One of the first questions many people ask when planning a trip to Scotland is what are the must-see sights? Scotland is home to many breathtaking places, but some are an absolute must for any traveler’s itinerary.
What are the most beautiful sights to visit in Scotland?
Scotland is filled with gorgeous destinations, both natural and man-made. Some of the most unique are:
- Glen Coe Valley
- Edinburgh Castle
- Old Man of Storr
- Old Man of Hoy
- Ben Nevis
- Luskentyre Beach and South Harris
- Eilean Donan Castle
- Fingal’s Cave
- Glenfinnan Viaduct
- An Lochan Uaine
- Dunnottar Castle
- Fairy Pools
- Loch Lomond
- The Brig o’Doon Bridge
While you may not be able to check them all off your list, there’s always next time.
Glen Coe Valley
Some of the country’s most dramatic natural beauty can be found in the Glen Coe Valley. If you’ve ever watched the popular series “Outlander,” it’s what you’ve marveled at in that grand opening scene, with sparkling lochs and soaring mountains.
It’s fronted by unspoiled Loch Leven which is overlooked by the pinnacles of the Three Sisters Mountain Range, with a walk through the valley bringing opportunities to spot wildlife like pine martens, red deer, and golden eagles.
No visit to Scotland is complete without gazing up at Edinburgh Castle. It sits in the heart of Edinburgh atop an extinct volcano, providing a powerful symbol of the country’s heritage. While the site dates back to 600 AD when it was referred to as the “fortress on the rock,” the castle and its chapel was built in 1030.
Be sure to take in the magnificent view overlooking the city from the highest parts of the castle too. The incredible crown jewels, medieval siege gun, and spectacular palace rooms are also well worth a look.
Old Man of Storr
The Isle of Skye is often named the most beautiful destination in Scotland, with the most impressive view arguably of the Old Man of Storr.
The Storr is a rocky ridge with a labyrinth of craggy pinnacles and spires that includes the “Old Man,” the most distinctive and tallest of them all. It can be seen for miles around in the Trotternish area and for an up-close look, it’s easy to reach via a well-maintained walking path.
From here you’ll get another amazing view that stretches across Raasay and Rona, the sea and out to the mainland.
Old Man of Hoy
Another “Old Man,” this one can be found in the Orkney Isles which lie just off the north coast. The archipelago’s most famous landmark, the Old Man of Hoy is a towering sea stack on Hoy Island that’s been carved by the elements over time
It’s changed quite a bit in recent centuries, depicted as a headland on a 1750 map, but by the 1800s, powerful waves turned it into an arch and a stack, complete with two “legs.” The rocky coastline is home to abundant wildlife too – watch for seals, dolphins, puffins, and giant Arctic seabirds.
The highest mountain in Scotland, the imposing peak of Ben Nevis can be seen from many vantage points in the Highlands, but you’ll get one of the best views by hiking to the top. The “Pony Track” is the main route upward along the west flank, starting from Achintee near Fort William.
Your reward will be a vista that spans from the Grampian Mountains to the Glen Coe Valley and the Atlantic coast. If you’re lucky enough to be here on a clear day, you might even see Northern Ireland.
Luskentyre Beach and South Harris
If you want to be surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery in a tranquil place with few others around, South Harris Isle is one of your best bets. Located in the Outer Hebrides, it’s been named the most beautiful island in all of Europe.
One of its most alluring destinations is Luskentyre Beach with its soft, chalk white sands that edge translucent turquoise waters looking as if it was stolen from the Caribbean. Wild ponies are sometimes spotted grazing along the dunes and there are often deer, seals, dolphins, otters, and eagles that can be seen as well.
Eilean Donan Castle
Built in the 13th-century for Alexander II to protect the area from Viking attacks, Eilean Donan has long-been one of the most iconic images in Scotland.
It sits along the main route to the Isle of Skye atop a tiny island that’s linked to the mainland by footbridge and surrounded by forested mountains. You’ll want to capture a photo from the outside and explore the inside too. While it was partially destroyed in the early 1700s during a Jacobite uprising, it was fully restored to its original glory in 1911.
Located on uninhabited Staffa Island, Fingal’s Cave is a unique cathedral-like structure with hexagonal basalt columns that have been shaped into neat six-sided pillars. It became famous world-wide when renowned composer Felix Mendelssohn became so enamored by its beauty that he wrote The Hebrides Overture, otherwise known as Fingal’s Cave, which premiered in London in 1832.
That same year, a painting of the cave, Staffa, Fingal’s Cave by J.M.W. Turner was revealed, sealing its fate as one of Scotland’s must-see tourist sites. Since then, it’s been visited by everyone from Lord Tennyson and John Keats to Queen Victoria and Jules Verne.
The pretty village of Glenfinnan sits at the head of Loch Shiel and has become famous for its bridge. The elegant multi-arched viaduct was traveled by Hogwarts Express in the “Harry Potter” films, but it’s long been famous for its remarkable views overlooking the glistening waters of the lake and Glenfinnan Monument.
It was also here in 1745 that Bonnie Prince Charlie rallied his forces before the ill-fated march against London. The monument marks the exact spot the prince raised his battle standard.
An Lochan Uaine, Cairngorms National Park
The largest national park in the U.K., Cairngorms lies in the northeast of Scotland, home to the most extensive range of high mountains in Britain.
There are miles and miles of scenic trails to explore, winding by rushing rivers and beautiful lochs, through native forests, moorland, and farmland. Wildlife to watch for include reindeer, wildcats, pine martens, badgers, and golden eagles. At Glenmore Forest Park, located within the national park, mysterious Green Loch is a must see. It’s said to get its color due to the local fairies that use it for washing their clothes. Of course, it could be from the trees that sit at the lake bottom.
Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire
Dunnotar may not be as famous as Edinburgh Castle but it’s one of Scotland’s most recognizable. In the 17th-century, this is where the Scottish crown jewels were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s invading army.
But the real reason to visit is its dramatic atmosphere and surreal beauty, perched at the edge of the cliff along the North Sea.
The Fairy Pools sit at the base of the Black Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Skye. The crystal-clear azure pools, nestled in a lush glen with gnarled trees that make the area look like a home for fairies, are not only photogenic, but popular for a refreshingly cool dip after a hike.
The largest loch in Britain, Loch Lomond is known as “The Queen of Scottish Lakes,” surrounded by wild beauty that’s inspired many poems and tales.
It’s a popular spot for fishing, with abundant salmon, trout, and whitefish as well as being a favorite for swimming and boating. The best views can be enjoyed by hiking around the shoreline, or for a perspective from the water, take a boat excursion. Look for photogenic Balloch Castle at the south end of the loch.
Tobermory, Isle of Mull
The Isle of Mull is filled with beauty, and its main town of Tobermory is one of the most picturesque sights, with its rainbow-painted homes and buildings facing the Sound of Mull.
Enjoy the view from a ferry or water taxi and then explore the excellent selection of art galleries and boutiques. Don’t leave without sampling the famous single-malt whisky at Tobermory Distillery.
The Brig o’Doon Bridge
Located in Ayr, the former home of Robert Burns, one of Scotland’s and one of the world’s most famous poets, Robert Burns, the Brig o’Doon Bridge is one of the most appealing bridges in all of Scotland. The high, single-arch bridge crosses the River Doon and was originally built in the 15th-century.
While a new bridge was constructed later to cope with the demands of traffic, Brig o’Doon was saved thanks to literary tourists’ fascination with Burns.