As a Scottish travel blogger I get asked a lot about where to visit in Scotland from people who are just beginning to plan their trip. They have an idea of a couple of places but want to know where to go to see the locations they see on TV and in magazines such as the vast lochs, the mighty mountains and the cute colourful villages. In the first of my advice posts I have challenged myself to compile an A to Z of places you could include in your itinerary.
This island in the Firth of Clyde is nicknamed Scotland in minuture. As it crosses the highland boundary line the north of the island is dramatic and awe inspiring not disimilar to the mountain ranges in the highlands. The south is filled with lush green fields and cute villages. If your short on time while your visiting, head here.
B Ben Nevis
Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis, can be found not far from the town of Fort William and stands at an impressive 1346 metres high. One to tick off your bucket list if you're feeling energetic or jump on the Gondola on the nearby Aonach Mor for breathtaking views over the Nevis Range and the Scottish highlands.
The Cairngorms national park is a haven for winter sports but the summer is also a great time to stick on your hiking boots and explore. The pretty town of Aviemore is the perfect base to explore the stunning snowy mountains, woodland walks and massive array of wildlife.
This historic city is a hub of design and creative talent. With a brand new £1 billion redesign of the waterfront taking shape and the highly inticipated new V+A Museum of Design opening in 2018 this city is only going to get better.
Scotland’s capital city oozes history from every grey stoned nook and cranny. The mighty castle, cobbled old town, grand hotels, street cafes, fascinating museums and art galleries, quirky shops… I could go on all day. You don’t want to leave this off your itinerary.
With 118 miles of coastal path, pretty fishing villages, award winning restaurants and the world’s oldest university Fife is a popular destination, made more popular recently through the new TV show Outlander as Fife was used often in the filming. Of course it’s also one of the most sought after golfing destinations in the world.
Perhaps Scotland’s most scenic and talked about area, Glencoe’s rugged peaks and unspoilt nature have been used in films such as Braveheart and James Bond’s Skyfall.
If you want those Caribean style beaches with white sand and torquiose waters South Harris in the Outer Hebrides is where you want to be. You can also pick up some of the famous Harris tweed.
Iona, an island in the Inner Hebrides, is a serene, peaceful and beautiful island. It’s perticularly significant to the Christian community as it was lived in by Saint Columbus. St Oran’s chapel is said to be the burial place of 48 Scottish kings including MacBeth.
J Jacobite steam train
Who doesn’t want to travel like Harry Potter? The famous scene when they cross the arched bridge on the way to Hogwarts was filmed on the Jacobite steam train which travels between Fort William and Mallaig and the arched bridge is the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
These bizarre mythical creatures made of steel in Grangemouth are loved by us Scots. Designed by Glasgow born Andy Scott, the two giant horse heads can be seen from miles away.
L Loch Ness
Whether you believe in Nessie or not I can bet you’ll still look while you’re there. The loch itself is the biggest in Scotland by volume and is 20miles long and 1 mile wide.
When you see a row of pretty colourful houses when your perusing images of Scottish islands, that’s Tobermory, on the Island of Mull. One of the most popular islands to visit.
N North Berwick
Often ranked as one of Scotland’s prettiest villages North Berwick is also home to the Scottish Seabird Centre where you can take a boat out to the famous Bass Rock.
One of Scotland’s 10 best islands, Orkney sits off the upper tip of the country. It’s culture, history, landscape and beaches make it a must see if you are travelling around the east coast.
An area overlooked by tourists who arrive in Edinburgh and head straight to the Highlands, but with the new Borders railway this stunning area of the country is more accessible than ever. It’s easy to see why Sir Walter Scott fell in love with the place. With four fantastic ruined Abbeys, an abundance of monuments and castles and lush green rolling field it’s a truly gorgeous area to explore.
North Queensferry, Fife and the north are linked to South Queensferry, Edinburgh and the Lothians by the Forth Road Bridge and the Forth Rail Bridge. Adorning many a postcard, these mighty feats of engineering are very photogenic. With the new bridge, the Queensferry Crossing, almost complete, now is a good time to add this to your itinerary.
R Rannoch moor
This 50 square mile barren, rocky and bare expanse of land is just outside Glencoe and best seen via train on the West Highland route. It’s atmospheric and is a complete contrast from the dominating views of Glencoe.
Dramatic cliffs, breathtaking scenery and enchanting tales of fairies who wouldn’t want to go over the sea to Skye? Recently named the 4th best island in the world it’s a major one to add to your list.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is a haven for scenery seekers, and the shopping at the southern tip, at Loch Lomond Shores, is brilliant. You can have a Michilin starred meal, see Ben Lomond, Scotland’s most southern Munro or sail on the loch itself. You won’t be bored here.
If you want a base to explore the Highlands you can’t go wrong with Ullapool. A cute fishing town surrounded by lovely beaches, great places to eat and drink and a ferry port if you want to visit the Outer Hebrides.
If you do decide to visit the Outer Hebrides be sure not to miss Vatersay. Grab a CalMac Hopscotch ticket so you can explore from top to bottom, ending your trip on the desolate but awe inspiring beaches of Vatersay. If you are feeling more adventurous try the new cycle route The Herbidean Way, 185 miles from the Butt of Lewis in the north to Vatersay in the south.
Ok, not a place but a must do on every itinerary. Luckily you can find distilleries in almost every area. Scotland’s national drink has to be tried, and where better than where it’s made.
Nobody is more disappointed than me to not find a X! Anyone with any ideas feel free to let me know in the comments below.
Shetland’s largest island is lined with fishing towns along the coastland and it’s one of the best places to see otters and red thoated divers. The inland landscape, best known as “da Wilds o’ Yell” has a massive variety of wildlife. Local lad Peter Guy’s series of books Walking the Coast of Shetland brings the island the life and are now considered classics.
You might think this ones a bit of a cop out on my quest to find a “Z” but Scotland actually has some pretty fab zoos. You can find our two gorgeous pandas in Edinburgh zoo, there is a zoo with a view in Newtonmore at the edge of the Cairngorms and a brilliant family day out to be had at Blairdrummond Safari Park near Stirling.
And here you have it – My guide to the must visit places in Scotland. Of course I could easily do another (minus the Z, U and X!). I actually had a strange amount of of “C” places to choose from- Culross, Clava Cairns, and the tonne of castles we have here. I also only mentioned Edinburgh and Dundee but Scotland has 5 other amazing cities, a visit to at least one would finish your trip off nicely. Look out for further advice posts including travelling in Scotland and budget. Where would you most like to visit from this list?