The top towns & regions to visit in Scotland with your dog
5 minute read
The Cairngorms National Park
Best for big hikes
Few dog walks can rival those available in the Cairngorms. There are lochside rambles and woodland walks, but best of all are the mountain trails, with views across some of Scotland’s mightiest munros and most dramatic glens. Loved by sports commentator Andrew Cotter and his Instagram-famous dogs, Olive and Mabel, the Cairngorm Mountains are a truly special place to walk with your dog. Try the trails up to Sgòr Gaoith, a 1,118-metre-high munro above the shores of Loch Eanaich, or the 1,084-metre-high Beinn Dearg. The Walk Highlands site has endless options for hiking in the national park.
Best for remote wildlife adventures
If getting away from it all is what you crave, Shetland delivers. Scattered 210 kilometres north of the Scottish mainland, it’s a 12-hour, overnight ferry journey to get here (there are dog-friendly cabins on board) from Aberdeenshire, and once you’ve arrived you’ll likely find yourself alone on the breathtaking cliff walks at Eshaness or on the white-sand beaches that fringe the islands. The population here is just 23,000, across the entire archipelago. In spring and summer you’ll see puffins nesting in the cliffs, and there’s a good chance of spotting orca from the shore, too. Pair Shetland with a trip to Aberdeenshire (stay at Denend Farmhouse or the The Dairy) for the ultimate adventure.
The Isle of Skye
Best for seafood & dramatic scenery
For a taste of island life without the faff of boarding a ferry, the Isle of Skye is a fantastic, easy-to-reach option thanks to the bridge that connects it to the Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland. Here, you can walk up to the iconic Old Man of Storr, whose craggy rock formations overlook the loch below, explore the fairy pools where the dog can drink and paddle, or simply indulge in a little local fish in a cullen skink stew at one of the island’s many dog-friendly pubs and restaurants. Stay in Broadford at Bothan Buidheag for secluded Skye views and easy access to the island’s highlights. Skye does get incredibly at peak times though, so consider a little off-season jaunt. The hills and waters look even more stunning with a faint frost on them.
The Scottish Borders
Best for beautiful garden strolls
Sitting serenely between Edinburgh and the border with England lies a network of charming little towns along the River Tweed. This is Sir Walter Scott territory, as the undulating hills and winding waters of this valley inspired much of the writer’s work. It’s also where he lived, and you can take the dog to visit his Baronial Scottish mansion, Abbotsford, in Melrose. The gardens here are particularly delightful, and there are off-lead walks on the wider estate. Next, head to Peebles to visit Kailzie Gardens for more wonderful greenery. Stay at Chalybeate Yurt or the Wilderkin Cabin in West Linton and you’ll be close enough to visit the Borders towns and the capital.
Best for car-free fun
Known as the gateway to the Scottish Highlands, where craggy mountains make for munro-bagging fun, Fort William is one of the best places to visit with your dog if you’re going car-free. Take the Caledonian Sleeper and you’ll arrive into Fort William first thing in the morning, ready for your first dog walk of the day. You can walk right out of the train station and up onto Cow Hill, where you can then join the West Highland Way. The trail skirts through Glen Nevis with views of Ben Nevis across the river. You can walk for as long as you like and then turn back, or head down to the riverside and look out for a bridge to walk back along the river. Alternatively, cross over the river and follow the trails up to the peak of Ben Nevis if the weather’s on your side (it’s not safe in wetter or misty conditions).