From dramatic scenery to an enthralling history and culture, Scotland checks the boxes of tourist itineraries the world over. The Scottish people welcome this foreign infatuation. Almost 10% of Scots work in the tourism industry, which represents a whopping 5% of Scotland’s total GDP.
If you’re thinking of visiting Scotland, the question isn’t what can you do. It’s what should you do. There isn’t enough time to experience everything Scotland has to offer during a single trip.
Want to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Here are the seven best places to visit in Scotland.
There’s a reason most tourists swing by Scotland’s capital: It’s filled to the brim with UNESCO heritage sites and world-class modern conveniences.
Most tourists are sure to stop by Edinburgh Castle, which overlooks a great deal of the city. The apex of this 1000-year-old structure boasts two modern additions: The Scottish National War Memorial And War Museum.
Outward along the city is the famous Royal mile, cutting through Edinburgh’s Old Town. It’s one of the most scenic hikes in Europe, showcasing architecture from centuries ago.
Not a fan of old stuff? Then what about the new? Harry Potter fans come to scour some of the cafes JK Rowling frequented while writing her world-renowned series.
Since there is so much to do in Edinburgh, check out this article for help planning your itinerary.
2. Isle of Iona
Scotland’s islands are just as charming as the mainland. Here in Iona, a sparsely populated island rests the Iona Abbey. This small, unassuming church is the birthplace of Scottish Christianity.
Scottish monks wrote the Book of Kells within its walls more than 1,200 years ago. Although the real artifact is not available, tourists can turn through a display copy located within.
Its weathered graveyard is perhaps even more fascinating. Hundreds of years of Scottish, Irish, and Scandinavian kings are buried here. Their headstones litter the graveyard overlooking a small sea channel.
3. Loch Lomond
Striking views are found everywhere in the Scottish countryside, but Loch Lomond offers one of the best. Immortalized in a popular Jacobite poem, Loch Lomond rests in the center of the Trossachs National Park.
There’s no better place to pull out your camera for unforgettable nature photography or rent a bike for a scenic workout.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you’re free to enter the chilly waters of Loch Lomond. Of course, that’s an extreme undertaking. Instead, get your hands on a kayak and enjoy the lake from a warmer perspective.
4. Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is the most popular of the Hebrides Islands. Sweeping mountains and hills juxtapose some of the best coastal scenery on the continent. But there’s more than views alone.
The Skye Museum provides a glimpse into the past with a smattering of 9th-century homes. On the Isle’s northern tip lies the ruins of Duntulm Castle. Little remains of the original stonework, but the foundation and crumbling walls give insight into the past — and an ocean view not found anywhere else.
Glasgow is one short train ride away from Edinburgh. While Edinburgh is perfect for history and culture junkies, Glasgow has all the accommodations of a modern capital city. In short, there’s something for everyone.
Kelvingrove Museum displays over 8,000 artifacts and 22 galleries. From art to armor, archaeology to architecture, you never know what you’ll bump into. Best of all, the Kelvingrove Museum has no entrance fee.
Since Scotland is known for its whiskey and scotch, why not stop by at the Auchentoshan Distillery? A guided tour shows the entire process from start to finish. You’ll also enjoy a small sample.
If scotch is more your thing, then check out The Clydeside Distillery, overlooking the water.
For family fun, head to Govan Old. Celtic and Viking stonework fills this museum, harkening back to times that seem lost to myth. Viking dresses and armor are also available to help you bring out your inner warrior.
6. Inveraray Castle
Located next to the water, this palace is open to the public and sports a wide collection of Scottish weaponry and paraphernalia. Docents fill the halls to answer questions about any artifacts on display.
The castle itself is the true gem.
The original stonework is 600 years old. Its stunning garden and corner turrets are a beauty to behold.
Although the Scottish highlands are remote, that doesn’t mean they are only for sightseers. Those who enjoy military history can visit Fort George and take a private look into military life during the 1700s. Or, take a break at the Victorian Market and enjoy everything the Scottish vendors have to offer.
Otherwise, Inverness is the perfect home base to enjoy surrounding locales. Loch Ness sits nearby, and while the lake itself isn’t the most interesting, the Loch Ness museum is worth a look.
For more military history, check out the Culloden battlefield. It was here that the British put down the Jacobite rebellion and changed Scottish culture forever. You can even head into the Bronze Age at the Clava Cairns, a haunting cemetery built over 4,000 years ago.
Enjoying the Best Places to Visit in Scotland
Visiting Scotland is an experience for everyone. Nature lovers, history buffs, and culture seekers all have plenty to explore and uncover.
And who knows? The best places to visit in Scotland are so numerous, you may have to come for an extended stay just to enjoy them all.
Want advice about your next great vacation? Get the insider scoop from our blog.