Scotland is a place of natural beauty, where wildlife, lochs and moors await on every turn. Perfect for walking, adventures and culture, Scotland is soon becoming one of the most visited countries in Europe, and it’s easy to see why!
If you want the hustle and bustle of a city or the peace and serenity of the countryside, Scotland has something for everyone. So, follow our list of the best things to do in Scotland to discover our must-see destinations.
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Scotland’s capital, there’s no shortage of things to do in this bustling, history-steeped city. A seamless blend of old and new, whether you find yourself here for a day or a week, be sure to immerse yourself in the sights and tastes and enjoy every second in this spectacular city.
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Here are our picks of the best things to do in Edinburgh:
1. Edinburgh Castle
Lying atop an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle dominates the city’s skyline and is a must-see attraction when visiting Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Castle has been home to many Kings and Queens, such as Mary Queen of Scots, who gave birth to her son James VI in the Castle in 1566. Today, it houses the Scottish Crown Jewels, The Stone of Destiny and The Scottish National War Museum.
A fun-filled family day out, be sure to get to the Castle in good time to hear the 1 ‘o'clock gun!
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2. Arthur’s Seat
The highest peak on the Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat provides spectacular, panoramic views of Edinburgh and is certainly one of the best destinations in Scotland.
The walk to the top takes approximately one hour and is gentle enough for the most inexperienced walkers to complete. Try to reach the summit just in time for sunset, to see the city in all its glory.
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3. National Museum of Scotland
One of the top 20 most visited museums and galleries in the world, The National Museum of Scotland is a must visit attraction on your trip to Edinburgh.
The museum has recently undertaken a huge refurbishment. The museum refurbed 10 galleries in June 2016, and by August it had welcomed half a million visitors, cementing its place as one of the best tourist attractions in Scotland.
Come here to see Dolly the Sheep, exhibitions from Vivienne Westwood and Zaha Hadid and a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton.
Isle of Skye
The largest island located in the Inner Hebrides, just off the West Coast of Scotland, Isle of Skye is renowned for its stunning landscapes, wildlife and history.
The white tailed sea eagle often frequents the skies, whilst dolphins, whales, seals and otters grace the sea.
Here are our top picks for things to do in The Isle of Skye:
4. Dunvegan Castle and Gardens
Surrounded by an idyllic loch setting, Dunvegan Castle and Gardens has been home to the Chief members of Clan MacLeod for more than 800 years.
Go inside the castle for a glimpse of magical Scottish clan history. The Fairy Flag is a Clan MacLeod treasure, and legend has it that this sacred banner has magical powers. It’s believed that if used in battle, the Fairy Flag would allow Clan Macleod to defeat their enemies. The Dunvegan Cup is also on display at the Castle, amongst other treasures and spectacular oil paintings.
Whether you stroll around the mesmerising grounds, take a boat trip on Loch Dunvegan or wander inside, be sure to have a magical day at Dunvegan Castle.
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5. Fairy Pools
Named Fairy Pools, as local legend states this is where all the magical fairies of Scotland live. Whether you believe this or not, there’s no denying this collection of rock pools’ breathtaking beauty. It should be at the top of your list if you’re visiting the Isle of Skye!
These pools attract visitors from all over the world, and part of their popularity owes itself to the fact that people can swim in them, if they dare brave the cool waters!
The distance to the first main waterfall and back takes around 40 minutes to walk. However, many people prefer to stop off and explore each pool along the way, and with views like this, why wouldn’t you?
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6. Neist Point
The most westerly headland on the Isle of Skye, Neist Point offers breathtaking views from Moonen Bay to Waterstein Head, and out to the Western Isles.
Whilst providing stunning views, Neist Point is also deemed the best place to see whales, porpoises, dolphins and even basking sharks in Scotland.
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Orkney is an archipelago just off the northeastern coast of Scotland, composed of 70 islands. Many of these islands are uninhabited, leaving you at one with the wildlife, peace and tranquility of the area. It’s truly a breathtaking place filled with beauty, and you should make a visit during your Scotland trip.
Here are our top picks of things to see in Orkney:
7. Skara Brae
Situated on the Shores of the Bay of Skaill, Skara Brae is deemed the best preserved Stone Age village in Europe.
Dating as far back as 3200 BC, the village was left preserved underneath sand dunes for four millennia. It was not until 1850 when a storm battered the bay and blew away the sand, revealing the ruins of the village underneath. You can still see glimpses of prehistoric furniture there today!
Source: John Lord
8. Ring of Brodgar
A magical stone circle, the Ring of Brodgar is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Orkney. Built around 2000 BC, it’s one of the oldest stone circles in the British Isles.
According to legend, the stone circle was a site of ritual and religious shrine, whilst others believe it was built to observe the equinox and solstice. Truth is, nobody really knows, but what is clear is that the Ring of Brodgar is a mystical, hauntingly beautiful place that is well worth a visit when you’re in Scotland.
9. The Italian Chapel
A beautiful Roman Catholic church situated in Lamb Holm, the Italian Chapel was built by Italian prisoners of war during World War Two.
The Chapel’s story begins in 1939, when a German U-boat slipped into Scapa Flow and launched an attack on HMS Royal Oak, resulting in a loss of 833 crew members. This tragedy motivated plans to build giant causeways to close off the eastern approaches and any entrance into Scapa Flow.
Winston Churchill approved the plans in 1940, and the so-called Churchill Barriers were built by Italian prisoners of war, after they were shipped to Orkney in 1942.
During their stay, the prisoners were granted permission to build a place of worship, and so came the stunning Italian Chapel.
Famed around the world for the elusive Loch Ness monster, there’s plenty of things to do and see around Scotland’s largest loch.
10. Try spot Nessie
You can’t go to Loch Ness without trying to catch a glimpse of Nessie! There have been reported sightings of the beast since 1933, although there has been talk of a Loch Ness monster since the 7th century!
11. Urquhart Castle
Offering stunning views over Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle was once one of the largest castles in Scotland and housed over 500 years of medieval battle and noble reign.
Notable incidents include the passing of control between the Scots and the English during the War of Independence, and when the castle was ultimately blown up by government troops during the Jacobite Risings.
Today, the iconic ruins of the Castle remain. Spend a day walking around them, imagining the lives of all those that have lived and fought there. You can even catch a glimpse of the gloomy prison cell, said to have held legendary Gaelic bard Domhnall Donn.
12. Cairngorms National Park
Located in North East Scotland, Cairngorms National Park has more mountains, rivers, lochs, wildlife, villages, distilleries and waterfalls than you could ever imagine. With all of this, there is an abundance of activities to suit everyone.
Cairngorms is the most popular ski destination in the UK and is home to 5 of the 6 highest mountains in Scotland. So if hitting the slopes is your thing, then a trip to the Cairngorms is perfect for you.
There are endless walks and hikes through breathtaking scenery. Walk alongside red squirrels, capercaillies and golden eagles as these often frequent the area. Embark upon the park’s famous Malt Whisky Trail, and learn all about Scotland’s national drink.
You can also visit the UK’s only free-grazing reindeer herd, take a ride on Britain’s highest railway standing at 3,599ft above sea level, or visit Loch Morlich’s golden sand beach and enjoy the various watersports they have to offer.
There’s no end to what you can do at Cairngorms National Park, hence why it makes our top picks for the best things to do in Scotland!
The main town in Lochaber, Fort William has been crowned the outdoor capital of the UK and offers endless beautiful landscapes and activities.
So, what are the best things to do in Fort William?
13. Ben Nevis
Undoubtedly, the best thing to see in Fort William is Ben Nevis. The highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis stands proudly at 1,344m and overlooks the town of Fort William.
Ben Nevis attracts around 120,000 keen hikers each year. Most hikers will ascend using the Pony Track, which is around 16km start to finish. If you embark on the ascent, be prepared for a full day of walking, plan ahead for weather and be suitably dressed!
14. Glen Nevis
Situated just a few minutes from Fort William is Glen Nevis, one of Scotland's most breathtaking Highland glens. The glen is formed from the flank of Ben Nevis, and the River Nevis flows through it; it’s a perfect representation of untouched, natural beauty and is well worth a visit.
Glen Nevis is a popular camping destination, and there are many campsites which offer stunning views of Ben Nevis and the surrounding locations, making for a magical stay that you’ll always remember.
15. Glenfinnan Viaduct
Opened in 1901, the Glenfinnan Viaduct carries the railway over a 1000 foot span, 100 ft above the ground. The famous Jacobite steam train runs from here to Fort William and Mallaig during the summer, but usual trains run here during the rest of the year.
For any Harry Potter fans, the filming of the second and third Harry Potter films, The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban were filmed in this area, and the Hogwarts Express even travelled along the Glenfinnan Viaduct!
Catch a train ride for impressive views of the Scottish highlands, or you can choose a scenic walk around the area instead.
However long you find yourself here, you will have an abundance of places to see and things to do in Scotland.
Stunning views await on every turn, and whether you’re looking for the culture and liveliness of Edinburgh, or the peace and tranquillity of the Highlands, be sure to have a truly unforgettable time in Scotland!