A Romantic Break in Scotland

Fancy a romantic break in Scotland? Here are some suggestions to suit any budget (or none) But what does ‘romantic’ actually mean? Is there a St Valentine connection?

A Romantic Scottish Break

Are you thinking about a romantic break in Scotland? If you are looking for inspiration, then there are lots of romantic things to do and places to stay in Scotland. This isn’t a tour but more a short list of romantic suggestions.

Alternatively, it’s a range of ideas from the wacky to the grimly pedestrian. It depends on your own notion of ‘romantic’. (Said he defensively.)

I'd like to think we were on a romantic break when I took this pic. To be honest, it was just a dog walk in the John Muir Country Park, East Lothian
A stroll on one of many beaches within easy access of Edinburgh. This is the John Muir Country Park, near Dunbar. Arty shadows, eh?

Edinburgh is Romantic, some say – Splash Out In Style!

In Edinburgh? Take your best-beloved to the stylish and traditional Edwardian Balmoral Hotel or Caledonian Hotel for your romantic break – or enjoy five star boutique-style at G&V Royal Mile Hotel.

Perhaps the discreetly tucked away Malmaison in Leith (Edinburgh’s historic port) or Hotel du Vin in the Old Town might suit better? – or a luxury self-contained suite such as the Edinburgh Residence or The Chester Residence might appeal as a hotel alternative. Expensive? Frankly, yes! But you are worth it!

If, by any chance, you think you’ve found your life partner, then an upmarket Edinburgh jeweller has put together a map with a list of suggestions about venues in the city where you could, uhmm, pop the question, propose, or actually utter whatever long-term arrangement you were thinking about…

See Rox Diamonds & Thrills on that link (which is here out of the goodness of my heart only, by the way).

Greyfriars Bobby statue
Romantic? A faithful dog? Maybe that’s just schmaltzy. Anyway, he’s very popular.

A Romantic Break On A Budget?

Interested in a stroll to see Greyfriars Bobby, the dog that features in heart-rending tale of fidelity that won the hearts of Edinburgh folk (and Walt Disney). Wait a minute, can dogs do Romantic?

Well, what about something wacky? Catch a 44 bus east bound to Portobello.

The promenade is historic with nice pubs and cafes to enjoy after a stroll on the beach, while the Victorian architecture behind the seafront is fascinating.

Discover little bijou cottages and mini-town houses, many of which were built by Edinburgh business-men of the 19th century, so they could discreetly install their mistresses. Is this romantic, or just seedy? Hmm.

Still – it is a nice Edinburgh suburb to discover – known as the “Brighton” of Edinburgh – and it has B&Bs and a good transport link into the city centre – useful to know at peak season when the city is so busy.

Romantic Day Trips From Edinburgh

The Loch Leven Castle boat
Catch the wee ferry across to Loch Leven Castle with its romantic associations with Mary, Queen of Scots

Easy to reach from the city, take a boat trip across Loch Leven and hear the tale of Mary, Queen of Scots’ escape from her imprisonment in Lochleven Castle in 1568. This did not count as a romantic break.

However, it is said that young Willy Douglas was so charmed by her that instead of guarding her he pinched the keys from the castle owner, arranged a boat, and then let her out, locking the doors behind him and hiding the keys.

Melrose is probably a good place for a romantic break. The view from the top of Melrose Abbey, Scottish Borders
The view from the top of Melrose Abbey, Scottish Borders

Further afield (but day-trippable from Edinburgh), visit Melrose Abbey. A fine description of this romantically ruined abbey is in Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel’.

He recommends seeing the ruins by moonlight (very romantic), though Historic Environment Scotland, who look after romantic ruins and much more,  would prefer if you came by daylight.

That way, they can get the admission price off you. 

Memrose Abbey is also the burial place of Robert the Bruce’s heart – which is quite a romantic notion I think. 

More Things To Do In Scotland on your Romantic Break

In Fife, show her you care – by not playing golf one morning in St Andrews but instead tagging along and browsing the town’s excellent and upmarket boutique shops and cafes- and there is a lovely beach here too (This suggestion is romantic and sexist at the same time.)

In Perthshire and Angus, there are lots of things to do on a romantic break; such as responding to Robert Burns invitation in song and taking a walk above the pleasant Perthshire town of Aberfeldy, with woods and waterfalls.

‘Bonnie Lassie, will ye go, to the Birks o Aberfeldy?’ he wrote.

Amang the Birks o Aberfeldy
On the Birks o Aberfeldy walk. panel inscribed with Burns’ verse.

Answer, yes, to the invitation to view the ‘Birks o Aberfeldy’ only if you can make your partner promise to buy lunch or dinner afterwards.

(Birks are birch trees, by the way.)

And, as you can see, from the pic., words from the song have been thoughtfully carved on panels for you to quote, should love make you otherwise tongue-tied.

Just remember ‘waas’ rhymes with ‘faas’ rhymes with ‘shaas’ – long ‘a’, frontal vowel, kinda Scandinavian sound. Go on, try it…

Discover the slightly romantic Angus Glens

Sticking with romantic songs – discover the Angus Glens. ‘Busk, busk, bonnie lassie, and come awa wi me / And I’ll tak ye tae Glen Isla near bonnie Glenshee‘ is the Scottish traditional song by way of invitation.

‘Busk’ means roughly ‘get your act together and put some lippy on – we’re going out’.

Make sure you get at least a morning coffee and a fancy cake at one of the cafes in Kirriemuir, the Glens gateway town. A gentle and peaceful day, spending time together. Aww. Now, that’s romantic.

The A93 heading for the Cairnwell Pass, Glenshee
The A93 heading north for the Cairnwell Pass, Glenshee

(Pictured here) Glenshee road in winter, looking north, beyond the Spittal of Glenshee. Strictly speaking, in the picture above, we’re looking up Gleann Beag, and the road climbs to the ski centre at Glenshee.

The A93, a little further on, is the highest main road in the UK. It then drops to Braemar in Royal Deeside, Aberdeeenshire.

For snow-lovers, this pic was taken on 10 March 2011, with exceptional snow conditions higher up. But the road was passable.

(Sorry, that information was practical, rather than romantic.)

As the distinctive teardrop pattern is sometimes described as an ancient Middle Eastern fertility symbol, does this make it romantic? You could certainly buy an antique shawl as a romantic gift.

“…when the English poet William Wordsworth with his sister Dorothy made their first expeditions to Scotland in 1803, you could say they were on a romantic break, but not as we know it.

What Does The Word ‘Romantic’ Mean Anyway?

Why is a get-away-from-it-all break with just the two of you (usually!) often called a romantic break?

In its oldest form romances were chivalrous and fantastical tales written, many centuries ago, in a variety of languages, including popular (as opposed to classical) Latin – sometimes called Romanicus, French Provencal, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian.

As words evolved, Romanicus became Romanic and them Romantic. These popular tales written in native ‘Romance’ languages had a key theme: the narrative rose far above everyday life.

Later, the stories often included a love element – and this pointed towards one modern meaning of a romance.

‘Romantic’ – as in the Romantic Movement or revival in the late 18th century – applied to the writers, artists and poets who revolted against the narrowness and order of neo-classicism in the arts (in their widest sense).

These creative types aspired to a freer more picturesque and imaginative style.

So, when the English poet William Wordsworth with his sister Dorothy made their first expeditions to Scotland in 1803, you could say they were on a romantic break, but not as we know it.

No, the Wordsworths visited to experience the sublime – wild and untamed Nature – and thus, along with Sir Walter Scott and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and others, helped create that image of Scotland as a romantic destination.

There’s more about this on our Trossachs page. 

Even so, there is a link to the old sense of the word – a place where things happen that are far above the everyday.

St Valentine And Glasgow

As an afterthought, Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city has an important symbol of love (and romance), especially if you’re keen on venerating old bones on your romantic break. (What?)  These particular bones are – (gasp!) – the actual relics of St Valentine.

Or at least one St Valentine, as three have been recorded. For years, some of this particular St Valentine’s mortal remains were in a side aisle of St Francis’ Church in Scotland’s largest city.

Then, for a period in the 1990s, they were kept in a wooden casket in a cardboard box on a wardrobe in a nearby chapter house. (Yes, really, it’s on the BBC website.)

Now they are on display in a gold casket in the Church of Blessed St John Duns Scotus in Glasgow’s Gorbals, not a part of the city noted for its visitor attractions.

However, another St Valentine’s bits are in a box in a church in Dublin, with yet more pieces in other European centres, so that Glasgow isn’t unique. (And neither, for that matter, is Valentine.)

Anyway, the point is that in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules, the mediaeval English author was the first to connect 14th February, St Valentine’s Day, with romantic love.

He relates that it is the day when all the birds of the air assemble to choose their mates.

Right-oh…what about some romantic poetry from Scotland’s national bard?