21 Best Places to Visit in Scotland + Map

We might be biased, but only a few places in the world can claim such a wide range of natural beauty as Scotland – from the dramatic craggy coastlines to mist-shrouded majestic mountain peaks, stunning lochs to lush forests, white sandy beaches to rolling countryside. The list goes on. 

And, honestly, what are we missing? Scotland has plenty of lively towns and cities where the fun never ends, small villages so charming that they seem straight out of storybooks and castles with hundreds of years of fascinating tales. Attractions in Scotland are as diverse as they are alluring.

Over the years, we have travelled around this country a lot and fell head over heels with its staggering beauty. It is not an easy task to list the best destinations in Scotland.

So, whether you are drawn to the mystical beauty of the Isle of Skye, the riveting medieval history of Edinburgh, or the wildlife of St Abbs, this guide made by two locals is sure to inspire your next adventure in this incredibly beautiful country, we call it home.

Along with the famous touristy attractions, we have included a few hidden gems to add to your Scotland itinerary, as this country richly rewards those who dare to deviate from the well-trodden path.

Best Places to Visit in Scotland

1. Isle of Skye

It’s easy to see why the Isle of Skye, located in the Inner Hebrides, is considered one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. 

The majestic mountain ranges, dramatic cliffs, dinky villages and fascinating Scottish history are bound to cast a spell on travellers. From hiking to distillery tours – there is an array of marvellous things to do on the Isle of Skye.

One of the most magical places here is Fairy Pool, which showcases a series of gorgeous waterfalls with turquoise clear water against the backdrop of the imposing Black Cuillin mountain ranges.

The Isle of Skye

Visitors who love outdoor pursuits can hike to the iconic Old Man of Storr on the Trotternish Ridge. It is one of the most popular hiking trails in Scotland. The view from the top is breathtaking and is worth the effort.

Another rewarding hike on the Isle of Skye is at Quiraing, which is famous for its dramatic landscape, unique landforms and rugged charm.

One of our favourite places on Skye is Elgol, a tiny village on Loch Scavaig. You can catch a boat from there to the incredibly beautiful Loch Coruisk.

Additionally, Portree is the main town of Skye and a great base to explore the island.

2. Edinburgh

Wandering along the winding cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town is like stepping back into medieval times. The Scottish capital city is easily one of the best destinations in Scotland.

The list of things to see and do in Edinburgh is extensive. The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh are together a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The magnificent Edinburgh Castle dominates the city skyline. Perched over an ancient volcanic rock, this castle was once the home of kings and queens of Scotland. Inside the sprawling complex, there are various historic buildings and museums.

Edinburgh from Calton Hill

Make sure to add Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat, two of the city’s best viewpoints to your itinerary. We would recommend visiting them at sunset.

For an extra dose of charm, ramble along Victoria Street. This colourful street is believed to be the inspiration behind the fictional Diagon Alley and is one of the best Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh.

Curious travellers would love to venture out of the city centre to explore Dean Village. With a single-arched stone bridge, colourful houses, conical turrets and crow-stepped gables, this place is simply magical.

From Dean Village, follow the water of Leith to visit the Stockbridge neighbourhood – brimming with cosy cafes, shops and traditional pubs.

While here, don’t forget to roam around the extremely picturesque Circus Lane.

Visitors can also enjoy some of Edinburgh’s famous historical sites, such as the Scott Monument, Holyrood Palace and Royal Mile.

3. Loch Lomond

From exploring the picturesque villages along the shore to discovering the wee islands – there are many places to visit in Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond is surely one of the best tourist attractions in Scotland. It is the largest freshwater lake by area in Britain.

The Highland Boundary Fault Line runs through this loch. Therefore, you can see very diverse landscapes around this area.

Nestled on the western bank of Loch Lomond, the quaint village of Luss is an absolute delight to explore. The main road is lined with traditional houses adorning beautiful seasonal floral displays. 

Luss is rightfully one of the prettiest villages in Scotland. Also, the mighty Ben Lomond looks magnificent from the village pier.

Outdoor enthusiasts might enjoy some of the popular hiking trails in this area, including Ben Lomond, Conic Hill and West Highland Way.

Take a scenic boat tour to see the rich wildlife of this area.

Loch Lomond is well connected by public transport and is a popular day trip destination from Glasgow.

4. Glasgow

Plan a trip to Scotland’s largest city if you enjoy visiting destinations with stunning architecture, vibrant street arts, numerous avant-garde museums, lively nightlife and loads of chic restaurants. 

Named European Capitals of Culture for 1990, this is a place that celebrates creativity. There are a plethora of tourist attractions in Glasgow to make you fall in love with this city.

Located in the buzzing West End, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of the best museums in Glasgow. Also, it is one of the most popular free attractions in Scotland.

It houses an extensive collection of priceless paintings by renowned European and Scottish artists.

Culture vultures should add Riverside Museum, Burrell Collection and Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery to their Glasgow itinerary.

Those looking to take in some history can visit the Glasgow Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in mainland Scotland. For an elevated view over the cityscape, climb the nearby Necropolis, a Victorian garden cemetery and a hidden gem of Glasgow.

Lastly, while you are gallivanting around the city, peel your eyes out for some colourful street art. If you have time, follow the dedicated Glasgow Mural Trail to admire them.

This city has one of the best nightlife in Scotland. So, once the sun sets, dive into Glasgow’s dynamic nightlife scene, which includes everything from traditional pubs to live music concerts.

5. Fort William and Glenfinnan Viaduct

Nestled at the bank of Loch Linnhe in the West Highlands of Scotland, Fort William is known as the outdoor capital of the UK. It sits in the shadow of the Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain.

From adventure thrill seekers to budding photographers – here are loads of tourist attractions in Fort William for everyone.

The Jacobite Steam Train, also known as the Hogwarts Express, departs from Fort William to Mallaig. You might recognise it from the Harry Potter movies.

This journey is one of the most scenic train rides in the world. One of the highlights is when the train passes through the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, an architectural landmark in Scotland.

There are many incredible hiking trails around this area suitable for all different fitness levels. Avid hikers will be tempted to conquer the mighty Ben Nevis.

Add Nevis Range Mountain Resort to your travel itinerary if you want to enjoy a stunning panoramic view over Fort William and the surrounding landscapes without hiking.

Whiskey connoisseurs can take a guided tour of the Ben Nevis Distillery. Plus, while you are in this area, stroll around the Old Inverlochy Castle.

6. Inverness and Loch Ness

Sprawling around River Ness, the city of Inverness is known as the capital of the Highlands. Despite being the largest settlement in the Scottish Highlands, Inverness possesses a market town feel.

From checking out Leakey’s Bookshop, the largest second-hand bookstore in Scotland, to enjoying a relaxing nature walk around the Ness Islands – the tourist attractions in Inverness will keep visitors busy.

Travellers can visit Culloden Battlefield, Clava Cairn and Cawdor Castle as a day trip from Inverness.

No visit to Inverness would be complete without visiting Loch Ness, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Scotland.

Take a boat cruise to admire the wild natural beauty of this area. Also, don’t forget to look out for the infamous Loch Ness monster, Nessie.

Travellers interested in history will find Urquhart Castle very intriguing. It harbours thousands of years of Highland history and is one of the most visited castles in Scotland.

Plan to spend some time in the picturesque village of Fort Augustus, located at the end of Loch Ness. 

7. Glencoe

Scotland is home to many incredible sights, but none so famous and majestic as the Valley of Glen Coe.

This valley is an ideal place for incredible hiking, epic mountain views, scenic drives and endless outdoor activities.

It’s easy to see why Glen Coe is considered one of the most popular tourist spots in Scotland.

The wildly rugged and strikingly beautiful landscapes of Glen Coe were formed millions of years ago due to volcanic eruptions and glacier movement. This dramatic valley gets its name from River Coe, which flows across this area.

Glen Coe has appeared in many movies and television series, including the famous Harry Potter and James Bond movies.

The drive on A82 to Fort William via Glen Coe passes through some of the finest sceneries of Scotland and should be on every traveller’s bucket list.

Pro hikers would enjoy hiking the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor. Also, plan to spend some time at Glencoe Village, located at the foot of the valley. One of the most gruesome chapters of Scottish history, the Massacre of Glencoe, took place here in 1692.

While here, visitors can visit the Glencoe Folk Museum, walk around the tranquil Glencoe Lochan or hike to the Pap of Glencoe.

8. Stirling

Teeming with history and surrounded by gorgeous scenery, Stirling is one of the most historic cities in Scotland.

A popular day trip destination from Edinburgh, Stirling stands out for its medieval architecture and wealth of attractions.

Perched over a volcanic crag, the magnificent Stirling Castle is one of the must-visit tourist attractions in Stirling. It is one of the largest and most famous castles in Scotland.

Take a tour of the Great Hall, the Royal Palace and the lovely Queen Anne Garden to learn about its intriguing past. This castle played a prominent role in the history of Scotland. 

Another unmissable attraction in Stirling is the iconic National Wallace Monument. It commemorates the life of Sir William Wallace, one of the greatest national heroes of Scotland.

For the best views, climb some steep steps to reach the top of Wallace Monument, where you will find an observation deck boasting breathtaking panoramic vistas.

Visitors can also enjoy other famous historical sites of Stirling, such as Cambuskenneth Abbey, Old Town Cemetery, Old Bridge, The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre and The Church of the Holy Rude.

We would highly recommend walking the Back Walk, a winding walkway around the old town walls of Stirling.

9. The Cairngorms National Park and Braemar

Located in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, the Cairngorms National Park is one of the most alluring wildernesses of Scotland.

Cairngorms is famous for its wild wind-swept landscapes, scenic lochs, sky-hugging mountains, cosy towns, diverse wildlife and thrilling outdoor activities. It is indeed one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland and is the largest one in the UK. 

Experienced hikers can go Munro bagging, while there are numerous hiking trails suitable for novice walkers. Cairngorms is an adventure enthusiast’s paradise.

If you are not too keen on hiking, hop onboard the Cairngorm Mountain Railway, which will bring you over 1,097m above sea level in no time. The uninterrupted view over the national park will surely take your breath away.

Surrounded by the Grampian Mountains in the Cairngorms, Braemar is one of the most charming villages in Scotland. From history lovers to golfers, hikers to anglers – it has something for all.

Built by the Earl of Mar, Braemar Castle houses 400 years of riveting highland history. Every year, this village hosts the famous Braemar Gathering, which is frequently attended by the British Royal family. Balmoral Castle, one of the royal residences in Britain, lies very close to Braemar.

10. Plockton

Tucked away on the sheltered banks of beautiful Loch Carron in Wester Ross, Plockton is famous for its breathtaking scenery and mild climate. 

From local hikes with scenic views to wildlife boat tours, there are loads of amazing things to do in Plockton for all travellers.

This pretty fishing village is one of the most scenic places in Scotland and is known as The Jewel of the Highlands. Life moves at a more leisurely pace in Plockton.

It is located only a few miles from the famous Isle of Skye.

Plockton was originally built as a planned village in the early 19th century, and thanks to the booming fishing industry, it gained prosperity.

Visitors can admire the neatly lined traditional whitewashed houses and the charming gardens adorning the promenade. It is a perfect place for travellers to get lost in the scenic streets.

To admire a stunning panoramic view over this village and the surrounding mountains of the Scottish Highlands, take a short stroll to the Carn an Frith-aird viewpoint. Also, the nearby coral beach is a great spot to relax and unwind.

11. Eilean Donan Castle

No visit to Scotland is ever complete without seeing one of its many historic castles. Perched on a small island at the confluence of three sea lochs, Eilean Donan is one of the must-visit castles in Scotland

Surrounded by a tranquil loch and magnificent mountains, its jaw-dropping setting has drawn visitors from all over the world. A small stone bridge, which was added in the 20th century, connects the castle to the mainland.

Eilean Donan was originally built in the 13th century. During the Jacobite Rising, the British troops destroyed this castle. The structure that we see today, was reconstructed in the 20th century.

This iconic landmark has frequently appeared in various movies and TV shows, including the Bond film ‘The World is Not Enough’. No wonder, it is one of the most photographed places in Scotland.

History buffs can take a tour to discover the riveting past of this castle. For some of the best views of Eilean Donan, walk down to the nearby road bridge.

12. St Andrews

This seaside town on the east coast of Scotland is famous for being the birthplace of golf, which was first played here in the early 15th century. The Old Course in St Andrews is one of the oldest golf courses in the world and a heaven for golf enthusiasts.

Apart from golf, there are plenty of exciting things to see and do in St Andrews

Beach bums and culture hounds will enjoy the town’s sandy beaches, historic ruins, captivating museums and boutique shops.

One of the town’s most famous landmarks is St Andrews Cathedral. It was built in 1158 and was once the largest cathedral in Scotland. Visitors can explore the medieval ruins and learn about its colourful history.

History buffs would love to explore the ruins of St Andrews Castle. It sits atop a cliff and provides a breathtaking view of the North Sea.

After soaking up all the history, taking a leisurely beach walk might be just what you need.

The vast West Sands beach is the largest one in St Andrews. It is perfect for a long walk, swimming and many water sports.

13. Isle of Lewis and Isle of Harris

The island of Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides offers miles of unspoilt Caribbean-style white sand beaches, rich history and culture. It has long been one of the most loved places in Scotland.

One of our favourite places on the island is the Luskentyre Beach on South Harris. It is heaven on earth! With its vast stretch of crystal clear turquoise water and stunning vistas, Luskentyre is one of the most spectacular beaches in Scotland.

Beach lovers can also explore some of the other beaches on the island, including Seilebost, Horgabost and Scarasta.

While you are exploring the coast of this beautiful island, don’t forget to make a brief stop at the rugged Butt of Lewis, the most northerly point in the Western Isles.

Another must-visit attraction on this island is the Standing Callanish Stones, erected about 5000 years ago. While the exact purpose of this Neolithic monument remains unknown, historians believe these mystical stones might have been used as an astronomical observatory or performing ritual activity.

History buffs should also add the Dun Carloway, an Iron Age broch and Lews castle in Stornaway to their Scotland itinerary.

Photographers and culture lovers would love exploring the atmospheric Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. Some of the recreated traditional thatched cottages are available as holiday accommodation, while others are open to visitors.

14. The Kelpies

You won’t want to skip this iconic architectural marvel about 26 miles northwest of Edinburgh on your next trip to Scotland. 

A great day trip option from Edinburgh, The Kelpies proudly stand at Helix Park in Falkirk. 

Named after a mythological creature from Scottish folklore, these two gigantic horse-heads are the largest equine sculptures in the world. They stand around 100ft tall and weigh more than 300 tonnes each. It is truly a sight to behold!

These magical structures were built by Scottish sculptor Andy Scott, who modelled them after real-life Clydesdale horses Duke and Baron.

These enormous stainless-steel sculptures pay homage to horses, who played a pivotal role in the industrial and agricultural development in this part of Scotland. You can even take a tour to access the inside of these imposing sculptures.

The nearby Helix Park is perfect for walking and cycling. Also, there is an adventure zone for kids to enjoy.

We would also recommend exploring the nearby Falkirk Wheel, the only rotating boat lift in the world and the Callendar House, a French chateau-styled historic house.

15. North Coast 500

The North Coast 500 is a scenic route of over 500 miles, encompassing the north coast of Scotland. This scenic route starts and ends at the city of Inverness. 

NC500 offers breathtaking coastal sceneries, rugged mountains, deserted sandy beaches, charming small villages, friendly locals and atmospheric castles. It is one of the most popular road trip experiences in Scotland.

It usually takes 5-6 days to complete the loop. From foodies to adventure lovers, this coastal touring route has something for everyone.

From Inverness, you will be driving through the famous Bealach na Ba, a steep winding mountain road, to get to the Applecross Peninsula and then venture towards the small villages of Torridon and Ullapool. After that, continue driving to John o’Groats, the northernmost point of mainland Great Britain, before heading back to Inverness through Dingwall. 

As NC500 is a loop, you have the option of driving it either clockwise or anticlockwise.

There are many places of interest along the route to immerse yourself in the surreal beauty of Scotland. Plan to visit Smoo Cave, Dunrobin Castle, Duncansby Stacks, Ardvreck Castle and many other incredible places.

For nature lovers, there are plenty of hiking opportunities in Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, Torridon and Sandwood Bay.

16. Dundee

Leaving its glorious industrial past behind, Dundee is gradually emerging as a cultural leader of Scotland. 

If you are looking for a city break, Dundee won’t disappoint you. From exploring museums and art galleries to dining in trendy restaurants – this city has something for everyone.

It is the fourth largest city in Scotland and the first city in the UK to be honoured as a UNESCO City of Design.

One of the main tourist attractions in Dundee is the V&A Museum, the first design museum in Scotland. Designed by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the exterior of this building was inspired by the rugged cliffs of the east coast of Scotland. 

Inside their permanent collection, you will find various historical objects reflecting on fashion, architecture, textiles, comic books and theatre.

Right next to the V&A museum stands RRS Discovery, a historic Dundee-built ship used for Antarctic expeditions. Adjacent to it is a museum showcasing the gripping tales of Captain Scott and his brave crew members.

Other unmissable attractions include the McManus Art Gallery and Museum, Dundee Law and HMS Unicorn.

If you have time, make a short visit to Broughty Ferry, a small but charming seaside suburb close to Dundee.

17. Iona and Staffa

Located off the West Coast of Scotland, Iona and Staffa are two small islands in the Inner Hebrides.

Pristine white beaches, ancient history, dramatic coastal sceneries and abundance of rich marine life – the islands of Iona and Staffa are some of the best places to travel in Scotland.

To reach here, board a ferry from Oban to the Isle of Mull, another beautiful island of the Inner Hebrides, and then catch another ferry from there. The journey takes you through some of the most spectacular sceneries of Scotland.

Iona is the most important religious site in the UK and is believed to be the birthplace of Christianity in this country.

Iona Abbey is the main tourist attraction here. Also, there are various short walking routes around the island, with peaceful hidden beaches waiting to be discovered.

After exploring Iona, hop on a boat to visit the Isle of Staffa, a tiny uninhabited island with a large seabird population.

One of the most unique features of Staffa is the hexagonal basalt columns, which were formed millions of years ago by volcanic activities. And, of course, listen to the atmospheric sounds of Fingal’s Cave, one of the most spectacular sea caves in the whole of Scotland.

This area is a heaven for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts. In the summer months, you can spot puffins here.

18. Isle of Arran

If you think you’ve seen all of the most beautiful places in Scotland, rest assured there are plenty of off-the-beaten paths left to explore.

Popularly known as Scotland in Miniature, Isle of Arran is the largest island on the Firth of Clyde. Situated on the west coast of Scotland, Arran is connected to the mainland through ferry services.

Arran is one of the best day trip destinations from Glasgow due to easy access by public transport.

From historic castles to towering mountains, Arran showcases all the best things in Scotland.

Keen walkers might be interested in hiking Goatfell, the highest point on Arran. From the summit, you will get a breathtaking view of the island.

Another popular family-friendly walk in Arran is to the Machrie Moor stone circles. Our personal favourite is the Glen Rosa circuit.

Drive along the coast to visit some of the small villages, including Lochranza, Lamlash and Blackwaterfoot.

Brodick is the main village of Arran. History lovers can take a tour of the nearby Brodick Castle, which was once the seat of the Dukes of Hamilton.

19. Border Abbeys and St Abbs

Often overlooked by visitors in favour of popular sites, the border area in Scotland is filled with many historic ruins and stately homes, rolling hills and charming towns.

Scottish Borders is home to four magnificent abbey ruins – Melrose, Dryburgh, Kelso and Jedburgh Abbey, all not too far from each other. Exploring these abbeys and learning their intriguing past makes up for an excellent day trip from Edinburgh.

They were all founded around the 12th century under the patronage of King David I of Scotland. Among them, Melrose Abbey is the best preserved and most popular one.

Another unmissable place in the Scottish Borders is our personal favourite, St Abbs, a wee seaside village famous for its rich wildlife, rugged coastline and delicious locally caught seafood.

For such a small place, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in St Abbs.

The walk to the nearby St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve is a must for all visitors and boasts spectacular views. It is a heaven for birdwatchers. During spring and summer months, this place is home to thousands of seabirds.

20. Skara Brae

Step inside one of the perfectly preserved Stone Age villages in Europe.

Located on the island of Orkney, about 10 miles off the north coast of Scotland, Skara Brae is much older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. The five-thousand-year-old village was hidden under a sand dune until it was discovered in 1850 after a storm.

Skara Brae is one of the four Neolithic sites in Orkney that have been designated World Heritage Sites status by UNESCO. Together, they are known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. 

Visiting Skara Brae gives travellers a unique opportunity to get a glimpse into the lives of our Neolithic ancestors and uncover the ancient past of Scotland. 

It is a remarkable experience to stroll around the Neolithic houses and learn their stories. You can find several artefacts used by the villagers.

If you have time, we recommend exploring the other prehistoric sites in Orkney, such as the Ring of Brodgar, Maeshowe and Stones of Stenness.

21. Dunnottar Castle

Scotland has no shortage of historic castles. But our list of the most spectacular sights in Scotland will be incomplete without mentioning the magnificent Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire. 

Sitting proudly over a 160-foot-high rugged headland and enclosed by the North Sea on three sides, Dunnottar Castle has an enviable setting. You have to climb a narrow winding path to visit it.

It is surely one of the most striking castles in Scotland.

This medieval fortress was once a stronghold of the Clan Keith. The Scottish Crown Jewels were hidden here when Oliver Cromwell’s army attacked Scotland in the 17th century.

Aberdeenshire is famous for its numerous castles and stately houses. So, while you are in this area, be sure to check out Castle Fraser, Craigievar Castle and Balmoral Castle as well.

Map of the Best Places to Visit in Scotland 

Our favourite places to visit in Scotland are spread around the country. To help you plan your next holiday, we have added them to this map. Click here to open the Google Maps. You can save it to use later.