Things to Do in Scotland: 15 Great Scenic, Historical, & Cultural Experiences
Updated On: August 07, 2023
Scotland, a land steeped in history, mystery, and natural beauty, offers a plethora of unforgettable experiences for tourists seeking an enchanting and enriching adventure. Whether you’re looking for a holiday full of scenic vistas or historical adventure, there are tons of things to do in Scotland.
To help you plan your visit, we’ve explored the best things to do in Scotland and discovered the unique and captivating experiences that make this country a must-visit destination for tourists from around the world.
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Visiting Edinburgh is one of the most fantastic things to do in Scotland for tourists due to the city’s captivating blend of history, culture, and stunning architecture. As Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh boasts a rich and colourful past that comes to life as visitors explore its historical landmarks.
One of Edinburgh’s most enchanting features is the Royal Mile. This historic thoroughfare stretches from the castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.
Moreover, Edinburgh is renowned for its cultural festivals and events, making it a vibrant hub for arts and creativity. The annual Edinburgh Festival, held in August, is the world’s largest arts festival, attracting artists and performers from around the globe to showcase their talents in theatre, music, comedy, dance, and more.
Beyond its historical and cultural allure, Edinburgh is a city of stunning vistas and natural beauty. Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, stands as a symbolic landmark in Holyrood Park, offering hikers a rewarding climb with breathtaking views of the city and surrounding landscapes.
Visiting the Scottish Highlands is one of the absolute best things to do in Scotland for tourists seeking an immersive and awe-inspiring experience. Renowned for its rugged and breathtaking landscapes, the Highlands offer a captivating escape into the country’s untamed natural beauty.
The Highland region is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of activities to suit every adventurer’s preferences. Hikers can tackle challenging trails in Glencoe, where dramatic peaks and deep valleys are steeped in natural wonder and historical significance.
The Scottish Highlands also boast a rich cultural heritage, and visitors can immerse themselves in the traditions and history of the region. Discover ancient clan histories, learn about the Highland Clearances, and gain insight into the lives of the Highlanders at various museums and heritage centres throughout the area.
The region is also famous for its wildlife, making it one of the best things to do in Scotland for nature enthusiasts. Keep an eye out for red deer, golden eagles, and the elusive Scottish wildcat while exploring the remote and unspoiled corners of the Highlands. Wildlife safaris and boat trips are the best things to do in Scotland for opportunities to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitats.
Isle of Skye
Visiting the Isle of Skye is one of the most delightful things to do in Scotland for anyone seeking to immerse themselves in the country’s raw and untamed beauty. Located off the northwest coast, Skye is renowned for its dramatic landscapes, ancient castles, and rich Gaelic heritage.
The Isle of Skye offers a plethora of outdoor activities that cater to all interests and fitness levels. Hiking enthusiasts can explore iconic spots like the Quiraing, where bizarre rock formations and sweeping cliffs create an otherworldly landscape.
On the island itself, visitors can explore Dunvegan Castle, the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, and learn about the legendary Fairy Flag of the MacLeods.
One of the island’s most picturesque spots is the Fairy Pools, a series of crystal-clear waterfalls and inviting pools that cascade down the Glen Brittle River. Visitors can take a refreshing dip or soak in the breathtaking surroundings.
Skye’s rugged coastline offers breathtaking vistas, with rocky cliffs plunging into the sea and hidden coves waiting to be discovered. Boat tours around the island provide an opportunity to spot seals, dolphins, and even whales in the surrounding waters.
The Isle of Skye is also home to a vibrant arts and crafts community, with numerous galleries and studios showcasing the work of talented local artists. Visitors can pick up unique souvenirs like handcrafted pottery, textiles, and paintings, providing a meaningful connection to the island’s creative spirit.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
Visiting Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is one of the most scenic things to do in Scotland. Located just a short drive from Glasgow, this national park offers a diverse landscape of rolling hills, lush forests, and sparkling lochs.
Loch Lomond, the largest freshwater lake in Great Britain, is the park’s centrepiece and serves as a picturesque backdrop for many outdoor activities. The park offers nature enthusiasts a wealth of opportunities to explore its wilderness.
Hiking trails crisscross the park, catering to casual and avid hikers. The Conic Hill hike is a popular choice, rewarding hikers with panoramic views of Loch Lomond and the surrounding countryside from the summit.
The Trossachs, often referred to as “The Highlands in Miniature,” boast quaint villages, hidden glens, and serene lochs, creating a romantic and idyllic atmosphere. Exploring the picturesque town of Callander or taking a boat trip on Loch Katrine allows visitors to delve into the region’s rich history and folklore.
Aside from its natural wonders, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park offers a variety of cultural experiences. The area has inspired numerous writers and artists, and visitors can learn about the park’s influence on Scottish literature and art at local museums and heritage centres.
Visiting Glasgow is one of the most fantastic things to do in Scotland. Glasgow is a vibrant and dynamic city brimming with culture, history, and creativity. As Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow has a unique character that blends its rich industrial past with a contemporary art scene and a warm and friendly atmosphere.
One of Glasgow’s highlights is its world-class cultural offerings. The city is home to numerous museums, galleries, and art institutions, making it a haven for art enthusiasts. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum houses an extensive collection of art and artefacts, while the Gallery of Modern Art showcases contemporary works.
Glasgow’s architectural diversity is also a sight to behold. The city boasts a mix of Victorian, Gothic, and modern architecture, offering a visual feast around every corner. The iconic Glasgow Cathedral and the University of Glasgow’s majestic campus are prime examples of the city’s historic charm.
Music and entertainment thrive in Glasgow, earning it the title of “UNESCO City of Music.” The city’s live music scene is legendary, with numerous venues hosting concerts and gigs, while the SSE Hydro regularly welcomes major international artists.
Visiting Stirling and Stirling Castle is one of the most fascinating things to do in Scotland. It provides a glimpse into Scotland’s historical past and dramatic landscapes. Stirling holds a pivotal place in the country’s history, with the Battle of Stirling Bridge and the Battle of Bannockburn having significant roles in shaping the nation’s destiny.
Stirling Castle, perched atop Castle Hill, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Its impressive architecture reflects different periods of history, from the medieval Great Hall to the Renaissance-style Royal Palace. Visitors can tour the castle’s interior and historical artefacts while expert guides bring the stories of Scottish monarchs to life.
Aside from Stirling Castle, the city itself exudes charm and character, with its cobbled streets, historic buildings, and bustling town centre. The Old Town showcases well-preserved medieval and Renaissance architecture, creating a delightful atmosphere for leisurely strolls and exploration.
For history enthusiasts, visiting Stirling is one of the most interesting things to do in Scotland. The Church of the Holy Rude, the second oldest building in Stirling, is worth a visit for its rich history and stunning architecture, and the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre provides an immersive experience of one of Scotland’s most significant military victories.
The Scottish Borders
Visiting The Scottish Borders is one of the most rewarding things to do in Scotland. Nestled between the vibrant cities of Edinburgh and Newcastle, this region offers a tranquil countryside dotted with charming towns, rolling hills, and historic landmarks.
The Scottish Borders’ unspoiled landscapes and rich cultural heritage make it an ideal destination for those seeking a more laid-back and authentic Scottish experience. History buffs will find themselves captivated by the region’s rich past, as The Scottish Borders is steeped in tales of ancient battles, medieval abbeys, and border clashes.
The Scottish Borders is also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The area’s picturesque trails and scenic walks provide ample opportunities for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The Southern Upland Way, a coast-to-coast long-distance footpath, allows visitors to traverse the region’s diverse landscapes, from rolling hills to rugged moorlands.
For those seeking a taste of traditional Scottish culture, The Scottish Borders offers a chance to participate in local festivities and events. Popular festivals include the Common Ridings, where towns celebrate their equestrian heritage with parades and horseback riding, and the Border Ballads, which celebrate traditional music and storytelling.
The Scottish Borders is also famous for its textile industry, particularly its high-quality woollens and cashmere products. Tourists can visit local mills and shops to purchase unique and authentic Scottish souvenirs, including tartan clothing and luxury knitwear.
Isle of Arran
Visiting the Isle of Arran is one of the best things to do in Scotland for tourists seeking a diverse and idyllic escape. Often referred to as “Scotland in Miniature,” Arran encapsulates the best of the country’s landscapes, combining rugged mountains, serene beaches, picturesque villages, and lush forests within a relatively small area.
The island’s natural beauty is a major draw for tourists. Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts will find themselves in paradise with a variety of trails to explore. The climb up to Goat Fell, the island’s highest peak, rewards visitors with breathtaking panoramic views. Meanwhile, the coastal paths and beaches invite leisurely strolls and wildlife spotting.
Arran’s rich history is evident throughout the island, with prehistoric sites, ancient castles, and charming villages waiting to be discovered. Brodick Castle, nestled against the backdrop of the mountains, offers a glimpse into the island’s aristocratic past and boasts beautiful gardens to explore.
Arran’s accessibility is another reason why visiting is one of the best things to do in Scotland for tourists. Located just off the west coast of Scotland, it can be easily reached by ferry from the mainland. The island’s compact size and well-connected road network make exploring and enjoying its various attractions convenient.
Visiting the Orkney Islands is one of the most adventurous things to do in Scotland. The islands are perfect for tourists looking to step back in time and immerse themselves in a fascinating blend of history, archaeology, and stunning natural landscapes.
Situated off the northeastern coast of Scotland, the Orkney Islands boast a unique cultural heritage that dates back over 5,000 years, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the main attractions on the islands is the wealth of Neolithic sites, including the famous Skara Brae. This remarkably well-preserved Stone Age village offers a rare glimpse into the lives of ancient ancestors with its intricate stone houses and ancient artefacts.
The islands are also home to impressive Viking heritage, evident in places like the Brough of Birsay and the Earl’s Palace in Kirkwall. The Orkneyinga Saga, an Icelandic historical narrative, recounts the Viking history of the islands, further enriching the region’s cultural tapestry.
Orkney’s natural beauty also makes it one of the most picturesque things to do in Scotland. The rugged coastline, dramatic cliffs, and pristine beaches offer breathtaking views and opportunities for scenic walks and birdwatching. Visitors can spot seals, puffins, and a variety of seabirds that call the islands their home.
Visiting the Shetland Islands is an enchanting and unforgettable experience for tourists seeking a unique blend of Norse heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant cultural traditions. It is one of the best things to do in Scotland for a unique experience.
The islands are known for their rich Norse heritage, and visitors can immerse themselves in this unique cultural tapestry. The Viking Unst project and the archaeological sites at Jarlshof provide insights into the islands’ Norse past, showcasing ancient ruins and artefacts.
Shetland’s unspoiled and diverse landscapes are a major attraction for nature enthusiasts. Rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and dramatic coastlines offer endless coastal walks and birdwatching opportunities. The islands are home to an impressive array of seabird colonies, including puffins, gannets, and guillemots.
Additionally, Shetland is famous for its vibrant and lively festivals, which are a celebration of the island’s unique culture and traditions. The world-renowned Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, held annually in January, sees the streets come alive with a torchlit procession and the burning of a Viking longship, paying homage to Shetland’s Norse heritage.
Whisky Distillery Tours
Going on whisky distillery tours is one of the most iconic things to do in Scotland. As the birthplace of whisky, Scotland is renowned for its rich tradition of producing this iconic spirit, and a distillery tour offers a unique opportunity to learn about the whisky-making process, its history, and the artistry behind creating this beloved drink.
Scotland boasts hundreds of distilleries, each with its own distinct character and methods of whisky production. Tourists can choose from a variety of whisky regions, such as Speyside, Islay, Highlands, and Lowlands, each offering a different flavour profile and whisky style.
During the distillery tours, visitors are guided through the entire whisky-making process, from the mashing and fermentation of barley to the distillation and maturation in oak casks. Experienced tour guides share fascinating insights into the history and heritage of the distillery, making the tour an educational and engaging experience.
Tastings are, of course, a highlight of the distillery tours. At the pubs, tourists get the chance to sample a range of whiskies produced by the distillery, including their flagship expressions and limited edition releases. The tasting sessions provide an opportunity to appreciate the complexity and nuances of different whiskies.
Visiting Scottish castles is one of the most enchanting things to do in Scotland for tourists and locals alike. The country is home to hundreds of castles, each with its own unique charm and fascinating tales to tell.
The castles’ architecture and construction are a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the time. Tourists can marvel at the imposing stone walls, intricate carvings, and impressive towers that stand as a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the past.
Beyond their historical significance, Scottish castles are often set amidst breathtaking landscapes, adding to the allure of the experience. Many castles are strategically perched on hilltops or along rugged coastlines, offering sweeping views of Scotland’s stunning countryside.
Additionally, touring Scottish castles provides an opportunity to learn about the stories and legends associated with these iconic landmarks. From tales of kings and queens to legends of ghosts and spirits, the castles are steeped in folklore and mystery, captivating the imagination of visitors and igniting a sense of wonder.
Many castles have been meticulously restored and converted into museums or visitor attractions, offering informative guided tours, interactive exhibits, and displays of historical artefacts. This allows tourists to gain valuable insights into the castle’s past and the lives of those who once inhabited them.
Experiencing the Highland Games is one of the most thrilling things to do in Scotland. Rooted in ancient traditions and celebrating the country’s heritage, the Highland Games offer a unique glimpse into Scottish culture, history, and athleticism.
Held throughout the summer across various locations in Scotland, these games have become a much-anticipated highlight of the Scottish calendar, attracting visitors from around the world. They have become one of the most famous things to do in Scotland for locals and tourists.
The Highland Games showcase a wide range of traditional Scottish sports and activities that date back centuries. Events such as the caber toss and the hammer throw demonstrate the strength and skill of the participants. Watching the athletes’ feats of strength and agility is impressive and awe-inspiring.
Beyond the sporting events, the Highland Games are a celebration of Scottish music, dance, and culture. Bagpipe bands perform stirring tunes, kilts and traditional dress are proudly worn, and Highland dancing competitions showcase the skill and grace of dancers as they perform intricate steps and formations.
The Highland Games provide an opportunity to connect with local communities and experience the warm and welcoming nature of the Scottish people. Visitors can interact with competitors, enjoy the lively atmosphere, and even try their hand at some of the games’ activities.
Isle of Lewis and Harris
Visiting the Isle of Lewis and Harris is one of the most remarkable things to do in Scotland for tourists seeking to explore the rugged beauty and ancient heritage of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. This stunning island offers diverse attractions, making it an ideal destination for tourists of all interests.
One of the main draws of the Isle of Lewis and Harris is its breathtaking landscapes. The island is characterised by vast expanses of pristine white sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, and rolling moorlands.
The famous Luskentyre Beach on Harris is often regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with its turquoise waters and golden sands. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy activities such as hiking, wildlife spotting, and beachcombing, immersing themselves in the untouched beauty of the island’s natural surroundings.
The Isle of Lewis and Harris is also steeped in history and folklore, with a wealth of ancient sites and standing stones scattered across the landscape. The famous Callanish Standing Stones, dating back over 5,000 years, are a must-visit attraction.
Getting to the Isle of Lewis and Harris is relatively easy, with regular ferry services and flights connecting the island to the Scottish mainland. Once on the island, tourists can explore at their own pace, taking in the breathtaking scenery of this remote and captivating corner of Scotland.
Visiting Loch Ness is one of the most well-known things to do in Scotland. This world-famous freshwater loch, located in the Scottish Highlands, holds a legendary reputation as the possible home of the elusive Loch Ness Monster, affectionately known as “Nessie.”
Beyond the legendary monster, Loch Ness offers breathtaking natural beauty that captivates visitors. The vast expanse of the loch, flanked by lush hills and picturesque scenery, creates a tranquil and serene ambience. The surrounding landscape is perfect for leisurely walks, hikes, or admiring breathtaking views.
For history enthusiasts, Loch Ness is steeped in legends and tales of the past. The area is rich in historical sites, including ancient castles and ruins. Urquhart Castle, perched on the shores of the loch, offers a glimpse into Scotland’s turbulent past and provides a strategic vantage point to admire the stunning vistas.
Tourists can also enjoy boat trips and cruises on Loch Ness, providing a chance to explore the loch’s depths and enjoy a different perspective of the surrounding landscape. Along the journey, knowledgeable guides share stories about the history and mysteries of the loch, further enhancing the experience.
Loch Ness is conveniently located near Inverness, making it easily accessible for day trips or longer stays. Loch Ness promises an unforgettable and enchanting experience that embodies the essence of Scotland’s captivating landscapes and enduring folklore.
There are Many Great Things to Do in Scotland
Scotland offers a wealth of unforgettable experiences for tourists, making it a truly exceptional destination to explore. From vibrant and historic Edinburgh to the majestic landscapes of the Scottish Highlands, there are things to do in Scotland for everyone’s taste.
Whether exploring ancient ruins, hiking through scenic trails, or embracing the vibrant pulse of Scottish culture, the things to do in Scotland provide an enriching and soul-stirring adventure that will stay with tourists for a lifetime.
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