Things to do in Scotland

Things to do in Scotland

Venture into the wilderness of the Highlands or the Lowlands, get back to nature along the Scottish Borders, go off-grid in the Hebrides, or choose somewhere that can be the base for exploring the bustling cities of Edinburgh or Glasgow. Whichever option you choose, on a holiday to Scotland you can be assured there will be plenty to do.

Here are our top 10 things to do in Scotland during your stay.

Loch Lomond and the Scottish countryside

1. Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park

Encompassing parts of both the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands, Loch Lomond is conveniently around an hour’s drive from Glasgow. The large fresh water lake – which translates from Gaelic as ‘Lake of the Elms’ – is simply stunning and the perfect spot for cycling, trekking, water sports and more.

As well as walking the woodlands, you can climb Conic Hill or the Ben Lomond mountain, take a boat out to Inchcailloch Island or visit the ancient Luss village and a nearby 18th century castle.

Set back in the equally gorgeous Troassachs National Park – Scotland’s first – the area offers an abundance of treks, such as the West Highland Way, wildlife trails and jaw-dropping scenery that are perfect for photographers, painters and picnickers alike.

Trainline at Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland

2. Glenfinnan Viaduct to Ben Nevis

While making your way around Scotland, you won’t want to miss two of its most famous sights, which handily happen to be within convenient travelling distance of each other.

Spend a day or two enjoying the natural beauty that surrounds the nation’s most famous mountain of all – Ben Nevis. At 1,345 metres above sea level, the beloved peak is part of the Grampian Mountains, and not to be underestimated. Fit and experienced climbers can scale it and return in seven to eight hours but more laid back travellers can enjoy its glory from afar.

The resort town of Fort William will be waiting for you afterwards with refreshments and plenty to do. From here, Glen Nevis is within easy reach, where you can view the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is the best place to try to spot the Hogwarts Express.

Edinburgh Castle

3. Edinburgh and the Castle

No visit to Scotland could be complete without taking in the majestic views of its capital city, Edinburgh. Chief among things to do here is, of course, the imposing Edinburgh Castle, one of the most beautiful castles in the UK. Straddling Castle Rock, the historic building is a sight for sore eyes. Take a guided tour to find out about all its rich history and architecture.

Then move on to enjoy the capital’s culinary scene, cafes and bars in the beautiful Old Town area. Other exciting excursions in Edinburgh include Portobello Beach, Fife Coastal Path, Arthur’s Seat, the Royal Botanic Garden, Scottish National Gallery and an abundance of museums and monuments.

The ruins of the magical Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness

4. Distillery tours near Loch Ness

If you’re partial to the odd tipple or just enjoy history and crafts, it’s worth checking out one of the many Scottish distillery tours. You’ll find these almost everywhere – but why not do so near Loch Ness?

Of course, whisky is king here and you’ll be spoilt for choice. If you feel like something a little different, there are a number of other tours located around the great lake – including gin and absinthe distilleries. Presumably all the alcohol is needed to supply some Dutch courage to face the lake’s mythical monster.

If you don’t manage to locate Nessie, Loch Ness has many other activities, including an exhibit about the local legends, Urquhart Castle ruins, and a number of waterfalls.

Kelvingrove Museum

5. The Glasgow art scene

Glasgow – as Scotland’s biggest and coolest city – makes for another compelling day trip or place to base yourself close to.

There’s no shortage of fun to be had here but it’s particularly appealing to lovers of arts and culture. Here you’ll find Victorian architecture, contemporary art, lots of live music venues, great nightlife, the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and the country’s National Theatre.

Art lovers especially will want to stop off at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Centre for Contemporary Arts, and lots of local galleries, studios and showrooms.

Dunnottar Castle overlooking the sea

6. Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle is such a spectacular site that it deserves its own highlight. The ruined medieval fortress sits atop a cliff overlooking crashing waves on the north-eastern coast of Scotland.

Although believed to have a history stretching back to the Early Middle Ages, the rocky headland spot is home to mainly 15th and 16th century buildings. History buffs and would-be photographers will adore the memorable attraction, which was once attacked by Vikings. To promote greener tourism, you can even walk to the castle along a trail from a local harbour town called Stonehaven.

River in Cairngorms, Scotland

7. Cairngorms National Park

A spectacular mountain range and vast national park in the eastern parts of the Scottish Highlands, the Cairngorms should be on everyone’s list. A truly magical place to stay in a luxury cottage or cabin, this is one for the romantic getaways.

Out in the wilderness, you can take advantage of what’s called a ‘natural playground’ with water sports, snow sports, cycling and adventures through the Caledonian Forest or up to the tops of the Munro Mountains. The true thrill-seekers can try their hand at bungee jumping, while those seeking to be at one with nature may hope to spot birds of prey or red squirrels on an array of walks for all abilities.

Der Old Man Of Storr Auf Der Isle Of Skye Bei Sonnenuntergang

8. Glencoe, Highlands

Visit Glencoe in the Highlands for spectacular mountain scenery. Set within the Lochaber Geopark, Glencoe is a place of deep valleys and towering peaks that were once part of an ancient volcano. A drive through this area rewards with stunning views in every direction.

A haven for anyone who loves outdoor pursuits, Glencoe provides opportunities for everything from gentle strolls through the glen to challenging mountain bike rides. In winter, the Glencoe Mountain Resort offers skiing and snowboarding.

As you marvel at the beauty of the area with your camera in-hand, you may begin to think it all seems familiar. You are right. The location was used for blockbuster movies including James Bond: Skyfall and several of the Harry Potter films.

Ariel of Neist point overlooking the sea

9. The Craignish Peninsula

The Craignish Peninsula in Argyll on the west coast of Scotland is wild and beautiful. A true sense of community and a warm Scottish welcome awaits too in places like the village of Ardfern.

Enjoy a bracing walk. There are several to choose from including from Loch Etive along the rugged coastline where there are stunning views towards the Isle of Jura. The area is rich in wildlife and marine life, so keep an eye out for seals, dolphins and sea eagles.

Meanwhile, there are boat tour companies that operate trips to help you explore. For the brave, the Corryvreckan Whirlpool should not be missed. If you like to sail, the Ardfern Yacht Centre and Marina, at the head of Loch Craignish, is worth seeing.

Stirling castle

10. Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle – just an hour’s drive from Edinburgh – is counted among Scotland’s most important sites.

Historically and architecturally, it has a lot to offer. Take a tour around this family-friendly attraction, stroll around the Great Kitchens, The Royal Palace and its vaults, or view the Stirling Heads Gallery and famous tapestries. There is also a garden, a café, a shop and the chance to visit for ‘pop-up opera’.

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