Top 25 best things to do in Scotland

Scotland has some of the richest historical sites in Britain, as well as fabulous art, shopping and truly stunning landscapes. Here are our suggestions for a great day out.

Edinburgh castle

Edinburgh Castle, a historic building and a major tourist attraction on Castle Rock above Edinburgh city. Credit: VisitBritain/Andrew Pickett

1. Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh

Dominating the Edinburgh skyline, the historic fortress is set upon Castle Rock, which has been occupied since at least the Iron Age. From here, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites New Town and Old Town: the former has its original Georgian architecture, and the latter still retains the cobbled streets of the medieval period.

2. Skara BraeOrkney

The largest of the Orkney Islands, Skara Brae is the most complete Neolithic village in Western Europe and one of Orkney’s most-visited ancient sites. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this village is older than both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Egypt, and its excellent preservation has given the area the name ‘Scottish Pompeii’. You can even see the huts people live din.

3. Burrell Collection, Glasgow

If you see yourself as a connoisseur, or simply as someone who likes nice things, the Burrell Collection is for you. ​​​​​​In the heart of Pollok Country Park, this award-winning building houses a unique collection in a beautiful woodland setting. The collection is one of the greatest ever created by one person, comprising over 8000 object and one the most famous collection in Scotland.

isle of harris, scotland

Beach on the isle of Harris, Horgabost, Western Isles, Scotland Credit: VisitBritain/Britain on View

4. Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

Isle of Harris is the largest island in the Outer Hebrides. The enigmatic nature of the landscape convinced Stanley Kubrick to use it for the surface of Jupiter in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Explore the archipelago of St Kilda, another World Heritage Site,which is the remotest part of the British Isles.

New Lanark, Clyde, Scotland

New Lanark on the River Clyde Credit: VisitBritain/Britain on View

5. New Lanark, near Edinburgh

This is a restored village from the 18th century lets you see the lifestyle of people at the time. Made into a cotton-mill village set in the lush, green countryside, this is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

6. Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

Take in the wonders of Kirkwall, the biggest town on the Orkney Islands and the capital, it dates back to Norse times, in the 11th century, when it was called Kirkjuvagr (Church of the bay). A royal burgh since 1486, visit St Magnus Cathedral, the nearby Earl’s and Bishop’s palaces and the Orkney Museum in Tankerness House with its splendid gardens.

Loch Ness, Scotland, Highlands

Loch Ness Credit: VisitBritain/Andrew Pickett

7. Loch Ness, Highlands

Loch Ness is one of Scotland’s largest and most famous lochs, known around the world thanks to its mythical monster Nessie. Just a short distance from Inverness, this impressive stretch of water is 23 miles long and over 700 ft at its deepest, making it Scotland’s largest loch in terms of volume, and one of Britain’s most stunning locations.

8. St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh

Located halfway down the historic Royal Mile, the framed crown spire of St Giles’ Cathedral is one of the most recognisable features of Edinburgh skyline.

9. Jarlshof, Shetland

These settlements are the most important in Scotland. where you can delve into more than 4,000 years of human settlement. Neolithic people first settled this site in Shetland around 2700 BC, and it remained in use until the AD 1600s. These amazing and complex settlements cover more than 4,000 years of human life, from the Neolithic huts to a 16th-century house.

10. Shetland Museum and Archives, Shetland

Learn the story behind the Shetland Islands in one place. This fascinating museum showcases almost every aspect of Scottish life, from books to court records.

11. Stirling Castle, Stirling

This historic castle is one of the finest and best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the UK and was the favoured residence for many of Scotland’s kings and queens.

12. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

In the heart of Edinburgh, the gallery houses Scotland’s national collection of fine art from the early Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. The walls are adorned by masterpieces, from Raphael, Velázquez and Vermeer to Monet, Cézanne and Van Gogh, as well as works of Scottish artists.

Callanish, Scotland

The Standing Stones of Callanish at dusk, Isle of Lewis, Na H-Eileanan An Iar (Western Isles), Scotland Credit: VisitBritain/Britain on View

13. Callanish Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides

Discover the ancient Neolithic remains that were used for all sorts of rituals by the people of the Bronze Ag and recently made famous as Craigh na Dun in the hit TV show Outlander.

14. Antonine Wall, Falkirk

Built by the Romans, this represented the border of their empire. Constructed around 142 AD, the Wall was a mighty symbol of their power and authority. Three metres high, five metres long, and around 6 kilometres long, this is a testament to the strength of the Roman Empire stretching from Clyde to Forth. Today, you can explore the traces of ramparts, steep ditches, and the remains of forts and bathhouses – and imagine what life was like for the Romans posted on this remote frontier.

Golf, Scotland, St Andrews

Credit: VisitBritain/Harry Williams

15. St Andrews Links, St Andrews

Labelled the home of golf, this is the largest golf complex in Europe, with seven courses, it is near the beautiful and historic town, which is home to Scotland’s first university, founded in 1413.

16. Iona Abbey and Nunnery, Isle of Iona, Argyll

Visit the most religious place in all of Western Europe, the Benedictine abbey stands on the site of the monastery founded by St Columba. Find tranquillity in the serene isle of Iona, and just simply relax.

17. Falkland Palace and Gardens, Fife

Experience a day in the life of the Stuart monarchs at Falkland Palace, their country residence for 200 years – and a favourite place of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Set in the heart of Falkland conservation village, and surrounded by extensive gardens, this partly restored Renaissance palace is the perfect place to while away an afternoon. After that, visit one of the oldest tennis courts in the world.

18. The Blackhouse, Arnol, Isle of Lewis

Built around 1880, this traditional thatched house has survived, complete with a barn, byre and stack yard. Left in the state it was designed, this blackhouse was once the residence of a Hebridean crafting family and their animals and offers a very special insight into life on the island at the time.

19. Broughty Castle, Dundee

Visit the coastal fort from the 15th century and learn about the history of the castle or enjoy a picnic as you look at the Broughty Beach and the Tay estuary. Enjoy the art collection from the Orchar Gallery.

Craigievar, Scotland, castle

Approach to Craigievar castle, Craigievar Castle, Grampian, Scotland. Credit: VisitBritain/Britain on View

20. Craigievar, Aberdeenshire

The 400-year-old castle sits in the Aberdeenshire countryside with a scenic view of the rolling landscape. An example of Scottish architecture of the Baronial period is at its height, it also features  the amazing carpentry, such as the Craigievar table, which speaks volumes of Jacobean woodwork.

21. Ravenscraig Castle, Kirkcaldy

Visit the ruins of the castle, and see one of the earliest examples of artillery tower defence in Scotland.

22. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

You’ll want to keep coming back to this museum time and time again. Set next to a classic Victorian park by the River Kelvin in Glasgow’s west end, it houses a staggering 8,000 objects in across 22 beautiful galleries

23. Falls of Falloch, Stirling

Situated in the north part of Loch Lomond and  The Trossachs National Park, Falls of Falloch is a beautiful waterfall with a popular beauty spot for picnic. Set to the backdrop of a green glen, the waterfall is a wonderful spot for a scenic picnic. Eat as the rivers around you flow into the waterfall, setting the perfect scene for a calm and peaceful afternoon.

24. Hopetoun House, Dunfermline

One of the biggest estates in Scotland,  built in 1701, the stately home and gardens are among the finest in Scotland and open during the summer months. .

25. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Set on Edinburgh’s Chambers Street, this museum is a treasure trove of ancient artefacts and precious objects. It’s the most popular attraction in the UK outside of London and offers a great, year-round programme of temporary exhibitions.

Words: Khusrau Islam

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Written by Sally Hales // 26th July 2016

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