Enjoy stunning landscapes, remote isles, elegant cities and lochs on your caravan holidays in Scotland with Practical Caravan's travel guide

When you visit Scotland you will see great landscape contrasts in a comparatively small area, which makes it brilliant for your most northerly UK caravan holidays. It offers a fantastic combination of natural attractions, handsome cities, unique islands and invigorating outdoor activities, and a chance to meet people who are fiercely proud of their Scottish heritage and tradition.

So whether your plan is to try eating haggis for the first time, attempt to climb a Munro mountain, explore the many Scottish lochs and rivers, perhaps fishing with a rod and fly, search for ospreys and grouse, laugh out loud at a fringe festival event, own a castle for a day or simply kick back and enjoy a wee dram while watching the sun set over a coastal view, caravan holidays in Scotland offer something for everyone.

Visit Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland's two main conurbations, which sit roughly opposite one another about a third of the way up the country north of the English border. The pair defending the country's narrowest point, Glasgow in the west guards the Firth of Clyde while Edinburgh protects the Firth of Forth. Glasgow is the larger of the two, but you should visit Edinburgh, too, because it holds the seat of power.

Both cities have very different personalities: Glasgow, the grittier industrial stalwart of the two and Edinburgh the more genteel with royal connections. Both are great places to visit when on caravan holidays in Scotland if you are a culture vulture, with theatres, art galleries, museums and architectural heritage.

Both have their green spaces too, a wealth of secret gardens sitting side by side with Holyrood Park, Inverleith Park and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. While Glasgow, which means ‘Dear Green Place’ in Gaelic, has over 90 parks and formal gardens. Both cities have nearby campsites offering good public transport connections.

It is indeed the green spaces, or the wilderness of remote uplands, secret valleys and coast for which Scotland is arguably most well known and which many taking caravan holidays visit Scotland to see. Expect to find such diverse habitats as rocky and sandy shores, pinewoods and other semi-natural woodlands, moorland, upland and mountain all the way to high-level tundra.

The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, one of two national parks in the country, begins just north of Glasgow. Covering 720 square miles of mountains, glens and lochs it includes, as the name suggests, Loch Lomond, the largest freshwater expanse in mainland Britain. At the western edge of the park is the Argyll Forest Park, great for spotting a red squirrel. Killin and Breadalbane, at the northern tip, mark the beginning of the Highlands.

The Cairngorms National Park is Britain's largest and provides some impressive statistics. It plays host to 25% of the UK's threatened wildlife species and is home to one of the most expansive areas of Caledonian pine forest in the UK. And of the 55 mountain summits over 2,900 feet, 43 are Munros. 

Indeed, with 284 mountains in Scotland classified as Munros, i.e, above 3000ft (914m), Scotland's high-level habitat is a very special part of the country's natural beauty. The largest area of continuous high ground is in the Cairngorms National Park and is truly Arctic tundra-like. The plateau can be observed from the viewing area at the top of the funicular railway on Cairngorm.

Good places to watch wildlife in the Cairngorms National Park include the RSPB Osprey Centre on Loch Garten and the Mar Lodge Estate, which was the main base in 2014 for the BBC television programme Winterwatch. But the Cairngorms offer a vast adventure playground for outdoor enthusiasts, from fly fishing on the Rivers Dee and Spey to horseriding, windsurfing to snowboarding. Aviemore is Scotland's largest ski centre, although the Glencoe Mountain Resort in the west of the country is known to receive large flurries of the white stuff too – and you can even pitch your caravan there.

Of course, once the snow has drifted away, the moors in August when the bell heather is in bloom is an icon of Scotland and a good reason to visit too. But it's not just the Highlands where you can see such sights - look out for widespread ‘Scotch’ heather moorland in Galloway and high ground in the Scottish Borders.

Scotland's coastline is what many visitors to the country spend time in a caravan for. With 10,306 miles (approximately!) of coast, and a great number of campsites dotted all the way round, there is no excuse to miss it.

The south west coast has some of the best beaches around Ayrshire, while beaches that are quite accessible but relatively undisturbed include sections of coast near Lossiemouth on the Moray Firth and, further north, around Dornoch. But that's only the mainland.

Take a boat to one of the numerous islands of the Inner or Outer Hebrides and you'll find beaches and sea colours to rival a tropical paradise. And if you fancy a little bit of coast all to yourself, along with some of the most outstanding scenery you can find in the British Isles, the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands are the places to go.

Visiting Scotland on a caravan holiday doesn't have to be just about what nature offers, though. Man-made attractions are firm favourites too, whether it be sampling some of the country's finest whisky on the Malt Whisky Trail in Speyside or visiting the museum of Scotland's Bard, Robert Burns, in Ayrshire.

Scotland boasts of having more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK and there are indeed hundreds to visit, each with amazing stories to tell. Whether it's the ruin of Dunnottar Castle clinging precariously to a rocky cliff at Stonehaven or that of Eilean Donan overlooking the Isle of Skye.

Choose from great city castles like Edinburgh or Stirling, also perched on a rock with views below of Scotland's most historic battlefield, Bannockburn (2014 commemorates 700 years since the Battle of Bannockburn).

Or opt for castles with royal connections. There is Glamis, the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, or her home in Caithness, the Castle of Mey. And don't forget the vast Balmoral Estate, summer residence of the Royal Family.

Possibly one of the most picturesque Scottish castles is Blair Castle at Blair Atholl, which has its own private army (and the last remaining private army in Europe). Aberdeenshire is considered 'Castle Country' with its own Castle Trail, but there are significant numbers of castles and stately homes in the Scottish Borders too. Regardless of how many castles you have seen, you can return to your own little castle and spend a quiet evening enjoying the view on one of the many campsites and caravan parks in Scotland.

Top five things to do in Scotland

  1. Take a scenic overhead tour of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, taking off from the waters of Loch Lomond in a seaplane.

  2. Search for Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, with a boat trip on the 23-mile long Loch Ness and read about the history of her sightings at one of the visitor centres in Drumnadrocht. While there, enjoy a walk along the Great Glen Way or paddle in a canoe along the Caledonian Canal.

  3. Go skiing from the Cairngorm Ski Area near Aviemore (there's a purpose-built campsite at Glenmore just for the job), and visit the free-ranging reindeer herd up on the mountain.

  4. Walk the Royal Mile in Edinburgh for some elegant city shopping (where you can purchase a kilt) or witness the Art Nouveau architectural and design work and fine furniture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh at several locations in Glasgow.

  5. Enjoy a day trip to the Orkney Islands. You can hop on a ferry for a short 40-minute passenger crossing from John O'Groats to South Ronaldsay during the summer months. Or take your car using the ferry services from Gills Bay to St Margaret's Hope (60 minutes) or Scrabster to Stromness (90 minutes).

When to visit Scotland

2014 was designated as the Year of Homecoming in Scotland, a mammoth year-long celebration of everything that is great about the country with hundreds of events. This was in addition to two major sporting events hosted by Scotland – the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

Annual events are not just for summer in Scotland. Events kick off with Burns Night on the 25 January, the anniversary of the birth of Scotland's most loved writer, Robert Burns. The Scottish Snowdrop Festival takes place throughout February at various locations around the country, but particularly in Dundee and St Andrews.

Making the most of the natural habitats and wildlife in Dumfries and Galloway, four seasonal festivals are held throughout the year, with the Wild Spring Festival starting proceedings. May is Whisky Month, with related events across the country, particularly on World Whisky Day. Also countrywide, although predominantly in the Highlands, are the Highland Games and Gatherings that take place during the summer months, especially August.

Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight celebrates the very best of the country's produce during September and St Andrew's Day on 30 November is deemed a Bank Holiday with many events laid on. And let us not forget Hogmanay, which sees out the old and brings in the New Year. Edinburgh, in particular, has the handle on New Year celebrations, but then the city has become the capital of festivals.

The most famous is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, but the city also hosts many others. There is the Edinburgh International Science Festival (April), Imaginate (an arts festival for children and young people in May), the Edinburgh International Film Festival (June), the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival (also in June), the Edinburgh Art Festival (August), The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (August), the Edinburgh International Festival (classical music, dance, theatre and opera in August), the Edinburgh International Book Festival (August), Mela Festival (August) and the Scottish International Storytelling Festival (October).

How to get to Scotland

Use the M6/A74(M) and the M8 for the west of Scotland and the M90/A90 for the east to Aberdeen. The M8 links Glasgow and Edinburgh. Thereon north, the roads are predominantly single carriageway but for the dual carriageway to Aberdeen.

Many roads in Scotland make a pleasurable and scenic drive, but plan fuel stops carefully as there can be large distances between service stations.  Check with your destination campsite for any difficulty with access when towing a large unit once off the main roads.