5 of Scotland's Most Inspiring Spots

With dramatic landscapes, remote escapes and captivating tales, it’s no surprise that Scotland has enchanted famous writers, artists and musicians. Spark your own imagination with our list of inspiring spots across Scotland that have influenced some of the world’s greatest stories.

Photo: King of the Hillside

1. Bram's Stoker's Dracula. Slains Castle, Aberdeenshire

Perched dramatically on the edge of the cliff at Cruden Bay, Slains Castle on the Aberdeenshire coast has a legendary reputation as the gothic ruin that inspired Dracula. Bram Stoker regularly visited the area, drawing inspiration from its eerie atmosphere for the lair of his infamous villain. The castle ruins and their lonely position stir the imagination, especially on a windy and wild day. Other famous literary visitors include Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, although their descriptions of the castle are a little less chilling than Stoker’s tale!

Follow in the author’s footsteps and walk the coastal trail up to the castle from the picturesque Cruden Bay village, which provides the setting for some of Stoker’s other works. You can even stay at the nearby  Kilmarnock Arms Hotel, where Bram Stoker himself was a frequent visitor.

Photo: Slains Castle, Aberdeenshire

2. George Orwell. Isle of Jura

George Orwell, known to islanders by his real name of Eric Blair, lived on Jura for three years. He felt deeply connected to what he described as the extremely “un-get-at-able place”, where the wilderness and isolation unlocked his creativity and enabled him to focus on writing his final and most famous novel. The remote island in the Inner Hebrides still offers glorious escapism for visitors – its rugged and rural landscape is constantly shifting and stirring the imagination.

The island is home to Jura Distillery and Lussa gin, who rather appropriately believe “isolation is inspiration”. Cosy up with a comforting dram of your favourite island tipple, your copy of 1984 and get inspired by Jura.

3. J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Eilean Shona

There’s something about the remote wilderness of the Hebrides that captures the imagination and Eilean Shona, a tidal island that sits at the entrance of Loch Moidart, is no exception. Barrie rented the island for a summer holiday whilst working on the screenplay for Peter Pan and it definitely evokes the make-believe landscape of Neverland with its hidden coves, starry skies and tall trees. The island is car-free and only accessible by boat – a great way to start your own family adventure. There are numerous accommodation options on Eilean Shona to enjoy after a day of exploring, all sumptuously decorated and owned by the Branson family.

The island offers the chance to truly switch off and connect with nature. Explore any path that takes your fancy, from kayaking through crystal clear waters to spotting the local wildlife, including dolphins, basking sharks and mink whales. Who knows, you might even see a mermaid or two! 

Eilean Shona is endlessly inspiring and free from the distractions of the real world. Why not channel your inner writer and join one of the writing retreats that take place on the island?

Photo: Eilean Shona

4. Fingal's Cave. Isle of Staffa

Formed from hexagonal, volcanic basalt columns that rise up from the churning sea, this enchanting cave has inspired many famous figures. Poets and artists including Sir Walter Scott, J.M.W. Turner, Tennyson, Wordsworth and Keats have all been captivated by the natural phenomenon. Its cathedral-like atmosphere and acoustics also moved Mendelssohn to write his famous Hebrides Overture and have even inspired a Pink Floyd song!

Staffa has influenced a number of myths and stories, adding layers of inspiration to an already enthralling environment. Legend has it that the cave forms one end of an ancient bridge to the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, created by the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill. James Macpherson popularised this tale in his Ossian Cycle, resulting in the first use of the name “Fingal’s Cave”.

You’ll easily be able to see why Staffa has inspired so many great works of art, but it’s also worth a boat trip for some nature spotting. It’s a designated National Nature Reserve, where you can see black guillemots, fulmars and puffins.

5. Robert Burns. Falls of Foyers, Loch Ness

On the quieter south side of Loch Ness lie the captivating Falls of Foyers. The story goes that when Robert Burns discovered the falls on his tour of the Highlands he was so instantly inspired by the “rising mists and ceaseless showers” that he wrote his famous lines on the spot. A popular tourist destination in the 18th and 19th century, Foyers was an essential stop on the Romantic tour of Scotland, also visited by Johnson and Boswell, Wordsworth, Coleridge and J.M.W. Turner.

The spectacular waterfall cuts dramatically down a gorge in the middle of the surrounding woodland, like something from a fairy tale. Whether the water is glittering in the sunshine or swirling darkly in a storm, watching the waterfall is a mesmerising experience. The walks around Foyers are brimming with wildlife, tall birch trees and stunning views of Loch Ness, so it’s not just the waterfalls that could stimulate your imagination. Make sure you take a pen and paper in case you find yourself as inspired as the National Bard!

Photo: Loch Ness, Scotland

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