Think Scotland, and you’ll conjure up images of Scottish Highlanders, swinging bagpipes, the Loch Ness Monster, lonely castles, golf, beautiful scenery and rugged Highland cows. All of these are part of the mystique of this unique country, but also (apart from Nessie) a very real preview of what tourists see there.
You can explore Scotland by boat, on foot along the trails, on scenic train rides or by car, and each will lead to unforgettable experiences. History is everywhere as you tour the castles and legendary battlefields where clans fought, trace the footsteps of legendary kings and queens, or follow literary paths Robbie Burns and Sir Walter Scott . Another great attraction of Scotland is its solitude, with its remote expanses of heather-covered moorland; secluded beaches; and wild, romantic mountains, with their deep glens and lochs. Whether you choose bustling cities, historic towns or remote moors and islands, you’ll find they’re all packed with memorable things to see and do.
Read also: 17 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in London
1 Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile
The stone towers and walls of Edinburgh Castle have dominated the Edinburgh skyline since the 13th century. Perched atop black basalt rock, it offers sweeping views of the city and a journey through Scotland’s tumultuous history. Highlights include the spectacular Crown Jewels; the famous Stone of Destiny (the Stone of Scone); and St. Margaret’s Chapel, built in 1130 and the oldest building in Edinburgh. Enter the castle via a drawbridge over an old moat from the wide Esplanade , where the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo is held every August. Bronze statues of legendary heroes William Wallace and Robert the Bruce seem to keep an eye on the castle gates.
Below, the Royal Mile stretches up the escarpment to the elegant Palace of Holyroodhouse , one of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks. Surrounded by brick mansions and historic sites, the Royal Mile is also filled with small shops, kilt makers, tearooms, museums and cafes. Between the tall buildings – some reaching more than 10 stories on the hill side – are narrow alleys, called ‘winds’, that wind between small hidden openings.
Location: Castlehill, Edinburgh
Official site: www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Edinburgh: Best Areas and Hotels
2 Loch Lomond
Idyllic Loch Lomond, just a short drive northwest of Glasgow, is Britain’s largest loch and, according to author Walter Scott, “The Queen of Scottish Lakes.” With abundant trout, salmon and whitefish as a lure for fishermen; the lake for water sports; and plenty of open space for walkers; this beautiful corner of Scotland is also a favorite day trip from the city. Boat trips are always popular, as are lakeside walks and longer treks up majestic Ben Lomond (3192 feet), with its spectacular views over the Trossachs National Park . Loch Lomond is a good first stop on a tour from Glasgow along the Western Highland Way through the Argyll countryside toFort William . Taste the romance of a Scottish estate at Cameron House on the south side of the lake, where you can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities including the lakeside golf course.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Glasgow
3 Cruising Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal
Denk aan Loch Ness, en je zult je waarschijnlijk het mythische monster voorstellen dat volgens de legende dit 23 mijl lange loch huis heeft gemaakt voor talloze eeuwen. Het grootste water in Schotland Great Glen, Loch Ness maakt deel uit van een waterweg die de oost- en westkust van Schotland verbindt. Het en drie andere meren worden samengevoegd door het Caledonian Canal, dat je kunt cruisen op korte excursies, of op een zes uur durende reis van het ene einde naar het andere, door de kanaalsluizen die de variërende waterstanden aanpassen.
Het kanaal en elk van de meren wordt omringd door enkele van de mooiste hooglanden, maar geen enkel deel is schilderachtiger dan Loch Ness zelf, met de romantische ruïnes van Urquhart Castle op zijn heuvel boven het water. Het centrum van veel oude mythen, het kasteel uit de 12e eeuw, werd zo’n 500 jaar later het slachtoffer van een brand. De beste uitzichten op het kasteel zijn vanaf het water en u kunt per boot aankomen of langs een Loch Ness-cruise dobberen. De Nessie-legende voeden met exposities en verslagen van waarnemingen, Loch Ness-tentoonstelling op Drumnadrochit Hotel heeft ook interessante informatie over de geologische formatie van Loch Ness en het omliggende gebied. Het kasteel, het kanaal en Loch Ness zijn gemakkelijk bereikbaar vanuit Inverness.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Loch Ness
4 The Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh
For over 40 years, the Royal Yacht Britannia has been a floating royal residence, covering more than 1,000,000 miles around the world. Poison the lives of the Royal Family, their guests and crew as you explore Britannia’s five main decks with an audio tour, visiting the bridge, State Apartments and Royal Bedrooms, Crew’s Quarters and Engine Room. You can also see the Rolls-Royce See Phantom V that used to ride aboard and stop for tea and cake in the Royal Deck Tea Room.
Adres: Ocean Drive, Edinburgh
Official Site: https://www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk/
5 Isle of Skye and the Inner Hebrides
The largest of Scotland’s inland regions, Skye is particularly popular with birdwatchers, walkers and nature lovers. The wild, romantic mountain landscape is characterized by green valleys, caves, lonely glens, sandy beaches and rushing waterfalls – a remarkable variety for an island that is only 50 miles long and never more than 15 miles wide. The island has the remains of ancient oak forests, as well as abundant wildlife including otters, seals and at least 200 species of birds. Getting to Skye is easy as it is connected to the mainland by a bridge. You can also get here by ferry.
The other islands in the Inner Hebrides include Islay, Jura, Mull, Raasay, Staffa and Iona. Getting to Iona is a bit more complicated, requiring two ferry rides, but hugely rewarding. This is considered the “Cradle of Christianity” in Scotland, as it was here St. Columba came from Ireland in the 6th century to spread the Gospel. A 12th-century church, atmospheric ruins of an abbey and a 10th-century carved monument are among the attractions, as is Scotland’s oldest Christian cemetery , with the graves of over 60 Scottish kings, including Macbeth.
Accommodation: Where to Stay on the Isle of Skye
6 Stirling Castle
The palace of James V and childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots , Stirling Castle is one of the best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the United Kingdom. The great halls and rooms have been carefully restored and furnished to the appearance of the 1500s, even down to minute reproductions of his tapestries. Costumed interpreters interact with visitors to bring the castle and its history to life, and History Hunter programs on weekends are designed for young explorers.
Ideally located between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Stirling is famous for the Battle of Bannockburn , in which Robert the Bruce defeated the English invaders in 1314, as well as the Battle of Stirling Bridge , a victory for Scottish independence secured by the legendary William Wallace. The wonderful Bannockburn Heritage Center offers excellent displays and exhibitions about this important era. Between Stirling and Bridge of Allan stands the majestic Wallace Monument , a spectacular 246-step tower with sweeping views of the area, as well as artifacts said to have belonged to the great Wallace himself.
Official site: www.stirlingcastle.gov.uk/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Stirling
7 Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
Since a fire destroyed much of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s work at the Glasgow School of Art, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has become the primary destination for admirers of the Glasgow Style, a distinctive part of the Arts & Crafts movement and Art Nouveau movement. styles of the early 20th century. Created and opened shortly before the fire, the Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Glasgow Style Gallery includes several full Mackintosh rooms, as well as works by other prominent artists of the movement. Along with other notable treasures – a Van Gogh portrait, bronze tools and jewels by Arran and Kintyre, a 1944 Mark Spitfire and a beautiful 1901 organ Free concerts daily– one of the museum’s most popular exhibits is Salvador Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross .
Adres: Argyle Street, Glasgow
8 Golf in St. Andrews
The Scots claim many inventions, including the bicycle, stamps, telephones and steam engines. But perhaps their most enduring invention is the game of golf. One of the lifelong dreams of dedicated golfers is to play the acclaimed Royal and Ancient Golf Club in historic St. Andrews and just 12 miles southeast of Dundee. Founded in 1750 and internationally recognized as a golf governing body, St. Andrews regularly hosts the famous British Open on one of its many 18-hole courses, the most famous of which is the par-72 Old Coursealong the rugged coast. While tee times are often reserved six months in advance, some are held available two days in advance by lottery for those who don’t have advance reservations. Worth a visit are the majestic old club house and the British Golf Museum , which documents the history of the “home of golf” from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in St Andrews
9 Riverside Museum en Tall Ship, Glasgow
One of Scotland’s most visited attractions, Glasgow’s free Riverside Museum collects the history of land and water transport in a striking new location. See trams, locomotives, buses, horse-drawn carriages and vintage cars, along with ships and other models. A highlight is the authentic reconstruction of the streets of Glasgow in 1938 , with shops you can enter and platforms up to all the locomotives. More than 20 interactive displays and 90 large touch screens add images, memories and movies that give extra meaning to the collections. Out on the River Clyde you can board SSGlenlee , a tall barge built in 1896 and the only floating Clyde-built sailing vessel in Britain.
Adres: 100 Pointhouse Place, Glasgow
Official site: www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/riverside/Pages/default.aspx
10 The Northern Highlands
The Scottish Highlands are mystically born from its rugged, untamed landscapes and its long history, at once violent and romantic. Sparsely populated, these mountains and rocky shores are loved by walkers and cyclists and those who enjoy fishing, golf, sea kayaking, white water rafting, gorge walking and other outdoor adventures in Britain’s largest national park . Sprinkled throughout are cute little villages and towns with lodging and eateries. Stop in the small seaside village of Dornoch to see the cathedral and castle ruins, and John o’Groats, overlooking the Pentland Firth, where a much-photographed sign marks Britain’s most northerly point, 874 miles from the most southerly point at Land’s End in Cornwall. You can explore this northern tip of Scotland on a new scenic route, the North Coast 500 .
11 Isle of Arran
The beautiful Isle of Arran is often referred to as “Scotland in Miniature” as it reflects the landscapes of the entire country in an area of barely 166 square miles. You’ll find rolling moors, rugged mountains, sandy beaches, fishing harbours, castles and golf courses, all less than an hour’s ferry ride from Glasgow. No need for a car as regular buses run around the island connecting the attractions. Although the highlights – including Brodick Castle and Goat Fell Mountain (2,866 feet) – can be visited in a day (including the ferry ride), you could easily spend a few days exploring this little sampler of Scotland.
Accommodation: Where to Stay on the Isle of Arran
12 Robbie Burns Country: The Burns Heritage Trail
No visit to Scotland is complete without visiting at least one or two sites associated with the country’s most famous son, poet Robbie Burns. A great way to experience a bit of Burns’ life and times – and to see some of the most beautiful parts of the country – is along the Burns Heritage Trail. Start at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museumin Alloway, on the outskirts of Ayr, where you’ll find the perfectly preserved thatched house where the poet was born and spent much of his childhood. After visiting other Burns related attractions – including a monument and gardens created to commemorate his life and time in Ayr, a collection of his most important writings and the 16th century Auld Kirk where his father is buried – this tour continues to the south to Dumfries, with the superb Robert Burns Housewhere the celebrated poet spent the last four years of his life (he died here in 1796, aged just 36). Now a museum of Burns-related memorabilia, this attraction displays a vivid portrait of his life, and his final resting place is a short distance away in St. Michael’s Churchyard.
Official site: https://www.alamoburnsclub.org.uk/index_files/Page20805.htm
More must-see destinations in Scotland
As you tour Scotland, there are places you’ll want to spend more time, delving deeper into the country’s fascinating culture and seeing more of its top attractions. You could spend an entire holiday in Edinburgh without seeing it all, with a full day just exploring the castle, or in Glasgow, with its art treasures and music scene. Both the beautiful Loch Lomond and the legendary Loch Ness have more to do around their banks, and the Scottish Highlands are full of places to enjoy outdoor sports. There’s more than golf around St Andrews, and you can island hop around the Hebrides by ferry and bus.