20 Fab Things to See and Do in Scotland - A Helpful Video Guide
When thinking of Scotland, you would most likely conjure up images of the Loch Ness monster, glorious medieval castles, adorably shaggy cattle, blaring bagpipes, spectacular scenery, the animated movie, “Brave”, and golf. These are the things that make Scoland unique, but this magnificent country has a lot more to offer, and it lends itself for visitors to explore in many different ways.
Scotland is best visited in the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) months. The months of June to August are the warmest of the year. July and August particularly get extensive daylight hours. From late October, the visitors slowly begin to disperse, and November can be a splendid time to see Scotland’s wonderful autumn foliage.
There is an array of things to see and do in Scotland, whether you are travelling alone or with family. Here are our top picks:
Iconic Things to See in Scotland
1. Edinburgh Castle
The most iconic castle in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle has played a major role in the country’s skyline since the rule of King David I in the twelfth Century. Sitting at the summit on the rock, the breath-taking fortress presents terrific views over city landmarks, like Princes Street and Holyroodhouse Palace, which sits at the far end of the Royal Mile.
To enter the castle, a drawbridge stretches over an old dike which has its entrance from the broad Esplanade. This is also the venue for the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which is held as a yearly event in August. As you cross through the Esplanade, you will see bronze monuments of two Scottish heroes – Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, who both fought and won against the English in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.
Other things to do in Edinburgh
Free Things to See and Do in Scotland
2. Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle
If you hear the name Loch Ness, a place near the city of Inverness, you would probly imagine the mythical monster, which, legend says, has lived in the loch for several centuries. For a fully detailed description of the monster, there’s no other place that does a better task of fuelling the Loch Ness Monster myth than that of Drumnadrochit Hotel’s Loch Ness Exhibition.
To add more intrigue to the loch, the gorgeous Urquhart Castle stands over the blue waters as it perches on a strip of land which protrudes out into the loch. Even though the castle is now a ruin, it still remains among one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland.
Relaxing Things to Do in Scotland
3. Play Golf at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews
Scotland gave birth to many useful and impressive inventions that we still get to enjoy up to now, including the steam engine, the bicycle, postage stamp, tarmacadam, and, arguably the most important, the telephone. Another one of their surviving inventions is the sport of golf.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews draws crowds of visitors every year. It is acknowledged as golf’s ruling body and established in 1750. St. Andrews often plays host to the famous British Open. The British Golf Museum which tells the rich history of the “home of golf”, starting from the Middle Ages up to this day, is also worth a visit.
Things to See and Do in Scotland on a Sunny Day
4. Fishing at Loch Lomond
Located approximately fourteen miles north of Glasgow lies Scotland’s biggest lake: Loch Lomond. It has an abundance of salmon, whitefish, and trout, and it serves as a coveted spot for anglers from all over the world. Loch Lomond is also surrounded by magnificent mountain slopes and streams, so it is likewise frequented by hikers and outdoor and water sports fans.
At the southern tip of Loch Lomond, Cameron House serves as an ideal place to experience and enjoy the wonders of a medieval Scottish castle, breathe in the fresh loch air, and appreciate the wide range of outdoor activities that you and your family are sure to enjoy.
Dreamy Spots to See in Scotland
5. Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye, also called “Cloud Island” because of the heavy fog that often cover the isle, and likewise by the Viking name “Sküyo”, is the biggest of the country’s inner isles. Isle of Skye is an incredibly popular destination for nature lovers, and the wild, verdant mountain landscape together with the luscious green glens and caves, stunning waterfalls, and fine, sandy beaches of the island serve to add to its charm.
The Cloud Island still has some traces of ancient oak forests, plus a diverse variety of wildlife species. Visiting the island can either be by ferry or by driving a short distance across the bridge that links to the mainland.
Things to See and Do in Scotland for Poetry Lovers
6. The Burns Heritage Trail
A great way to gain a little insight into the life and story of Scotland’s favorite poet, Robbie Burns, is to experience the Burns Heritage Trail. It starts in Alloway on the outskirts of Ayr. At the impressive Robert Burns Museum, visitors get to witness a fantastically preserved thatched cottage where the Burns was born and where he lived for most of his childhood years.
Upon visiting some more related landmarks, the tour goes to the town of Dumfries in the south and right to Robert Burns House, where he stayed for the last four years of his life until he died in 1796, at a young age of thirty-six.
One-of-a-Kind Things to See and Do in Scotland
7. The Castle Trail
The Castle Trail essentially focuses on fortresses situated in Aberdeenshire, where 17 of Scotland’s most stunning and best-preserved castles still stand. The itinerary, which starts at the city of Aberdeen as a base, takes anything from a day up to four days in duration. Guests will be taken to such wonders as the thirteenth century Drum Castle, the sixteenth century Crathes Castle that looks like it came right out of a Disney fairytale, as well as the fifteenth century Craigievar Castle with its round oriental windows, impressive towers and gables, and its charming conical roof tops.
The tour is also a magnificent way to enjoy the panoramic coastlines and splendid mountains within the Grampian Region.
Historical Things to See in Scotland
8. The Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle, with Edinburgh to its East and Glasgow to its west, is notorious for many bloody battles that transpired there, including the Battle of Bannockburn which saw Robert the Bruce’s loss against the English in 1314, as well as the Battle of Stirling Bridge, where the infamous William Wallace helped gain independence for Scotland from King Edward I of England.
Just a short distance outside Stirling at Abbey Craig sits the courtly Wallace Monument, a magnificent 246-step tower, which provides panoramic views over the entire area. It houses several artifact that are claimed to have belonged to Wallace.
Royal Things to Do in Scotland
9. Reside in Glengorm Castle
Situated in a wonderful spot and surrounded by cobalt blue waters and ruined stone circles, along with fine, white, sandy, beaches with a panoramic backdrop of the dark rocks on Mull’s north shoreline sits Glengorm Castle.
The fortress was constructed in 1860 and presents the perfect accommodation for patrons to the island where they can book a room and enjoy their grand stay under the care of the castle’s owner Mr. Tom Nelson. Glengorm Castle sits in the heart of its five-thousand acre estate, making it the ideal place to awe at the surrounding views while in an energetic hike, or sit back, relax, and enjoy a glass of the local whisky.
Archaeological Wonders to See in Scotland
10. Skara Brae
Skara Brae, a semi-subterranean town which is located on the island of Orkney, is one of the very best well-preserved villages from the Stone Age in Europe, and is assumed to have been built more than 5,000 years ago. For a number of centuries, it was completely concealed by a sand dune, until a great storm in 1850 revealed the site.
Right after the site was abandoned, the village was flooded by sand, preserving the stone walls and their currently relatively untarnished appearance. Even older than the Great Pyramids of ancient Egypt, Skara Brae has been recognized as the “Scottish Pompeii” because of the impressive preservation.
Colorful Things to See with the Family in Scotland
11. Festival Finale Fireworks
Edinburgh’s Festival fireworks show takes place at the final stretch of the Festival, on the 31st of August each year. It represents the world’s biggest annual pyrotechnic display together with engaging live music, and is seen by around 250,000 revellers, which represents almost half the total population of Edinburgh.
One of the best vantage points are Princes Street Gardens, Arthur’s Seat, Carlton Hill, and Inverleith Park. The sight of more than a hundred thousand colorful fireworks being set off by four metric tons of explosives is one not to be missed.
Relaxing Things to See and Do in Scotland
12. Isle of Arran
With only a hundred and sixty-six square miles in size, and being a mirror image of mainland Scotland’s rustic landscapes, it’s obvious why the little Isle of Arran is known as “Scotland in Miniature”. Just like the mainland, Arran features sandy beaches, grand mountains, fortresses, moorland, a diverse range of wildlife, charming little fishing harbors, and extremely warm people.
Even though the isle’s highlights, namely Goat Fell Mountain and Brodick Castle, can be toured within a single day, it is best to stay for a few more days in order to discover and explore this wonderful albeit wee Scottish island.
Unique Things to See and Do in Scotland
13. Live in the Lighthouse of Rua Reidh
If you have ever wanted to stay or spend a night in a lighthouse, now’s your chance. Rua Reidh lighthouse, just a short distance from Gairloch in Wester Ross, is situated at the very tip of a single-track road which stretches 11.8 miles (19 km) and is merely used as a walking pathway for sheep and deer. The lighthouse is sitting atop the black rocks overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean.
Like all lighthouses in the United Kingdom, Rua Reidh is now fully automated and so the keepers’ quarters have been refurbished into bedrooms, bunk rooms, and a cozy living room complete with a wood-burning stove.
Exciting Things to Do in Scotland
14. Sea Kayaking Around an Archipelago
Paddling in a kayak to an island that is totally isolated and then having a BBQ on the beach might seem like something you can only dream of, but it’s now possible to come true. There are more than two hundred islands that are deserted and uninhabited in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, and the best way to experience these group of isles is by boat. The waters around them is peaceful, crystal-clear, and each islet is paradisiacal.
Luckily for those with minimal kayaking experience, there are local professionals who will lead you out into the archipelago. You can start at the isles of Harris, Uist, Lewis, or Barra.
Artful Things to See in Scotland
15. The Burrell Collection
The Burrell Collection in Glasgow’s Pollok Country Park in Scotland houses almost everything from Rodin sculptures, fine Chinese ceramics, ancient tapestries, to Impressionist works by Degas and Cézanne. The collection, which was donated by lover of arts, and Glaswegian shipping magnate Sir William Burrell, is open daily and entry is free of charge. Art enthusiasts who have already seen the treasures on offer claim that the Burrell Collection’s milieu and diverse variety of art is almost beyond compare.
Things to Do in Scotland for Adults
16. Enjoy Fine Whiskey
The islands of Islay and Jura, both located on the western shore of Scotland, house some of Scotland’s most famous whisky distilleries, including Ardbeg, Kilchoman, Jura, Bowmore, Lagavulin, and Laphroig.
While the distilleries can be visited throughout the year, for the whisky aficionado, the very best time to go is during the week-long whisky festival which is held every summer. Aside from the copious quantities of whisky to be shared, the festival also features ceilidhs or the traditional Scottish dance, live Celtic music concerts, cooking-with-whisky evenings, together with a charity whisky barrel ‘push’ across Islay. And on the last day of the festival, visitors are treated to a day of carnival fun on Port Ellen Green.
Exotic Things to Do in Scotland
17. Try Haggis
Haggis, the national dish of Scotland, is a special type of 'pudding' made from the liver, lungs, and heart of a sheep, minced and combined with mutton or beef, oatmeal, and heavily seasoned with onion, cayenne pepper, garlic, and other spices. The mixture is then packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. It may seem a bit too exotic to some, but it is actually nourishing and inexpensive—and there’s nobody else that cooks Haggis better than the Scotlish locals, of course!
Arcade Bar, Haggis, and Whisky House is one of the best places to try the national dish, together with another one of Scotland’s gift to the world: whiskey.
Adventurous Things to Do in Scotland
18. Climb Grampian Mountains
The Grampian Mountains in Scotland are among the three major mountain ranges in the country, sitting on a large portion of the Scottish Highlands in the northern region of Scotland. The Grampian mountain range stretches southwest to northeast between the Highland Boundary Fault and the Great Glen, taking up almost half of the country’s land area including the Lochaber hills and the Cairngorms.
This range includes several of the highest mountains in the British Isles, namely Ben Nevis (the highest point in the British Isles) and Ben Macdui (the next highest mountain).
Meanwhile, the spectacular Carn Mór Dearg Arête, one of the finest ridges in the Grampian range, offers one of the most breath-taking sights as it sweeps in a nearly perfect arc over to the North Face.
Adrenaline-Pumping Things to Do in Scotland
19. Ride Your Mountain Bike Downhill
Scotland is notorious as one of the most coveted destinations for those who like the adrenaline-rush that downhill mountain biking brings. That notoriety is well-deserved as a myriad of daring downhill tracks that now pepper every part of the country. One that stands above the rest is Laggan Wolftrax, situated two kilometres from Laggan, which is a short distance from Kingussie in the center of the Cairngorms National Park.
If you are seeking for the ride of your life, there are several black runs available for your satisfaction. For those who prefer a gentler and mellower ride around the charming woods, though, there are easier blue runs and leveled paths for your relaxation.
Fairy Tale-like Places to See in Scotland
20. Rothiemurchus Forest
The biggest strip of ancient forest that still thrives in Britain is situated approximately two miles from Aviemore in the Cairngorms. The verdant Caledonian pine forest offers a enthralling way to escape from the stresses of life and enter a world that’s similar to a Lewis Carroll novel, as the old pine trees twist and turn and their woody fingers caress the surrounding juniper and heather. Somehow you’d find yourself searching for the Cheshire cat.
For the ideal times to see badgers and pine martens in their natural habitat, visit the hide, which is heated and offers night-vision cameras.
Scotland is indeed a place so beautiful that you wouldn't be able to find the right words to describe it's enthralling beauty and paradisaical landscapes. There's no Photoshop nor filters needed to further enhance Scotland's picturesque scenery. But more than her aesthetic value, she also tells a colorful history that adds to her overall appeal. Moreover, Scotland is draped with a rich tapestry of culture and traditions that visitors will enjoy discovering and exploring.
If you are going to visit Scotland, Vacation Soup recommends staying for a few days to fully appreciate everything about this wonderful place.