It may occupy a small part of the world and have more sheep than people, but Scotland packs a lot of punch for travelers. The country has much to offer with spectacular landscapes, lakes, fantastic seafood, castles, wildlife, and some of the friendliest people on earth.
The country has two buzzing cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, but there is so much more beyond the cities to discover when you travel Scotland. Trust us when we say the best places to visit in Scotland go beyond what you typically see in movies and tv shows.
In our opinion, Scotland’s finest lies in the Highlands. One of the most beautiful regions of the world filled with wildlife, folklore, culture, and a spectacular natural landscape. We came expecting a lot from Scotland and were still managed to be blown away by the culture and natural beauty.
It’s not just the highlands though; you can find beauty in every corner of Scotland. Here are some of the best places to travel in Scotland.
Scotland Travel Tips
- Currency: Great British Pound (GBP)
- Visa: Many nationalities can enter the UK for 90 days visa-free
- Weather: Expect lots of weather! Scotland is known for having rapid shifts in weather. Scotland receives a lot of rain to keep all the lakes, river, and streams full.
- What to Pack: A great rain jacket, wool sweater, wool socks, travel camera, & down jacket.
- Stay Connected: We recommend Sim Cards from Three – signal is limited in the highlands.
- Right to Roam: There isn’t much in the form of trespassing in Scotland. Everyone has the right to roam and explore the stunning countryside.
Best Places to Visit in Scotland
As the capital city of Scotland, one would be right to assume that this city has everything for an amazing getaway. It’s also a gateway to other popular regions of Scotland. The city is a vibrant blend of old and new with a mix of modern shops, restaurants and attractions mixed in with medieval buildings.
The imposing Edinburgh Castle is by far the most popular attraction in the city but you can’t miss the National Museum of Scotland, Arthur’s Seat, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh Zoo and St. Giles’ Cathedral. Almost every month in Edinburgh there’s an exciting festival happening, so make sure to pay attention when visiting. Our personal favorite is Hogmanay, a New Years celebration!
The Royal Mile is an exciting place to be any time of day and after sundown, the lively pubs come alive with the sound of music.
2. Loch Ness
I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone has heard of Loch Ness and its legendary lake monster Nessie. Though it may come as a surprise that it’s one of the best places to visit in Scotland. While this huge 23-mile-long body of freshwater in the Highlands region has gained notoriety around the world for being the home of a prehistoric beast, it’s a popular place to visit for many other reasons.
The ruins of the 16th-century Urquhart Castle are fun to explore and nature lovers can take to the many hiking trails in the area or check out the beautiful Falls of Foyers and Falls of Divach. Of course, you can’t escape Nessie and you can learn all about Loch Ness’s most famous resident at Nessieland and the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition.
Even the famous lake cruises allow guests to observe sonar equipment to watch for anomalies underwater that can indicate the presence of a large animal lurking in the depths!
Situated in the western Lowlands region along the River Clyde, the port city of Glasgow is known for its Victorian architecture and thriving arts scene which includes the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, National Theatre of Scotland and a designation as a UNESCO City of Music.
The city is steeped in history and culture but is also known for its modern attractions catering to the large student population that attends the University of Glasgow. Some of the top attractions in the city include Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow Botanic Gardens and Glasgow Science Centre.
If you’ve read the book The Da Vinci Code, you’ve heard of and might be surprised to learn that Rosslyn Chapel is a real place and it’s located in the peaceful little village of Roslin only a little ways from Edinburgh. This famed chapel may have put the village on the map, but it’s also known for so many other things!
For example, the Roslin Institute is where Dolly the first cloned sheep was created! Some of the other notable attractions in the area include the 14th-century Rosslyn Castle, Roslin Glen Country Park, Roslin War Memorial and Dryden Tower.
5. St. Andrews
St. Andrews has much to offer visitors but if there’s one thing it’s known for most of all, it’s for being the Home of Golf. This seaside golfer’s heaven on the east coast has many world-renowned golf courses including the oldest golf course in the world at St Andrews Links.
It’s also home to The British Golf Museum and The R&A World Golf Museum. If you’re not into golf, there are plenty more things to see in St. Andrews including the ruins of the 12th-century St Andrews Cathedral, St Andrews Castle, St Andrews Aquarium and the Wardlaw Museum.
Located in eastern Scotland, the coastal city of Dundee is a fairly big city with many bars, restaurants and shops. It’s the perfect city escape for visitors who wish to have all the amenities of a city without the large crowds and noise of the much larger urban center.
The city is known for its lively music scene and there are many attractions including V&A Dundee Museum, The McManus Art Gallery & Museum, Broughty Castle Museum, Camperdown Wildlife Centre and the Dundee Science Centre.
Inverness is the biggest city in the Scottish Highlands and is known for its vibrant culture and colorful history. It’s one of the best places to visit in Scotland and the start of the famous North Coast 500.
The old town district is where you’ll find many stately historic buildings including the Inverness Cathedral and Old High Church. Nature lovers don’t have to venture far from the city limits to find pristine landscapes and history buffs will find an array of prehistoric sites and medieval ruins.
At the Victorian Market, you’ll find locally-made crafts and homemade treats. Inverness Castle, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery and Inverness Botanic Gardens are just some of the other popular attractions around the city.
Located along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, the village of Balmaha is a popular stop along the long-distance hiking route The West Highland Way. With many relaxing parks and picnic areas, it’s a great place to rest during a long journey or after completing one.
This pretty little place is also home to some must-see attractions including the trails of Inchcailloch, Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve, Balmaha Visitor Centre, Clairinsh Beach and Dalnair Castle.
Portree is the capital and cultural center of the Isle of Skye. This picturesque, colorful port town is home to retail shops, restaurants, cozy cafes and many attractions including the hiking trails of Scorrybreac and The Lump.
The famous Aros Centre plays host to many concerts, film screenings and theater works throughout the year so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to catch a show during your visit.
A walk down Aberfoyle’s charming main street reveals an array of world-class shops and eateries but this lovely little village along the River Forth in county Perthshire has attractions beyond its downtown district.
The Scottish Wool Centre, Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and Inchmahome Priory are interesting places to explore and Lake of Menteith and Loch Achray are popular for fishing and picnicking. Aberfoyle is only 40 miles away from Glasgow so it’s a perfect little escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
If you’ll be traveling with a dog during your adventures through Scotland, be sure to stop in dog-friendly Dornoch where you’ll find many eateries, shops, accommodations and attractions that welcome dogs with open arms. Of course, there are many things for two-legged visitors to do in this seaside resort town too!
Dornoch Beach is a popular draw with its sandy stretch of beautiful coastline and the great outdoors is within easy reach. Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve, Historylinks Museum, Dornoch Cathedral and The Glenmorangie Distillery Co are some of the other attractions in the area.
If you want to spot wildlife, Loch Fleet is a great place to see seals, otters and many species of birds.
It’s a little off-the-beaten-track but the peaceful village of Plockton is worth the detour! Situated on the banks of Loch Carron in the Wester Ross region of the Highlands, Plockton is home to only about 450 people so won’t find any crowds here!
Some of the top attractions in the village include Plockton Visitor Centre, the ruins of Strome Castle, the Balmacara Estate Visitor Centre and Kishorn Selfie Box. About a mile away, you’ll find beautiful Coral Beach.
Killin is another small Scottish Highland village renowned for its stunning scenery and natural escapes. Situated at the western end of Loch Tay, Killin serves as a popular base for visitors wanting to hike in the nearby Breadalbane Mountains, golf at Killin Golf Club, or fish in the lake.
Finlarig Castle, Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve, Killin Stone Circle and Breadalbane Folklore Centre are some of the attractions in the village.
Still wondering where to go in Scotland? Check out the small village of Brodick. It’s remote but also within close reach to some of Scotland’s major cities and whether you’re interested in culture, history, scenery, or natural escapes, you’ll find it in the little village of Brodick on the Isle of Arran.
Besides a beautiful beach, there’s an 18-hole golf course, walking trails and plenty of opportunities to participate in a wide range of outdoor pursuits. These include biking, fishing and horseback riding, you’ll also find many attractions such as Brodick Castle and Isle of Arran Heritage Museum.
It only takes about four hours to drive around the entire island so you can explore it and its spectacular scenery and natural wonders in a day.
Located in the Fife region of eastern Scotland, the quaint little fishing village of Pittenweem is the perfect place to go if you want to get away from it all. You’ll appreciate the slower pace, whether it be watching the boats coming in and out of the harbor or taking a stroll along Earlsferry Beach.
Scottish Fisheries Museum Trust Ltd, St. Fillan’s Cave and St. Monans Windmill are some of the attractions nearby.
The Port City of Aberdeen is known for its long, sandy beach and unique grey-stone architecture that gives it its nickname Granite City. It’s easily one of the most visiting and best places to visit in Scotland.
There are many attractions around the city including the Aberdeen Art Gallery, Aberdeen Maritime Museum, The Gordon Highlanders Museum, Balmoral Castle, Aberdeen Science Centre and St. Machar’s Cathedral. The inner child in you will have a blast at Codona’s where you’ll enjoy a variety of historic rides and arcade games.
Hopeman may be small, but this coastal village in the Moray region of Scotland has much to offer! If you enjoy golfing, you’ll like the fact that Hopeman Golf Club has been named one of the top courses in Scotland.
If you enjoy hanging out at the beach, you’ll have your pick of sandy ones including Hopeman East Beach, Cove Bay and Roseisle Country Park. If you enjoy nature, you can explore Sculptor’s Cave or watch for dolphins at Moray Firth.
If history is your thing, you’ll want to check out the ruins of Duffus Castle, Covesea Lighthouse & Royal Navy and Royal Air Force Heritage Centre and St. Peter’s Kirk & Parish Cross
18. Fort William
Located along Loch Linnhe in the Highlands region, Fort William is widely known for being the gateway to the United Kingdom’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. This is where you can go hiking, climbing and exploring incredible natural wonders including Steall Falls and other nearby mountain peaks. The trail up to Ben Nevis is easily one of the best hikes in Scotland.
There are many great attractions in and around the town including Ben Nevis Distillery, Old Inverlochy Castle, the West Highland Museum, Neptune’s Staircase and Ben Nevis Visitor Centre.
Along the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders region, you’ll find the beautiful little town of Peebles. The town is known for its scenery, historic architecture, shopping, dining and outdoor pursuits.
Neidpath Castle, Glentress Forest, Kailzie Gardens, Tweeddale Museum & Gallery, John Buchan Story Museum, Traquair House and the ruins of Cross Kirk are some of the fascinating attractions you’ll find around Peebles.
Much can be said about the little highland village of Glencoe. It’s surrounded by incredible scenery featuring waterfalls, mountains, valleys and otherworldly landscapes carved long ago by glaciers and volcanoes. To experience it’s beauty, it’s best to rent a car in Scotland for an epic road trip here.
If you plan to stay the night at the Clachaig Inn, be prepared to be turned away if your last name is Campbell or you’re connected to the infamous clan in any way. You see, that terrible massacre saw members of the Campbell clan murder 38 members of the MacDonald clan.
The historic village of Luss is a quintessential rural Scottish getaway where you’ll walk along narrow streets and admire the unique architecture and the views along beautiful Loch Lomond.
It’s the perfect place to escape the more crowded, touristy areas and a great starting point for exploring the Loch Lomond area. Loch Lomond Faerie Trail, Luss Pier and the historic Luss Parish Church are some of the attractions in the village.
Situated along the Fife coast, the small coastal village of Anstruther is a throwback to the past. You’ll feel like you stepped into a time machine when you walk down the streets filled with historic buildings.
Some of the top attractions include Scottish Fisheries Museum Trust Ltd, St. Fillan’s Cave and Anstruther Model Solar System. Billow Ness Beach is a small sandy beach that’s a popular place for walking and exploring rock pools.
Friendly, attractive and centrally located. These are some of the words that could be used to describe the little town of Callander. Located along the River Teith in an area where the Lowlands meet the Highlands, Callander is a popular location from which to launch an adventure into the Trossachs National Park.
However, before you stray too far, be sure to check out some of the town’s attractions including the Bird of Prey Trail, Galleria Luti and Bracklinn Falls Bridge.
Every town in Scotland has its claim to fame. The small town of Millport, which is located on the Isle of Cumbrae, is known for being the most beautiful town in Scotland. This lovely seaside destination is not only scenic, but it’s also packed with many things to see and do.
Favorites with visitors include Newton Beach, Crocodile Rock and Cathedral of the Isles which is the smallest cathedral in Great Britain. Like elsewhere in Scotland, there are castles here including Portencross Castle and Hunterston Castle.
Many people bike or hike along the road that goes around the island and this is a great way to see much of the spectacular coastal scenery. So make sure to put hiking and biking clothes on your Scotland packing list. An 18-hole golf course is also located near the town.
There’s no doubt that Stirling Castle is the most notable attraction in the central Scotland city of Stirling, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you should go there for!
This historic market town is also home to The National Wallace Monument, The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum, Holy Rude, Stirling Old Town Jail, Cambuskenneth Abbey and Stirling Old Bridge.
Also known for being the Gateway to the Highlands, Stirling makes an excellent base from which to explore the beautiful Highlands region of Scotland.
Brora is a village situated on the east coast of Sutherland in the Highland region of Scotland. Although quite small, with a population of just over 1,200 people, it is a fantastic place to visit if you’re looking for a quaint, peaceful destination with many things to do in Brora.
The village is widely known for being the home of the Highland League football team, but it’s also known for its small sandy beach, wildlife viewing, and beautiful hiking. Some of the best things to do (besides golf) is visit the Clynelish Distillery, go paddleboarding on Lake Brora and visit nearby Dunrobin Castle & Gardens.
27. Drive the North Coast 500
Okay, this isn’t really one of those best places to visit in Scotland, but rather a road trip around some of the Scottish Highland’s best highlights.
The North Coast 500 has been dubbed “Scotland’s Route 66,” and named “one of the greatest road trips in the world.” It’s a series of roads that circumnavigate the Scottish Highlands starting from Inverness.
Along the 500 miles you’ll see dramatic landscapes from the east to west coast of Scotland. Some of our favorite stops are John O Groats and Lochinver. You can drive the NC500 anytime of year, but we think it’s one of the best drives during summer in Europe!
When is the Best Season to Travel to Scotland?
High season (July-September):
Like most European places, Scotland’s high season runs from July to mid-September. This is when you will find the best weather, as noted above, but also crowds. Days are longer, the weather is warmer, and hotel and car rental prices are at their highest.
Shoulder Season (May-June and Late September-November)
We’ve traveled to Scotland during the shoulder season and loved it. The weather is cool, the leaves are orange and yellow, and the vibe in the air is wonderful. This is also when we’ve found great deals on car rentals and guesthouses. However, famous places like Glasgow and Skye were hectic. We saw sunny days but also had many rainy Scotland overcast days.
Low Season (Late November-April)
The temperatures are cooler during the low season in Scotland, and you stand a solid chance of getting caught in the rain (or snow) storm. If you plan to travel to Scotland during this time you absolutely need a packable rain jacket, travel umbrella, and waterproof boots.
The upside is you’ll find low prices and low numbers of tourists. If you are in Scotland over the holidays make sure to participate in the festivals around the cities!
What to Pack When You Travel Scotland
Wondering what to wear when you travel to Scotland? The country’s weather is pretty notorious so it’s only natural that the question of what to pack for Scotland comes up a lot.
With that in mind, you should be prepared as you’ll spend much of your time in Scotland outside, enjoying its beautiful cities and breathtaking landscapes.
TRAVEL MORE OF SCOTLAND
These are just a few of the best places to visit in Scotland, and once you arrive you’ll see how much more there is! For more travel around Scotland, read on:
- 25 Scotland Travel Tips to Know BEFORE You Go
- When Is The Best Time To Visit Scotland?
- 34 Fun Scotland Facts You Can Impress Friends With
- 12 Best Things to do in Brora (Scotland)
- Hiking in Scotland: 15 BEST Hikes in Scotland
- 33 DREAM Vacation Spots and Destinations to Travel in 2023
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get low.
- Book a Rental Car: We use Discover Car to book all our rental cars! You can also read our top tips for renting a car abroad here.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.