Scotland, a beautiful country with an incredible history and places that look like they could be out of a fairy-tale. It’s no wonder that Scotland is listed on Forbe’s bucket list destinations.
This diverse land offers beautiful scenery, an interesting history, and super nice people. Planning a trip to Scotland can be a little overwhelming, so we have teamed up with some fellow travel bloggers to bring you this list of incredible places to visit in Scotland.
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Places to Visit in Scotland
Submitted by Kate from Love From Scotland
With a history stretching back 5000 years, you won’t be short of things to do when you visit Orkney.
10 miles off the coast of northern Scotland, Orkney is made up of 70 islands, the largest island ‘mainland’ is home to the pretty towns of Stromness and the capital, Kirkwall, with its magnificent cathedral.
In Orkney, you can visit the simply incredible Heart of Neolithic Orkney, including 5000-year-old Skara Brae, an incredibly well preserved stone-age village and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Then step amongst Orkney’s amazing Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness – you will feel like a true dwarf beneath these huge standing stones. Whilst burial mounds can be found right across Scotland, Meashowe is one of the most fascinating – and not just because it was built to house the dead in 2500 BC – the cairn is filled with Viking graffiti!
Don’t miss walking on the west coast of Orkney Mainland from Stromness to Birsay along the 20-mile coastal path. At Yesnaby, a series of stunning red sandstone sea cliffs drop 100m into the Atlantic Ocean and in spring and summer puffins can be spotted here.
Then visit the East Mainland to explore relics from the Second World War including the stunning Italian Chapel built by Italian prisoners of War.
Once you visit and see Orkney’s beautfy, you will be glad you added it to your list of places to visit in Scotland.
Submitted from Joella from Roving Jo
Not far from Aberdeen and only 2 miles south of Stonehaven lie the majestic remains of Dunnottar Castle. And although much of it is in ruins, Dunnottar Castle has to be one of the most Magical Castles in Scotland.
Dunnottar castle sits dramatically on a cliff-top surrounded on three sides by the sea. And although the surroundings are rugged and its history is turbulent, Dunnottar still has an aura of romance.
Furthermore, the romantic setting and its east coast location make it an ideal place to watch the sunrise, hence the reason it is one of the best places to visit in Scotland.
From the castle and its surrounding area you can see a ton of wildlife including seals, birds and even puffins during the summer months.
Additionally, if you are a history buff, then you will be interested to know that some of the biggest names in Scottish History walked the grounds of Dunnottar castle. Names such as Mary Queen of Scots, William Wallace, and King Charles II.
So come for the majestic views which you can enjoy for free or enter the castle and learn about its history while walking in the steps of royals for a small entrance fee of £7. Either way, a visit to Dunnottar castle is a must in any Scotland itinerary.
There are some great tour options for Dunnottar Castle and the other castles of Scotland if you prefer to go with a tour group.
Isle of Lewis
Submitted by: Susanne from Adventures Around Scotland
The Isle of Lewis has grown in popularity as a Scottish travel destination over the past couple of years. This is in part thanks to the Callanish Stones, a 5000 year old stone circle which has become a popular attraction with visitors.
However, there are many more things to do on this Hebridean island which can be reached by ferry in 2 1/2 hours from Ullapool on the Scottish mainland, Ferries arrive in the main town of Stornoway which is filled with shops, restaurants, and bars.
Lewis is famous for its Gaelic language and historic thatched roof blackhouses which were once common dwelling houses. Although not many remain today, The Arnol Blackhouse and the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village are both good places to see these buildings and learn how people lived on the island for several centuries.
Other historic attractions worth visiting include Dun Carloway Broch, Norse Mill and Kiln, and St Columba’s Ui Church. At Museum nan Eilean you can view 6 of the famous Lewis Chessman found on the island. The mysterious carved figures are made from walrus ivory and thought to be 12th-century gaming pieces from Norway.
If you prefer exploring outdoors, the coast of Lewis is dotted with beautiful beaches and cliff top walks. One of the most popular walks is at the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse where is possible to spot whales, dolphins and porpoise in the surrounding waters.
The Isle of Lewis may be attracting a growing number of tourists, however it still retains a peaceful charm, making it one of the great places to visit in Scotland.
Eilean Donan Castle
Submitted by Pam from Directionally Challenged Traveler
The island of Donan, or Eilean Donan, is home to one of the most famous castles in Scotland. The Eilean Donan castle is most well known for its appearance in the 1986 film, Highlander, but its history is much richer.
Built in the 13th century, the castle has been attacked, destroyed, and rebuilt many times. It was created to protect the lands against the Vikings. It was also a major battle during the Jacobite uprising in 1745.
The castle was left in ruins for about two hundred years. In 1911, Lt. Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap bought the castle and began a renovation that would take over twenty years.
In 1932, Eilean Donan Castle opened its doors to the public and it’s been attracting visitors from around the world since. Its beautiful architecture stands proudly at the intersection of three lochs.
Admission to the castle costs £10.00 for adults. Be sure to check the website (www.eileandonancastle.com) for opening hours and days. People can rent out the castle for private events and weddings.
It’s important to know that the castle is not handicap accessible, but there are virtual tours available in the tourist center for those who can’t do steps.
For some great tours to Eilean Donan Castle, click here.
Submitted from Allan Wilson from Bangorni
No visit to Scotland is without at least one whisky experience, and, while whisky is found pretty much everywhere in Scotland, the Holy Grail of a proper Scotch has to be Islay, a somewhat remote island famous for its distinct peat-smoked single malt whiskies.
And while there are 7 distilleries in total on the island, one for each day of the week, a handful of the more famous and popular distilleries include Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Bowmore.
It is also not hard these days to reach Islay from the main where tourists can travel from ports on the mainland near Tarbert (Boat from Kennacraig to Islay here) and this includes both foot passengers and car ferries for those planning a road trip in Scotland, although it is always advised to bring a designated driver.
The island of Islay is quite unique in itself, with a feeling of remote Scotland, with seemingly endless landscapes of shorelines and peat bogs.
And while traditional sightseeing and tourist attractions are somewhat limited on the island, this will go completely unnoticed by any whisky lover as there are distillery tours and all sorts of whisky-related activities to lose a week.
It is also possible to walk from the arrival at Port Ellen to follow the “Three Distilleries Pathway” which connects the 3 distilleries on a 3-mile walk along the southern coast (Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg).
Submitted by Maggie from Pink Caddy Travelogue
Tucked away in a quiet corner of the Scottish Highlands is one of the world’s most famous train bridges – the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Definitely one of the coolest places to visit in Scotland.
Any Harry Potter fan will recognize it as the bridge crossed by the Hogwarts Express, as Harry and company make their way to school each year. While a bucket list location for many Potterheads, the historic and beautiful bridge is worth a visit even for non-Harry Potter fans.
Built in 1898, the Glenfinnan Viaduct, with its elegant arches, is the largest bridge in Scotland made of mass concrete. It overlooks gorgeous Loch Shiel, another frequent feature in the Harry Potter movies. Also nearby is the Glenfinnan Monument, a tribute to the launch of the 1745 Jacobite Uprising.
But the star of a visit to the Viaduct is the Jacobite Steam Engine. Also known as the real-life Hogwarts Express, the Jacobite crosses the viaduct twice a day.
If you plan your visit right, you’ll be able to watch from the hillside about the viaduct as the black and red train makes it journey over the bridge.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct is located 15 miles west of Fort William, just off A830, the “Road to the Isles.”
Submitted by Amber from Food and Drink Destinations
If you travel for food, spirits, nature, or history, the Speyside region of northeastern Scotland is a must for any Scotland itinerary.
A little more than a three-hour drive north from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, Speyside is located just to the east of Inverness and to the west of Aberdeenshire.
The Speyside region is most famous for being home to the highest concentration of whisky distilleries in Scotland. Some of the world’s most famous whisky brands including Chivas and Johnny Walker call Speyside home.
For lovers of gin, Speyside has seen an explosion of gin distillers popping up around the region. This certainly makes for a 1-2 punch for those who travel for spirits.
Food travelers won’t be disappointed by the wide range of culinary delights found in Speyside. With access to incredible ingredients from the land and the sea, chefs around Speyside are cooking up a vast amount of mouth-watering traditional and modern Scottish dishes.
No trip to Speyside is complete without sampling its world-famous Cullen skink. A hearty seafood stew, restaurants around Speyside compete each year to claim the title of best Cullen skink in Speyside.
For lovers of nature and history, the Speyside region features rolling hillsides, crystal blue rivers and of course castles. Speyside offers something for everyone and should certainly be included on any Scotland itinerary.
Here are some great tours in Speyside, include tours of distilleries!
Submitted by Erica from Travels With Erica
Balmoral Castle is the Scottish castle she visits every summer, and it is one of the best royal sights in all of Scotland! It is located in the Scottish Highlands and is a 2-hour drive from St. Andrews and just 1 hour from Aberdeen.
The castle gives you a unique glimpse into royal life that most other British castles don’t give you. Balmoral is a large estate, and you’re free to wander through most of the land. You get to see where their vegetables are grown, Queen Mary’s flower garden, the swing Price Charles loved playing on as a child, and so much more.
The only downside to visiting Balmoral Castle is that you’re only able to visit one room inside the castle: the ballroom. The rest of the rooms are off limits to the public as they are the Queen’s private chambers.
Each year the ballroom hosts a different exhibition that highlights a different part of royal history and life. The exhibits are always interesting and feature items from the Queen’s private collection such as Christmas cards and artwork.
Balmoral Castle is open to the public from the start of April to the start of August every year, and admission is £12 for an adult.
Every Wednesday at 2pm there is a guided walk around the grounds you can take, which is a great way to learn more about Balmoral and its royal history. The tour has limited space and is first-come-first-served so get there early if you want to go on the tour!
You can get more information by visiting their website.
After visiting, you will easily see why Balmoral Castle should be included on your places to visit in Scotland list.
Submitted by Kirstie from Kirstie will Travel
Fort Augustus finds itself right on the south bank of Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. It is a tiny little village, filled with an eclectic mix of picturesque cottages, beautiful views and exciting infrastructure.
The village forms an important part of the Caledonian Canal, which links Fort William and Inverness. This is the best thing to see in Fort Augustus. Watch all hosts of boats move through the 5 locks as they fill and empty, or if you like, sail them yourself or book a boat trip!
Of course, this is all situated with a beautiful view over Loch Ness and the surrounding mountains. You can also explore the Caledonian Canal Centre to discover all about the history of the canal.
Once you have seen the canal locks, make sure to take some time to explore the adorable little boutiques that line the streets of Fort Augustus, selling beautiful trinkets and souvenirs.
A favorite of mine is Iceberg Glass, where you can buy homemade glassware and sometimes even catch a glimpse of the team working on their projects.
Fort Augustus is a great base if you want to explore the south side of Loch Ness. I would definitely recommend hiring a car for your trip here, as it gives you the freedom to drive scenic roads.
Of course, given its great position on the banks of Loch Ness, it’s fairly easy to explore the area on foot as well – just make sure you bring your hiking boots!
The Old Man of Storr
Submitted by Aaren from What do You Sea
For a geological formation as mystical, jaw-dropping, and downright alien as the Old Man of Storr is, it’s no question that it deserves its place as one of the best places to visit in Scotland. I mean, just look at it.
Would you believe that this is a real-life place on Earth? I didn’t either until I hiked up this bad boy!
The Old Man of Storr is nestled along the eastern coast of the Isle of Skye in Scotland. If you’re planning a road trip up there and happen to be passing through Portree, an adorable port village, then this is about a stone’s throw away from the harbor and you DO NOT want to miss it!
As dreamy as this place is, it’s quite the venture to get up to this iconic viewing platform. The whole hike is around 2.5 miles roundtrip, and it offers PLENTY of challenges along the trail with epic views as you make your way to the top and you come face to face with THE STORR!
As long as you take it slow and bring a good amount of water, you’ll be just fine!
PRO TIP | hike here in the morning to avoid the midday crowds and have the Storr all to yourself!
The best part about this place, and Scotland in general, is that they have a ‘Right To Roam’ law so you can walk right up to these structures and even set up camp here for the night to catch an unbelievable sunrise the next morning! Incredible!
Submitted by Me, Michelle, from That Texas Couple
Of course, one of the top places to visit in Scotland is the capital city of Edinburgh. Edinburgh is packed full of history and charm and definitely deserving of being on your Scotland itinerary.
We had the opportunity to spend two days in Edinburgh during our time in Scotland and felt it was a great amount of time!
Start your time in Edinburgh by visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Royal Mile. This mile-long stretch of street connects Holyrood House to the Edinburgh Castle. Packed full of cute shops, restaurants, and intriguing closes, visitors love visiting this part of Edinburgh.
We enjoyed spending time at Edinburgh Castle before doing a tour at the Scotch Whisky Experience.
You can also hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat to get some great views of the city. After working up an appetite, get a delicious sandwich at Oink, you won’t be disappointed!
For a little “escape” from the city, be sure to take the time to visit Dean’s Village. This tranquil residential area will make you feel like you are miles away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Edinburgh is a charming town and the perfect way to see some of the great history of Scotland.
For some fabulous tours in Edinburgh, click here.
Submitted by Riley from Riley’s Roves
The Capital of the Highlands, Inverness is the perfect base for exploring Scotland’s history, culture, and natural beauty. From here, you can take easy day trips to the Orkney Islands, Loch Ness, Dunrobin Castle, or the Isle of Skye as well as many others.
Furthermore, history buffs and Outlander fans will enjoy visiting the Culloden Battlefield and nearby Clava Cairns. If you have a few days, consider the ultimate road trip from Inverness along Scotland’s famous North Coast 500.
In the city itself, my favorite thing to do is walking up to Inverness Castle. While you can’t go inside the castle (currently operating as the city’s police station), you have a fantastic view of the city from here over the River Ness.
If you pay the fee to climb the Castle Viewpoint to the top of a tower, the view is even more outstanding and you’ll be entertained by some videos on your way up. Furthermore, wandering the halls of Leaky’s Bookshop and enjoying a scrumptious meal at Mustard Seed are some of my favorite memories in all of Scotland.
For a great historical overview, I highly recommend signing up for the official city walking tour. When you’re done for the day, there are so many pubs with live music. My favorite was Hootenany where a traditional Scottish band played and patrons danced the night away (the people watching was the best).
No matter what you decide to do in Inverness, you’ll be guaranteed to have an amazing time, and you’ll likely learn something about Scotland along the way.
Isle of Skye
Submitted by Sophie from We Dream of Travel
The Isle of Skye should be firmly on everyone’s list of places to visit in Scotland. This island, located off the west coast of Scotland, is full of breath-taking landscapes just waiting to be explored. At 50 metres in length, it is the largest of the Inner Hebrides islands.
The Isle of Skye can be accessed from the mainland of Scotland either by car via the Skye Bridge or by ferry from Malaig to Armadale or Glenelg to Kylerhea. While I’d recommend taking as long to explore as you can, it is possible to see a lot on the Isle of Skye in 2 days.
This stunning island is a nature lovers dream. A popular activity in Scotland is munro bagging. A munro is a Scottish mountain over 3000 ft and to bag one is to reach its peak. On the Isle of Skye there are 12 munros within the Cuillin ranges waiting to be bagged! However, these are known as some of the most difficult in Scotland and require climbing experience.
If you’d prefer more of a hike, the Isle of Skye has plenty of these to offer too! The Old Man of Storr and Quiraing are both absolute highlights, particularly at sunrise. These magnificent scenes make you feel like you’ve been transported to another world.
For some gentler activities, the Fairy Pools provide a mostly flat route along enchanting turquoise waters. Be sure to stop by Kilt Rock and marvel at Mealt Falls crashing onto the beach below. Or if you prefer history and architecture, visit one of the castles on the Isle of Skye.
After a busy Isle of Skye itinerary, you’ll need a good meal! There are plenty of great food options and the Isle of Skye even has a Michelin Star restaurant; Loch Bay at Stein. The Three Chimneys is also a popular option for food, and also has 5-star accommodation for a good night’s rest.
Submitted by Tracey from Pack the PJs
We toured northern Scotland in a campervan in the middle of winter … it was cold, but everywhere was so quiet, what we lost in heat we gained in tranquillity! We spent 24 hours exploring the Black Isle.
This isn’t an actual island, but is a peninsula with Cromarty Firth to the north, and Moray Firth to the south. The Black Isle is just north of Inverness, on the east coast.
The first place we visited was Clootie Well. Your eyes are drawn to it as you drive past … this hilly woodland copse has trees laden in pieces of cloth and clothing. In a way it is a visual eyesore, but the story behind it more than makes up for it – this is the site of a Holy well. Cloots (cloth) of ill people are left here and as the cloth rots, the patient is rid of the disease inflicting them.
It’s a spiritual place, full of both sadness and hope.
Fortrose is the main town in the Black Isle, and here you can visit the remains of the cathedral dating back to the 13th century. Near here is Chanonry Point … one of the best places to see bottlenose dolphins in the world, while standing on the shoreline.
There are two lighthouses to visit – Chanonry Point and Cromarty, along with two museums and a 30-minute walk to Fairy Glen Waterfall.
After spending a night wild camping in a forest car park, our last stop on the Black Isle was a stop at the Black Isle Brewery, where we had a quick tour and purchased some of their fine products to take home!
Submitted by Emily from Dalton’s Destinations
Glen Coe is arguably the most gorgeous spot in Scotland. Spend the day driving through the glen, soaking in its beauty, and capturing the stunning scenery in a photo. Take your time as you drive, you don’t want to miss a thing!
Start at the northern part of Glen Coe and head south towards Edinburgh. There are many spots along the drive to park your car and get those gorgeous photographs!
If you wish to stretch your legs there are a few areas to park your car and walk on some trails. Feel as if you stepped back in time and are on the set of a Scottish movie as you walk through the valley hearing the echos of a distant pipe player.
Speaking of movies, you can also find the road they used in the James Bond movie, Skyfall! A perfect way to end the day is a picnic lunch at a Scottish Loch!
Near the south end of Glen Coe is Loch Lubnaic. They have benches as well as picnic tables with stunning views of the lake. If you need a mid-day pick-me-up, grab a coffee at The Cabin. It is a breathtaking area, right next to the water and a perfect place to soak up the lovely sunshine.
Glen Coe is a place you must add to your Scotland travel list!
Final Thoughts on Places to Visit in Scotland
Of course, we have only scratched the surfaces of amazing places to visit in Scotland.
As we mentioned above, Scotland is a land rich in history and diverse landscape. When we visited, we spent most of our time visiting the fabulous abbeys in Scotland, exploring the countryside, and touring all of the fabulous castles that this land has to offer.
If you are a history and nature lover, then we think you will fall in love with Scotland just like we did.
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About the Author
Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. While she is a professional educator by day, her passion for travel has her jet-setting all over the world during her free time.
Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blog, That Texas Couple. Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region. She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.