National Trust for Scotland’s best places to visit

Days out

Posted by Ed Roberts on 20th March 2020

Disclaimer

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

National Trust Scotland

Scotland, the most northerly country in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, is a beautiful place full of dramatic contrasts. It is a fantastic land of natural beauty and has been a top holiday destination for over one hundred years. Many of Scotland’s castles, country houses, stately homes, battlegrounds, and other places of historical interest are owned and/or managed by National Trust for Scotland. As well as managing heritage buildings, National Trust for Scotland is the custodian of vast swathes of open country as well as country estates that include mountains and miles of the Scottish coastline.

National Trust for Scotland performs an equivalent role to National Trust (UK) but it is a separate entity entirely. First established in 1931 to preserve Scottish heritage, places of historical interest, and areas of natural beauty, National Trust for Scotland has gone from strength to strength. The organisation offers worldwide access, which means free or concessionary entry to current members of any National Trust organisations properties everywhere, including in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

We have many self-catering holiday properties all across the country, within driving distance of many of National Trust for Scotland’s castles, houses, stately homes, and beauty spots. Read our guide to some of our favourite family-friendly, dog-friendly, and history buff-friendly NTS properties to get some inspiration for your next adventure above the border.

Find your perfect
holiday home in Scotland

Skip to:

👪 Family-friendly places in Scotland

🐕 Dog-friendly places in Scotland

🏰Historical places of importance in Scotland

The best family-friendly National Trust for Scotland places to visit

J.M. Barrie’s Birthplace, Angus

An all-weather favourite for the whole gang, this National Trust for Scotland property is a family-friendly delight. Visit the birthplace of J M Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. Born in Kirriemuir, just a few miles from Forfar in 1860, J M Barrie was one of ten children to a handloom weaver. Next door to the house is the wash house which doubled for his first theatre. It’s been over 160 years since the author’s birth and his literary legacy lives on.  

 

Nowadays, the house next door is a museum, home to an excellent exhibition of items from J M Barrie’s life. Look out for the living-willow crocodile in the adjoining garden. See an early manuscript of Peter Pan, the author’s writing desk, and a family christening gown. For fun, check out the film Finding Neverland to see a broad depiction of J M Barrie (as portrayed by Johnny Depp) and his antics as a playwright in London.

⭐ Don’t miss: The willow crocodile as depicted in Peter Pan!

🌦 Best conditions: All weathers as this is a great indoor attraction.

☕ Facilities: Gift shop, parking, tours, children’s activities, WCs, (please note the cottage has not been adapted for wheelchair access/assistance dogs permitted).

🏠 Stay nearby: Baldovie Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 2 dogs 

St Abb’s Head Nature Reserve, Berwickshire

If your family are budding birdwatchers, St Abb's Head is a superb place to develop your ornithological skills. This nature reserve near Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders is a large site where you can observe cliff-nesting seabirds between May to August.

Watch the hordes of birds going about their lives high above the waves of the North Sea. See the colonies of guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills, shags, fulmars, puffins, and herring gulls which nest on narrow ledges of the 90-metre high cliffs. Book ahead for ranger-led walks from the visitor centre.

⭐ Don’t miss: The season of ranger-led tours of the nature reserve.

🌦 Best conditions: Clear days with low wind speeds.

☕ Facilities: Visitor centre, gift shop, WCs, parking, tours.

🏠 Stay nearby: The Hideaway | Sleeps: 6 guests plus 2 dogs

The Pineapple, Stirlingshire

This National Trust for Scotland property is bound to appeal to a kid’s sense of humour and an affection for random architecture. As the name suggests, The Pineapple is a large structure on top of the roof of a house in the shape of a piece of tropical fruit. Pineapples have been grown in Scotland since the early 1700s and they were grown, along with other unusual fruit and vegetables, in the pits and greenhouses at The Pineapple.

This bizarre structure of The Pineapple was built in 1761 for the Earl of Dunmore as a summerhouse. The folly itself is not open to the public but you are very welcome to take a walk in the lovely walled garden or enjoy a peaceful walk around the pond and through the surrounding woodland. It’s a relaxing short stroll for those of you with a pram or toddlers, who can enjoy the gentle surroundings.

⭐ Don’t miss: A photo opportunity with the giant pineapple.

🌦 Best conditions: Sunny days are best but there are lots of paths to avoid muddy patches after rain.

☕ Facilities: Pram and wheelchair access, parking, picnic area.

🏠 Stay nearby: Stable Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog 

Family-friendly cottages in Scotland

The best dog-friendly National Trust places to visit in Scotland

The Pass of Killiecrankie, Perthshire

Visit the Pass of Killiecrankie with your dog on your trip to Scotland. This National Trust for Scotland land-managed woodland gorge with the River Garry winding through it, is a wonderful choice for a day out with the dog at heel. Highlights include: Soldier’s Leap - an 18-foot drop where (as the name suggests) a Redcoat soldier jumped into the river to escape the Jacobites, and wildlife that includes the lesser-spotted red squirrel. Rare fungi grow in the gorge too along with unusual species of ferns.

The name Killiecrankie is derived from Gaelic as ‘Place of the woodpecker’. This is just one fact you can learn about the Pass at the visitor centre on site. For adrenalin addicts, there are some cool outdoor sports providers at Killiecrankie too like a bungee jump.

⭐ Don’t miss: Find out the full story of Soldier’s Leap at the visitor centre, then head out there.

🌦 Best conditions: We’d choose winter. Dress up well and it’s beautiful no matter what the weather is like.

☕ Facilities: Visitor centre, hot drinks, gift shop, museum, WCs, baby changing, children’s activities, play area, parking, large vehicle parking, self-guided walking trails.

🏠 Stay nearby: The Whisky Room | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 1 dog 

Rockcliffe, Dumfries & Galloway

Rockliffe is home to a lovely coastal trail managed by the National Trust for Scotland. It stretches along the Solway Firth on the southern edge of the south-westerly county of Dumfries and Galloway. This beautiful nature reserve is doggy heaven, with miles of wildflower meadows and quaint sailing villages to visit. Rich with woodland copses full of colourful butterflies and birds, it’s a fantastic choice for a long walk with your dog.

One of Rockliffe’s most famous beauty spots is the ancient trading post of Mote of Mark. Dating back to the 6th century, you can see ramparts from the period close to the summit. The views from the top are stunning from here. Head to Kippford or Rockliffe (village) to pick up either end of the main trail, including Jubilee Path and The Muckle. Put your dog on a lead if you want to visit the bird reserve at Rough Island which opens all year round (except for May and June during the ground-nesting period of some species).

⭐ Don’t miss: The Mote of Mark for incredible sea views.

🌦 Best conditions: A clear day for the views.

☕ Facilities: Parking, WCs, local café in the village of Rockford.

🏠 Stay nearby: Craigs Farmhouse | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 1 dog 

Linn of Tummell, Perth & Kinross

Linn of Tummel is a delightful prospect for a dog-friendly day out on a National Trust for Scotland property. Visit the confluence of two rivers, the Garry and Tummel, at this 19-hectare property. It’s a natural delight which is characteristic of ‘Big Tree Country’, the local nickname for the Highland Perthshire countryside.

Highlights of a visit would include the extraordinary fish ladder, which was built to aid the passage of salmon upstream on their way to the spawning ground, and an obelisk that was installed to commemorate a visit to Linn of Tummel by Queen Victoria in 1844. The views are incredible and the wildlife prolific. Look out for pine martens, red squirrels, and otters. It’s a great place for a wonderful waterside walk in the woods with the pooch.

⭐ Don’t miss: The fish ladder is great to see as you don’t see too many.

🌦 Best conditions: Sunny to catch the blades of sunshine through the tree canopy.

☕ Facilities: Parking.

🏠 Stay nearby: Kennels Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 4 dogs 

Dog-friendly cottages in Scotland

 

The best National Trust for Scotland attractions of historical interest 

The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre, Stirlingshire

Stand in the footsteps of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, for it was here in 1314 that his forces rallied against Edward II’s army to win the fight for independence from England. History buffs will get a kick out of such a visit to a very important place in Scotland’s war-torn history.

Today the National Trust for Scotland hosts a Heritage Centre where visitors can learn more about the Battle of Bannockburn through a series of interactive displays, audio-visual shows, and a riveting exhibition. The 3D Battle Experience is not to be missed and is fun and educational for older children.

⭐ Don’t miss: Look for the borestone, Robert the Bruce’s command post.

🌦 Best conditions: Sunny days.

☕ Facilities: Café, shop, WCs, wheelchair access, parking.

🏠 Stay nearby: Barn Cottage - Cauldhame | Sleeps: 4 guests 

Culzean Castle and Country Park, Ayrshire

In a land defined by its castles and stately homes, Scotland’s Culzean Castle is one of its finest. Visit the castle to admire the period objects, take in the panoramic view of the Clyde from the Round Drawing Room and investigate one of the world’s largest collections of swords and pistols in the armoury. There are around 40 historical buildings and follies hidden throughout the estate as well as 3 miles of shoreline to explore, formal gardens and a woodland trail to the Swan Pond.

Built for Robert Adams in the 18th century, its location high on a cliff above the waters of the Firth of Clyde give it an enviable position. However, everybody can share the views on a visit and it makes for a stunning diversion for garden lovers and historians alike on a holiday to Scotland.

⭐ Don’t miss: The armoury is a spectacle in itself.

🌦 Best conditions: Culzean is an all-weather attraction with just as much to enjoy indoors as outdoors.

☕ Facilities: Café, shop, WCs, pram, and wheelchair access, tours, parking, baby changing, play area, children’s activities, dogs welcome in the grounds only, large vehicle parking, picnic areas.

🏠 Stay nearby: Beechgrove | Sleeps: 10 guests plus 2 dogs  

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Ayrshire

Robert Burns is one of Scotland’s most famous verse writers, so fans of Tam O’Shanter can devote a full day to visiting the place of his birth and other local associated landmarks. The museum is made up of the Burns Cottage, an elegant monument and some landscaped gardens created in his honour, there’s also a modern museum housing the world’s most important collection of his life and works.  

Take lunch or dinner at Brig o’ Doon House, overlooking the actual Brig o’ Doon that features at the climax of Tam O’ Shanter. The restaurant is loved for traditional Scottish dishes. The Brig and the Burns Memorial Gardens is very close by for a post-meal stroll too.

⭐ Don’t miss: Walk across the famous Brig o’Doon.

🌦 Best conditions: A good bet for a mild spring day to see the daffodils in the park.

☕ Facilities: Café, shop, WCs, pram access, parking, baby changing, children’s activities.

🏠 Stay nearby: Failford Cottage | Sleeps: 6 guests plus 2 dogs 

Cottages in Scotland
for history lovers

Stay with us in Scotland

We have some lovely self-catering holiday cottages throughout Scotland, close to many National Trust for Scotland properties and areas of beauty to inspire your visit. Where will you stay on your holiday in Scotland?

Browse cottages

Map of National Trust for Scotland’s best places to visit

PHOTO CREDITS

JM Barrie 1 = @ nationaltrustforscotland

JM Barrie 2 = @ visitscotland

St Abb's Head 1 = @ jddunn611

St Abb's Head 2 [email protected] visitscotland

The Dunmore Pineapple 1 = @ Mystylerow

The Dunmore Pineapple 2 = @ evoneo32i

Pass of Killiecrankie 1 = @ realaerialfilming

Pass of Killiecrankie 2 = @ bufaurten.it

Rockcliffe 1 = @ mjgorton1989

Rockcliffe 2 = @ -sarahwillks-

Linn of Tummell 1 = @ theoldmanseofblair

Linn of Tummell 2 = @ dogwalkerpitlochry

Battle of Bannockburn 1 + 2 = @ battleofbannockburn

Culzean Castle 1 + 2 = @ culzean

Robert Burns Birthplace 1 + 2 = @ robertburnsnts