There are few places on earth as breathtaking as Scotland. Whether you are a tourist visiting Scotland for the first time or a Scottish resident, there are some genuinely must-see places to visit in Scotland that deserve a spot on everyone’s bucket list.
From the misty Highlands to the dramatic coastline, this country is overflowing with natural beauty. While there are too many amazing places to list, we’ve chosen these top 18 places to visit in Scotland for an unforgettable experience.
Undoubtedly, Edinburgh is known as the beautiful capital of Scotland. However, the picturesque city is also one of the largest cities in the United Kingdom. It is home to many historical landmarks, museums, and a lively nightlife scene. Visitors to the Scottish capital can enjoy exploring the city’s many different neighbourhoods, each with its own unique atmosphere.
Places to visit in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, include the Royal Mile, which is the main street in the Old Town, and Princes Street, dotted by a variety of shops and restaurants. Other popular tourist destinations include the legendary Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and the National Museum of Scotland. With so much to see and do, Edinburgh is a great place to visit in Scotland for a vacation or a weekend getaway into the historical side of the UK.
If you’re looking for a city that has it all, Glasgow is an ideal choice. Located in the west of Scotland, Glasgow is a bustling metropolis with something to offer everyone. From its world-renowned museums and galleries to its buzzing nightlife and excellent shopping scene, Glasgow has something for everyone.
Of course, no trip to Glasgow would be complete without exploring some of its many historical landmarks, such as the Glasgow Cathedral and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. So whether you’re looking for culture, nightlife, or simply a place to relax and explore, Glasgow is the perfect destination.
3. Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is a place of stunning natural beauty, with towering mountains, pristine beaches, and crystal-clear waters. It’s no wonder this Scottish island is one of the country’s most popular destinations among tourists. There are plenty of things to see and do on the Isle of Skye, from hiking and climbing to wildlife watching and exploring the island’s many castles and ruins.
Among the main and must-see attractions on the Isle of Skye is the Old Man of Storr. Rising over 200 metres into the air, this iconic rock formation is one of the most photographed spots on the island, and it’s easy to see why. Another must-see spot on the Isle of Skye is Kilt Rock, a sea cliff that gets its name from its resemblance to a traditional Scottish kilt. The views from the top are absolutely incredible, so make sure you bring along your camera! Another can’t-miss Isle of Sky gem is the Fairy Pools, a series of freshwater pools fed by waterfalls and located in a picturesque setting at the foot of Glen Brittle.
Whether you’re looking for adventure or simply want to admire some truly incredible scenery, the Isle of Skye is sure to impress.
4. Loch Ness
Loch Ness is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Scotland. Situated in the Highlands, the loch is over 36 kilometres long and about 240 metres deep. Its murky waters are home to various fish species, including brown trout, salmon, and eels.
However, the loch is best known for its alleged resident, the Loch Ness monster. For centuries, there have been reports of a large creature living in the loch. Sightings of “Nessie,” as it is commonly known, continue to this day. While there is no conclusive evidence that the Loch Ness monster exists, that doesn’t stop people from coming to try and catch a glimpse of it! Visitors can take boat tours on the loch, go monster hunting on foot or even by bike, and enjoy the stunning scenery of the Highlands. Whether you believe in Nessie or not, a visit to Loch Ness is sure to be a memorable experience.
5. Scottish Highlands
The stunning landscape of the Scottish Highlands offers abundant opportunities for exploring and outdoor adventures. In addition to the myriad of activities on offer, the Highlands are also home to some of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks, including Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. Whether you’re looking for adventure or simply want to soak up the breathtaking scenery, the Scottish Highlands is sure to deliver.
6. St. Andrews
St. Andrews is a magical little town in Scotland that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. Situated on the east coast of the country, it is the perfect base for exploring the rest of Scotland. The town is home to the world-famous Old Course at St. Andrews Links, the oldest golf course in the world.
There are also many other beautiful buildings and monuments to explore, such as St. Andrews Cathedral and Castle. The town has a lively atmosphere with plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy, as well as a lovely beach where you can relax and take in the stunning scenery. Whether you are into golf or not, St. Andrews is definitely worth a visit!
7. Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland. The loch, which is located in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, is renowned for its dramatic scenery and abundant wildlife. Visitors to Loch Lomond can enjoy a variety of activities, including hiking, fishing, and camping. There are also many towns and villages located around the loch, which offer a range of shops, restaurants, and accommodations. If you’re looking for an idyllic location for a holiday or a day trip from Glasgow, Loch Lomond is definitely worth a visit.
8. Fort William
Fort William, a town in the Scottish Highlands, lies at the southwestern end of Loch Linnhe on its northern shore. Overlooking the town is Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles. Fort William is one of the main tourist centres for visitors to the area, with a view of ruins from Inverlochy Castle and easy access to walks up Glen Nevis.
There are several outdoor activities that can be enjoyed in and around Fort William, such as fishing, golfing, skiing, mountain biking, and climbing. For those who enjoy indoor activities, there are plenty of museums, galleries, and shops to explore. Fort William is an excellent base for exploring the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
9. Cairngorms National Park
The Cairngorms National Park is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Scotland. Nestled in the Highlands, the park covers an area of over 1,000 square miles and is home to various landscapes, from mountains and valleys to forests and lochs.
Within the park, there are several different places to visit, including the Cairngorm Mountain Railway, Loch Morlich, and the Highland Wildlife Park. Whatever your interests may be, you’ll definitely find something to enjoy in the Cairngorms National Park.
10. Isle of Islay
The Isle of Islay is one of Scotland’s most breathtakingly beautiful places to visit. Islay is an island off Scotland’s west coast, and it is known for its stunning scenery, wildlife, and smooth whisky. There are eight distilleries on the island, and visitors can tour the distilleries and learn about the process of making whisky.
The island is also home to a number of castles, including Dunyvaig Castle and Caol Ila Castle. For those who enjoy outdoor activities, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and fishing. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing holiday or an adventure-filled vacation, the Isle of Islay has something to offer everyone.
11. Orkney Islands
The Orkney Islands are a group of over 70 islands located off the northern coast of Scotland. Although the island chain is technically part of the Scottish mainland, it has a distinct culture and history that sets it apart from the rest of the country. Visitors to the Orkneys will find a wealth of things to see and do, from exploring ancient archaeological sites to taking in stunning scenery.
Among the many highlights that the Orkney Islands have to offer is the Ring of Brodgar, one of Europe’s most impressive prehistoric sites. The stone circle, which is over 4,000 years old, is made up of 27 massive standing stones, each weighing several tonnes.
Orkney is also home to some of the best-preserved Neolithic village sites in Europe, including Skara Brae. This 5,000-year-old settlement consists of a series of well-preserved houses, providing a fascinating glimpse into prehistoric life in the era.
Modern visitors to Orkney will also find plenty to enjoy, including its dramatic coastal scenery and quaint fishing villages. The island chain is also home to several excellent museums and galleries, as well as a number of festivals and events throughout the year.
12. Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain in the British Isles, standing at a high of 1,345 metres (4,411 ft). It is located in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands, pretty close to the town of Fort William. The mountain is a popular destination for hillwalkers and climbers, with around 100,000 visitors per year.
There are a number of routes to the summit, including an easy path suitable for walkers of all abilities. The views from the top are truly breathtaking, with stunning panoramas of the surrounding mountains and glens. If you’re visiting Scotland, then a trip to Ben Nevis should definitely be at the top of your itinerary!
Crail is a picturesque village located in the East Neuk of Fife, Scotland. The village is home to many historical buildings, including Craigmillar Castle and the 12th-century Crail Church. Visitors to the village can also enjoy a number of outdoor activities, such as golfing and hiking.
Crail is also home to various kinds of shops and restaurants, making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy the Scottish countryside. Whether you’re looking to know more about this country’s magnificent history or enjoy a unique outdoor adventure, Crail is sure to deliver.
If you’re looking for a Scottish city that’s brimming with history, charm, and a myriad of things to do, then Stirling is the perfect place for you. Nestled in the heart of Scotland, this beautiful city is home to some of the country’s most iconic landmarks, including Stirling Castle, the National Wallace Monument, and the Old Town Jail. There are also a number of restaurants offering some scrumptious dishes, cosy cafes, and lively bars to enjoy, making it the perfect place to relax and soak up the Scottish atmosphere.
Furthermore, with many shops and cinemas, as well as a variety of museums and art galleries, there’s something to keep everyone entertained. So whether you’re visiting for a weekend break or a longer holiday, make sure you add Stirling to your list of must-see places in Scotland. You won’t be disappointed!
15. Shetland Islands
The Shetland Islands offer visitors a unique opportunity to experience the unique Scottish culture and history. Located just off the coast of mainland Scotland, the islands are home to a variety of renowned tourist attractions. Places to visit on the island include the capital city of Lerwick, the Broch of Mousa, and the world-famous Jarlshof prehistoric village.
The Shetland Islands also offer a variety of activities for visitors, such as hiking, fishing, and birdwatching. In addition, the islands are also home to a number of endangered species, making them an important stop for wildlife enthusiasts. Whether you’re looking for an adventure or a place to relax, the Shetland Islands are sure to have something for you.
16. St. Kilda
If you’re looking for a place to visit that has both natural beauty and interesting history, St. Kilda is the ideal destination. This small group of islands off the coast of Scotland was once home to a thriving community but was abandoned in the early 20th century. Today, it’s a popular spot for tourists, who come to see the unique landscapes and learn about the island’s past.
There are a number of places to visit on St. Kilda, including the main island of Hirta, home to an array of wildlife, including seals and seabirds. You can also explore the islands’ many walking trails, which offer stunning views of the Scottish coastline. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, take a boat trip out to sea to see the dramatic cliffs and sea stacks that make St. Kilda such a unique place. Whichever way you choose to explore it, St. Kilda is sure to make for a memorable trip.
Iona is a small island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It is located off the southwestern coast of Mull and has a population of just over 100 people. Despite its small size, Iona is a popular tourist destination and is home to many Scottish historical and cultural attractions. The island is best known for its role in the spread of Christianity in Scotland, and its Abbey is one of the most important religious sites in the country.
Visitors to Iona can also explore its many beaches, sea cliffs, and bird colonies. For history buffs, there are a number of ancient standing stones and burial cairns on the island. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that Iona is one of the most popular places to visit in Scotland.
18. Mull of Galloway
The Mull of Galloway is the most southerly point in Scotland. It’s a rugged and remote place with steep cliffs and dazzling views. There are also some great walks, wildlife-watching opportunities, and a small visitor centre.
The Mull of Galloway is a popular spot for birdwatchers, as it’s home to various seabirds, including gannets, kittiwakes, and guillemots. The area is also a haven for other wildlife, such as dolphins, seals, and otters. If you’re looking for a truly wild and remote experience, the Mull of Galloway is the perfect place to visit.
All in all, there are many wonderful and spectacular places to visit in Scotland—too many to count, in fact. It doesn’t matter what kind of traveller you are. Looking for historical sites or natural wonders, or do you just want to get off the beaten path? Scotland caters to everyone’s taste. So start planning your trip today and see for yourself why this country is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the UK and the world!
Before you book your plane ticket, check out our thorough Scotland travel guide for everything you need to know about this incredible country.