The First Minister's recent announcement about the easing of travel restrictions has meant that many of us have been given a little more optimism about being able to enjoy a wee break around Scotland this summer.

As it's unlikely we'll be able to travel abroad for the foreseeable future, exploring some of the stunning scenery and hidden gems our beautiful country has to offer is surely top of the agenda.

We've spoken to some of the country's top travel bloggers to ask them where they will be heading first when lockdown ends.

From bagging Munros and visiting fairytale castles to checking out mystical standing stones and grabbing an ice cream cone at a picturesque coastal village, here's what they had to say.

This week's top Scotland Now stories

Kate Hopper of Love, from Scotland - Loch Fleet, East Sutherland and the Birdwatcher’s Cabin

Sunset at the Birdwatcher's Cabin
Sunset at the Birdwatcher's Cabin

Kate said: "The North Coast 500 might be right outside your door, but the silence at Loch Fleet near Golspie is only interrupted by the whistling cry of an osprey taking flight over an endless stretch of sand dunes, mudflats, and 100-year-old Scots pinewoods.

"On the banks of the loch is the Birdwatcher’s Cabin, a luxury hideaway for two (plus the dog).

"Inside, the cabin is a lesson in minimalist luxury - think beautiful vintage furniture, stylish rugs and an incredibly comfy bed with really thick sheets.

"If you can tear yourself away from the cabin’s view, take a walk up Golspie’s famous Big Burn waterfalls, perfect for a stroll with the dog or to the Instagram friendly chateau-like towers of Dunrobin Castle which is just up the road.

The quiet and peaceful Loch Fleet
The quiet and peaceful Loch Fleet

"Then climb the local Munro, Ben Klibreck, before heading to the famous Mac & Wild cafe at the beautiful Falls of Shin, try the Mac & Cheese and pulled pork rolls.

"Then return to your cabin’s deck for sunset sundowners and osprey spotting all wrapped up in soft local wool blankets.

"Loch Fleet is in an area of Scotland home to more wildlife than people - East Sutherland’s population, temporary residents of the North Coast 500 aside, doesn’t top 13,000. After months of lockdown it sounds like a perfect staycation in Scotland to me."

You can find out more about Kate and her Love, from Scotland blog here.

Victoria MacDonald of The Aye Life - Harris is my Paris

Victoria enjoys the wonders of Harris
Victoria enjoys the wonders of Harris

Victoria said: "If you haven’t been to the Isle of Harris, then you’re basically doing something wrong. Harris is one of the wildest, life-affirming places I’ve ever been. Aye... in my life!

"Take the ferry from Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, have a fine plate of warming macaroni cheese in the restaurant before heading out onto the deck to feel the wind (and it’s brisk) blow your ears back into your heid. Spot whales, dolphins, and the clumsiest puffins you’ve ever seen... and that’s just the journey!

"Landing in Stornoway, pop by Sandwick Bay Candles to pick up a bonnie wee candle (which is going to give you all the romantic vibes for your yurt with sea views) before heading south. Stop at the Callanish Standing Stones, to appreciate their wondrous majesty before heading down the island to Harris, to Lickisto Blackhouse Camping.

The beautiful Isle of Harris scenery
The beautiful Isle of Harris scenery

"Lickisto boasts original stone blackhouse bothies, one of which has been converted into a community space for a hearty dram and a wee sing-a-long (there’s always one that brings a guitar). The yurts are dog-friendly, with the loveliest little stoves and the cosiest wee beds.

"That wee candle that you picked up in Stornoway? Light it up because this is ambience like you’ve never seen. Lickisto is also motorhome friendly but you’ll need to book in advance. This is an unbelievable hidden gem.

"Harris is perhaps most famed for its beaches, it isn’t entirely hard to see why. The sands are white and the waters are crystal clear. Try Luskentyre, Horgabost, or Seilebost for size and if it’s even possible to tire of beach life, why not head over to the Isle of Harris Distillery which is conveniently placed right next to Harris Tweed.

"We are taking our converted van, “Van Heilan” over to Harris at the nearest opportunity. The wild swimming opportunities are endless! Why not head out West to the Outer Hebrides for your Scottish staycation?"

You can find out more about Victoria and The Aye Life blog here.

Kathi Kamleitner of Watch Me See - The Angus Glens

Kathi hiking at Glen Cova
Kathi hiking at Glen Cova

Kathi said: "While there are many areas I look forward to exploring this summer, I did not hesitate when it came to booking my first post-lockdown adventure to Angus.

"I fell in love with the Angus Glens last summer, Munro-bagging at Glen Clova and have often seen the beaches of the Angus coast zoom by on the train to Aberdeen. Now it's finally time to explore the area more in-depth.

"I booked a couple of B&Bs by the seaside and at the foot of the southern Cairngorms to make the most of everything Angus has to offer. I will head to Montrose and Arbroath and any beach I can find in between.

"Afterward, I plan to explore the Angus Glens I haven't seen before on foot and by bike. Glen Esk, Isla, Prosen and Lethnot - each has something different to offer.

"I will finish my trip in Dundee and am excited to see what new murals have been added to the Open/Close street art trail since my last visit. Going east was a conscious choice - I expect it might be much quieter than some of Scotland's more famous getaways on the west coast."

You can find out more about Kathi and her Watch Me See blog here.

Susanne Arbuckle of Adventures Around Scotland - Moray Speyside and Aberdeenshire coast

The old harbour at the picturesque village of Portsoy, Aberdeenshire
The old harbour at the picturesque village of Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

Susanne said: "I've already booked my first staycation and I can't wait to start exploring Scotland again. In May I'm staying at two glamping sites near the Moray Speyside and Aberdeenshire coast. I love this part of the country which retains lots of history and natural charm.

"If you visit, try one of the inventive flavours of ice-cream in Portsoy on a saunter around the 17th-century harbour, stopping by The Boatshed where traditional boatbuilding skills are kept alive.

"If historic fishing villages are your thing, Crovie, Pennan and Gardenstown are a must-visit picturesque trio nestled below dramatic cliffs.

"A tour of Brodie Castle offers a glimpse into the grand lifestyle of one of Scotland’s most prominent families while standing inside the jaunty tower of the haunted Duffus Castle can leave you a little disorientated.

"The ruins of Elgin Cathedral are impressive but it is the collection of intricately carved stones that is the highlight for me. If you prefer hidden gems pick up the key for the mysterious sunken Burghead Well or stop by Sueno's Stone, a 7m tall Pictish slab in Forres.

"All that and I haven't even started on the golden beaches, whisky distilleries, local dolphins or the photogenic Bow Fiddle Rock!"

You can find out more about Susanne Arbuckle and her Adventures Around Scotland blog here.

Mel Chadd of Full Stop Next Chapter - The picturesque village of Balgowan

Mel enjoys the view from Dun Da Lahm
Mel enjoys the view from Dun Da Lahm

Mel said: "As restrictions ease I am looking forward to spreading my Travel Blogger wings again. To experience incredible Scottish hospitality and take deep breaths of fresh air and let my shoulders relax.

"On the very western edge of the Cairngorms National Park is the pretty hamlet of Balgowan. Nestled in the Spey Valley and has everything I want from a few days away; solitude, miles of walking trails and plenty of quiet places for a cold water swim.

"My favourite short walk here is Black Wood and Dun da Lahm. This 8.5km circuit includes walking through native pinewoods up to the remains of a Pictish fort and the views are special. Looking over Strath Mashie to the south, the river Spey to the north and to the east the rest of the National Park.

"Whenever I travel around Scotland I like to find new spots for a wild swim. Finding a quiet, calm spot in the river Pattack is quite the highlight but there are many options including loch Laggan to enjoy.

"Wildlife experiences don't always have to mean the obvious of red deer. During my last visit to Balgowan I found an Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar. It was exquisite. Next time I will be looking out for signs of the elusive Pine Martens.

"It warms my heart to know I can resume exploring Scotland again very soon."

You can find out more about Mel and her Full Stop Next Chapter blog here.

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