Get away from the crowds with country breaks in Scotland
Who cares if the weather isn't exactly perfect? Country breaks in Scotland are all about the great outdoors, admiring the glens and lochs, saying hello to curious Highland cattle, and maybe forgetting about the chill in the air with a dram or two.
The wild and desolate regions of Wester Ross are a real version of a cinematic Scottish landscape, but a bend in the road brings you to wonderful botanical gardens at Inverewe, where gum trees and exotic blooms flourish, while being battered by Atlantic gales. Accommodation in the region can be found in rental cottages, cabins, and for the hardy, campsites (www.visitgairloch.com).
On the east coast, facing bravely towards Scandinavia, Cromarty is a pretty old fishing village, with a cosmopolitan past, bringing in flax and hemp from St Petersburg and Riga for its textile mills. It has a quiet beauty these days, and makes for a relaxing visit away from urban frenzy. Stay in the National Trust for Scotland's 2-bedroom Lydia Cottage, sleeping 4, available from £200 a week in low season, up to £400 a week in high season (www.nts.org.uk).
The quiet old country town of Dunkeld in Perthshire might not look the most exciting place to take children, but there is a surprise in store. After they have yawned impolitely at the beautiful ruins of the Gothic cathedral, take them along the river to nearby Birnam where Beatrix Potter dreamt up all those whimsical tales of hedgehogs and rabbits on her country house holidays 140 years ago, Tiggywinkle fans will want to visit the Beatrix Potter garden (www.visitdunkeld.com).
Stay in the grand old Birnam House Hotel, with bargain break doubles for £42 per person including dinner, adding a little Victorian-era atmosphere to those country breaks in Scotland.