I really shouldn’t tell you because I call it my “secret” beach and then constantly blab about it. It’s a smallish crescent-shaped beach called Kilbride Bay near Tighnabruaich in Argyll, but the locals call it Ostel Bay. I’ve been going to this hidden gem for decades. It’s about a 20-minute walk from where you leave your car, down a bumpy, fern-lined path and across a peat bog. Admittedly not great when you’re carrying all the accoutrements for a day on a Scottish beach – swimsuit, sweater, sunshade, cagoule, picnic, windbreak etc, but it’s worth it when you get there. 


Having travelled around the country over the years, and more recently as part of my role as the President for the National Trust for Scotland, it’s really difficult to pick just one place. It’s a bit unorthodox but I’m going for the Local Hero phone box in Pennan.

The National: An iconic scene from Local Hero, shot in Pennan

I know it’s not the original, nor is it in the exact location as seen in the film, but it holds a very special place in my heart. My kids used to say their gran’s food was great because it was “made with love” and I apply that criterion to Bill Forsyth’s classic. Every scene, every character, is a gem – and the soundtrack is superb. How could you watch it and not want to rush to sample Scotland?


As a history buff I love streets that take me back in time. Culross village in Fife is a remarkable place to visit as you really feel you’ve been transported to the 17th century. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when American visitors step off their tour bus there – it must blow their minds.

The National:


Crikey, that’s a difficult one. Getting a puppy is certainly up there – a tiny Alsatian called Brue who became my best pal throughout most of my young years. Another memory isn’t quite so joyous, but it leaps out at the very mention of my childhood: my parents took my brother and me to some nearby fields for a picnic and to roll our chocolate Easter eggs. I unwrapped my egg and watched as it rolled down a hill and into a giant cowpat. Any psychologists out there? Over to you…


How about a run? Each year on my birthday I try a life-affirming run around a circular route from Tighnabruaich village. You follow the single-track coast road with Bute on your left and keep running until Bute hands over to Arran. Then it’s up through the hills (overlooking the aforementioned Ostel Bay), down into the village of Millhouse and back to the pub in Tighnabruaich for a pint. The runs are getting slower, but it just means I have more time to appreciate the scenery and the calls of the oystercatchers.


Mean, moody, majestic, prehistoric Glencoe still gets me every time. It’s not just Glencoe’s bloody history but my perennial observations – just how hardy our ancestors were to live there and what wusses we all are now. A special mention for the Tighnabruaich viewpoint overlooking the Kyles of Bute (This is getting boring now, but I promise I’m not on the Tighnabruaich payroll … although I am corruptible and open to offers.)  

The National:


Any bakery that makes great fruit scones. I cannot pass a tearoom with scones on the menu.


A steaming bowl of cullen skink on a chilly day.

The Green Welly at Tyndrum used to make a fabulous cullen skink and I’d head north from Glasgow and salivate all the way there. I’m also a sucker for a Macaroon bar: glorious to eat and then hours of fun picking the coconut out of your teeth.


A seashore – preferably in the west Highlands. The relentlessness of the waves and the vastness of the sea reinforces the fact that you are but a tiny, insignificant, fleeting visitor to this planet. There is also something spiritual and moving about the light as you look out on the islands.

Further inland, how about Killiecrankie, Perthshire just as the trees are turning for autumn, or perhaps a wander through Harmony Garden in Melrose when it’s in full bloom? I feel so fortunate to have spent time in many National Trust for Scotland places that offer the ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. 


Scottish broadcaster and journalist Jackie Bird became the first female President of the National Trust for Scotland in 2022 and is the host of its must-listen podcast, Love Scotland. Listen and subscribe to Love Scotland on all the usual podcast channels.