When it comes to stunning places to visit, dominating mountains, mesmerising lochs and fascinating history, finding the best of Scotland is actually pretty easy, as there is so many places that are utterly gorgeous.
Scotland is a beautiful country, there is no denying that. I feel incredibly lucky that I have a Scotland d travel blog and I get to travel around Scotland, there are so many places where I have to stop the car, just to soak up the view. I never get anywhere fast, Taylor will confirm that, she appreciates how gorgeous Scotland is but gets slightly annoyed when I can't drive for more than 10 minutes without pulling over and taking photos. Living in Fife gives me pretty easy access to Edinburgh, Dundee and Perthshire and it's not too difficult to get over to the west coast or up into the Highlands.
Glencoe is one of my favourite places to go in Scotland, and I'm not the only one. What makes Glencoe so special is a combination of things. It's atmospheric, the mountains have an allure, a mystical pull that draws you in. It’s a magical place and you can’t help but feel it, surrounded by dominating mountains, with the fresh Highland air filling your lungs. I think the best time to capture Glencoe is when the weather is dull and drizzly, it makes them even more mystical and mysterious. If you are driving to Glencoe from the south don’t forget to stop off at Rannoch Moor (below) too.
This barren landscape is one of the last remaining wildernesses in Europe. It spans 50 square miles and when you are there feels like you are on another planet. It’s a flat expanse of boggy ground, lochs, rivers and lochans, and like Glencoe, is almost other-worldly. You’ll find Rannoch Moor just before you hit Glencoe and the West Highland Way crosses the moor from north to south so if you are on the hike you get to experience it in the best way possible. The West Highland Line also passes across the moor and Glencoe, which is one of Scotrail’s Great Scenic Journeys.
What’s not to love about Edinburgh? Scotland’s capital city is packed full of beautifully historic buildings, photogenic closes and staircases and of course there is the castle, sitting high on an extinct volcano, visible from almost anywhere in the city centre. You’ll find photo stop after photo stop as you wander the cobbled Old Town. Remember to investigate the alleyways and closes, you’ll find some quirky hidden gems, colourful houses and lovely angles, doorways and wall decor.
Mellon Udrigle Beach
I discovered this beach while I was driving around the North Coast 500. Often, when I talk about beaches, I say that they completely transform when the sun comes out, from a standard beach to one that is utterly gorgeous. Mellon Udrigle though is an exception. When it’s overcast and cloudy the colours melt into the mountainous backdrop beautifully. The grey and blues complement each other and it makes for some stunning photos. You’ll find the beach the end of a winding single track road, near the village of Laird in Wester Ross. You’ll be glad you made the effort.
Isle of May
A super easy way to see Puffins while your in Scotland you can visit the Isle of May by boat from Anstruther in Fife, just across the Forth from Edinburgh. It’s a relatively small island so when you are walking along the top of the cliffs watching the seabirds you can see water all around you. The cliffs are high and the water crashes below, the air is fresh and the bird song is deafening and it feels amazing. You can get close enough to the Puffins to get some really beautiful photos as they are perched on the grass or catch them mid flight as they duck and dive for fish.
Melrose Abbey is part of the Borders Abbey Way in the Scottish Borders, along with Dryburgh Abbey, Jedburgh Abbey and Kelso Abbey. All four are beautiful ruins that are very photogenic and the circular long distance hike which takes in all four abbeys, which were founded by David, I of Scotland, is 68 miles long. The abbeys are vastly different, in size and style and have a fascinating history. King Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried in Melrose Abbey, Dryburgh Abbey is where Sir Walter Scott is buried and the villages themselves are really pretty too.
Isle of Iona
Ahhhh...beautiful Iona. Situated off the southern tip of the Isle of Mull this stunning little island is best know for the famous Iona Abbey. Have you tried taking a pretty photo only to wish that bloody car would move? That isn’t an issue on Iona as no cars are allowed, it’s a foot ferry from Fionnfort that you board and the crossing only takes 10 minutes. The water around this island is what makes Iona extra special, on a sunny day it’s a bright torquoise blue and the little white sandy bays are filled with visitors enjoying an ice cream. The Abbey itself was once the centre of the Gaelic monestery and is serene and peaceful, much like the rest of the island.
The Trotternish Ridge
The Trotternish Ridge in the north of Skye has some of the most outstanding landscape in the whole of Scotland, it really is spectacular. Perhaps the most famous part is the Old Man of Storr which is so popular that the hike to it can actually get quite busy, but there is a huge wonderland of bizarre landscape, that was formed by giant landslides, to explore and there is a pretty good chance you'll have wherever you end up all to yourself. Go prepared though, there is some tough hikes up there. The Quiraing is also popular and other formations, such as the Needle and the Table, are weird and extremely photogenic.
The addition of the new Queensferry Crossing, which joins the famous Forth Rail Bridge and Forth Road Bridge, makes taking photos of these bridges even better. Whether you watch them from North Queensferry, South Queensferry, as you fly over, walk across or sail under, every angle gives a different but equally as gorgeous view. The bridges join Edinburgh and the Lothian in the south to the Kingdom of Fife in the north and they look stunning, especially at sunset. I sailed under the bridges with Edinburgh Charter Boats on a catamaran and flew over the bridges on a four seater plane and thoroughly enjoyed seeing them from a different angle.
Another stop on the amazing North Coast 500, this time on the west coast, a little further down than Mellon Udrigle. This remote village, friendly locals and beautiful beaches make it the ideal place to stop for a night or two. The beaches, such as Big Sands and Red Point, backed by large sand dunes, and with views over to Raasay and Skye, are beautifully white, spotlessly clean and utterly charming. The road past Gairloch winds up high above the sea with ruined brochs and broken stone walls littering the fields below, very picturesque.
This beach, another in Wester Ross, completely blew my mind. I could have been in the Caribbean. The photo below says it all. Three miles north of Lochinver it's actually perfectly possible to visit Gairloch, Alchmelvich and Mellon Udrigle on the same day. I would recommend taking your time though, the road to Alchmelvich is hairy-scary and my knuckles were white by the time we reached the beach. It was totally worth it though, and it was an afternoon I'll never forget.
The bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond are certainly bonnie and with so many walks in the area and islands to explore you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to pretty views.
Isle of Arran
My favourite island of all, Arran is nicknamed Scotland in miniature as it has vast dominating mountains in the north and lush green fields and white sand beaches to the south. It's easily accessible too, from Glasgow it's just a short bus ride to Adrossan where you can catch a ferry to Brodick on the island. There are so many pretty places to take photos here, such as Goatfell, Brodick Castle, the string road, the Machrie standing stones, Glenashdale Falls, King's Cave and Lochranza.
The Hermitage is in the heart of Highland Perthshire. It's a beautiful stroll through a forest of tall Douglas Firs to the thunderous Black Linn Falls. These thunderous waterfalls tumble down the river and can be viewed from either Ossian Hall, a pretty unique building with a balcony overlooking the falls. or from the banks of the river if you fancy exploring a little further.
You may recognise this bridge from the Harry Potter films, it is part of the West Highland Line from Glasgow to Mallaig. It crosses the River Finnan and is 380 metres long. If you climb the small hill behind the Glenfinnan monument visitor centre you can get excellent views of the bridge and the beautiful surroundings. The train journey from Glasgow to Mallaig is said to be one of the best in the world so if you get the chance to take it I'd highly recommend it. The Jacobite steam train (also from the Harry Potter films) crosses the bridge which you can board in Fort William or Mallaig or you can time it correctly and get photos from one of the vantage points of the steam train on the bridge.
Arguably the most photogenic castle is Scotland this castle is in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire. Perched on a beautifully shaped dramatic cliff. It was once home to one of the most powerful families in Scotland and is now a stunning ruin. You can take a walk from Stonehaven Beach .
Once I visit more places I hope to add to this list so keep your eyes peeled for more amazing locations.