Scotland is one of the most beautiful places on earth, thanks to a combination of stunning countryside and rich history. You can explore castles, hike through the mountains, get a glimpse of ancient history and explore art galleries and museums — sometimes all in one region.
Check out 10 things you must see on a trip to Scotland.
Even if you’re not interested in tracking the mysterious Loch Ness monster (she goes by Nessie!), the area is too beautiful to miss. Long ago, a geological rift split the land, now the Great Glen of wooded mountains and deep lochs. The valley runs from Fort Williams to Inverness, which is the largest city in the Scottish Highlands. A great way to see the area is with a canoe tour through the Great Glen — just be careful of Nessie.
Edinburgh Castle is the most popular attraction in the country. The cast is literally built into the rock of the city, making it an impressive sight today and a military stronghold in Scotland’s past. The castle is home to the Scottish crown jewels and has a rich history dating back 800 years. The castle sits atop the city’s Royal Mile, which passes right through the charming Old Town and ends at Holyrood Palace.
Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is one of the most beautiful spots in the world, let alone the country! The area is famous for rugged mountains and wild coastline. It’s perfect if you want to have an outdoorsy vacation — you can hike, bike ride, go kayaking or take boat trips along the coast! If you’ve got a dog, there are plenty of pet-friendly trails to explore, and there are even Dog Friendly Retreats for your stay.
Old Course at St Andrews
The oldest golf course in the world is in St. Andrews, Scotland: it first opened in 1552, and is the reason why golf is now played with 18 holes! Even if you’re not an avid golfer, it’s an iconic piece of history worth checking out. The course itself books fairly early in advance, so it might not be possible to play, but there are tons of other golf courses across the country — Gourock is a particularly picturesque course, sitting right on the River Clyde.
Glen Coe is a glen formed by glaciers and ancient volcanoes, leaving an impressively deep valley with high mountains. The area has been used for filming in everything from Harry Potter to James Bond, thanks to its striking beauty. You can ski the mountains in the winter or hike and rock climb in the summer, and learn about the area’s rich history, including the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe.
National Gallery of Scotland
While art galleries might seem more obvious when visiting Paris or New York, Edinburgh boasts one of the finer ‘smaller’ galleries. You can see pieces from artists like Raphael, Rembrandt, Monet, and Rubens, as well as Scottish artists from throughout the ages, without having to deal with the crowds you’d see at the Louvre.
Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail
The heart of Glasgow is covered in eye-catching street art! Some of the art depicts famous Glaswegians and local sports, while others are more fantastical and foreign images. A portrait of St. Mungo, the city’s patron Saint, is one of the more famous pieces, and there are some older works from Bansky throughout the city. Put on your walking shoes and start exploring!
The Cairngorms are the highest mountain massif in the UK. The area has mountain ranges, lochs, forests, nature reserves, and bird habitats, and best of all, it’s largely untouched by roads. The center of the Cairngorms can only be reached on foot or on skis, but there’s also plenty to see and do around the fringes if you’re not interested in a testing hike.
First off: it’s pronounced Cullane! You don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of the locals by asking for ‘cull-zine.’ The castle was transformed by architect Robert Adam over 20 years in the 1700s, before being fully restored in the 1970s. The luxurious, elegant mansion has walled gardens and sea caves beneath the castle and is so beloved it’s even on the five-pound bank note!
Minke whales and dolphins are a familiar sight in the Minch, a strait separating the Highlands from the Inner Hebrides, with the only orca pod in the UK sometimes making an appearance too. Take a boat cruise and see as much of the wildlife as you can!
What are you waiting for — Pack your bags and enjoy your trip to this fantastic destination!