16 Incredible Things to Do in Scotland: Unmissable Attractions & Experiences

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Scotland, known for its breathtaking landscapes and rich history, offers a multitude of experiences that cater to every kind of traveler. Wandering through Scotland’s craggy hillsides, touring its historical castles, or seeking out the urban beats of its bustling cities, you’ll invariably find yourself immersed in a place you’ve always dreamed about.

Edinburgh Scotland

If you’re planning a trip, you likely already know about the iconic Edinburgh Castle and the serene beauty of Loch Lomond, but what about other unmissable sights you don’t know about, like the Cuillin range on the Isle of Skye or the awe-inspiring archipelago of St. Kilda.

Scotland is a top destination for Americans, whether you’re looking for nature, history, golf, or whisky. It has it all. And since it’s not a huge place, you can actually add a lot of these top spots to your itinerary and even if you only have a week to spend there are so many incredible things to do in Scotland.

» If you’re visiting Scotland, check out our 7-day itinerary that covers the west of Scotland and the Isle of Skye, or this week-long itinerary to the east. You’ll also love visiting Edinburgh.

Edinburgh, the Heart of Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, offers a blend of rich history and vibrant culture, with iconic attractions such as the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, and the Camera Obscura. The city captivates visitors with its historical significance and family-friendly destinations.

Explore the Historic Royal Mile

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile in Edinburgh (photo by Savored Journeys)

The Royal Mile is the bustling backbone of Edinburgh’s Old Town, connecting two significant historic sites: Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. A walk along the Mile presents a timeline of Scotland’s past, with its cobbled streets and narrow closes (alleys) leading to various historic buildings, museums, and shops. It’s a must-visit to truly grasp the city’s heritage.

Visit Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle - a top attraction in Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle

Perched atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle dominates the city’s skyline, offering panoramic views. The castle has stood as a symbol of national pride and is pivotal in Scotland’s history, witnessing numerous conflicts and royal ceremonies. Inside, one can explore well-preserved chambers, the Crown Jewels, and the historic Stone of Destiny.

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

For a unique experience, the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is a delightful family attraction located near Edinburgh Castle. Visitors are treated to optical illusions, interactive exhibits, and a camera obscura itself that offers a live, moving panorama of the city. It’s both educational and entertaining, making it a favorite among all ages.

Discover Loch Ness and Inverness

Crescent City 2
Loch Ness

Loch Ness is renowned for tales of the legendary Nessie and is a must-see for anyone visiting Scotland. Bordering the lake, Inverness offers visitors a blend of cultural history and natural beauty.

Loch Ness:

  • Sightseeing: Explore the scenic vistas around the lake, keeping an eye out for the mythical Loch Ness Monster.
  • Outdoor Activities: Engage in hiking, cycling, or boat tours to appreciate the area’s natural magnificence.
  • Plodda Falls: Be sure to visit these impressive waterfalls located near Glen Affric.


  • Culloden Battlefield: A poignant site that played a pivotal role in Scottish history.
  • Clava Cairns: Marvel at these prehistoric burial mound complexes nearby.
  • Cultural Pursuits: Explore the city’s rich history through castles and museums.

Both Loch Ness and Inverness offer numerous activities fit for all ages and interests:

Activity TypeOptions
Historical SitesCulloden Battlefield, Clava Cairns, castles
Natural EscapesPlodda Falls, Loch Ness
Cultural ExperiencesMuseums, art galleries, and cultural tours
Water-based ActivitiesBoat tours on Loch Ness

Travelers can indulge in culinary delights, local shopping, and maybe even spot some Highland cattle. For whisky enthusiasts, a visit to local distilleries to sample the renowned Scottish whisky is a high point. With stunning landscapes and compelling history, Loch Ness and Inverness offer an authentic Scottish experience.

The Mythical Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye enchants visitors with its rugged landscapes and ties to ancient legends. It is a place where nature’s drama unfolds across the horizon, making it a standout destination within Scotland.


The Cuillin, Isle of Skye

The Cuillin range presents a formidable skyline with its jagged peaks and ridges. It is divided into the Black Cuillin, known for its challenging trails, and the Red Cuillin, which offers gentler slopes. Experienced climbers often seek the thrill of scaling the Black Cuillin, whilst Red Cuillin tends to be more accessible for casual hikers.

The Fairy Pools

Nestled at the foot of the Black Cuillin are the Fairy Pools, an ethereal series of crystal-clear, cold pools and waterfalls. With vibrant hues ranging from the deepest blues to the lightest turquoises, the pools beckon adventurers to witness their beauty, and for those brave enough, to take a refreshing dip.

The Majestic Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis, Scotland

Ben Nevis stands as the tallest mountain in the United Kingdom, located near the town of Fort William in Scotland. With a summit reaching 1,345 meters above sea level, it is a beacon for hikers, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts. The mountain’s geological past is as impressive as its height, having once been a massive active volcano that erupted and collapsed millions of years ago.

Popular Activities:

  • Hiking: Ben Nevis attracts over 125,000 walkers annually who take on the challenge of reaching the summit. The mountain offers several routes, with the Pony Track being the most well-trodden path for amateurs and those less experienced in climbing.
  • Sightseeing: For those preferring less strenuous activities, the surrounding natural landscapes are rich in beauty and perfect for scenic walks.

Essential Tips:

  • Preparation: Climbers should ensure they are well-prepared with appropriate gear and physical training, as the climb is demanding.
  • Hydration: Carry plenty of water; the route provides limited sources to refill.

Nearby Attractions:

  • Old Inverlochy Castle: A historic landmark worth visiting for those interested in Scottish history.
  • Commando Monument: A significant monument that stands in honor of the commandos who trained in the area during World War II.


Glencoe, Scottish Highlands

Nestled in the Scottish Highlands, Glencoe is surrounded by monumental landscapes, offering a charming stop for exploration. This quaint settlement lies at the intersection of Loch Leven’s serene waters and the towering valleys of the highlands, acting as a welcoming entry point to the Lochaber region.

Outdoor Activities:

  • Walking & Hiking: Travelers can engage in a variety of trails, such as the West Highland Way, which winds through Glencoe, offering breathtaking scenery and a glimpse into the natural beauty of the region.
  • Skiing: In winter, the Glencoe Ski Centre becomes a hub for snow-sports enthusiasts, with runs suitable for all levels.

Historical Significance: Glencoe carries a poignant history, echoing tales of the infamous 1692 massacre. Visitors often reflect on the past while surrounded by the glen’s enduring beauty.


  • Skyfall Road: Film buffs may recognize the dramatic landscapes from the James Bond film “Skyfall.”
  • King’s House: This historic inn provides a glimpse into the area’s past, serving as a respite for travelers for centuries.

Nature and Wildlife: Glencoe is rich in wildlife. Nature lovers can embark on wildlife tours, relishing the chance to spot native species in their natural habitat.

Accommodations: From the village hub, tourists have access to a range of accommodations, enriching their Highland experience with a comfortable stay amid the rugged beauty of Glencoe.

Local Experience: Visitors are encouraged to partake in day hikes, immersing themselves in the splendid Scottish landscape, with the imposing peaks guarding the glen and village, adding to Glencoe’s allure.

Step Back in Time at Stirling Castle

Castle Architecture in Stirling
Castle Architecture in Stirling

Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most historically significant sites and serves as a splendid window into the nation’s past. Perched on Castle Hill with commanding views, it was the key to the kingdom during medieval times due to its strategic location.

Visiting Tips

  • Accessibility: The castle can be reached from Stirling city centre with a brisk 15-minute walk, or by car with available parking.
  • Best Time to Visit: Mornings provide a quieter experience to explore the palace’s refurbished royal chambers and grand halls.

Noteworthy Highlights

  • Royal Palace: Visitors can tour the Royal Palace, witnessing the grandeur of the Renaissance architecture where Mary Queen of Scots spent her early childhood.
  • Stirling Skeletons: In the castle exhibition, two of the nine skeletons found from the 1200-1400s are on display, believed to be individuals of high status.
  • Castle Exhibitions: The castle offers a variety of exhibitions providing insights into its rich history and restoration work.

Structural Features

  • The castle boasts a strong defensive position, with three steep sides, which was advantageous during sieges.
  • Through the years, various restorations have faithfully maintained the castle’s historic integrity.

The Ruins of Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle
Ruins of Urquhart Castle

Nestled on the banks of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle offers a glimpse into Scotland’s medieval past. The ruins, steeped in history, tell tales of the nation’s dynamic lineage.

Location & Access: The castle is situated near Drumnadrochit and is easily accessible, sitting 16 miles southwest of Inverness. The site is perched on the shore, granting panoramic vistas of Loch Ness.

Historical Significance: For over a thousand years, Urquhart has played a vital role in Scottish history. Its strategic location on the Great Glen made it a focal point of military action during Scotland’s wars of independence.


  • Grant Tower: The castle’s tallest structure offers expansive views of the surrounding loch and land.
  • Prison Cell: Once the holding place of notable figures such as the Gaelic bard, Domhnall Donn.
  • Great Hall: Envision the grandeur of historic banquets that would have been held in this ceremonial space.


  • Visitor Centre: Features engaging exhibitions about the castle’s storied past.
  • Café: Enjoy the comfort of the café with its scenic overlook of the castle ruins.

Tips for Visitors:

  • Visit early to avoid the midday crowds, especially in summer.
  • The café terrace is a coveted spot, perfect for a peaceful view – arrive early to secure a seat.

Experience the Famous Scottish Whisky

scotch whisky
Scotch Whisky tasting in Scotland

Scotland’s whisky, often revered as the nation’s liquid gold, offers visitors an immersive experience into a rich tradition. Distilleries are scattered throughout the country, each providing a unique window into the heart of Scottish culture.

Notable Distilleries:

  • The Scotch Whisky Experience: Start with a tour here to get introduced to the process of whisky making.
  • Glenfiddich Distillery: Known for its pioneering spirit and family ownership, Glenfiddich remains one of the most famous distilleries.
  • The Glenlivet Distillery: Steeped in history since 1824, it’s touted for its single malt whisky.
  • Highland Park: A distillery proud of its Viking roots, offers a distinctively smoky and rich flavour.

Whisky Tasting:

Visitors should indulge in whisky tastings to understand the subtle nuances. Each region in Scotland offers a distinct flavour profile:

  • Speyside: Famed for sweet and rich single malts.
  • Islay: Known for its robust, peaty whiskies with a maritime influence.
  • Highlands: Offers a diverse range of flavours from light and floral to rich and smoky.

Whisky Trails:

Unmissable Experiences:

  • Enjoy drams directly from the cask.
  • Learn about whisky’s place in Scottish history.
  • Savor in breathtaking distillery locations, many of which overlook scenic landscapes or castles.

Visit St. Andrews, the Home of Golf

The View from a Senior Suite at Macdonald Rusacks in St. Andrews
The View from a Senior Suite at Macdonald Rusacks in St. Andrews (photo by Savored Journeys)

St. Andrews is a name synonymous with golf, often referred to as its global home. Established over 600 years ago, the sport has deep roots in this Scottish town, offering a pilgrimage for enthusiasts. No visit to Scotland is complete without experiencing the hallowed turf of St. Andrews’ courses.

Royal and Ancient Golf Club: Founded in 1754, this venerable institution is a cornerstone of golf history, not just for St. Andrews but worldwide.

The Old Course: Known as the most famous golf course on the planet, visitors can take guided walks to soak in the history and the unique atmosphere.

Golfing Attractions:

  • Kingsbarns Golf Links: A stunning example of the links courses for which Scotland is famed.
  • British Open: Every two years, the spotlight falls squarely on St. Andrews when it hosts this prestigious tournament.

Practical Tips:

  • Book guided tours early, especially during peak golfing seasons.
  • Even non-golfers can enjoy the impressive views and the beach along West Sands.
  • Spend time in the local shops for a range of golf-inspired souvenirs.

Conquer the West Highland Way

West Highland Way

The West Highland Way offers an exhilarating opportunity to experience Scotland’s rugged beauty. Spanning 96 miles (154 kilometers), it winds from Milngavie on Glasgow’s outskirts to Fort William, at the foot of the UK’s highest peak, Ben Nevis.

Itinerary Options:

  • A 5-day fast-paced trek for seasoned hikers looking for a challenge
  • A more leisurely 7-day journey for those wishing to savor the landscapes

Hikers will encounter a cumulative elevation of 3,154 meters, with various terrains including steep hills and undulating sections.

Highlights Include:

  • Loch Lomond’s serene expanse
  • The striking Trossachs National Park
  • Glencoe’s haunting beauty
  • The base of Ben Nevis, inviting the brave to extend their hike to the summit

Preparation Tips:

  • Wear sturdy footwear.
  • Prepare for unpredictable weather.
  • Book accommodations in advance during peak season.

This path is more than a hiking trail; it’s a showcase of Scottish heritage, offering glimpses into regional culture and history. As Scotland’s first official long-distance trail, it marks the balance between preserving the wild and accommodating visitors.

Witness Wildlife in Trossachs National Park

Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park provides a rich habitat for an array of wildlife, offering visitors the opportunity to admire Scotland’s natural inhabitants in their stunning surroundings.

Birdwatchers delight in the National Park, as it is a stronghold for a variety of bird species. Among them, the iconic Golden Eagle deserves special mention. With patience and a bit of luck, visitors may spot these majestic raptors soaring high above the mountain ridges.

Mammal enthusiasts can look forward to sightings of the elusive red squirrel, a species native to Britain that has become a rarity in other parts. The park’s waterways and lochs are also home to the charming otter, whose playful antics are a joy to observe.

For admirers of larger fauna, the park’s Breadalbane area is particularly noteworthy:

  • Red Deer: The largest land mammal in the UK, it can often be seen grazing in the open glens.
  • Wild Goats: Hardy and sure-footed, these animals are typically spotted on the rugged terrain.

Aquatic life thrives within the park’s 22 large lochs. Visitors may witness a range of fish species, and with guided tours, gain insights into the local aquatic ecosystems.

To ensure a productive wildlife watching experience, visitors are encouraged to make use of the various hides and quiet spots designated for observing these creatures without causing disturbance. It’s essential to always maintain a respectful distance and preserve the natural beauty of the park for both its residents and future visitors.

St. Kilda

St. Kilda
Wall Structures and Shelters at St. Kilda

St. Kilda is an awe-inspiring archipelago situated roughly 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides. It comprises the remnants of a volcanic eruption, forming a series of islands that boast dramatic landscapes and a rich history. Visitors often seek to witness its unique biodiversity and the remnants of human settlement that once thrived in this secluded location.

Attractions in St. Kilda include:

  1. Village Bay: The main point of interest, featuring abandoned stone cottages and a small museum preserving the history of the last community that lived here until their evacuation in 1930.
  2. St. Kilda’s Church: A humble, restored building that speaks to the spiritual life of the island’s former inhabitants.
  3. Cleits: Over 1,200 stone structures dot the landscape, once used for storage and shelter.

A paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, they can expect to see:

  • Europe’s largest seabird colony, including puffins and gannets
  • Unique subspecies of wren and field mouse, found nowhere else on earth

For the adventurous traveler, St. Kilda offers:

  • Hiking: Trails that lead to spectacular views of the islands and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Cliff Climbing: Conachair, Britain’s highest sea cliff, stands at a staggering 430 meters.
Boat ToursDepart from the Outer Hebrides for day trips to the island
Nature WalksGuided tours to explore flora and fauna
Historical ExplorationAncient stonework and buildings tell ancient tales

Travelers must be prepared for a trip to St. Kilda, as the journey can be challenging due to weather conditions affecting access. Once there, the island’s extraordinary history and natural beauty provide a memorable and unparalleled experience.

Ailsa Craig

Ailsa Craig
Ailsa Craig

Ailsa Craig, a small island located in the Firth of Clyde, is an iconic Scottish landmark known for its remarkable natural features and wildlife. Rising 1,114 feet above the sea level, this volcanic plug is a sight to behold from the Ayrshire Coast, particularly from the town of Girvan, which is just ten miles east.

Wildlife Watching: The island serves as a sanctuary for a diverse array of seabirds. It is home to:

  • 40,000 pairs of gannets
  • Thousands of guillemots
  • Razorbills
  • Hundreds of kittiwakes
  • Puffins

The presence of raptors such as peregrine falcons and the occasional golden eagle provides excellent opportunities for birdwatchers.

Geological Exploration: Visitors can explore fascinating erosional features, including:

  • Dramatic cliffs
  • Intriguing caves

These features bear testimony to the island’s geological history and the natural forces that have shaped it.

Boat Trips: Local boat owners offer trips to Ailsa Craig, allowing visitors to admire the island’s grandeur up close. These trips often circumnavigate the island, providing a view of its diverse landscapes and the ruins of the old quarry manager’s house.

Gaelic Heritage: Several places on Ailsa Craig have names derived from Gaelic, reflecting the cultural heritage of Scotland. For example, ‘Craigna’an’ means ‘cliff of birds’ and ‘Ashydoo’ translates to ‘black hill.’

Be Prepared For Travel
Planning is the most important part of any successful trip. Do it the easy way:

🧳 Travel Packing List | ✔️ Why You Need Travel Insurance | ✈️ What to Do Before You Leave Home


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16 Incredible Things to Do in Scotland: Unmissable Attractions & Experiences

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