The best National Trust places to visit in Scotland

Days out, Family, Educational

Posted by Ed Roberts on 13th July 2023

A view in Scotland

Scotland, the most northerly country in the UK, is a beautiful place full of dramatic contrasts. Many of Scotland’s castles, country houses, stately homes and battlegrounds are owned and/or managed by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). The organisation is also the custodian of vast swathes of open country as well as country estates that include mountains and miles of the Scottish coastline.

The National Trust for Scotland performs an equivalent role to the 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, the National Trust for Scotland has gone from strength to strength.

We have many self-catering holiday properties all across the country, within driving distance of many of the National Trust for Scotland's heritage buildings and beauty spots. Read our guide to some of our favourite family-friendly, dog-friendly, and historic properties to get some inspiration for your next adventure across the border.

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

J.M. Barrie’s BirthplacePhoto credit: @nationaltrustforscotland

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 born of a handloom weaver. Next door to the house is the wash house which doubled for his first theatre. 

J.M. Barrie’s Birthplace sign on the wallPhoto credit: @visitscotland

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.

Location: 13 Brechin Rd, Kirriemuir, DD8 4BX

Price for non-members: See here.

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 but assistance dogs are permitted)

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

The coast at St Abb’s Head Nature Reserve

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 and August.

Lighthouse at St Abb’s Head Nature ReservePhoto credit: @visitscotland

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 the narrow ledges of the 90-metre-high cliffs. Book ahead for ranger-led walks from the visitor centre.

Location: Northfield, St Abbs, Berwickshire, TD14 5QF

Price for non-members: Free, car park is £3

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 3 dogs

The Dunmore Pineapple framed by spring blossomPhoto credit: @mystylerow

The Pineapple, Stirlingshire

This National Trust for Scotland property is bound to appeal to a kid’s sense of humour and 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.

Looking up at The Dunmore 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 wander 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.

Location: Airth, Falkirk, FK2 8LU

Price for non-members: Free, car park is £3

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: Crosshill Barn | 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 on an autumn day

The Pass of Killiecrankie, Perthshire

Visit the Pass of Killiecrankie with your dog on your trip to Scotland. This National Trust for Scotland's 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.

Soldier's Leap at the Pass of Killiecrankie

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 offering activities like bungee jumping.

Location: Pitlochry, Perthshire, PH16 5LQ

Price for non-members: Free, car park is £3

Don’t miss: Find out the full story of Soldier’s Leap at the visitor centre

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

Looking across the coast at RockcliffePhoto credit: @mjgorton1989

Rockcliffe, Dumfries and 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.

The Mote of Mark at Rockcliffe

One of Rockcliffe’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).

Location: Dalbeattie, DG5 4QQ

Price for non-members: Free

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: Studio Lodge | Sleeps: 4 guests 

Linn of Tummel surrounded by mountainsPhoto credit: @theoldmanseofblair

Linn of Tummel, Perth and Kinross

Linn of Tummel is a delightful prospect for a dog-friendly day out at 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.

Woodland at the Linn of Tummel

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 is 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.

Location: Pitlochry, Perthshire, PH16 5NP

Price for non-members: Free

Don’t miss: The fish ladder is great to see as it's not often you stumble across one

Best conditions: Sunny to catch the blades of light 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 attractions of historical interest in Scotland

The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor CentrePhoto credit: @battleofbannockburn

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.

The Borestone with Roberts's statue

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.

Location: Glasgow Road, Whins of Milton, Stirling, FK7 0LJ

Price for non-members: See here

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: Carribber Lochside | Sleeps: 6 guests plus 1 dog

The exterior of Culzean Castle on a sunny dayPhoto credit: @culzean

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 historic buildings and follies hidden throughout the estate as well as formal gardens, a woodland trail to the Swan Pond, and 3 miles of shoreline to explore.

A lake in the country parkPhoto credit: @culzean

Built for Robert Adams in the 18th century, its location high on a cliff above the waters of the Firth of Clyde gives 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.

Location: Maybole, South Ayrshire, KA19 8LE

Price for non-members: See here

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: Castle Wing | Sleeps: 16 guests plus 2 dogs  

River running beside Robert Burns' Birthplace MuseumPhoto credit: @robertburnsnts  

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.  

Exhibits at the Robert Burns' Birthplace MuseumPhoto credit: @robertburnsnts  

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 its traditional Scottish dishes. The Brig and the Burns Memorial Gardens are very close by for a post-meal stroll too.

Location: Alloway, Ayr KA7 4PQ

Price for non-members: See here

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

Best conditions: 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: The Log House - Cumnock | Sleeps: 20 guests plus 4 dogs 

Cottages in Scotland for history lovers

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

Discover some of the best National Trust for Scotland's places to visit on this handy map. 

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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?

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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.