Absolute Escapes May 10 2019

From extraordinary caves on uninhabited islands to sites of Pagan tradition, Scotland certainly has its fair share of wonderful, weird, and a little bit wacky sites. Edinburgh alone has countless ghostly sites and unusual places to discover.

Whilst our famous castles, towns and beaches should definitely be on your ‘must see’ list, we’ve put together a list of alternative places to be discovered on your Absolute Escapes self-drive holiday in Scotland.


Clootie Well – Black Isle

Steeped in Pagan tradition and hidden amongst the woods of the Black Isle in the Highlands, Clootie Well is an eerie sight to behold. With socks, scarves and many other items knotted and braided into the branches of the trees, Clootie Well looks like a scene from a horror film – definitely not somewhere you would want to stumble upon in the dark! The ritual goes that if you soak a cloth (‘clootie’ in Scots) belonging to someone suffering from an illness in the well and hang it on a tree, as the item begins to disintegrate, any sickness or ill health will fade from the person.

Calling on water spirits for healing is an old Celtic tradition which has remained strong throughout the ages. Thankfully, to keep both the environment and the water spirits happy, the local forestry commission has asked for any items that are left to be biodegradable!

Take a short detour off the North Coast 500 driving route to visit this spooky site.


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Fingal’s Cave – Isle of Staffa

One of the Seven Wonders of the Commonwealth, Fingal’s Cave is an incredibly unique site that has caught the attention of everybody from The Queen to Pink Floyd! Situated on the uninhabited island of Staffa, off the Isle of Mull, there is nowhere else in the world completely formed of hexagonally-jointed basalt. The cave walls – which are likened to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland – have been formed with such precision you’d be forgiven for thinking this sea cave was man-made.

A defining characteristic of Fingal’s Cave is its natural acoustics. As the waves dance in and out of the entrance, the unique sounds that echo around the cave have inspired many musicians over the years. Most famously, composer Felix Mendelssohn was so blown away by the incredible sounds that he went on to compose The Outer Hebrides, Op. 26, or Fingal’s Cave Overture.

Easily accessed by regular boat trips from the Isle of Mull, explore the fascinating Fingal’s Cave on our Magical Islands of Mull, Iona & Skye self-drive itinerary.


The Electric Brae – Ayrshire

The Electric Brae is a hill in Ayrshire where cars appear to roll uphill as if being pulled by a supernatural force. Named by the Victorians, this optical illusion was once believed to be an electrical phenomenon and has bemused people for years.

Videos of the phenomenon are quite tricky to wrap your head around – despite being aware that cars aren’t really rolling uphill. The peculiar illusion is created by the sloping of the surrounding landscapes which creates the illusion that the road inclines the opposite way.

Experience this weird phenomenon for yourself on our Discover Ayrshire & Arran self-drive itinerary.


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Garden of Cosmic Speculation – Dumfries & Galloway

Next up on our list of unusual places is the Garden of Cosmic Speculation in south-west Scotland – a feast for the eyes and test of the mind.

Created by landscape architect and theorist Charles Jencks, this 30-acre garden is full of fascinating sculptures and architectural works, including large twisting DNA helix sculptures, and green and white chequered grass mounds.

All aspects of the garden are inspired by the fundamentals of modern physics and represent the story of the creation of the universe. Open only for one day a year (usually the Sunday of the first May bank holiday), these Alice in Wonderland-esque gardens are well worth planning your trip to Scotland around to immerse yourself in the 30-acres of gardens, bridges, landforms, sculptures, terraces, fences and architectural works.

Discover the joys of south-west Scotland on our Burns Country & the Scottish Borders self-drive itinerary.


The Dunmore Pineapple – Stirlingshire

All your Spongebob Squarepants wishes (if you had any) can now come true in this truly quirky building in Airth, 7 miles east of Stirling. Originally built as an exotic plant hothouse for John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore, to admire the grounds of his estate from – the Dunmore Pineapple House is now available to rent out for only £260.00 for 4 nights!

Pineapples were first discovered in the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and soon became a highly sought-after delicacy across Europe. Weirdly, they also became a symbol of power, wealth and hospitality which might explain why Murray built the largest pineapple on top of his house, that he could!

The ‘most bizarre building in Scotland’ is definitely worth a visit, and makes a memorable stopover between Edinburgh and Fort William on our Escape to the Highlands self-drive itinerary.


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Kelburn Castle – Ayrshire

Historic Kelburn Castle has been home to the Earls of Glasgow since the 13th century and has been continuously occupied by the same family since 1140. It is one of the most historic buildings in Scotland and now, thanks to the vision of the current Lord Glasgow, is also one of the quirkiest and funkiest.

Whilst its long-standing history is sure to capture the interest of many, it is slightly overshadowed by its brightly-coloured turrets and vibrant murals. The current Lord Glasgow welcomed a team of Brazilian graffiti artists to let their creativity take over and create an incredible work of art.

In 2011, the mural was named as one of the world’s top 10 examples of street art by author and designer Tristan Manco. The project was an incredible example of contrasting cultures coming together to create an inspiring artwork. Taking the vibrant, urban graffiti out of context and placing it on the walls of a historic, rural castle created a highly talked about project which challenged peoples’ view on graffiti.

The castle is still the private home of Earl of Glasgow, therefore, tours are only available in July, August, and the first week of September.

Visit this funky, fascinating, and fun castle on our Discover Ayrshire & Arran self-drive itinerary.


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Bridge to Nowhere – East Lothian

Despite its great, attention-grabbing name, this bridge does actually lead somewhere! Located at Belhaven Bay, 25 miles east of Edinburgh, what appears to be an unassuming bridge during low tide comes into its own during high tide. The water surrounds the bridge, creating its appearance of leading to absolutely nowhere.

When the bridge is not surrounded by water, it is used to cross the Biel Water, a large stream running through the village of Biel.

Cross the Bridge to Nowhere on the John Muir Way long-distance walking trail, close to the end point in Dunbar.


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The Witches’ Well – Edinburgh

Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, is home to many stories from the darker side of Scottish history. Just meters away from magical Edinburgh Castle sits a cast-iron fountain – the Witches’ Well – which marks the spot where hundreds of accused witches were burned at the stake.

During the 16th century, it is documented that more women were murdered at this spot than anywhere else in Scotland, and not one woman killed here was given a fair and proper trial to prove her innocence. Scotland was infamous for being Europe’s biggest executioner of witches, with over 4,000 women sentenced to death during the 17th and 18th centuries – almost all of which were ordered by King James VI of Scotland who was known for his hatred and obsession with witches and the dark arts.

Our Edinburgh Festival & The Military Tattoo package allows you to experience Edinburgh’s fascinating history during August when the largest arts festival in the world comes to town.


Fairy Pools – Isle Of Skye

Trolls under bridges and fairies in your garden – the people of Scotland have always told stories of magical and legendary creatures living across the land. Although there isn’t a particular fairy myth attached to the stunning Fairy Pools near Carbost on the Isle of Skye, there is nothing better than your own imagination, and this place is especially magical.

The Fairy Pools have caught the attention of many people travelling to Scotland recently due to their stunningly blue waters and picturesque waterfalls. The crystal-clear water makes for an incredible spot for wild swimming if you’re brave enough, and if you spot a fairy, that’s an extra bonus!

Our Islands of Arran, Islay, Mull & Skye itinerary allows you to explore some of Scotland’s most beautiful islands.


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Scotland is packed full of incredible, stunning, unusual and wonderful places to discover. Which will you visit first?

Fern Urquhart

P.S. Established in Edinburgh in 2004, Absolute Escapes are award-winning specialists in self-drive holidays in Scotland and walking holidays in the UK & Ireland. We know where to find the best accommodation, food and drink experiences, and top places to see – send us an enquiry now and start planning your unforgettable trip.

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