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Must see Scotland: 10 classic places to visit

Must see Scotland: 10 classic places to visit

Hitting up Scotland for the first time and looking for the must sees? From the capital city, Edinburgh to the mighty Loch Ness, the fabulous Orkney, beautiful Glencoe to the brilliant city of Glasgow, and all the best stops in between. Here are top 10 must see places to visit in Scotland.

  1. Visit Glencoe – drive through the dramatic ‘glen of weeping’ to visit the wee white house under towering mountains.
  2. Take a boat out a Loch Ness at Fort Augustus – visit Scotland’s biggest loch and visit the bustling Caledonian Canal.
  3. Discover Loch Lomond and the Trossachs – explore the beautiful National Park and visit the famous Loch Lomond.
  4. Visit Edinburgh – Scotland’s capital city needs no introduction.
  5. Explore The Isle of Skye – our most popular island to visit and its no wonder, Skye is a marvel.
  6. Visit Fife and St Andrews – the home of Golf and birthplace of William and Kate, St Andrews is a thriving historic town.
  7. Climb Ben Nevis and visit Fort William – climb the UK’s highest mountain and visit the outdoor capital of Scotland.
  8. Discove The Caingorms National Park – visit the UK’s largest national park covering over 4500 sq km.
  9. Head to Glasgow – with a lively music scene, a huge art community and people who can make a party out anything.
  10. Sail across to Orkney – discover 5000 years of history on the beautiful island of Orkney.

Read on for how to visit my must see Scotland and find out how to avoid over-tourism – and where to go instead!

1. Glencoe

No visit to Scotland is complete without a drive through the spectacular Glen Coe. 

The ‘Glen of Weeping’ is one of the Scottish Highlands most famous natural attractions, with towering mountains and a grim and tragic past – including the infamous 1692 massacre of MacDonalds by the Campbell clan. However, there is a lot more to this glen beyond the famous views.  

If you do one thing in Glencoe – walk around beautiful Glencoe Lochan.

Hidden behind Glencoe village is Glencoe Lochan – take a walk amongst the trees overshadowed by two of Glencoe’s most famous peaks; the imposing Pap of Glencoe and Beinn a’Bheithir. On a clear day, the reflections of the trees and mountains in the lochan are just spectacular. 

> Read more: things to do in Glencoe

Black Rock Cottage, Glencoe

2. Loch Ness and Fort Augustus

With its location halfway up Scotland’s famous 62-mile ‘Great Glen’, the spectacular Urquhart Castle and the Caledonian Canal there aren’t many more places in Scotland more iconic. A monster myth. A loch with uncharted depths. Loch Ness is a Scottish landmark, famous across the world, no wonder thousands of people a year visit.

If you do one thing at Loch Ness – explore Fort Augustus.

Where else in Scotland offers up the odd sight of hundreds of people watching sailing boats and cruisers traversing down five canal locks and out onto a loch? The pretty village of Fort Augustus is one of my favourite places in Scotland, and is a busty village filled with enjoying cruises on the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness.

From Fort Augustus you can take a ride on a RIB out onto Loch Ness – experience the thrill of scooting up the loch at 35mph with Cruise Loch Ness passing by Urquhart Castle, one of the largest castles in Scotland.

> Read more: things to do at Loch Ness and Fort Augustus

Boats on the Caledonian Canal at Loch Ness

3. Loch Lomond and the Trossach’s National Park

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park covers 720 stunning square miles and contains two forest parks, 22 large lochs, 40 hills over 2000ft, and one of the UK’s largest nature reserves. From the fabulous Loch Lomond itself to the wooded hills and glens of the beautiful Trossachs, you could spend a week exploring and never be bored.

If you do one thing in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park – climb Conic Hill.

Rising just 350m above Loch Lomond, Conic Hill gives up one of the best views in Scotland – and achieved without much effort at all. Located on the iconic West Highland Way, and on the Highland Boundary Fault line, the climb up takes around an hour from the lochside. Look out for shaggy highland coos!

> Read more: the complete guide to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Loch Lomond
Conic Hill at sunset

4. Edinburgh

From the magnificence of the Old and New Towns, to the mighty Edinburgh castle, the popularity of Harry Potter and Greyfriars Bobby, and hundreds of IG famous shots, not to mention the festival culture, Scotland’s capital really sells itself – it is one of the world’s best cities to visit.

If you do one thing in Edinburgh – take a stroll in Stockbridge. 

My favourite neighbourhood in Edinburgh, Stockbridge, is a village in the city. Browse the Stockbridge Sunday market and independent fashion shops (Treen, Dicks, Epitome, Kestin Hare) buy a book from Golden Hare Books, cheese from IJ Mellis and head to Circus Lane for that famous IG shot. 

In the afternoon head for street food at Neighbourgood Market and in the evening find the the Last Word Saloon and St Bernards Bar for cocktails.

> Read more: my local’s guide to Edinburgh

things to do in edinburgh

5. The Isle of Skye

Billow and breeze, islands and seas, mountains of rain and sun… sadly we no longer have to travel to Skye by boat, but the island is still just as spectacular. The Isle of Skye is top of most people’s lists of Scottish islands to visit – and it is no wonder. With the Fairy Pools, the Cuillin, the Quiraing and Old Man of Storr, Neist Point Lighthouse, and Kilt Rock, the Isle of Skye’s outdoor attractions are legendary.

If you do one thing on the Isle of Skye – visit Elgol.

Skye’s Cuillin mountain range can be viewed in all its magnificence from the small hamlet of Elgol. Take a walk to the stunning Camasunary Beach over the spectacular Am Mam pass or take a boat trip out to Loch Coruisk in the heart of the Cuillin range.

> Read more: the complete guide to the Isle of Skye

best places to visit in Scotland

6. St Andrews

On the east coast of Fife between Edinburgh and Dundee is St Andrews. Most famous for golf and Scotland’s oldest university, St Andrews is a buzzing little town surrounded by spectacular Fife beaches and countryside.

With restaurants and bars, a historic cathedral and castle, beautiful beaches, a stylish compact town centre full of independent shops and plenty of bars and restaurants, you can spend a couple of days just exploring the town.

If you do one thing at St Andrews – visit West Sands Beach.

The huge swathe of West Sands Beach was made famous by the movie Chariots of Fire – why not go sand yachting with local outdoor activity company Blown Away.

> Read more: things to do in St Andrews

Ben Nevis

7. Ben Nevis and Fort William

Planning a visit to the highlands of Scotland? Then you shouldn’t miss a visit to Lochaber and Fort William. Often called the outdoor capital of the UK, Fort William sits at the end of the 96-mile West Highland Way and is home to Scotland’s highest mountain Ben Nevis. Sitting on the stunning Loch Linnhe, the town is a hub for exploring the dramatic landscapes of the Lochaber region of Scotland. 

If you do one thing in Fort William – go for a walk!

Fancy climbing Ben Nevis. the UK’s highest mountain? A climb up the Mountain Path to the top can be done in a day! If you aren’t a hillwalker, hike up to Steall Falls, the walk through the Nevis Gorge will take around 2 hours and is one of the best walks in Scotland. 

> read more: things to do in Fort William

best places to visit in Scotland

8. The Caingorms National Park

With forests pepper-potted with deep green lochans, a seemingly endless Arctic tundra where the temperature can drop as low as -27 degrees in the depths of winter, and home to ospreys, reindeer, pine martens and red squirrels, the Cairngorms National Park is one of Scotland’s true wildernesses.

The Cairngorms National Park is the UK’s largest national park covering over 4500 sq km (over 1100 sq miles) stretching from Blair Athol to Ballater and Glenlivet to Grantown on Spey.

The national park contains five of the UK’s highest mountains – and the tallest, Ben Macdui is the second-highest mountain in Scotland – only pipped by Ben Nevis. Cairn Gorm gives the national park its name. The Cairngorms even has it’s own famous ‘snow road’ which stretches for 90 miles through the highest parts of the national park.

If you do one thing in the Cairngorms – stroll up to the ‘green lochan’ – try to spot the fairies at the beautiful Lochan Uaine, a great walk for all the family.

> Read more: things to do in the Cairngorms National Park

what to do in Glasgow

9. Glasgow

Forget everything you thought you knew about Glasgow. With a lively music scene, a huge art community and people who can make a party out anything. With big-city style, Glasgow city centre is permanently busy with shoppers, diners and drinkers. 

From the West End with its botanical gardens, wide classical crescents and small and fashionable lanes – search out 50s and 60s antiques on Cresswell and Ruthven Lane, cafes and collectables on Dowanside Lane and go for dinner and drinks on the most famous of them all, Ashton Lane.

If you do one thing in Glasgow – tour the street art.

Glasgow gives Banksy a run for his money. From the most well known mural on the High Street, which tells the story of The Bird That Never Flew and St Mungo, follow the Glasgow Mural trail around the city to find the Hip Hop Marianettes, a spaceman, the world’s most economical taxi and a lot of love for famous Glasgow comedian Billy Connolly.

> read more: things to do in Glasgow

10. Orkney

With stone-age villages, huge sea-scapes, a vibrant arts culture and a genuinely warm welcome (and not just from the Orkney gin!) a trip to Orkney is a dip into 5000 years of history. 

From the simply incredible Heart of Neolithic Orkney to tales of invading Vikings and World War 2 battles, St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, to walks along a coast constantly being changed by time, you won’t be short of things to do when you visit Orkney. 

If you do one thing on Orkney – visit the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

On a long promontory or ‘ness’ between two lochs, surrounded by a huge bowl of low hills, sits the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, an incredibly well preserved stone-age community and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visiting the Heart of Neolithic Orkney tells a truly vivid story of life on these islands 5000 years ago.

> read more: things to do in Orkney

Love from Scotland x

> Looking for more places to visit in Scotland – check out my guide to my favourite places

> Prefer getting off the beaten track?