A camping holiday in the Borders & Lowlands in Scotland gives you the best of both worlds: city life and countryside.
As well as the bustling cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, you’ll find historic houses and castles, country parks and nature reserves within easy reach.
And with a wide selection of sites to choose from here on Campsited, we’ll help you get that camping trip off to a sterling start.
What to Do in the Borders & Lowlands in Scotland
Here are some of our top tips to keep you busy during your visit.
1. Follow famous footsteps in St Andrews
The beautiful town of St Andrews has several claims to fame. It’s the home of golf – played here since the 1400s (if not earlier) – and the links remain public courses, open to all. And if golf isn’t your bag, why not just enjoy the view and some sporting anecdotes on a guided walk of the Old Course?
The uni at St Andrews is the oldest in Scotland and has many notable former students, among them John Cleese, Chris Hoy and Prince William. And speaking of royalty, in recent years the cosy Northpoint Cafe on North Street has put itself on the tourist map, with its eye-catching sign: “Where Kate met Wills (for coffee)”.
2. Wend your way to the sea in Ayr
The River Ayr Way is one of Scotland’s Great Trails (20 long-distance walking routes) and the first in the country to trace a river from source to sea. Expect to take anything from two to seven days, depending on your pace, as you notch up 44 miles from Glenbuck Loch to Ayr on the coast. You’ll be spurred on by the beautiful surroundings and plentiful wildlife as you go.
Keep an eye out for otters, badgers, herons and hen harriers – and, over one special weekend in September, the lesser spotter ultra-marathon runner!
3. Read up on Rabbie Burns in Mauchline
Keen to recite a poem on Burns Night but worried about your performance? Then hear how the great bard’s work is supposed to sound, with a visit to the listening snug at Burns House. The museum was refurbished in 2004 and, alongside the new audiovisual displays, there’s an impressive collection of original manuscripts, first editions and other Burns memorabilia.
Robert Burns lived in Mauchline in East Ayrshire from 1774 to 1778 – formative years that produced some of his finest work. Many of the villagers are immortalised in his poems, including one Willie Fisher (aka Holy Willie), who is buried in the Mauchline Kirkyard opposite the museum.
4. Explore life in the Middle Ages in Ayrshire
With its keep dating from 1350 and the main palace built a century later, Dean Castle is one of the finest restored medieval castles in the country. When the eighth Lord Howard de Walden inherited Dean Castle in 1901 it was little more than a ruin, but it was completely rebuilt in the 1930s with the interiors remodelled in keeping with 16th and 17th design.
Have a look around the castle and then head into the country park to see the fallow deer enclosure, the arboretum and pinetum, and the motte and bailey marking the site of the original Kilmarnock Castle. Or for a more modern experience, hire a GPS unit and try your hand at the geocaching trail. From medieval to hi tech in a few easy steps…
5. Striding out in stunning Glencairn
Cairnhead Forest and the surrounding landscape – with large, dome-shaped hills and steep-sided valleys – are cherished by locals but remain relatively undiscovered by the hill-walking community. That’s set to change thanks to artist and environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy and his Striding Arches, a series of red sandstone sculptures circling the central glen (or valley).
Hikers who’d like to trace Goldsworthy’s footsteps – going from one hilltop arch to the next – should be prepared for rugged conditions and a challenging hike of roughly 10 miles across hilly terrain. Goldsworthy’s little ruse is for the route to be carved out gradually by the people walking it – so today’s trailblazers need to come armed with map and compass, and a can-do attitude!
6. Mixing beers and bears in the Borders
Originally built in 1107 as a hunting lodge for the Scottish royal family, Traquair is Scotland’s oldest continually inhabited house. The famous Bear Gates that mark the main approach to the house were added in 1739 and were closed permanently just six years later following a visit from Bonnie Prince Charlie. Earl Traquair promised the gates wouldn’t be opened again until a Stuart king was crowned in London… and the rest, as they say, is history.
As well as the usual tours of the house and gardens, you can also pop into the brewery to sample some of the award-winning real ales. Traquair House Ale follows an original recipe using locally-sourced ingredients, with the Jacobite Ale (an 18th century brew scented with coriander) and Bear Ale also proving popular enough to be exported internationally.
7. Pedal power in the park
For campers headed to one of our sites in Lothian, doing justice to the top attractions in Edinburgh would need a blog of its own. If you’re keen to enjoy some of the surrounding countryside during your camping holiday, then the Pentland Hills regional park (just south-east of the capital) is a breath of fresh air. Bikers can explore 100km of cycle trails – and helping you plan your route all paths in the park are handily colour coded according to the terrain.
This is also a popular destination for hiking, horse riding and fishing, with the added draw of 12 ancient monuments to visit. Just watch out for the MOD firing range at Castlelaw (clearly marked)!
8. In search of the Holy Grail in Rosslyn
Were you totally hooked by The Da Vinci Code? Then relive key moments from Dan Brown’s bestselling thriller with a visit to Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian. The 2006 movie version saw Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou filming several scenes here at the chapel, including the tense finale which took place in the crypt.
Built in 1446, the chapel has recently undergone major conservation work and was named Scotland’s best tourist attraction for 2015/2016. No doubt helped by the numbers of film fans and conspiracy theorists coming through its doors.
One of the unmissable things to do during a holiday in the Borders and Lowlands.
9. Building bridges at Queensferry
Did you know the Forth Rail Bridge is now a UNESCO World Heritage site? You can learn all about the road and rail bridges’ construction – and find out how long they really take to paint! – at the Queensferry Museum. Here the picture windows offer great views over the Firth of Forth, with a telescope to give visitors a closer look at the bridges and the local wildlife.
10. Get spooked in Scotland’s heritage capital
For three centuries Stirling was home to Scotland’s kings and queens, and the medieval castle still towers over the city today. Other attractions include the historic Old Town and the Wallace Monument – a memorial to Sir William “Braveheart” Wallace, marking his victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
There are several guided tours to give you a taste of the town, including the ever popular ghost walk. If you dare!