Your Ultimate Guide to discovering the best of Scotland
Scotland’s unique history and customs set it apart from the rest of the UK. Its stunning natural beauty spans from the rugged mountains, windswept glens, and deep lochs of the Highlands to the Hebrides and far-flung Orkney and Shetland islands off the west and north coasts.
In addition to its picturesque landscapes, Scotland boasts two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, known for their rich history and culture. Along the eastern coast, charming fishing villages offer a glimpse into Scotland’s maritime heritage. The landscape is dotted with majestic castles, and the country hosts a range of festivals celebrating Scottish culture, including the world-famous Edinburgh Festival and Braemar’s Highland Games featuring bagpipe playing and kilted locals showcasing their strength.
Here is the Ultimate Guide to discovering the best of Scotland:
Spectacular Natural Beauty
Isle of Skye
Scotland’s Isle of Skye is a must-visit for those seeking picturesque landscapes and breathtaking coastlines. Its stunning attractions, including the Fairy Glen and Fairy Pools, are reminiscent of magical places populated by enchanted creatures, boasting an otherworldly charm and beauty that will leave visitors in awe.
The rock formations on the island are equally impressive, with the Old Man of Storr and the pleated folds of Kilt Rock on the Trotternish Peninsula capturing the imagination of visitors. Be sure to add the Isle of Skye to your travel itinerary for a truly unforgettable experience in Scotland’s natural beauty.
Fingal’s Cave, located on the coast of the Isle of Staffa, is a stunning natural wonder that visitors won’t want to miss. Its basaltic rock, formed by ancient lava flows, has taken the shape of hexagonal columns, making for a phenomenal work of nature.
The cave’s interior is nothing short of enchanting, with the echoes of the waves lapping against the pillars producing a beautiful musical sound that amplifies the mystical ambiance of the location. A visit to Fingal’s Cave is a truly unique and unforgettable experience that will leave visitors in awe of Scotland’s natural beauty.
Loch Ness is the most well-known loch in the Scottish Highlands, famous for its alleged association with the Loch Ness monster. This deep, dark loch is encircled by mountains, and no visit to the area is complete without taking a stroll through the lochside ruins of Urquhart Castle.
Experience the mystery and beauty of Loch Ness, which draws visitors from all over the world to explore the legend and natural wonder of the loch. The stunning landscape and historic ruins make this destination a must-visit for anyone exploring the Scottish Highlands.
Glen Coe, a breathtaking U-shaped glacier valley located 16 miles south of Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, boasts unparalleled scenic beauty that includes the Three Sisters Mountains. However, it’s not just the natural beauty that draws visitors; Glen Coe is also a site of historic significance, having been the location of a tragic massacre of members of the MacDonald clan during the Jacobite rebellion in 1692.
A visit to Glen Coe offers visitors an opportunity to experience the region’s natural beauty while also exploring its rich history. The site’s stunning landscape and tragic past make it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of Scotland’s complex history and unparalleled natural beauty.
Loch Lomond, the largest body of water in Britain, stretches an impressive 23 miles long and up to 5 miles wide. In 2002, it became Scotland’s first National Park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, highlighting the natural importance of this stunning location.
Visitors to Loch Lomond can enjoy a scenic tour on one of the wooden ferryboats that ply the lake or take advantage of the ample hiking opportunities along the loch’s beautiful banks. The site’s breathtaking landscape, designated as a national park, makes it a top destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts seeking an unforgettable experience in Scotland’s natural beauty.
Fascinating Historical Sites
Isle of Iona
The Isle of Iona, nestled among the Hebrides islands, is one of Europe’s most sacred pilgrimage sites and historic holy places. St. Columba founded a Christian Centre here in 563 to spread Christianity in Scotland, making it a site of great spiritual significance. Additionally, the isle was also the burial place for 50 Scottish Kings during the early Middle Ages, adding to its historic importance. A visit to the Isle of Iona offers a unique and profound experience for those seeking to connect with Scotland’s spiritual and cultural heritage.
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland’s most famous castle, stands prominently atop Castle Rock in the Old Town of Edinburgh. The castle has a rich history and was once the home of royalty. Its oldest part, St. Margaret’s Chapel, dates back to the 12th century, while the castle also houses Scotland’s Crown Jewels, making it a site of significant cultural and historical importance. A visit to Edinburgh Castle is a must for anyone looking to explore Scotland’s fascinating past and experience its rich cultural heritage.
Perched atop steep cliffs, Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most iconic and historically significant castles. It was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots and served as the residence for many Scottish kings or was the site of their coronations. Today, the castle remains a powerful symbol of Scottish national pride and an essential destination for anyone interested in exploring the country’s rich cultural heritage. A visit to Stirling Castle provides a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in Scotland’s captivating history and experience the grandeur of one of its most magnificent architectural wonders.
The Old Course at St. Andrews
Scotland is widely recognized as the birthplace of golf, believed to have been first played at the Old Course of St. Andrews in Eastern Scotland in the 15th century, making it the oldest golf course in the world. Today, St. Andrews is a mecca for avid golfers who make the pilgrimage to this hallowed course to experience the thrill of playing on its legendary greens. With its rich history and reputation as the birthplace of golf, Scotland is a must-visit destination for any golf enthusiast looking to test their skills on some of the world’s most challenging courses and experience the sport’s rich cultural heritage firsthand.
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
Robert Burns, also known as Scotland’s National Bard, was an influential 18th-century poet whose works, including the iconic Auld Lang Syne, are still widely recognized and celebrated today. Visitors to Scotland can experience Burns’ rich cultural legacy firsthand by visiting his birthplace, now a museum dedicated to his life and work. The museum offers a glimpse into the world of the celebrated poet, with exhibits showcasing the cottage where he was born, as well as landmarks mentioned in his poetry, such as the Brig O’Doon and the Auld Kirk. For anyone with an interest in literature, history, or Scottish culture, a visit to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is an unforgettable experience.
Sir Walter Scott, Scotland’s most famous historical novelist, wrote many of his greatest works at his castle-like baronial mansion, Abbotsford, located on the banks of the River Tweed in the Borders region of southern Scotland. Abbotsford is open to the public, and visitors can explore the writer’s study, library, and the gardens that inspired his romantic poetry and historical novels.
Charming Small Towns
Plockton, located on the west coast, is a charming fishing village surrounded by lovely old homes and cottages set against the backdrop of the picturesque harbor. The area’s unique microclimate is evident in the tropical palms lining the harbor. Visitors to Plockton can rent sea kayaks or embark on wildlife cruises that depart from the waterfront.
Portree is the largest town on the Isle of Skye, featuring a charming cliff-fringed harbor lined with pastel-coloured houses and fishing boats. It serves as a gateway to the scenic Trotternish Peninsula, where visitors can explore natural landmarks such as the Old Man of Storr. Immerse yourself in Skye’s Gaelic culture at the Aros Centre in town.
Located in the central belt of Scotland, Linlithgow is a charming town with a rich historical legacy. Its High Street is lined with historic buildings, including the magnificent Linlithgow Palace, which was the birthplace of James V and Mary Queen of Scots. The Palace is surrounded by parkland that includes the beautiful Linlithgow Loch, a perfect spot for a scenic stroll or picnic.
Culross, situated on the Firth of Forth, is one of Scotland’s most charming and well-preserved villages, boasting cobbled streets and brightly coloured cottages that offer a complete example of a 17th-century burgh. Culross Palace is a notable attraction, as is the hilltop abbey. Visitors can wander through the streets of this picturesque village, admiring its historic architecture, before exploring the palace and abbey.
Discover the charming fishing village of Anstruther on the eastern coast of Scotland, overlooking the Firth of Forth. Its fishing heritage is celebrated at the Scottish Fisheries Museum. Take a pleasant stroll along the old harbor walls and soak in the picturesque views.