15 Best Places to Visit in Scotland

When you think of Scotland, you picture charming villages, spectacular countryside, green hills, and the most captivating lakes you’ve ever seen all surrounded by trees and flowers. And then let’s not forget the picturesque cities and their castles. One of the most visited places in Scotland is Edinburgh without a doubt, but if you’re wondering what are the other things to do in Scotland, you’ve come to the right place.

Visiting Scotland felt like a dream come true. I was lucky enough to travel by train which was along the coast from England to Edinburgh. The views were just mesmerizing and when I got there I just had an overall positive feeling. The best places to visit in Scotland are definitely the cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Stirling, but you’ll see in our list plenty of other recommendations.

15 Best Places to Visit in Scotland – Things to see in Scotland

Scotland isn’t just about the capital and its neighboring cities. The countryside is absolutely mindblowing and seeing it in person feels surreal. The top Scotland places to visit are the hillsides and lakes such as Loch Ness and Loch Lomond. Without further ado, let’s get into the 15 best places to visit in Scotland!

1. Edinburgh

One of the best places to visit in Scotland is undoubtedly the capital, Edinburgh. Its charming medieval old Town, beautiful gardens, and neoclassical buildings make it worth your while. Every corner of this city looks so picturesque. A few things to do in Edinburgh are to visit the Castle, the National Museum, or the Royal Botanic Gardens. Furthermore, the Scottish National Gallery holds all of the Scottish masterpieces. Did you know that Edinburgh castle is haunted? Visitors claim they can sense someone watching them as there are still many hidden dungeons underneath!

Edinburgh is also among the best places to live in Scotland. There are enough job opportunities, you have airplane connections to other big cities and the people are just lovely everywhere you go. Although the rent and prices for houses are high, for those who can afford them, it’s an amazing option. Visiting the old town makes you fall in love with the city, so put this on your best things to do in Scotland list!

2. Glasgow

Glasgow is a port city that rests on the River Clyde, situated in the western Lowlands. It is different from Edinburgh as the architecture is in Victorian and art nouveau style. In the 18th and 20th centuries, Glasgow was famous for trading and shipbuilding. It is also one of the best places to live in Scotland from a geographical point of view. Glasgow is also famous for its university which is a public research university.

A few of the things to do in Scotland Glasgow are visiting the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and museum or the stunning medieval cathedral. The Glasgow Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in Scotland and among the oldest buildings in the city itself. It is stunning both day and night due to its ornate windows. Like Edinburgh, Glasglow is also famous for its botanic gardens and huge country parks. It’s an overall lovely city to visit while in Scotland.

3. Dundee

15 Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Dundee might not be one of the famous Scotland places to visit on everyone’s list, but it’s worth checking out. It is a coastal city and is famous for its two nautical museums. The best places to visit in Scotland Dundee are the V&A Dundee which is a design museum, the Broughty Castle and the Camperdown Wildlife Centre, aka the Zoo.

If you look up the city of Dundee most of the pictures will be of a bridge. That is called the Tay Rail Bridge built in the late 1880s and it is and it is nearly 3 miles long. The railways are between Dundee and the suburb of Wormit in Fife. Another great museum to visit is the McManus Art Gallery & Museum where one can visit a collection of decorative art. The building itself is beautiful and built in a Gothic Revival style.

4. Stirling

things to do in scotland

While searching for things to do Scotland, Stirling always comes up as it’s a beautiful city in the center of Scotland worth visiting. It is most known because of Stirling Castle which is both a historical and architectural landmark in the country. We do not know exactly when it dates back, however, it was probably built in the early 12th century, and most of the buildings were built between 1490 and 1600.

While the castle is a great reason to visit the city, other activities to do are visiting the National Wallace Monument which is a memorial stone tower, or if you’re into museums the Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum is a great option. Did you know that one of the best places to live in Scotland in Stirling? One study proved in 2021 that Stirling is among the happiest places to live in Scotland and it is also a very affordable option.

5. Jacobite Express (Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express)

This is one of my favorite things on the list of things to do in Scotland. Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not, you must book a trip on the Jacobite Steam Train that takes you from Fort William to Mallaig. It is a total of 84 miles round trip and it takes you through the most stunning Scottish scenery ever. At Fort William can be found the famous castle hotel called Inverlochy. It’s truly dreamy!

It’s one of the best things to see in Scotland as the train will take you through Ben Nevis, the famous railway station called Arisaig, passing by Loch Morar and then arriving at Loch Nevis. There are so many stunning villages here that you can see and they will all be visible from the iconic steam train. The 2023 season tickets are already available and the train is running seven days per week!

6. The Scottish Borders

things to do in scotland

Speaking of stunning scenery, the Scottish borders are among the best places to visit in Scotland. The country is rich in hills, lakes and picturesque valleys, and coastlines. Scotland is also famous for its beautiful castles which you’ll see when you travel to the Scottish Borders. It’s not just sightseeing that you can do here, but also mountain biking, archery, surfing and lots of hiking.

While you are visiting the borders, add to your list, Melrose Abbey. It’s an ancient ruin that used to be a monastery and you can still see the gorgeous windows it once used to have. Another iconic castle to visit is Abbotsford which was the ancestral home of Sir Walter Scott. Furthermore, the St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve is a great way to close the visit. It’s a scenery you truly don’t want to miss out on!

7. St Andrews – Old Golf Course

You probably wouldn’t think of visiting an old Golf Course, but this one is undoubtedly among the best things to do in Scotland. Just how old it is? Well, it was established in 1552 so it’s about 470 years old. The course lays across 1,305 yards and it is held in trust by St Andrews Links Trust. In case anyone wishes to play gold here, you can do that and it costs roughly $320 to do so, depending on the season.

But it’s not just for golf lovers. There are plenty of clubhouses, bars, and gift shops for nongolf players. Furthermore, during summer you can take on 40-minute or two-hour guided tours and enjoy the stunning views of Andrews. We consider this one of the popular Scotlands places due to the versatile activities one can do, including the spa. The Old Course Hotel offers a spa and fitness center as well!

8. Inverness – The Great Glen

things to do in scotland

Inverness is where the Great Glen starts and one of the reasons why the city is well known. It’s among the largest cities in the country and there are many things to do in Scotland Inverness. Inverness has its own beautiful castle which is an enchanting castle. Among the many things to see in Scotland, Loch Ness is about 30 minutes away from Inverness, but we’ll talk about that in the next heading.

There are a number of parks available to walk in, Botanic Gardens, as well as the stunning Inverness Cathedral. This Cathedral has an exquisite architecture with glorious stained glass windows. Furthermore, if you’re up for a hike you can check out River Ness and the Ness Islands, or the Great Glen which runs from Inverness to Fort William. There are lots of possibilities.

9. Loch Ness

Loch Ness lake is a world-famous lake due to the story of the Loch Ness monster. It’s one of the best places to visit in Scotland due to its natural beauty and the ruins that are found around the lake. It is the largest lake in Britain that holds fresh water and it actually has more water than all of the lakes of England and Wales combined.

The Loch Ness monster Nessie is still a tale many tells. It was first seen by Saint Columba in 565AD and many people claim to have seen it since. The ruins castle around the lake is called Urquhart Castle and it was most likely built in the 13th to 16th century. One of the best Scotland things to do is appreciate the scenery provided by the lake and highlands as well as visit the ruins and go back in time!

10. Cairngorms National Park

things to do in scotland

The next on our list of things to do Scotland is to visit the Cairngorms National Park. This is for any nature lover who wishes to see the beauty of the country. It was established in 2003 and it covers an area of 4,528 square kilometers. The reason why it is still operating today is due to the tourists, so we are encouraging many people to add it to their things to see in Scotland checklist.

From a geographical point of view, the national park features a mountain range that is right in the middle of the park. There are also many hills and three major rivers. The three rivers are Spey, Dee, and Don. Travelers are welcome to cycle, hike, climb, and canoe. During the winter you can even ski and do other winter sports. It’s a place to see animals and relish wildlife and nature.

11. Isle of Sky

The Isle of Skye is a dream destination in Scotland. It’s probably one of the most breathtaking places, with the greenest hills and picturesque villages as well as medieval castles. Isle of Skye has everything you need and it’s the best of the Scotland places to visit. In case you wish to make the most out of this location, you should visit in either May or September.

There are loads of activities to do on the Isle of Skye, such as taking a boat trip to Loch Corusik, climbing the Cuillin, or walking up to the Old Man of Storr. Castles are everywhere and they are the best things to do in Scotland, so visit Dunvegan Castle. The cutest thing is probably watching otters play. If you hire a wildlife guide they will take you to the best locations to check out animals.

12. The Shetlands

things to do in scotland

This picture alone makes it worth visiting the Shetland Islands. It’s an archipelago in Scotland lying between Orkney and the Faroe Islands as well as Norway. It is most known for its natural landscapes, and clear sea, and it is filled with wildlife. Besides the obvious scenery, there are quite a few things to do Scotland Shetlands. For example, an ancient settlement is available to view and it’s called Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlements.

If you’re into lighthouses then check out the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse. We already have a natural park on our list, but the Shetlands Hermaness National Nature Reserve is unlike any other. You’ll be able to view animals such as puffins, shags, gannets, kittiwakes, fulmars, or gulls. The puffins are probably my favorite as they just look like penguins but in a bird form. It’s really beautiful to experience such rich wildlife.

13. Scone Palace

As we’re getting to the end of our list of Scotland places to visit, we realize that this country is full of beautiful locations and it’s worth spending a few weeks there to discover everything. The Scone Palace is one of the A-listed historic houses that were built in red sandstone. Furthermore, its style is Gothic Revival and it used to be a Christian church but was later made into an Augustinian priory.

It’s believed to have been opened in 1812 and the architect was William Atkinson. Today the Murray Family lives in the castle and it’s one of the great families in Scotland. Why would it be one of the top things to do in Scotland? Well, it’s a very popular destination among travelers. You can visit the castle in April when the weather is a little bit more favorable.

14. Loch Lomond

things to do in scotland

Loch Lomond is just one of the many Scotlands places that are mesmerizing and worth visiting. It is located in the middle of the Trossachs National Park. You’ll be greeted by charming villages, beautiful countryside, hills and of course the lake which has the most picturesque view. There are quite a few Loch Lomond Scotland things to do. For instance, the Loch Lomond Sea Life Center is a great activity for families. Take your little ones to see the largest collection of sharks.

Another great activity for kids and families is the TreeZone Aerial Adventure Course. It has zip wires, hanging platforms, tightropes, and much more. You really can’t go wrong with some old-fashioned hiking. So many trails are available for hikers. As you are literally around a huge lake, the best thing to do to check the surroundings in no time is to get on a boat. You’ll find several boat trips and tours organized at Loch Lomond.

15. Culross

Finally, we reached the on of this article and we’re finishing with another one of the best places to live in Scotland, Culross. This charming little village belongs to the National Trust of Scotland. If you’re someone who watched Outlander you might be familiar with the streets. It was once a royal burgh and parish in the 17th and 18th centuries. The cobbled streets, red-roofed buildings, and colorful walls make this village pleasant to live in.

The reason why it’s a great place is due to the low cost of the houses. But besides living here, there are plenty of Culross Scotland things to do. I’m sure you’re not surprised when I say that Culross also has a palace. It is a restored renaissance house with a garden. Furthermore, the Culross Abbey is another historic building founded in the early 13th century. You must visit at least once in your lifetime!

Best Places to Live in Scotland – Conclusion

There you have the many Scotlands places to visit in your lifetime. Personally, I would take at least a month to explore Scotland. Stay at different inns, bed and breakfasts, Airbnb’s, hotels, and whatever I can find. Although there are places to visit in Scotland on a budget, quite a few locations turned out to be more pricy due to the number of travelers visiting the country. With that being said, you absolutely must not miss out on discovering this captivating country. Choose at least one or two places to visit in Scotland from our list!

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