The best places to visit in Scotland

By Stevie Keen

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Check out the best places to visit in Scotland, from eclectic cities to the rugged Highlands, tranquil islands and more

With breathtaking highland landscapes, a rich dark history and a certain infamous monster, it’s no wonder Scotland is ranked as one of the top countries to visit. This country’s natural beauty and present-day lifestyle proudly stand side-by-side, making it a place that has so much to offer. So whether you’re looking to become one with nature and hike the highlands, or dive into some culture amid the bright lights of the city, Scotland caters to all. 

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If you’re looking for a touch of tourism, Scotland can easily provide. There are plenty of locations where you can try traditional Scottish cuisine, get your hands on your very own kilt and hear the bagpipes play, but here are the experiences we really don’t think you should miss.

Edinburgh

Most popular sight: Arthur’s Seat
Top recommendation: Edinburgh Castle

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Residing on Firth of Forth’s southern shore, the Scottish capital is bursting with arts and culture. During August it becomes host to one of the biggest theatre and comedy festivals in the world, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which hosts around 160 performances involving over 2000 artists and brings in around two million tourists each year. For the other eleven months of the year there is plenty of culture to soak up come rain or shine and you don’t have to wander far. The architecture alone is worth getting up and out for on a wet and rainy day. With buildings at an average of 15 storeys high, there is a lot of Edinburgh to look up and see. Take a wander down the cobbled back streets and windy roads and let Edinburgh take you back in time.

A definite high point, in fact the highest point, of Edinburgh is Arthur’s Seat. Situated in Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat is part of an ancient volcano that sits 251 metres above sea levels. This is the place to trek, catch a breath and enjoy Edinburgh from new heights. Just make sure that you allow two to three hours minimum for your visit, bring water, a snack and a good pair of walking shoes. If you fancy making an afternoon of it, bring a picnic and head to Holyrood Park, a site of Special Scientific Interest due to its flora and geology. 

Back in the city centre, take yourself on a treasure hunt for the Scottish crown jewels at Edinburgh Castle, the world famous landmark of Scotland. A British Travel Awards UK Heritage Attraction and one of Scotland’s top tourist attractions, it’s no wonder it is Scotland’s most famous castle. Take some time to roam the castle walls, see the stone of destiny and reset all your clocks to the One O’Clock gun. Venture into the oldest part of the castle, St Margaret’s Chapel, which dates from the 12th Century.

Scottish Highlands

Most popular sight: River Ness and Loch Ness
Top recommendation: Inverness Botanical Gardens

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The Highlands really are a hiker’s playground, with enough happening here to book a whole trip around. With its vast skies, breathtaking landscapes and mysterious eerie lochs, you’ll find yourself falling in love with the Highlands. Historically the highland area was run by the Gaels and the Gaelic culture, while the lowlands were Scottish. In a way, the dividing line still faintly exists through differences in traditions and cultures. The Highlands also have a dark past, thanks to the 17th Century massacre of over 38 members of the MacDonald Clan in the snow. You can feel the weight of this history and its stories as you roam the highland landscapes and castles left behind; and the often murky weather just adds to the experience.

Delve down into the heart of the Highlands to try to spot a monster in the infamous Loch Ness. The Loch Ness monster, aka Nessie, is what Scotland is most famous for. Since 565 AD locals have reported witnessing a large unknown creature with a long neck swimming through the water and you can sail across the Loch Ness to try to catch a glimpse of Nessie for yourself. But if sea monsters aren’t your thing, you can take a two-hour riverside walk, or cycle through Inverness City Centre along the banks of the River Ness. It’s a six-mile long river which flows from the north end of the Loch Ness and runs into the Beauly Firth. This is an ideal walk for enthusiastic nature walkers: if you look out behind the two road bridges that runs through the city, you’ll likely spot seals, seabirds and more. Overlooking the river is one of the biggest Scottish theatres, Eden Court Theatre, and up on the hill you’ll spot Inverness Castle (Scotland likes castles) if you’re looking to break up your walk ,and enjoy some of the culture Inverness has to provide. At the end of the route you can choose whether to end your adventure there or head towards the Great Glen Way. 

If you daydream about sitting amid stunning gardens, wildflower meadows and finding somewhere tranquil away from the buzz of the city, Inverness Botanical Gardens is worth a pitstop. It’s free entry so take a whole day and get lost in Inverness’ secret gardens. 

Isle of Skye

Most popular sight: Fairy Pools and Fairy Glen
Top recommendation: Whale-watching at Rubha Hunish (June and July)

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If you’re looking for something really special to set your sights on, head northwest to the Isle of Skye. Situated off the West Coast of Scotland, the Isle of Skye is 50 miles long and one of the largest of the Hebrides islands. It is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Scotland and is famous for its incredible views. Watch the sunset over the Minch, visit Dunvegan Castle and if it’s the right time and place, you could even experience the Northern Lights. 

Wander into the hills above the village of Uig and you’ll find the Fairy Glens. This small magical landscape looks like it was plucked straight out of a fairytale book and is just a short walk located on the Trotternish Peninsula. Although there are no real stories or myths that gave it its name, Isle of Skye has a long-standing relationship with fairies, such as the fairy flag on top of Dunvegan Castle and the fairy pools in Glenbrittle. You can even combine this visit with the Quiraing walk and Old Man of Storr rocky hills, but don’t miss the chance to roam the lush rich green fairyland, follow the stone circles and leave a coin or token as an offering to the fairies. 

Keeping with the fairy theme, why not be brave and take a splash in the Fairy Pools on Glenbrittle. At the foot of the Cuillin mountains, this magical place of outstanding natural beauty is worth the winding single lane roads to get there. These spectacular rock pools of crystal clear water fed by multiple waterfalls are begging for wild swimmers. During good weather the routes to the pools are fine to trek across, but if it has been raining heavily, some parts become pretty tricky to cross so check the weather before you head out. 

If you are visiting in the summer season, head to Rubha Hunish to catch a glimpse of the huge whales. Rubha Hunish is the northernmost point on the Isle of Skye, and if you walk to the end of the point you are also likely to catch glimpses of basking sharks, dolphins, whales and plenty of seabirds. The hike around is about six kilometres and is a fairly easygoing route for most. Take a flask of something hot or cold, perch on a cliff and watch nature at its best. 

Glasgow

Most popular sight: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Top recommendation: West End whisky tour 

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Known for its unique, diverse architecture, Glasgow is a cosmopolitan hub thriving with culture, great traditional food and vibrant nightlife. It even boasts the largest nightclub in Scotland, The Garage on Sauchiehall Street. Situated along both sides of the River Clyde, this is a city that is full of surprises. Visitors flock to Glasgow for its architecture alone; a blend of Victorian buildings, vast glass and metal structures and terraced white and red sandstone walls. But once you arrive, this eclectic city will keep you busy day and night. 

It would be difficult to visit Glasgow and pass by the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. A definite favourite with locals and visitors with its red sandstone structure and Spanish baroque-style architecture, it’s a work of art in itself. Inside it holds 22 galleries showcasing a world-class collection of wide-ranging, internationally significant art and artefacts. If you’re lucky, you could catch yourself at an organ recital. During the holidays there are plenty of family activities and if the weather is fine you can stop off at the picturesque Kelvingrove Park, situated next to the museum. With over 8000 objects to explore, make sure this museum is top of your list.

Fancy a tipple? We recommend the West End whisky tour, where you’ll wander through some of the best off-the-beaten-track bars in town and learn how to taste whisky like a pro. As you sip away, you’ll learn stories and facts about whisky, and experience the vibrant atmosphere of Glasgow’s West End area. Taste premium single malt Scotch whiskies with an expert guide, hear stories that pick out the curious and fun facts about whisky and discover why Glasgow is a cultural hub of full of life, stories and, of course, excellent whisky. 

Delve into Flash Pack’s Scotland adventure, for canyoning, hiking and boutique castle hotels. 


 

Images: Unsplash

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