ahead.
Pubs & Inns
Pubs and Inns in Scotland offer rooms with a special character. Restaurants with rooms, as they are often called, are rather small properties providing friendly and relaxing bed-and-breakfast, mostly rated as 2* and 3*. From budget-friendly to more luxury in character, they are great for people who want to engage with locals and do not mind late live music sessions. If you’d prefer a quiet stay, avoid this type of accommodation.
Scotland has plenty of accessible accommodation for all kinds of budgets and experiences.
From trendy and modern to more traditional hotels, hostels and self-catering lodges, everyone can find something perfect.
Scotland has fully accessible public transport, no matter where you stay.
Note on accessible accommodation: in remote parts of Scotland, the Highlands and islands, hotels are usually small, and the availability of such rooms can be limited. Book well in advance to secure your accommodation.
Also, it’s a good idea to contact the hotel directly to check what their accessible rooms include. Not all accessible rooms are the same. If you are travelling in an American-style wheelchair, these are often bigger and wider than our UK standards, so make sure to communicate that information to the hotel.
This is especially important if you or someone else cannot leave your wheelchair and require a roll-in shower. Not all accessible rooms have the same facilities so it’s better to check in advance.
Most of the properties feature
- Suitable for visitors with limited mobility
- Wheelchairs or mobility aids provided
- Partially suitable for visitors with limited mobility
- Lift or stairlift
- Large print, braille or audio loop
- Access guide
- Tactile route for visitors with visual impairments
- Disabled Access Guide available at Euans Guide
Bothy cabins and mountain huts offer the ultimate experience of living in wild. These abandoned crofts are free to stay in. Unlocked and available for everyone to use, these shelters are usually located in very remote locations, a few hours’ walking from the road. They just offer a place to stay with walls and a roof.
There are no toilets or other facilities; some bothies have a sleeping platform, some not. Sometimes there is a fireplace, but you’ll need to bring your own fuel. You need your own sleeping bag and to be prepared to share the bothy with someone else. In some popular hiking areas bothies are in demand, and there is a chance there will be no space left. So always consider taking a small tent with you.
More information about bothies find here
I recommend reading the Scottish Bothy Bible if you plan to take a few days’ hiking trip during your visit.