I’m a huge fan of autumn breaks in Scotland.
Autumn in Scotland is utterly fantastic. The cooler temperatures scare away the dreaded Highland midge, making hiking pleasurable again. The crisp air makes it feel so much more satisfying when you warm your belly with a dram at a traditional Scottish pub or coorie in around the fire in a cosy lodge, and of course, it’s hard to take your eyes off the orange and golden foliage right before the trees shrug their shoulders and cast their summer coat to the floor.
If you’re looking to have an autumn break in Scotland this year, I’ve rounded up five of my favourite autumn escapes that I know you will love.
When is the best time to plan your autumn break in Scotland?
The optimal time to plan your autumn break in Scotland is from mid-September to mid-October. The tourist season starts to ease by the middle of September [well- it did in pre-Covid19 times, anyway] and attractions such as castles start to close in October.
The best time to see the autumn colours is around the end of September to the end of October, with mid-October being the perfect time to immerse yourself in the golden shades of Scotland!
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My 5 Favourite Autumn Breaks in Scotland
1. Perth, Perthshire
Perthshire will forever be one of my favourite autumn breaks in Scotland.
The Haggis and I made several trips to Perthshire last year during autumn and had a great time.
Perthshire is known for being one of the best regions in Scotland to see the colourful autumn foliage. Some of the best places to experience Scotland’s golden shades near Perth include:
- The Birks of Aberfeldy, which inspired famous Scottish poet Robert Burns
- Kinnoull Hill, a short walk from the centre of Perth
- Scone Palace, located a short distance from Perth, where the ancient Kings of Scotland were once crowned.
There is honestly so much to see and explore in this region, and it offers a little bit of everything for visitors during autumn, including castles, museums, great pubs and outdoor adventures.
Be sure to read my guide on things to do in Perth if you decide to spend some time there.
Where to stay: If you want to base yourself in the city, the Salutation Hotel in the heart of Perth is a traditional and affordable option. This hotel has a fascinating history as one of the oldest hotels in Scotland! Bonnie Prince Charlie once stayed here and planned the Battle of Culloden. Other famous guests include The Beatles!
The Haggis and I also spent a romantic weekend away last year at this self-contained lodge. The lodge is located at an equestrian centre on a farm- so it’s perfect if you want some peace and quiet.
Last autumn, I spent three blissfully peaceful days in a lodge surrounded by nature in Killin.
Killin is located at the foot of Loch Tay, and in my opinion one of the most underrated villages in Scotland. Nature and history are a stone’s throw away from this quaint and traditional Scottish village.
Firstly, you can’t miss the Falls of Dochart which are located in the heart of the village. I also recommend driving the circuit around Loch Tay. Keep your eyes peeled for Scotland’s elusive red squirrels, and explore the Scottish Crannog Centre which is located in the pretty village of Kenmore, at the opposite end of the loch (update: this sadly burned down in 2021!).
If you’re into hiking, head to Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve where you can hike Ben Lawes and Beinn Ghlas, the former being the tenth highest munro in Scotland.
Where to stay: I stayed at Killin Highland Lodges which I highly recommend; it’s perfect for a solo trip or for couples.
3. Balerno, Edinburgh
Balerno is the perfect autumn city break in Scotland: it has plenty of green spaces, has full amenities but still feels peaceful and quiet, and the village centre is delightful.
Make sure you bring your hiking boots as the Pentland Hills Regional Park is located nearby and has walks suitable for all levels.
The Water of Leith walkway also runs through the village, and it’s the perfect place to go for an easy stroll to enjoy the colourful autumn foliage. You could follow the walkway all the way into the city to have a meal, and ride the number 44 bus back to Balerno.
Balerno also has some incredible restaurants. My personal favourites include Carlyle’s and The Balerno Inn. The Grey Horse is also a great traditional Scottish pub.
Balerno is also a fantastic base if you want to explore the centre of Edinburgh. You can spend the day in the city and relax in a more peaceful setting in the evening.
If you want to use Balerno as a base to explore Edinburgh, be sure to check out my guide on how to spend 2 days in Edinburgh before you visit.
Where to stay: I’m a huge fan of JustB City Retreat ever since I stayed there and befriended the owners, Karen and Geoff, in 2018. It’s the perfect nature escape as the bed and breakfast is surrounded by serene woodland, and there is a bus stop located outside to make getting to the city centre easy peasy. The Water of Leith walkway is also located just across the road. Karen also makes the best traditional Scottish breakfast you’ll ever taste!
4. Cairngorms National Park
The Cairngorms National Park is one of two national parks in Scotland and one giant playground for nature lovers.
Aviemore is a fantastic place to base yourself if you want to get in some hiking before winter well and truly sets in. Nature is right on Aviemore’s doorstep, including secluded lochs, enchanted woodland forests, and mountain trails for all levels.
Loch an Eilein Castle, a castle in the middle of a loch, is particularly beautiful when it’s framed by the autumn foliage.
For some lovely views across the Cairngorms, you can hike the Corbett Ben Vrackie or the Munro Ben Macdui [Scotland’s second-highest mountain].
Kingussie is also a nice wee town to base yourself. From here you can visit Ruthven Barracks, an impressive ruin that was built after the first Jacobite Rising in the 1700s as a way for the English to maintain law and order in the Highlands.
You can also hike through one of Scotland’s most beautiful glens, Glen Feshie, which is a popular filming location and has inspired artists including Sir Edwin Landseer and his famous painting ‘The Monarch of the Glen.’
Where to stay: The eco huts at The Lazy Duck in Nethy Bridge are gorgeous wee lodges surrounded by woodland.
Pitlochry is the perfect place for a long weekend break or short escape.
This charming wee town has some great pubs and restaurants, and the main street is perfect for a stroll and some shopping.
Hettie’s Tea Rooms is a great place for a pot of tea and a sandwich [or something sweet!] and there is a selection of pubs to choose from [or bounce between!].
There are also some lovely nature trails and picturesque bridges in Pitlochry. I recommend going for a walk around Loch Faskally to the village of Killiecrankie to fully experience the autumn colours. When I did this walk I actually ran into a film set shooting scenes for season five of Outlander!
Where to stay: Pitlochry has a fantastic array of luxury accommodation including Fonab Castle Hotel & Spa. I’ve stayed at McKays Hotel which was a good 3-star option in the centre of the town, complete with a traditional bar and restaurant.
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