World famous for its bagpipes, kilts, golf, and whisky, Scotland offers innumerable unique things to do and see.
It’s a land rich in medieval history, enchanting landscapes, the freshest seafood, and warm, welcoming people.
Here you can explore haunted castles, witness a grandiose military parade, hunt for a mythical marine monster, go glamping in the remote countryside, or visit one of the many wonderful holiday parks in Scotland.
Whether you’re coming for the first time or you’re a seasoned visitor to Scotland, you’re sure to find exciting new things to do.
Here’s our top 10 list:
Easily the country’s top tourist attraction, Edinburgh is home to the majestic Edinburgh Castle, a slew of museums and art galleries, an 82-acre zoo, several Gothic churches, a creepy dungeon, and the largest international art, music, and military festivals.
The capital city is divided into two sections – the medieval Old Town and the modern New Town – which brings together the ancient and the avant-garde in a unique, eclectic atmosphere.
Not to be missed when visiting Edinburgh are the Holyrood Palace, the National Museum of Scotland, Calton Hill, the Grassmarket area, Arthur’s Seat, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Camera Obscura, and the Royal mile.
“Dark” tourism is huge here. If you’re in the mood for some eerie thrills, check out Edinburgh Dungeon, the SouthBridge vaults, Greyfriars Kirkyard, or Real Mary King’s Close.
2. Isle of Skye and the Inner Hebrides
Most tourists consider this Isle the most beautiful part of Scotland. If you had time to visit only one part of the Scottish Highlands, make it the mystical island.
The rugged caves and mountains, verdant hills, ancient oak forests, rushing waterfalls, craggy cliffs, sandy shores, and stately rock formations never fail to enthral visitors.
Skye is the largest of the country’s inner isles, and there’s no limit to what you can do here.
Go fishing, sea kayaking, white-water rafting, or gorge-walking. Keep an eye out for seals, otters, and numerous species of wild birds.
Explore the lovely little villages with lodging and eating options. And while on the island, don’t forget to see the Quiraing, the Old Man of Storr, Neist Point and Fairy Pools.
Here is where you can hunt for art treasures, check out the music scene, and do some serious retail therapy.
Just 50 miles west of Edinburgh, Glasgow is the largest and most populous city in Scotland. It’s easy to spend a couple of days here while getting your buzz from shopping, dining, and culture.
Kelvingrove Museum has 22 different galleries that you can feast your eyes on. If young, modern and outdoor art is your thing, head out to the Mural trail for colourful, captivating, street art.
Sauchiehall, Buchanan, and Argyll streets are the places to go shopping. On weekends, there are hundreds of local merchants selling unique, handcrafted products at the indoor and outdoor market of The Barras.
The West End is the place to hunt for fabulous food. After dinner, hop to the Hydro, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, and the iconic Glasgow Barrowlands to catch the hottest music gigs.
4. Inverness: Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle
Drive north through the magnificent highlands and you’ll reach the small, northernmost city of Inverness.
If you’re into the Nessie legend, stop at Drumnadrochit Hotel’s Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition for a brief introduction to the history and lore of the mythical monster. Then, see the sights around the 30-kilometre Loch which is the second biggest lake in Scotland.
You can’t miss Urquhart Castle on its hillside above the water. The castle ruins are perched on a strip of land jutting out into the Loch. Hike the Fall of Foyers trail, a 5-kilometre walk through gorgeous waterfalls, wooded paths, and quiet lake shores – with a high chance of spotting wildlife.
A fabulous and relaxing option to explore the Loch is on board a Great Glen cruise, which sails through a lake along the Caledonian Canal.
5. Glen Coe
Recently voted as Scotland’s most romantic, Glen Coe is a very popular attraction that draws nature-lovers, hikers, and mountaineers with its epic, “out of this world” landscapes.
Deep valleys, towering snow-capped mountains, majestic waterfalls, unique river rock structures – the scenery is considered by many as the most spectacular in Scotland.
Hike the Three Sisters, a series of steep ridges that extend north into the Bidean Nam Bian Glen, or the Pap of Glencoe trail which takes you higher up the mountains to see soaring, dramatic views.
6. Stirling Castle
One of the biggest and most important castles in the country, Stirling Castle is famed for a number of historic battles. The 15th-century fort sits atop a volcanic crag and has withstood 8 sieges in its bloody history. You can look out from its high stone walls to the ancient battlefields below.
Like Edinburgh Castle, this architectural masterpiece was one of the favoured homes of the Scottish monarchy including Mary Queen of Scots.
You can also visit the nearby Wallace Monument to climb its 246-step tower and enjoy sumptuous views of the entire area around Stirling.
7. Jacobite Express (“Harry Potter” train ride)
Famously known as the “Hogwarts Express”, the Jacobite Steam train is what Harry Potter and friends rode in the popular books and movies – chugging across the grandiose 21-arched Glen Finnan Viaduct and Scotland’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis.
Enjoy the 4-hour journey through the stunning scenery of the West Highlands, stretching 135 kilometres from Fort William to Mallaig. Book your ticket way in advance as this tour is extremely popular.
8. Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
Loch Lomond is an all-time tourist favourite as it’s just a short drive northwest of Glasgow. Stretching 72 square kilometres, it’s the largest freshwater loch in all of Britain.
Northeast of it is the Trossachs which houses 2 National Scenic Areas – the Great Trossachs Forest and Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.
The area is an endless expanse of mountains, hills, forests, rivers, islands, and lochs. Hike, bike, climb, camp, fish, kayak, canoe, jet ski, windsurf, or cruise – the choice is endless.
Make sure to climb Conic Hill to get the best view of the loch and the amazing countryside.
You won’t find it on many Top 10 lists but we feel Aberdeenshire should be in here.
With its rugged coastlines, bustling fish ports, sandy bays, centuries-old distilleries, and towering mountain range, we really can’t recommend it enough.
The area is also home to 300 castles, holding the privilege of having the most number of castles per acre than anywhere else in Britain. Seventeen of Scotland’s most beautiful and best-preserved castles, in fact, are here.
Two of the more noteworthy are Slains castle which is the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the fairytale-like pink castle, Craigievar, said to be the inspiration behind the Disney logo.
When you’re finished doing the Castle Trail, try dolphin-watching at Torry Battery, fishing for salmon and trout at the Dee, Don, or Deverin rivers, or glamping near the Banffshire Coast.
10. Scotch Distillery
Top off your visit by sampling authentic malt whisky at a Scottish distillery. Distilleries are to Scotland what vineyards are to France, Italy, and Spain.
While there are numerous whisky producers across the country, the Speyside region is most famous and most productive – it’s home to over half of the country’s distilleries, many of which offer free tasting sessions as part of a guided tour.