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Things to do in Scotland

Things to do in  Scotland

Welcome to Scotland

Scotland boasts centuries of colorful history, UNESCO World Heritage–listed treasures, and a rich culture. With lively cities sprinkled among unspoiled landscapes of beaches, lochs, peaks, and valleys, Scotland has plenty to offer visitors of all ages and interests. The capital city, Edinburgh, is an ancient settlement where efficient hop-on hop-off bus tours shuttle travelers to landmarks like mighty Edinburgh Castle, the creepy Edinburgh Dungeon, and the famous Royal Mile; travelers can also witness the pomp and ceremony of the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Other cities such as Aberdeen, Glasgow, Inverness, and Stirling all offer experiences filled with history, culture, and natural beauty. Travel by road or rail into the Scottish Highlands to experience the magic of Loch Ness or Loch Lomond, or follow hiking trails through the wilderness of Glencoe. History lovers can explore Alnwick Castle and Stirling Castle—constructed to protect Scotland against attack—and Hadrian's Wall, where the country's Roman past comes to life. To experience the best of coastal Scotland, take a multi-day tour out to the Isle of Skye or the remote Orkney Islands, where dramatic skyscapes and wild pastures await. And if you're thirsting to sample some of the world's finest Scotch whiskies, make sure to visit a traditional distillery such as Bowmore or Laphroaig on an Isle of Islay tour.

Top 15 attractions in Scotland

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle—with its fortress walls, cobbled promenades, and winding stone steps—has loomed over Scotland’s capital city for more than 1,000 years. Steeped in history, the former royal residence is now a museum, featuring detailed exhibits; period artifacts, such as the Scottish Crown Jewels; and dark dungeons that illuminate the castle’s storied past.More

Royal Mile

The atmospheric Royal Mile thoroughfare cuts through the historic core of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, extending for slightly more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from Edinburgh Castle all the way to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Both sides of the partly pedestrianized street are bordered by historic granite buildings bearing shop display windows piled high with symbols of Scotland, from tartan to whisky to shortbread. In between the former tenements and taverns are darkened arm-width-wide alleyways, known locally as closes.More

Stirling Castle

Perched above the city of Stirling on a chunk of volcanic rock, this mighty Scottish fortress has seen it all, from attacks by Robert the Bruce to the coronation of the infant Mary Queen of Scots to the premiere of the movie “Braveheart” in 1993. In addition to the impeccably recreated Royal Palace interiors and the sheer amount of history held within its robust walls, the castle also offers superb views over Stirling and Scotland’s green hills and valleys.More

Edinburgh Old Town

The historic heart of Edinburgh, UNESCO-listed Old Town, is home to the city’s most visited sights. Its central artery is the Royal Mile, which connects Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and is lined with top attractions including St. Giles Cathedral, Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, and the Scottish Parliament Building.More

Eilean Donan Castle

One of the most photographed sites in Scotland, the Eilean Donan Castle dates back to the 13th century. Built as a defense against the Vikings and used during the Jacobite rebellions in the 18th century, this loch-side castle was restored in the 20th century and is now a popular destination for weddings and tours.More

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Set amid splendid gardens at the foot of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official Scottish residence of the British royals, who first decamped here from nearby Edinburgh Castle back in the 15th century. The complex grew from a 12th-century abbey, whose ruins can still be seen on the grounds, into a full-fledged Baroque palace complete with elaborate plasterwork, sumptuous furnishings, and a number of tapestries. The palace is perhaps most famous for having hosted to the rather unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots, whose beloved secretary was slaughtered here by her jealous second husband.More

St. Giles Cathedral

The official church of the Church of Scotland, St. Giles Cathedral and its famous crown spire tower over the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town. With a history stretching back over 900 years, St. Giles is renowned for its beautiful stained glass windows, ornate Thistle Chapel, and busy concert calendar.More

Jacobite Steam Train

Chugging through the misty lochs and sweeping glens of the Scottish Highlands, the Jacobite Steam Train (or Jacobite Express) is one of Britain's greatest train journeys, taking passengers on a nostalgic train ride between Fort William in the West Highlands and Mallaig on Scotland's west coast. The 84-mile (135-km) round-trip route passes Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest mountain, and the Glenfinnan viaduct, seen in theHarry Potter films when the Jacobite Steam Train was featured as the fictional Hogwarts Express.More

George Square

The cultural center of Glasgow, George Square dates back to 1781. It was named after King George III and today is surrounded by grand buildings including the Glasgow City Chambers. See statues of great Scots, visit the city’s main tourist information office, and go shopping at the annual Christmas market all in this one central square.More


Steeped in history, the Grassmarket is located directly below Edinburgh Castle and is just a minute’s walk from the famous Royal Mile and the National Museum of Scotland. A vibrant and historic area, here visitors can soak up the medieval atmosphere while marvelling at one of the most iconic views in the city, the mighty Edinburgh Castle.A stroll over the George IV Bridge leads to the Greyfriars Bobby statue and through some of Edinburgh’s oldest and most famous streets, including Candlemaker Row, Victoria Street, and West Port.The Grassmarket was traditionally a meeting point for market traders and cattle drovers, with temporary lodgings and taverns all around. It was also once a place of public execution, and a memorial near the site once occupied by the gibbet was created in 1937 to commemorate more than 100 people who died on the gallows in a period known as The Killing Time.Nowadays, the old market area is surrounded by pubs, clubs, shops, and two large hotels. Most buildings in the area are Victorian, with several modern buildings on the area’s south side.More

Forth Bridge

The Forth Bridge, the distinctive red-hued cantilevered railway bridge that arches over the Firth of Forth close to Edinburgh, is one of Scotland’s most recognizable symbols. A triumph of engineering, the bridge is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its 1,709-foot (521-meter single cantilever span is the second-longest in the world.More

Arthur's Seat

One of several peaks in the long-extinct volcanic ridge that towers behind Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat offers hill walking in the heart of the city. Set within the 640-acre (260-hectare) Holyrood Park, it’s also the site of a 2,000-year-old hill fort. On a clear day, the summit promises spectacular views of the cityscape.More

Glasgow Cathedral

Dating back to medieval times, Glasgow Cathedral is the only medieval cathedral on Scotland’s mainland to have survived the Reformation almost fully intact. A magnificent Gothic construction, it features stained-glass windows, a 15th-century stone choir screen, and the tomb of St. Mungo, Glasgow’s patron saint.More

Scotch Whisky Experience

Established in 1988 in an old private school building, the Scotch Whisky Experience offers visitors a range of tours and tastings. The center, located in the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Old Town of Edinburgh, houses one of the world's largest collections of Scotch whisky—nearly 3,400 bottles—as well as a restaurant, bar, and shop.More

Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park

A vast landscape of hills and mountains, lush valleys, mist-shrouded lochs, and shady woodland trails, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park makes an easy rural retreat from Scotland’s biggest city. Located just north of Glasgow, the park also serves as the gateway to the Scottish Highlands.More
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Trip ideas

Top activities in Scotland

Loch Ness, Scottish Highlands, Glencoe & Pitlochry Tour from Edinburgh
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The Isle of Skye & Eilean Donan Castle from Inverness
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Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle and the Kelpies from Edinburgh
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Full-Day Trip to Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands with Lunch from Edinburgh
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Hogwarts Express and the Scenic Highlands Day Tour from Inverness
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Isle of Skye, The Highlands and Loch Ness- 3 Day Group Tour from Edinburgh
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Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Highlands Day Trip from Glasgow
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People Also Ask

What is Scotland known for?

Scotland is a land of instantly recognizable images (or clichés, depending on your opinion): tartan, bagpipes, haggis, mist-shrouded mountains, heather-clad hills, and haunting valleys. The small country has an outsized cultural reputation and has produced some of the world’s best literature, music, and art.

What should you not miss in Scotland?

Many visitors make the mistake of sticking to Edinburgh and its surroundings. You shouldn’t miss the chance to get out into the countryside—easily done in a small country. The Highlands are within easy reach from the capital and home to some of Scotland’s most majestic landscapes.

How many days is enough for Scotland?

Ten days is enough time to get a good taste of Scotland. You can see all of the highlights of Edinburgh and Glasgow, explore the highlights of the Highlands (including Glencoe and Loch Ness), and add on a visit to an island, such as Arran, Islay, or Mull.

What food should you try in Scotland?

Scottish food has an unfair and outdated reputation. The country boasts farm-to-table fare featuring world-class ingredients, from fresh seafood to wild game. Make sure to try Scottish salmon, local cheeses, and grouse, as well as distinctively Scottish dishes like cullen skink (a hearty fish soup), black pudding, and, yes, haggis.

Which cities should you visit on your first trip to Scotland?

You shouldn’t miss Edinburgh, the jewel in Scotland’s crown and home to its top attractions, including Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile. But don’t sleep on Glasgow: Scotland’s grittier and inarguably friendlier city is less shaped by tourism, offering an earthier and perhaps more authentic view of Scotland.

What is the best way to travel around Scotland?

Rent a car if you can. Public transportation is extensive but train and bus timetables are not always convenient when traveling to more remote parts of the country. Alternatively, book guided tours and let someone else tackle driving on narrow country roads.


Scotland information

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