One thing I have strived to do with my Scotland travel blog since the beginning is to shine a spotlight on the many villages, towns and regions that are often overlooked by visitors. Bo'ness is one of those places - just a short drive from Falkirk and easily reached from Edinburgh and Glasgow, it has some unusual attractions which make it an interesting place to spend a day or two.
The name Bo'ness is actually short for Borrowstounness which means the Burgh Town on the Ness. Located on the bank of the Firth of Forth, Bo'ness was once the second largest port in Scotland. Today the harbour is closed and the only activity is passing walkers and cyclists enjoying the views across to Fife on the waterfront trail.
The quiet town still retains some interesting old buildings including the yellow painted Dymock's Building, a merchant's house dating back to before 1650 pictured above, and The Hippodrome, a pre-art deco picture palace dating back to 1912 (see below).
Its location next to the Firth of Forth and only a mile from the sprawling Kinneil Estate means you can experience town attractions, coastal views and nature trails all in one day as you can see from my list of recommended things to do in Bo'ness listed below.
If you've not been before, I hope this blog encourages you to give Bo'ness a visit.
My recommended things to do in Bo'ness
Take a ride on the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway
Who doesn't love a ride on a steam train? I know I do, but for now, a ride along the Bo'ness and Kinneil line remains on my bucket-list as I've only managed to tour the station so far. However, I have received rave reports from the lucky people I know that have enjoyed a steam train trip here so I have to recommend it.
Starring in many TV and film productions including Outlander, the railway is run by volunteers of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society which aims to preserve Scotland's railway heritage and restore railway equipment including historic locomotives.
Book a ticket for one of the regular 70 minute return trips between Bo'ness and Manuel stations on a steam train or heritage diesel train and take in the views as you travel along the Firth of Forth before heading inland towards the countryside. There are also special events held throughout the year and dogs are welcome on all standard journeys.
In 2022 the Museum of Scottish Railways will reopen after major renovation and I can't wait to check that out, hopefully combined with a train ride at long last! I'll be sure to update this blog when that happens.
View movie memorabilia at the Bo'ness Motor Museum
What a hidden gem this place is and I really feel that it should be renamed the Bo'ness Motor and Movie Museum as the movie memorabilia on display here is incredible. The unassuming exterior gives no clue to the astounding collection of exhibits that lies beyond within a Tardis of a building - quite appropriate as there is an actual Dr Who Tardis inside.
From Monsters Inc to Star Wars and Harry Potter to Only Fools and Horses, there are cars and memorabilia from a wide variety of well known movies. James Bond fans in particular will love it here as there is an extensive amount of Bond props. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the place is the fact almost everything you see is the collection of one man, owner Colin Anderson.
There is so much to take in that I'm sure I missed lots of cool stuff on my first visit which means I'll need to go back and have another look.
Catch a film at Scotland's oldest purpose-built cinema
I'm old enough to remember proper intimate cinemas with character before the era of bland (and overpriced!) modern multiplexes. Going to the pictures was a huge treat when I was young and I felt beyond sad when the smaller local picture halls I loved started closing down for good.
When I find a proper old-school cinema I tend to get very excited but it isn't just about nostalgia, a night out to a watch a movie in a beautifully designed building just feels that bit more special and glamorous.
Opened in 1912, The Hippodrome in Bo'ness is Scotland's oldest purpose built picture house and a rare example of pre-art deco cinema architecture - it brings glamour in spades! Although it boasts historic credentials, a 21st century technology makeover has allowed it to stay relevant so the people of Bo'ness don't miss out on the latest blockbusters.
If you're visiting the town, taking in a movie here is quite a memorable experience and I for one am glad that this hark back to the golden age of cinema has survived.
Discover the town's Roman history
I love sourcing unusual places to stay on my travels around Scotland and I know I'm not alone. The glamping sector has boomed in recent years as more and more people seek out unique accommodation that is a bit more memorable than a homogenous hotel.
Over the years I've stayed in some amazing places - curling up beside a cosy log burner in an eco structure straight out of The Hobbit, sleeping under twinkling fairy lights in a pretty yurt, waving at passing trains from a converted railway signal box and having the most beautiful garden on the doorstep of a shepherd's hut. Every one of them was cheaper than an average nightly hotel stay, yet the experience was priceless.
What surprises many people is that most of the quirky places I've stayed at in Scotland have also been dog friendly. This is no coincidence, as booking dog friendly accommodation is often necessary for me as Willow regularly joins me on my trips. As many of you have asked about dog friendly glamping options in Scotland, I thought I would share some of my recommendations, I hope this blog post gives you and your furry buddy some inspiration.
Of course, it isn't necessary to have a pet to stay at any of these places which means anyone looking for unique accommodation in Scotland will find this blog post useful too. To make your planning easier, I have included a map at the bottom of the post with the location of each place mentioned.
I'm always on the lookout for unusual places to stay in Scotland so I hope to add to this guide as I discover more great glamping options around the country.
My recommended glamping & unique dog friendly places to stay in Scotland
BORIS THE MILITARY POD - KYLERHEA, ISLE OF SKYE
On our way toUist last year we stopped off in Skye and as it was just after Mr Adventure Around Scotland's birthday, I decided to book a night at this converted military pod as a wee treat for him as he had been eyeing it up for a while.
A former army radio repair workshop, Boris the Military Pod has been transformed into a fun, spacious and comfortable dog friendly glamping stop on the Isle of Skye. Inside there is everything you need for a cosy stay including a small kitchen, en-suite shower room and some homely touches including a DVD player, coffee pod machine and heating/air con so you will feel comfortable inside no matter what the weather is doing.
Owners Sam and Lynne are very friendly and we were welcomed with a cup of tea and a chat. We also got a quick tour of their croft and introduced to the pigs which was a highlight for me. They also left us some thoughtful extras including basic supplies, a bottle of wine and a bar of Skye chocolate - perfect for some birthday celebrations.
The pod is located in the Kylerhea area of Skye which is close to the crossing point of the Glenelg turntable ferry - my favourite way to travel to the island. It is a quiet part of Skye and there is a lovely short walk from the pod that takes you down to the water. We spent a fantastic evening sat on the rocks watching the local seals swimming just off shore.
We only stayed for one night but could easily have stayed for longer and if you want to base yourself away from the Skye tourist crowds and stay somewhere unique, this ticks the boxes. If you want to explore more of the island on a private tour, Sam and Lynne also run Skye Jeep Tours.
You might also like to read -
Top things to do in Skye's Sleat Peninsula
THE TALL PINES YURT - HELMSDALE, SUTHERLAND
I've stayed at the The Tall Pines Yurt a couple of times and found it a really wonderful place to chill out. During the day you can sit outside in the little private garden which boasts a fantastic sea view thanks to its hillside position and at night you can fire up the log burner and sip on a glass of wine under the twinkling fairy lights.
The yurt is incredibly spacious and feels quite homely with a proper bed and furniture. Next to the yurt is a private outhouse with a shower and compost toilet. As the accommodation is off--grid, all amenities are run by solar power including the lighting and shower. There are USB chargers if you need to charge any devices.
Although there isn't any electricity in the yurt, the log burner and a gas camping stove provide basic cooking facilities and a cool box can be used to store fresh items. This does mean meals are limited to what can be cooked on a hob or toasted in a grill. However, the nearby village of Helmsdale does have a shop and a few options for eating out if needed. Owners Jackie and Paul are on hand to make sure you have plenty of wood for the fire and basic supplies to keep you going including tea, coffee and milk. There are also plenty of cooking utensils if you do decide to eat in.
The yurt is in a peaceful location with its own private enclosed grounds and an amazing view. There is a quiet walk from the doorstep along the road for those with dogs and the location is ideal for exploring Sutherland and Caithness, or as an unusual stopping off point on the NC500.
OTTER HOBBIT HOUSE, SHEPHERD'S LOCH - FISHERIE, ABERDEENSHIRE
When I was invited to check out Shepherd's Loch eco glamping site in Aberdeenshire I jumped at the chance to stay in the cutest looking Hobbit House, just one of several dog friendly properties on the site.
I'm not going to go into too much detail as I've already written a full review of my stay which you can read here, but fun, quirky and cosy are definite themes. It is also a brilliant place for adventurers of all ages with boats, swings, zip lines, walking trails and more. Each property is totally unique and I'd love to return to check out Graham's Bothy and the ship's wheelhouse which was still a work in progress when I stayed.
Owner Jamie is quite the character and if you're lucky he will take you on a tour of his working farm during your visit. If you decide to explore a bit further, the stunning trio of coastal villages, Pennan, Crovie and Gardenstown are just a short drive away.
If you're looking for a digital detox in a place with a mellow festival vibe, you will love Shepherd's Loch.
You might also like to read -
My guide to the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail
MACBETH'S HILLOCK - BRODIE, MORAY
In my experience there are two types of glamping huts, the ones that are basically an overpriced wooden tent with nothing but a mattress inside and those that can justifiably class themselves as glamping accommodation because they provide all the home comforts you need.
Macbeth's Hillock definitely falls into the latter as each pod comes with a TV, proper kitchen, dining table and an excellent en-suite shower room. The only thing not provided as standard is bedding so we brought our own but there is an option to hire a bedding pack if you want to travel light.
This is another dog friendly glamping stay that I've already written about previously and you can read my detailed review here. In summary, this is a fantastic and economical option for anyone wanting to explore the coast and castles of Moray and you are only a 30 minute drive from Inverness if you want to add a day out in the city to your itinerary. There are a surprising amount of dog friendly things to do there.
The site itself is in a quiet country location which is alleged to be the 'blasted heath' where Shakespeare's Macbeth famously met the three witches. This is a great wee sitop for those wanting to visit a part of Scotland that is often overlooked by tourists.
You might also like to read -
Things to do in Inverness
SHEPHERD'S HUT - GLENWHAN GARDENS, DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY
Wick sits on the north east coast of Scotland, just over a 2 hour drive north of Inverness and just over 20 minutes south of John O'Groats. It is one of two principal towns in the Caithness region of Scotland, the other being Thurso.
In the days when waterways were the main means of travel and transport, Wick's position along the mouth of the Wick River and the North Sea made it an ideal trading port. During the time of Viking rule it was named 'Vik' which is Old Norse for 'bay'.
In 1589 it gained Royal Burgh status in recognition of its importance as a commercial seaport and as the fishing industry expanded, so did the town. The biggest growth took place during the fishing boom of the 19th century, and at one stage Wick was the busiest herring port in Europe.
Although there are now only a fraction of the boats that once worked out of the harbour, the sea continues to provide other work opportunities in offshore industries.
Things to do in Wick
I'm not going to sugar-coat it (and apologies to any Wickers reading this!) - my first impression of Wick wasn't a great one - granted I never ventured further than the town centre but all I could see was a place that looked a little tired and not that appealing to a visitor so I didn't stick around very long. Fast forward a few years of frequently stopping in the town on my travels to and from Orkney, along with several holidays in the area, and I have been won over by Wick. The layers of history, the stunning scenery and the warmth of Wickers who always seem to be up for a chat has seeped into my bones and I now relish my regular trips here.
The road that passes through the town forms part of popular North Coast 500 and is the main route for anyone travelling to the far north east coast of Scotland, including the famed John O' Groats and the Gill's Bay ferry route to Orkney. Despite being in a strategic position for capitalising on the booming north coast tourist market, I often hear complaints from locals that visitors don't stop here in any meaningful numbers or for any length of time. Maybe, like me, they are guilty of judging the town on its initial faded appearance, or maybe they just don't know what there is to do and don't stop long enough to find out.
Either way, I'm hoping this blog post with my favourite discoveries of things to do in and around Wick goes some way to rectifying that and maybe makes some amends for my own unfair judgement. Maybe it will even convert a few of you that have initially written Wick off to give it another chance like I did, or convince those of you planning to explore the north coast of Scotland to add it to your itinerary. It is a place that deserves a longer stay to really appreciate everything on offer in the area and hopefully this list inspires you to do exactly that.
Visit the Wick Heritage Centre
Don't be fooled by the unassuming exterior of this heritage centre near the harbour as once inside you will realise the museum is both a Tardis and an Aladdin's Cave. The volume and variety of objects is almost overwhelming so I recommend taking your time to soak in everything there is to see.
Rooms have been furnished to give a sense of bygone times, with a bigger exhibition space dedicated to Wick's significant fishing industry. However, one of the highlights that makes this centre unique is their collection of local photographs taken by three generations of Caithness photographers.
Known as the Johnston Collection, the images document over a century of local life from 1863 to 1975 and include the era when Wick was the herring capital of Europe. I highly recommend this as your first port of call when visiting the town as it will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of Wick's significant history.
Walk to the Castle of Old Wick
It may not be Scotland's grandest fortification, but theCastle of Old Wick is one of Scotland's oldest castles, thought to date back to the 1100s, which makes the fact it is still standing at all quite a feat. Its precarious clifftop location is great for defensive purposes but also means it stands at the mercy of the North Sea, as has done for hundreds of years, making this squat ruin mightier than it looks.
The 1-mile trail along the blustery coast from Wick to reach the castle ticks the boxes for scenery and history. The square tower was once four storeys high and would have been the residential part of the castle which included a hall, living room and private chambers. Surrounding the tower are remains of other structures that would have included servant's quarters, workshops, bakehouse, brewhouse and stables. Indeed, the extensive fortress would have covered much of the headland it sits on.
Today it is in the care of Historic Environment Scotland and is free to visit at any time.
Explore Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
This post is part of a paid partnership with West Coast Waters to promote the many ways you can immerse your senses around the Scottish west coast
Back in August I was sat in the ferry queue in Uig in Skye bursting with excitement and anticipation at the prospect of another west coast adventure. The last time I waited in this queue was on a trip to Harris and Lewis, this time I was sailing to North Uist. My excitement levels were ramped up to the max because not only was this my first trip to Uist, it was also a proper holiday which meant I could truly immerse myself in the real-time beauty of the Hebrides without any online distractions or work commitments.
I deleted my social media apps from my phone, ensured my e-mail out of office was switched on and took some deep breaths before fully embracing vacation mode. Before long I was stood out on the deck of the CalMac ferry with the wind whipping my hair and the sea breeze reenergising my soul. On the horizon, Uist and new adventures awaited.
In case you didn't know, Uist is a chain of islands linked by causeways, stretching from Eriskay in the south to Berneray in the north with South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay and North Uist between them. There are also other smaller islands linked by causeways off of the main islands so if ticking off Scottish islands is your thing this is a good place to start, I managed 9 on this trip!
The following week saw a new chapter of wondrous west coast memories added to my Scotland travel journal and I'm sharing some of my favourite island highlights from Uist in this blog which might be just the inspiration you need for planning your next Scottish adventure.
Immerse yourself in the beaches
If there is a beach nearby, you can be sure I'll visit it! I love being by the sea, padding barefoot through the sand and dipping my toes in the water. In Uist I had countless beaches to choose from and although I couldn't possible visit them all, I did discover a few crackers including -
Immerse yourself in the history
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